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The GOP: Luddites or high tech?

By Dan Balz
AUSTIN -- Are Republicans trailing the Democrats in their ability to exploit new technology to communicate with voters -- or overtaking them?

That issue flared briefly during the opening day of the Republican Governors Association annual conference here Wednesday. Former Ohio representative John Kasich offered a provocative assessment of his party's failures on that front when he complained about the lack of success of his former colleagues in Washington in projecting a compelling message to the country.

"I think Republicans need to learn to communicate with the tools of the 21 st century," Kasich said. "The women in Iran have been more effective using Twitter than House Republicans have been getting their message out to the country. We need to embrace the modern tools of the 21 st century.... Let's get with it with this stuff."

Republicans are clearly envious of the success of President Obama's campaign last year in reaching voters through social networking, text messaging, e-mails and other new technology. But Virginia Gov.-elect Robert McDonnell claimed he took Obama's ideas and adapted them in his own successful campaign this fall.

McDonnell said Obama had done "a phenomenal job using social media, Twitter, text messaging and any number of other things" to reach voters. "One of the first things I did was I hired the company that did Obama's text messaging. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we hired...them," he said.

McDonnell said his campaign tried to reach younger voters both by establishing a Facebook site and "by tweeting on Twitter on a regular basis." He said he also significantly increased the share of his campaign budget that went to internet advertising.

"We bought banner ads in virtually every major site with a demographic that we were trying to reach...," he said. You couldn't go to those sites without having a pop up with my name on it. I think that helped us a lot."

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour claimed that in both New Jersey and Virginia, exit polls showed that, among those people who said they got a significant amount of their news from the internet, both McDonnell and New Jersey Gov. -elect Chris Christie won a substantially larger share of the vote than their Democratic opponents.

By Web Politics Editor  |  November 19, 2009; 7:56 AM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , New Media  
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TO: "Gorble" @ 10:51 a.m.

For a post that presumably is intended to ridicule my reporting, you sure do have the lingo down -- especially the use of the word "nodes." Now, I'm no spook, but my NLP tells me you are. Have a nice day, and thanks for the neurolinguistic "confirmation."

But tell cencom to stop frying POTUS' noggin, will you? All those new moles and bald streaks and heavy lines and rapidly graying hair are giving it away....

What else do the good people on the inside know? Have a nice day.

Posted by: scrivener50 | November 19, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Its the message, not the messenger. If you get the message out and get it out first, then it doesn't matter if its true, false or highly slanted.

As another poster put it, the GOP marketing machine is highly effect but the message is so shrill, selfish and lacking in logical consistency that swing voters and formerly disaffected voters realized the fox was ruling the hen house.

As for the narrower issue of "to be tech or not to be tech," the newcomers are taking over.

The GOP is at war with itself. The moderates and traditional GOP members find the positions of the newcomer neo-cons and religious right to be boisterous, in-your-face, and self-destructive to the point where party representation in any office is second to ideological "purity." The traditionalists are now in the minority within the GOP, and losing control of the party they seized in 1920. They're beginning to recognize they made a very bad deal with the devil and they're frightened. The traditionalists have no friends in the Democratic Party, their former allies in the Libertarian and Conservative parties have joined with the GOP Rebels, and the last viable 3rd party (Ross Perot's Reform Party) has been hijacked by Pat Buchanan (now called the America First Party).

The traditionalists are inept in their use of new political organizational tools, plus they tend to be more measured and reasoned in their utterances. Their GOP opponents, however, are more technology-savvy and are not inhibited by getting their facts straight or being philosophically consistent.

Posted by: Parziale | November 19, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse


Not very convincing, bud.

Posted by: DCer1 | November 19, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Once again, this article simplifies the issue and makes a claim based on only one portion of the entirety. The Republican Party is an alliance of various factions which are each striving to force their views on America.

First, they are the party of big business. Although Lincoln was a liberal and the early republicans were liberals, they gradually came under the sway of big business during the years following the Civil War. In this context, the republicans triggered off the Great Depression and the Great Recession which we are now facing.

