GOP Web Redesign Greeted With a Mocking Reception
By Garance Franke-Ruta
Perhaps instead of everyone in the future being famous for 15 minutes, it will be that everyone gets mocked for 15 minutes.
Certainly the Republican National Committee experienced that Tuesday when it tried a public beta relaunch of its Web site, GOP.com. It caught a such a drubbing from a broad, and bipartisan, array of Internet wits and politically minded troublemakers that Chairman Michael Steele jettisoned the name of his new RNC blog, "What Up?", in favor of "Change the Game" by day's end.
By then, though, the online ribbing had led some wag to build a program that turns the walking, talking Steele introductory video on the new RNC site into a function that can be added to any site (by simply dropping a fresh url into a box at HammerandSteele.com) and begun circulating it across Twitter.
Despite the fun-making, GOP strategists say the site is going in the right direction. "Some kind of made fun of Chairman Steele saying this is a platform, but it's the first campaign or committee Web site that will have an API that will allow others to write programs on top of it," says Patrick Ruffini, a partner at Engage, a Republican new media agency and the RNC's eCampaign Director from 2005 to 2007. "That's huge. Not even Obama had that."
The site began to accumulate criticism almost instantly, as critics pounced on the red (for red states) banner field of the site, dotted with stars. "Branding confusion alert! (via @airamerica.com) the new gop.com (http://gop.com) has a new communist look," tweeted makeemsaysuh.
Others pointed to the list of GOP accomplishments as a trouble spot. It claimed Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren as a GOP great, when the rulings of the Warren Court have been a subject of great dismay and criticism among conservatives. Taking responsibility for Warren's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling seemed a stretch to some, as did claiming for the Republicans baseball great Jackie Robinson, an independent who at first supported but later turned away from the party.
The Future Leaders page was left blank. The site crashed repeatedly over the course of the day. In fact, there were so many glitches that The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder collected them in list form, writing a "Top Ten Reasons Why the GOP Website Relaunch Is Fizzling" and Obama campaign new media director Joe Rospars quipped, "You know your Web program is in trouble when your site can't even handle the traffic bump from people making fun of your Web program."
Steele shrugged off the bugs as the sort of thing that come with any public beta. "It's a beta site, meaning that there -- we're working out a lot of the kinks and the bugs," Steele defended the site to Fox News. "So the Dems can have their fun. Go play with it, have some fun with it. ... But the reality -- but the reality of it is, it is a new tool to communicate the new GOP."
Web Politics Editor
October 14, 2009; 3:01 PM ET
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