Web 2.0 and the New Conservative Revolution
By Rachel Alexander
March 24, 2009

There is a new conservative movement sweeping the country, and it is taking place in technology. As the entire internet moves toward social networking sites and interactive media, transitioning to the Web 2.0 next generation of the internet, conservative activists are riding the crest. Frustrated by the Left`s success at mobilizing activists through moveon.org and other left-leaning internet savvy organizations, the Right is aggressively catching up. Web 2.0 is the new way of communicating on the internet in real time with others using applications and technologies like blogging, Facebook, Twitter, podcasting, social bookmarking sites, and wikis.

Led by a younger generation of conservative tech-activists including the Sam Adams Alliance, Eric Odom and others, and embraced by edgy grassroots conservative organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, the movement has christened itself #dontgo. The pound sign is a reference to the Twitter moniker for a group channel, and the name was conceived as a reaction to moveon.org. This new wave of conservative internet media activists are not the geeky computer types. Now that computers have become mainstream, political activists under age 40 find using the new media to be as routine as driving a car. Julie Banderas, a gorgeous broadcaster on Fox News, touts her Twitter channel, twitter.com/juliebanderas, on every show.

Consultant and attorney Ralph Benko has written a colorful, free e-book called "The Webster`s Dictionary - How to Use the Web to Transform the World," educating conservative activists and policymakers on the importance of using the new Web 2.0 to advance their message and accomplish their agenda. He explains how
moveon.org successfully used new internet technologies to mobilize over 3 million supporters into action. For Benko, the key thing to keep in mind is that this latest metamorphis of the internet into Web 2.0 means 99% listening and only 1% talking. Instead of running traditional informational websites, website creators need to incorporate social networking capabilities so their readers can become part. Internet users want more participation; they want to give their feedback and communicate with each other.

The incredible rise of Facebook is evidence of this change in the internet. Statistics from January reveal that Facebook had 68.5 million unique visitors last month, which mostly translates into members. As people become more familiar with the internet and are more comfortable placing their own words into writing and communicating in its vast public forum, they want the kind of social interaction that Facebook provides.

Part of the reason for the Right`s rapid ascendance online is due to the Republican establishment`s continued failure to adapt to the new internet. The juxtaposition of the older generation`s John McCain with the young, hip Barack Obama glued to his blackberry could not have presented a starker contrast. McCain`s defeat was the final straw prompting younger conservatives to take things into their own hands. Disappointed by the Republican establishment`s failure to round up the base using Twitter, Facebook, social bookmarking sites, and other new media, an underground force began mobilizing on its own and filled that void.

Within the past few months, conservative activists figured out that by adding thousands of friends ("following" others so they will become your "followers") on Twitter, they can get messages across to thousands of other activists around the country instantly. #dontgo was originally started to send messages instantly to other activists regarding action on the House floor in order to get them to contact their Congressional Representatives and complain about their voting patterns. Its success prompted its founders to expand it to the conservative movement generally. A group was formed by Michael Patrick Leahy on Twitter called #tcot, featured at
topconservativesontwitter.org, which has become the primary hub for conservative activists on Twitter. A parallel website now tracks what`s happening in the new online movement, called tcotreport.org, and it prominently features the live #tcot twitter stream on its homepage.

Social networking sites are popping up so quickly it is becoming difficult to keep track of them. Where will the conservative online movement go now to get a handle on all of them? RootsHQ has been started by Eric Odom for conservative online activists to coordinate projects together. RootsHQ is planning its first annual conference this fall in Tennessee. Another major new conservative social networking site is Rebuild the Party, created by Patrick Ruffini. The new movement is heavily using
youtube.com and podcasting, and #dontgo has its own channel on Blog Talk Radio. #dontgo is in the midst of launching state-level conservative websites under the name News Platoon, which will aggregate news, opinion, podcasts, and other new media from conservative organizations and bloggers in each state.

How well Republican leadership embraces the new technologies remains to be seen. Senator Jim DeMint and Representative Thaddeus McCotter have been actively part of the movement since it began, but will others follow? Or are these two the exception? Newly elected Republican National Committee Secretary Sharon Day and Treasurer Randy Pullen have both eagerly embraced the new media. Sharon recruited support for her race through Twitter -
http://tcotmembersforsharonday.wordpress.com/. Pullen has said, "Move over, moveon.org, Republicans get it." As for the rest of the establishment, well, Cindy McCain just joined Twitter and tweeted me back after I sent her a tweet. 