They are the party of conservative religion. This is a relatively new development as it required the power of the Democratic Party in the south to wane as the voters finally put the Civil War behind them and joined with their ideological brethern in the rest of the country. This is an alliance of convenience for the traditional republicans shown by the fact that, when the republicans held the presidency and majorities in both the house and senate, the traditional republicans made no meaningful effort to move on the religious right's agenda.

There are other fringe parts of the Republican party, but these two are dominate.

Underlying the politics of big business and legislating morality is the simple fact that both parts of the party attempt to return the United States to an imagined perfection of the past. The big business portion wants a return to the laissez faire policies of the past, ignoring where those policies lead. The religious branch wishes a return to where they could control the political machine well enough to have the laws they demanded passed by the legislature.

You may think different, but I find the thought of returning to no effective control of big business and Jim Crowe laws repugnant.

Finally, their tactics at this point seem to be based on the Big Lie (as once perfected by Goebbels), fear, and obstructionism. These are all tactics that have been used before, but they seem to be carrying them further than I have seen in my lifetime. Although the conservative tactics of attack during the Clinton years and the Bush aministration (such as calling those who disagreed with them about the war in Iraq and Afganistan traitors (as an aside, does that make them traitors now when they attack Obama on the same subjects)), the fear element and obstructionism have simply gone so far that they may be breaking down the very model that our government is founded on - that we may have differing views, but we must work together and cooperate to get things done.

What they have done now is say that they must win, or they will try to destroy the American way of life.

Posted by: dastardlydynamo1 | November 19, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

"Call it the ultimate bankruptcy of
the "southern strategy."

Last I checked, NJ is not a southern state.

Heed my warning: Just because you think/write something does not make it true. Liberals are about to have recent successes blow up in their face. Americans are not leftists at heart and generally disagree with liberal sensibilities. B.O. fundamentally misunderstood why he got elected and what Americans were expecting, thus the disasterous tenure and sinking poll numbers of the past few months.

Mark my words, if the health bill passes...the Dems will have hell to pay in 2010.

Posted by: DCer1 | November 19, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are a Party in search of a message. If they engage in high tech to get out more of the negative drivel they are currently issuing with old media, they will simply multiply their sad story to a larger audience.

Better for Republicans to actually develop policies that benefit Americans instead of their usual beneficiaries such as investment companies, insurers, banks, polluters, destroyers of the environment, weapons suppliers and big oil, to name a few.

After eight disaster filled years, Americans know what a Compassionate Conservative looks like, and more of the same, which is all Republicans seem capable of mustering, is no longer acceptable.

When listening to Republicans, Americans must remember that the same crowd that supported George W. Bush and his policies are the same crowd who again want to lead the country. Bush, his Administration thugs and his Congressional Gang fooled (lied to us) twice. Enough is enough.

Posted by: joachim1 | November 19, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

"(just note national election results for the past 40 years)"

I assume you're talking about the presidency.

Democrats have controlled both congressiounal chambers all years since FDR, except for 1994 to 2006. I expect a similar dominance in perpetuity, thanks in part to the GOP going out of its way to lose every Latino voter.

The conservative party has a difficult time incorporating new constituencies. Call it the ultimate bankruptcy of the "southern strategy."

Posted by: mypitts2 | November 19, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Republicans don't have enough young people. It's hard to gain a technological edge when you don't have younger supporters, whose whole life is technology.

The lack of young people hurts them other ways, too. The Tea Party people would never have been calling themselves "teabaggers" if they had one college kid in their ranks. Now they're stuck with a nickname that has become a pundit's joke.

Alas for the party, I see nothing in the GOP message that appeals to younger voters. Their hero -- Reagan -- is a generation ago. The Democrats' hero -- Obama -- is right now, today.

Posted by: mypitts2 | November 19, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Calling the Republicans 'luddites' is overly generous, in my opinion. They still haven't evolved out of the cro-magnon period where women don't vote, speak up or have rights. And their fiscal policy of "Gimme, Gimme, Me! Me! Me!" is about as revolutionary as, say, dirt.

