Twitter, Please!

Grover Norquist and the GOP search for tech religion

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist has become symbolic of Republican organizations becoming a bit too obsessed over technological advancement -- rather than looking at more comprehensive ways for the party to get its mojo back.

    The big debate in the Republican Party apparently is not over immigration, gay marriage or the size of the stimulus package (which sounds kinda risque, come to think of it).   

     
    No, the main focus is over how much resources need to be extended on technology.  If you think that sort of talk kind of underscores how much trouble the party is really in -- you'd be exactly correct.  
     
    The right-leaning news service CNS noted the disconnect in its coverage of last week's debate  between RNC candidates:  
     But the candidates were asked how many guns they own, to name their favorite and least favorite Republican president, and how often they use the “Twitter” social messaging utility on the Internet.
      
    “I Twitter, but not near as much as Saul does,” Chip Saltsman, former head of the Tennessee GOP said about his rival, Saul Anuzis, who heads the Michigan GOP, when asked the twitter question by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, which hosted the debate.

     In addition to Saltsman and Anuzis, the other candidates are conservative activist Kenneth Blackwell; GOP chairman in South Carolina, Katon Dawson; former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and incumbent RNC Chairman Mike Duncan.

     Duncan defended his being the only candidate that does not use Twitter by saying that the networking tool is now a part of the GOP.com Web site under his leadership.
      
    The candidates did reveal that, with the exception of Steele, each owns more than one gun – and Blackwell boasted that he has the most friends on the Internet social networking site Facebook, with more than 4,000.
    “I Twitter, but not near as much as Saul does.”  Not quite up there with "I think, therefore I am" in the history of political statements. Indeed, just for saying that, Chip Saltsman should probably be disqualified from the chairmanshiip (forget about his earlier "Magic Negro" silliness).  And Blackwell's boasting about the size of his Facebook friend list was almost as ridiculous.  
     
    In fairness, this wasn't a question that should have been asked.  
     
    Unfortunately, this is what happens when a party loses an election big. Activists and leaders alike start flailing around for a quick and dirty answer to what ails the party -- or, in the case of conservatives, "the movement." It's much easier to point to a lack of tools rather than address more comprehensive or fundamental problems.    
     
    Patrick Ruffini, a younger conservative with a technological bent, looks at the tension between those who say that  the party needs to get more technologically savvy and those who argue for change of a more ideological or structural nature. In fact, Ruffini deems the entire debate absurd because the answer, essentially, is both: Re-energize the party's core principles and use technological advancements to connect the party's central leadership with activists and individual voters.
     
    Ruffini makes some good points, but there's an important fact to be kept in mind: Barack Obama may be the Democrats' Ronald Reagan, i.e. a once-in-a-lifetime figure that whose success can't be emulated just be copying strategy and tactics.  The GOP may be able to catch up on basics like fundraising and voter organization by adopting all sorts of online techniques.  But the "Party of Reagan" came about because a unique messenger, message and medium were synthesized into a comprehensive unit that left the opposition reeling  -- and created a model that lasted a generation.  If Obama is that sort of game-changer for the Democrats, then there is little the GOP can do to bring itself back up to national competitiveness.
     
    But that is a darn big "if."  It means Obama must successfully get the country to go along with his bigger government vision. Considering how much even liberals are dubious over government doing the right thing (a $700 billion no-oversight bailout to banks kind of undermines people's confidence that government will do the right thing), that's no simple task. The best way to stop the country from buying into that is to confront Obama's ideas and policies as they are presented: 
     
    That means doing something more pronounced that just twittering amongst one another.