Over the past few years, I've been living and breathing the technology + politics Revolution. I've worked on House and Senate campaigns, and also in House and Senate official offices. And, of course, I've always volunteered for Republican campaigns.
When I left Congressman Jack Kingston's office to start my own company, I told my colleagues that it was time for me to move to the front-lines of the modern media Revolution where I could help the Party by spearheading new projects and initiatives, blogging, vlogging, identifying best practices for a smarter application of technology, and reporting back on our progress.
One thing which has become increasingly clear to me and many others is that the Republican Party - the establishment - has failed to effectively engage and embrace Web 2.0 strategies. While the Internet has grown rapidly, the Party apparatus and its top officials are operating in a disconnected, Web 0.5 world. The result is that our message is failing to penetrate the modern world where millions of independent voters and modern Republicans spend a majority of their time.
A deep and growing partisan digital divide between Republicans and Democrats has been dug. In fact, losing our Republican majorities in the House and Senate during the 2006 Election cycle could have been prevented had we connected with a mere 82K voters throughout the country in key races.
While losing the majorities was bad, the worst is yet to come.
A report released in January by the Pew Research Center found that "Gen Next" voters, those between the ages of 18-25, are the "least Republican generation" of the past two decades. According to the report, "48 percent of young people identified themselves as Democrats or as leaning to the Democratic Party, and 35 percent as Republicans."
While Gen Nexters currently associate with the Democratic Party on Election Day, the results of the study confirm that Gen Nexters are actually quite sympathetic to our cause. A majority of Gen Nexters are "less critical of business," they are "the most likely of any generation to support privatization of the Social Security system," and they "are more comfortable with globalization and new ways of doing work." As you might expect, where Gen Nexters most distance themselves from traditionally Republican issues is with social conservative views.
Many people over the age of 30 connected with the Republican Party during the years of Ronald Reagan. But for those of us under the age of 30, Reagan is merely someone we admire and study about in history books or through stories our elders tell us. We weren't fortunate enough to see the Republican Party through the lens of Reagan.
If Reagan were alive today, would he use YouTube religiously to connect with us better?
So why do ALL of our current conservative leaders ignore us completely. Perhaps because we're not Tim Russert, Sean Hannity or Mike Allen? Maybe because we don't own a mega-publishing company or Fox News?
Actions speak louder than words. "Republican politicians don't care about us." True or not, that's the message we're receiving.
Campaign operatives know all too well that the only thing that matters on Election Day is votes, which is why they spend millions of dollars trying to move large blocks of voters through persuasive TV commercials, and why it focuses a majority of its efforts and resources on "getting out the vote" on Election Day.
However, in focusing our limited resources and entire effort on these tried-and-trusted techniques, we're missing what Chris Anderson calls "The Long Tail" of politics. We're missing the niche crowd. That 10-20 percent of the electorate that doesn't have a "landline" and no longer watches "tv" other than Comedy Central and HBO.
Instead, we're relying on indirect messaging to deliver our message. And when it comes to turning-out-the-vote on Election Day, well, they decided months ago to vote for the other guy.
This strategy failed in 2006, and we're on course for a similar result in the 2008 election cycle. If we were on a cruise ship called the Titanic, it's the iceberg that I'm trying to point out NOW before it's visible to the rest of the Party.
Let me be crystal clear: The message hasn't changed, the world has. The mediums we use to deliver that message needs to change with it.
According to the Pew Report, Gen Nexters "Use technology and the internet to connect with people in new and distinctive ways. Text messaging, instant messaging and email keep them in constant contact with friends. About half say they sent or received a text message over the phone in the past day, approximately double the proportion of those ages 26-40. They are the "Look at Me" generation... A majority of Gen Nexters have used one of these social networking sites, and more than four-in-ten have created a personal profile."
I spend a lot of time focusing on the habits and trends of Gen Next because they are the future of our world and, I hope, our Party. I know all too well that you're only young once. Over night, on our birthday, we reach a new age bracket.