Posted by: rurik | November 19, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

You people at the WP are hilarious. Please remember that it's the Republicans that are masters at mobilization and exploiting technology (just note national election results for the past 40 years). Last year was the exception -- a "perfect storm" election, if you will -- that resulted in the left-wing nut jobs briefly overtaking Republicans on this front. Recent indications are that America is recovering from its drug induced stupor over an incompetent empty suit and will soon return to its more sane and effective self.

Just remember, things don't become true just becaue you wish they were. In point of fact, this is a slightly right-of-center nation that, on balance, prefers Republican principles and convictions over the vast majority of trash that emanates from the disasterous Democratic party and the even more shameful left-wing swine in the WH and Congress.

Posted by: DCer1 | November 19, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I think the Republicans are getting their message out just fine. They just have a bad message.

FOXNEWS is the most popular cable news channel. Glenn Beck got the Tea Baggers excited and people tune into Rush. Sarah Palin has tons of Face Book friends and Krauthammer and Kristol are writing party opinion. TV, radio, Internet and print. They have all the bases covered including old tech prayer.

Posted by: Emmetrope | November 19, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

As the party of government, Democrats have always been better at fishing for votes than Republicans- from Tammany Hall and the big city political machines to ACORN. Dead people voting is old hat to liberal Democrats. The fact that they are also better at electoral technology simply follows from thei history.

Posted by: mhr614 | November 19, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Damn... Scrivener50, you have found out our Great Secret. We are immediately re-targeting all local Microwave/Laser Torture Matrix nodes to your location!

Target locked.


Posted by: gorble | November 19, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

It's not the medium, it's the message. That is Republicans' problem.

Their message is hateful, negative and selfish. No wonder so few people are listening.

Posted by: drindl | November 19, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Republicans are mostly conservative. And conservatives by the very nature of the definition of being a "conservative" are naturally motivated to "maintain the status quo" or observe "traditional perspectives". So, it's not surprising that they tend to prefer processes, methods and technology that they are familiar with even if they don't know exactly how it works. For most conservatives "change" or "new" is always met with great skepticism, and thus new techonology is not readily accepted as the more naturally "gadget-obsessive", experimental and curious so-called "progressives".

Posted by: callosumlink | November 19, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

After any kind of spreading means has to be a message. A message with enough probability to be shared. Conservatives are really powerful because they hide their real intent. Silence and darkness is the better ground for them. Any try to promote it would be a total self-destruction. So many falacies and empty arguments add hominem to seem unlogical and unreasonable. Of course they are not so. But their real intent cannot be shared because it is based on elitism. Elitism is inherently incompatible with spreading.

Posted by: Vercinget333 | November 19, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I hope they keep on communicating with the citizens the way they are, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, etc. I have no problem with these clowns being the MINORITY PARTY.

Posted by: shipfreakbo214 | November 19, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Odd spam bots above me aside

Actually, despite what a lot of people think, us young folk (I'm 28) don't get our news from "the internet", if that idea means that we get it only from sources that a 'net exclusive. Personally, I tend ot get most of mine from the websites of newspapers and news networks that have print and tv as their primary forums, mostly because I check the news at work. I also still read a "dead tree" paper every day.

It's not a matter of knowing the technology, it's a matter of knowing the languge and not coming off as a witless fool trying to be hip.

Posted by: EricS2 | November 19, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Well. I think it is nothing about high tech means. People with real empty messages are quickly discover in the present high tech maelstrom. Hypocrisy too.

Posted by: Vercinget333 | November 19, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Is it me or is there a dismissiveness/ implicit sexism in the statement that 'Iranian women' are better at getting their message out on twitter than House Republicans?

Posted by: ilekerguelen | November 19, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Rush seems to be doing fine killing health care reform through AM radio. You don't always have to be young and educated to destroy something, just mean and old.