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Comments


03/27/09 10:30 am (EST),
Rocvkille
Hi Brad. It`s by no means your ignorance, it`s my laziness in using jargon. Apologies, you totally get this already. "White label social networkin...

03/27/09 03:00 am (EST),
Boston
Ralph, pardon my ignorance but what is white label social networking? You, Sheridan and most others here have probably forgotten more than I will ever...

03/27/09 12:46 am (EST),
Rocvkille
Hi Sheridan, great to see you here. You are a true pillar of the Movement. Well, I`ve had really good results with Joomla!, which, as you know, is a...

03/26/09 03:40 pm (EST),
Dover
Right on about the rest!

03/26/09 03:38 pm (EST),
Dover
Joomla is garbage and certainly NOT part of the future, unless drastic changes are to come(and I see none). Also Patrick gets `nothing`.

03/26/09 12:44 pm (EST),
Chicago
My name is Paul Miller and I am Communications Director for the Sam Adams Alliance. Let me start by saying thank you for recognizing our efforts. T...

03/26/09 08:26 am (EST),
Rocvkille
Hi Brad. Actually, Ning doesn`t claim ownership of the creator`s or members` content and, being based on user-generated content, is very much Web 2....

03/26/09 03:36 am (EST),
Boston
And actually we started MoveOverMoveOn on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/s.php?k=100000004&id=17801886181&gr=5&act=future&sid=53371c09ee6143333ebd2a...

03/26/09 03:23 am (EST),
Boston
Actually Ralph Benko and David All are about the only two people on the Conservative side that actually "get it." Ralph gets it from a theoretical sta...

03/25/09 11:00 pm (EST),
Rocvkille
As the guy who is mentioned in graf 3 of Rachel`s excellent article, may I direct some attention to www.thewebstersdictionary.com, where you can downl...





