Sunday, November 09, 2008

Is There A Technological Fix To The Republican Party's Decline?

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Every media outlet in the country is spending at least part of the weekend asking how the GOP is going to rebuild out of the pile of smoldering rubble their extremist policies have wrought. This is a problem nationally and a problem in almost every state in the Union-- not counting the Mormon states and most of the old slave-holding states where the GOP's reliance on ignorance, fear and bigotry makes for a winning combination. From the Denver Post:
Colorado Republicans, sifting through the ashes of three disastrous election cycles, are in the midst of a vigorous debate over how to win again in a state where their future looks bleak.

...Insiders say big defeats Tuesday at the presidential, Senate and House levels could play out two ways: an invigorating period of rebuilding and new ideas or a divisive fight over the party's direction that could debilitate it for years.

Either would be fueled by a sense that, despite an unfavorable national headwind, the 2008 election in Colorado was nonetheless badly mishandled and that the party over the past four years has squandered significant advantages in voter registrations, outmaneuvered by Democrats at nearly every turn.

"Our county parties are no stronger, our voter registration numbers have decreased. We had our most anemic performance in absentee and early voting vis-à-vis the Democrats that we've had in 10 years," said one party strategist, who asked not to be named in order to speak more freely about the state GOP's problems.

"From just a pure party organizational standpoint, we failed. That's what's giving people pause to say, 'Are we headed in the right direction for 2010?" the strategist said.

Several influential Republicans, who asked not to be named, singled out state party chairman Dick Wadhams for criticism after he devoted much of his time to the U.S. Senate race rather than state legislative or other down-ticket contests.

The most extremist part of the coalition-- which is also the most aggressive and the loudest-- is determined to blame mainstream conservatives and advance the cause of the neo-fascists who have wrecked the GOP and driven moderate, normal Americans away from the party in ever increasing numbers. But they are dead wrong, their extremist candidates suffering the greatest losses at the polls.

The congressional rump settled on scapegoating two hacks, Roy Blunt and Adam Putnam and dumping them from what passes for a leadership team. They replaced Blunt with one of the most far right extremists in the party, Virginia psycho Eric Cantor. Since first being elected in 2000 to a district in the middle of the state carefully gerrymandered to be as white and reactionary as possible, Cantor has amassed one of the most extreme right-wing voting records of anyone in Congress, one of the 10 most lunatic fringe across the whole panoply of issues. Basically, Cantor is at the bottom of the barrel on every single issue Congress has dealt with in the last 8 years. His ascension to the #2 spot signals that the congressional rump of the party-- if not the party itself-- has decided to tack hard right-- very hard right.

Interestingly on Fox News today Cantor blamed Tuesday's disaster-- which included humiliating defeats for scores of far right kooks following his model of over-the-cliff extremism, from incumbents like Marilyn Musgrave (CO) and Virgil Goode (VA) to Tom Feeney (FL), Tim Walberg (MI), Thelma Drake (VA), and Bill Sali (ID), to dozens of crushed right-wing new recruits like Darren White (NM), Jay Love (AL), Andy Harris (MD), Sydney Hay (AZ), Kirk Schuring (OH), Wayne Parker (AL), Tom Manion (PA), etc-- on the GOP's inability to grasp the technological advances that have been carefully cultivated by forward-looking Democratic leaders from Howard Dean, Donna Edwards, Brad Miller, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama to net savvy candidates like Larry Kissell, Tom Perriello, Eric Massa, Jim Himes, Darcy Burner, Martin Heinrich, and Jeff Merkley.

My friend Pete Quily has put together an exhaustive and fascinating comparison between how the Obama and McCain campaigns used the Internet. It's like comparing a supersonic jet to a horse and buggy. Pete "examined the differences between the 2 candidates' web presences via different categories of search engine results and checking out their presence and popularity on some of the many popular social media websites as of November 4, 2008." His research found that Obama has 3,032% more hits on Facebook than McCain did and 4 times more followers-- with huge momentum for Obama in the last two weeks before the election. On Facebook Obama had nearly 4 times the number of friends as McCain, and 269% more search results for his name-- as well as nearly 150,000 comments (compared to none at all for McCain).

The McCain campaign never seemed to get a handle on Twitter at all:
Obama cranked out 10 times more tweets than McCain, had 2254% more followers, and 1,029% more search results. McCain’s last tweet was October 24th! So clueless that he didn’t send a vote today tweet on election day!