Posted by: george11 | November 19, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

This is clearly a demographic issue. Look at the returns from the presidential election. Republicans skew old and uneducated. Thus, their "base" is less likely to adopt new technology. They watch TV news to get their information, they have landline telephones, and they can barely email, let alone Tweet.

I don't know that the Republicans need to adopt more sophisticated technological tools to reach their voters. Unless they change their message to appeal to people under 50, with college degrees, and the teabaggers seem hell bent on keeping the GOP the Party of Stupid.

Posted by: Rocket88 | November 19, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse


Are you kidding? The old white men are so far modern technology, they probably can't even spell the word. My favorite comment was from Bush about "the internets", like there is more than one. lmao

Posted by: MAC14 | November 19, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

The reason why Obama's campaign was so successful, was not internet technology, but there was no meaningful competition in terms of compelling ideas( period).

Posted by: peterroach | November 19, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

republicons do just fine in communicating - in fact they are masters of marketing. Not of governing, but of marketing. They actually represent les than 5% of the people, and yet through insidiously deceptive marketing actually have enough power to stop all progress that might make life better in our contry for ordiary people. They are able to use the deep pockets of their actual constieunts to creat a vast network to spread the lies that they rely on people to believe in order to get even a tiny bit of support.

They are not luddites. They are troglodytes. Actually they are closer to Pharisees than anything.

Posted by: John1263 | November 19, 2009 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Are you kidding us? Republicans are masters in communicating with their voters!
Their unholy alliance with the corporate-owned media, strict adherence to talking points, and use of propaganda that would give Big Brother a huge case of envy, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Whether they do essentially nothing but obstruction when out of power, or bring down the world economy when in power, Republicans are always out there, creating media side shows on the steps of Congress, Fox (Faux) News reports that would give the Ministry of Truth a run for its money, political rallies that happily generate death threats for elected officials (Palin, Bachmann, Beck, Limbaugh), or just plain use of paid experts to lie and get others to sign on to the lie and get it published and circulated. Bravura propagandists are our Republicans.

Posted by: shapiromarilyn | November 19, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

GOP rule under Bush-Cheney -- VERY HIGH TECH MICROWAVE/LASER TORTURE...and the torture matrix remains up and running under Obama...

FROM: JOURNALIST VICTOR LIVINGSTON =========================

We know the Fort Hood shooter was harassed, and perhaps was a victim of government-enabled vigilante "community stalking." Was he also a target of this covert federal program of electromagnetic torture and impairment -- and PERVASIVE 24/7 SURVEILLANCE?



* Thousands of Americans, deemed to be "dissidents" or undesirables, targeted by Bush legacy program for debilitating microwave/laser assault, held hostage in their own homes to fed-supported vigilante "community policing" stalking units, equipped with warrantless GPS devices, who vandalize and terrorize as local police look the other way.

* "Directed energy weapons," portable units and a nationwide installation employing cell towers and satellites, induce weakness, exhaustion, head and body aches, physical and neurological impairment, strokes, aneurysms, cancer -- and many victims do not realize what is making them sick.

* Regional Homeland Security- administered "fusion centers" reportedly serve as command centers for covert electromagnetic radiation attacks, pervasive surveillance, financial sabotage of those identified as "dissidents," "trouble-makers" or slandered as threats to society.

* Use of microwave weaponry to torture and impair political opponents recently confirmed by deposed Honduras President Manuel Zelaya.

* Pleas for justice, to local police and FBI, go unanswered -- as do demands for a Department of Justice Civil Rights Division investigation and congressional hearings.

"These are crimes against humanity and the Constitution, being perpetrated under the cover of national security and 'safe streets' by multiple federal and local agencies and commands -- an American genocide hiding in plain sight, enabled by the naivete of those who think 'it can't happen here.'" -- Victor Livingston, former reporter for WTXF-TV Philadelphia, Phila. Bulletin, N.Y. Daily News, St. Petersburg Times; producer/host, MSG Network Sports Business Report; columnist,

OR (if links are corrupted / disabled): RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | November 19, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

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