Joshua Greene, Kansas City , MO. 03/24/09, 03:25 am (EST)
Lets just put it this way, If the Republican Party doesnt push this movement more, the Republican Party wont be around much longer. This is just the beginning and one of the smallest of the laundry list of the problems that the GOP has to deal with.
Adam , New York , New York . 03/24/09, 09:33 am (EST)
McCain did such an awful job embracing new technology it was frightening. When I attended his first big fundraiser at the Plaza I made an effort to tell everyone on his staff he needs to use the Internet much more successfully to raise money. They all agreed but did nothing to change the status quo. I told them they should send out emails on a weekly basis attempting to raise millions of dollars, with a bank that shows how much money has been raised so far. With the Internet long gone are the days when a candidate running for President or actually any office had to spend most of their time on the phone trying to solicit donors. With the Internet a candidate can blast an email saying “Can you help me raise $1mm in the next 24 hours to run an ad?” I believe the Internet and email has been a great equalizer combating the liberal media bias. Liberal lies and gaffs no longer go unchallenged. In the 80s and 90s, Obama’s jab at Special Olympic kids would not have been picked up by any major news organization. Today the clip is on youtube and posted on thousands of webpages, Obama even had to make an apology. The next Republican candidate for President must use it to its full capacity to raise capital. I doubt Obama will be able to raise the amount he did last time, many of his donor and supporters in 2008 will realize by 2012 that he is a failed President, but he has a massive list of donors. The Republican nominee should be able to match his donor list, but he will only be able to do so by embracing the Internet, email, facebook, twitter, etc.
anne, San Francisco, CA. 03/24/09, 04:16 pm (EST)
We`re doomed if the establishment can`t figure this out shortly. I still remember when one of my student workers signed up for Barack`s text message service. She was so excited to be an "insider" - just through getting texts. We need to be able to create some buzz like that.
, , . 03/24/09, 04:59 pm (EST)
Your problem isn`t that conservatives don`t know how to use technology. Your problem is that anyone under the age of 65 is more than likely to be liberal. Twitter all you want, but nobody is fuckin listening. Stop alienating the youth vote with the tired ass "culture wars" mindset and maybe this can change.
Ben Rider, Edina, MN. 03/24/09, 07:41 pm (EST)
all I can say is FINALLY. I like to think I have been on the bleeding edge of all this stuff back to around 2004 when I started to get politically involved. I started a blog on blogger (http://hardrockconservative.blogspot.com) back in 2005 but have been pretty inconsistant on updating it until recently. I have been furious with how inept the old guard base has been with tech. The people in my community aren`t even on my same page techwise and its nice to know that there are other people out there like me. I can only wonder what the political landscape would look like if we launched something like this back in like 2005. We probably wouldn`t have been kicked around as bad but the past is the past. We have learned from our history and will not repeat it. Parcbench will help us take back the House in 2010 and the Senate and Presidency in 2012!
Ralph Benko, Rocvkille, MD. 03/25/09, 11:00 pm (EST)
As the guy who is mentioned in graf 3 of Rachel`s excellent article, may I direct some attention to www.thewebstersdictionary.com, where you can download the referenced eBook, The Websters` Dictionary, free (if you are willing to take The Websters` Oath: "I will use my powers only for good," and if you`re not, then you can just buy the paper version from Amazon). The point of The Websters` Dictionary is that the key power and glory of the Web now is in community-building and anyone who is reading this already has the power to use the Web to transform the world. So stop bashing the GOP and McCain and McCain`s people and the "establishment" ... just go do it yourself. (Pretty much all the blueprints you need are in the book.) And Anne? I get that you are from San Francisco ... so the whole world looks way liberal to you. that said, outside the elite opinion stream, self-described conservatives outnumber self-described liberals by about 2 to 1. It`s not that we geezers outnumber you padawan.... Really, if you get out of the Bay Area you might be amazed.... Really, you might. ; )
Brad Marston, Boston, MA. 03/26/09, 03:23 am (EST)
Actually Ralph Benko and David All are about the only two people on the Conservative side that actually "get it." Ralph gets it from a theoretical standpoint. David gets it from an actual standpoint. David`s Slatecard was a stand alone platform that was actually useful. All the other efforts via Ning, Twitter, Facebook etc are at best Web1.1 and nowhere near Web2.0 as they are dependent on web architecture built on other platforms where the owner owns the data. MyBO was a stand alone social network supported by integrated CRM. Until conservatives and the GOP embrace that technology we will be sucking wind. Ning, Twitter and Facebook are pointers, not platforms.
Brad Marston, Boston, MA. 03/26/09, 03:36 am (EST)
And actually we started MoveOverMoveOn on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/s.php?k=100000004&id=17801886181&gr=5&act=future&sid=53371c09ee6143333ebd2ae38e9fe3e9#/event.php?sid=53371c09ee6143333ebd2ae38e9fe3e9&eid=120342960404 It is not about Web2.0 It is about Web 3.0. It is Social Networking combined with CRM and integrated feeds. Comment on a conservative social networking website and have it set up that it automatically posts all over the web. Ning, Twitter, Facebook, Stumble, Rigg etc are tools. What we need is a strategy.
Ralph Benko, Rocvkille, MD. 03/26/09, 08:26 am (EST)