Obama's campaign and supporters also used YouTube and Flickr to great advantage:
Barack Obama had nearly twice as many search results for his name as John McCain, and more than 5 times as many videos posted. Obama had 117k subscribers and 25k friends and strangely enough John McCain had no friends or subscribers. Zero. Or at least none displayed. Wonder why? Maybe’s his campaign doesn’t know how to use Youtube or maybe they’re semi antisocial about social networking? Or there might be too many people posting negative videos and comments? Not sure.

Flickr has 5 times more search results for Obama than for McCain. Obama has 50,000 photos up on his Flickr page. McCain didn't have a profile at all. Pete's findings help explain why McCain lost and why the Republicans are in the Dark Ages, not in this case in terms of their policies, but in how they communicate to voters. Overall, Obama had nearly 6,000% more pages on his main website than John McCain did on his-- 1,820,000 vs 30,700.
Overall Barack Obama’s campaign has a larger, more comprehensive presence, more followers or subscribers on the social media websites and more interaction with those followers and much greater results in search engines. This is in spite of John McCain being a big political celebrity FAR longer than Obama was. McCain was first elected to congress in 1982, and even before McCain ran in 2008, other than George Bush, McCain was probably the best known, most interviewed, and most written about Republican politician. . That’s why I laughed when I saw McCain’s celebrity ad about Obama, look at how many mention’s John McCain has in the Internet Movie Database, like Bill Clinton, he was jealous because he was no longer the biggest political celebrity in Washington.

Outside of Illinois, Barack Obama was largely unknown until he gave his famous keynote speech at the democratic convention in 2004. So 26 years of exposure vs 4 years and yet Obama still massively dominated the online landscape.

Obama’s website one of the best designed websites I’ve seen in 15 years online, far better designed then John McCain’s, plus Obama’s has more features, more option and more content and is far more sophisticated than John McCain’s. Senator Obama hired Blue State Digital to run his online campaign, here’s their case study on it. Obama’s online community simply crushes McCain's in volume, features, sophistication, and participation. Take a few moments and look at both sites and you’ll see the huge gap. Obama even created an online rapid response team to counter the lies thrown at him, called fight the smears. Brilliant move, cheaper than responding with TV ads.

You think Eric Cantor is going to be able to change this around? Oh, not Eric alone-- I mean with the help of his allies Lynn Westmoreland, Mean Jean Schmidt, and Steve King, three faces of the "new" Republican Party? Or deranged, unhinged, and utterly ineffectual far right bloggers like Michelle Malkin, Bob Owens, Erick Erickson, K-Lo, Ben Domenech, and Charles Johnson? (Watch them try.) But... as P.J. O'Rourke warned, rather shrilly, this morning, they blew it.


UPDATE: NOW THE DEMOCRATS, ON THE OTHER HAND...

Democrats have been part of the development of the Internet while Republicans are stuck with dead-end and repulsive media like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
Like a lot of Web innovators, the Obama campaign did not invent anything completely new. Instead, by bolting together social networking applications under the banner of a movement, they created an unforeseen force to raise money, organize locally, fight smear campaigns and get out the vote that helped them topple the Clinton machine and then John McCain and the Republicans.

As a result, when he arrives at 1600 Pennsylvania, Mr. Obama will have not just a political base, but a database, millions of names of supporters who can be engaged almost instantly. And there’s every reason to believe that he will use the network not just to campaign, but to govern. His e-mail message to supporters on Tuesday night included the line, “We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.” The incoming administration is already open for business on the Web at Change.gov, a digital gateway for the transition.

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3 Comments:

At 4:57 PM, Blogger Jimmy the Saint said...

No more calling Adam Putnam "Howdy Doody"?

 
At 6:51 PM, Blogger VG said...

Hi Howie,

great post.

And, as you may know from various tidbits I have sent you, the Martin campaign in GA has not embraced the internet, or used it to full advantage - sorry to say, but Shameless's campaign was better at this. I found it totally frustrating that the Martin campaign just didn't "get it" about the power of the internet.

I haven't followed in detail all of the Dem campaigns you cite that have used the internet in the best way, but I definitely have to say that the Massa campaign was great in this respect.

It's pretty sad when a Dem campaign (Martin's) turns a deaf ear to a lot of input from several people about the power of the internet.

Yeah, I hope Martin beats Shameless in the run-off, but...

 
At 5:37 AM, Blogger Democracy Lover said...

The problems with the Republican Party are not technological, nor are they marketing problems that can be addressed by focusing more on certain demographics. The problem with the Republican Party is that they advocate policies that 1) are opposed by a significant majority of the American people, and 2) are demonstrably counter-productive.

Unless they can succeed in making more Americans ignorant, racist or in thrall to some wacko religion, they are toast.

 

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