But what will never change is how we connect with our friends, families, and the issues we choose to care about. The profiles we make on facebook will be their for life. Friends change jobs often. But we're never truly detached because the world has been flattened by the Internet. We are connected/ing all the time. And sadly, the only people who are disconnected from our world are Republican politicians and issues.
While many tech-savvy Republicans have weighed in on this discussion, former RNC eCampaign Director and current modern media guru Patrick Ruffini argued to me that instead of screaming for change - act like a Web 2.0 company - build it, grow it, prove it. Only then would the Party "get it."
So that's exactly what we've done.
Together, our community at techRepublican will think, discuss, read, collaborate, criticize, share, and act to make a difference. Some of us may actually be Gen Nexters, but not all of us (including me).
Young, old(er), black, white, hispanic, conservative, moderate, cool, geeky, politicians, party chairmen, operatives, businessmen, hobbysts, authors, directors, comedians, artists, Americans, French, British, African, big, small, male, female... The only bond which links us all is that we're all modern Republicans and conservatives committed to our respective political parties.
The fact of the matter is that Republicans come in all shapes and sizes and we need to be sending our message out as widely as possible and better tapping in to organic portals and niche communities which articulate conservative principles.
Take for example the thriving Republican punk music scene. A read of Steve Miller's 2004 article in the Washington Times on the battle of ideas in the culture of punk rock music is something I associate with. Not only is punk rock great music, but it's always been a ripe battleground for political thought and discussion.
And, as a Republican, I'm proud to have had John Cummings in our Party. You may know John as Johnny Ramone, of one of the best bands of all time, the Ramones. The Ramones are largely regarded as being the first punk rock band and at least one band member was a Republican. In fact, Johnny Ramone was quoted in 2004 as saying, "I send money to the [Republican National Committee] and to Bush/Cheney. I will argue politics with people all day long. I am one of the few Republicans out here."
There's a discussion going on in the punk community about what it "means" to be a Republican at places like GOPunk.com and Conservative Punk. The mission statement for Conservative Punk sums up how they're helping push back on the liberal dominance of their medium well:
"Punk music has been, and still is, one of the most heavy-handed genres of music there is. Unfortunately the topics of such heavy-handed songs are almost always seeped in left wing propaganda, bumper sticker rallying calls and oversimplifications of otherwise complex topics... We at conservative punk mean to be the foil to this trend. We plan on filling in the gaps. We will offer our own views while still urging young punks to search for their own conclusions. Hopefully in doing so we will energize and excite young people enough to become engaged in politics and exercise their power at the ballot box."
Please tell me who at the Republican Party is responsible for this important niche coalition. Do they even know that the music their kids are listening to could be from a Republican?
Well we do.
Today and from now on, collectively, the contributors of techRepublican will focus, like a laser, to report best practices on the application of technology to the political spectrum, identifying Republicans and conservatives throughout the world who are using the Internet to bridge that great partisan digital divide and reach modern voters. We'll provide tips, tricks, and tools for campaigns to use -- for FREE.
And we hope you'll get involved in our Revolution. After all, it's your Party too. Together, we'll be successful. But we can't do it alone.
To get involved, you can join our Google Group and add your thoughts to the threads or start your own discussion topics. You can also follow our blog through our Twitter account, join our facebook group, organize under our DiggRight initiative (digg it!), connect with us on our YouTube channel, our myspace account, and many other socnets that we'll tell you about.
And we're always looking for contributors. If you're a Republican or a conservative - anywhere in the world and believe you've got something to say that our readers need to know, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us what you want to write or vlog about and our managing editor, Emily Zanotti, will get back with you quickly.
And if you're reading this, I hope you'll answer these questions:
- Will you join our movement?
- Will you pick up a musket and fight in the trenches with us?
- Will they listen and understand if we show them?
Because if you do, you'll be helping ensure the longevity and continuity of the Party and principles we love. Promise.
Today our Revolution begins. Tomorrow we fight.
Ed. Note, May 10, 3:32 PM: I've updated (in bold) some of the language I used with regard to the late and great Republican, Johnny Ramone. His relevancy to this post and the Party remains.