Hi Brad. Actually, Ning doesn`t claim ownership of the creator`s or members` content and, being based on user-generated content, is very much Web 2.0. Ning is a white label social networking platform (they have it on their timeline to let the network creator migrate the content, should she so choose, one already can export the email addresses in a csv file). In the past six months, over 75,000 people, largely conservatives, have joined online communities that I have architected, advised, or were influenced by my work, not counting the ones who have read The Websters` Dictionary in 118 countries whose outcomes I don`t know about. So ... thanks for the compliment about my getting it, and really, if you`ll review my work, you may find that it`s a little more than theoretical. ; ) Just for the record, by the way, in working with advisees with modest budgets, I usually recommend a Joomla!-based platform with a white label social network wrappered in, the exact network depending on their anticipated needs. For many people, Ning is fine, although it does have limitations in its back end database capabilities. And yes, David All is terrific. There are others who really get it, though, such as Leslie Graves, Erik Telford, Adam Radford, Robert Bluey and his ace team at Heritage, Bill and Paul Collier, and Patrick Ruffini ... and you ... just for starters. The Right is emerging and will have breakthroughs ... sooner rather than later. Thanks in large measure to guys like you.
Paulie, Chicago, IL. 03/26/09, 12:44 pm (EST)
My name is Paul Miller and I am Communications Director for the Sam Adams Alliance. Let me start by saying thank you for recognizing our efforts. The Sam Adams Alliance is leading a new revolution for liberty by training, inspiring and empowering people to utilize new media tools to advance economic freedom and individual liberty. It important that the truth always prevail and with that said I want to clarify and important part of this article. The Sam Adams Alliance respects the work of the Dontgo movement, but our organization is not a part of it. The success they endure strictly belongs to the hard work of Eric Odom and his colleagues. Paul Miller
Sheridan Folger, Dover, New Hampshire. 03/26/09, 03:38 pm (EST)
Joomla is garbage and certainly NOT part of the future, unless drastic changes are to come(and I see none). Also Patrick gets `nothing`.
Sheridan Folger, Dover, New Hampshire. 03/26/09, 03:40 pm (EST)
Right on about the rest!
Ralph Benko, Rocvkille, MD. 03/27/09, 12:46 am (EST)
Hi Sheridan, great to see you here. You are a true pillar of the Movement. Well, I`ve had really good results with Joomla!, which, as you know, is a modular PHP-based platform with a lot of versatility, low cost, and easy administration. Am not sure why you call it garbage, perhaps you lean towards Drupal or Wordpress? Or perhaps you desire a more robust platform. Joomla! has proved a great value for my needs. Perhaps yours are different. Always new things to learn, though, so if you have some recommendations on better inexpensive platforms, please post them pronto! Yes, granted, someone with a substantial budget might look at a proprietary system -- blackbaud, kintera, convio, capwiz -- or maybe that interesting new low-cost contender, communitycontrolcenter. But for the person or groups doing this on a very limited budget, I am keenly interested in what you have found that is better than Joomla!, and why. Thanks!
Brad Marston, Boston, MA. 03/27/09, 03:00 am (EST)
Ralph, pardon my ignorance but what is white label social networking? You, Sheridan and most others here have probably forgotten more than I will ever know. We actually used Joomla to build the now defunct McCainNow.com and I thought it was rather effective. Sheridan and I are using Ning for http://SovereigntyAlliance.org and yes it is fact and easy and the fact that members of other Ning sites can easily join and/or be invited is a plus. I am one of the organizers of the New Boston Tea Party on Tax Day. We have a strategy for garnering MSM coverage but we are planning on using BTR and UStreamTV as a way for our internet friends from around the country to participate as well. UStreamTV allows you to add other shows to your broadcast page. Given that there are Tax Day Tea Parties planned across the country, I would be interested in your thoughts on how best to aggregate those feeds. I thinks using the ability to simultaneously upload to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social networking platforms could generate great attention/viewership. Again I see too many bulletin board sites, or social networking sites and rarely see sites that combine both as well as a CRM function (unfortunately including our own.
Ralph Benko, Rocvkille, MD. 03/27/09, 10:30 am (EST)
Hi Brad. It`s by no means your ignorance, it`s my laziness in using jargon. Apologies, you totally get this already. "White label social networking platforms" simply means utilities such as Ning.com -- they provide the easy technical platform and templates and we create our own branded community with these, as opposed to working on someone else`s branded site, like Facebook (which really is configured to inhibit, not facilitate, mass mobilization), although of course we do hang around each other`s sites a little bit. As for the rest of what you say, not only is there so much that I don`t know, but ... however much I research and study (relentlessly!) there is more that I don`t know every day! As to the key point you raise -- about aggregating the feeds -- I am fully persuaded by David Weinberger`s classic "Small Pieces Loosely Joined" -- which Joe Trippi kind of cited as his bible in "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"-- that aggregating is a weaker strategy than everyone doing what they do and letting it organically and spontaneously come together -- if it does -- rather than trying to nudge things together. After all, there are only about 7 entities on the Left -- MoveOn, Kos, ActBlue being among the market leaders -- who get it, the vast majority of the Left is even cluelesser than we are but living inside MoveOn`s halo. The Left-populist leaders don`t aggregate, or even formally collaborate very often, it appears. They have aligned visions and so informally reinforce each other. A movement implies, and requires, distributed power and initiative rather than close coordination.... Moreover, if you will take a peak at "Crowdsourcing" you might conclude, as I have, that they magic elixer is mostly about putting out the punch and munchies, inviting everyone to the party and ... seeing if we get a Rave out of it. ; ) Rock on, Brad! Ralph, over here at www.thewebstersdictionary.com

 



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