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The GOP Online Part Π

The continuing discussion of the state of GOP politics online gained traction with the Hotline’s Blogometer today. For those keeping score, David All (twice), Patrick Ruffini (twice), Todd Zeigler, Robert Bluey and I all agree that the state of the GOP online is pretty desperate. On the Dem side, Joe Trippi and Matt Stoller concur. What is interesting about the Blogometer coverage is their dismissal of the conversation Patrick and I have been having, and subsequent embrace of exactly what we have said.

From the Blogometer:

While the netroots strongly identify themselves with Dems, they are a separate movement formed after years of frustration over Clinton’s impeachment, Gore’s loss in FL, and the Iraq war. The Blogometer argues that the GOP is not going to see a potent online force until it spends a similar journey through the wilderness.

Patrick and I are in firm agreement that the main driver behind the Democratic Party’s success is anger at George W. Bush. I don’t know that you could find anyone in Republican circles who disagrees with that. It’s such a commonly held view that I didn’t really think it was worth repeating.

To the second point, most of us also recognize that it may well take a savage thumping in 2008 to correct the problem. My comment from David’s blog (which the Blogometer largely parroted) was:

There is a consensus among a lot of GOP Internet strategists that our past electoral success has contributed directly to our complacency online. If we have a successful formula, why mess with it? We don’t, the theory goes, want to start screwing with the recipe and end up being the political equivalent of New Coke.

I suspect, and have had this sentiment confirmed by many others, that we will not right this ship before we a) lose it all, and b) spend a few years lost in the wilderness…

My point (and I have clearly not made it well, yet, because I keep trying to clarify) is that Republicans will, without question, come to a point where they need an effective infrastructure to either a) head off a loss or b) regain power. We can build an infrastructure for the audience we have now, or the audience we want (and know we will eventually have). I would argue we should do the latter.

The trouble is not the Internet strategists, it is a party that doesn’t believe its people will step up and participate if they are invited to do so. If you’re cynical, you could make an argument that it is a party that doesn’t trust its people enough to let them participate.

If we prepare our operation for a different audience, when we need it, it will be available. If not, we must spend even longer in the wilderness because we have to build it first.

Written by Michael Turk