Wash Post: Dems Far Ahead of Repubs Online

Check out Jose Antonio Vargas’s article in today’s Post for a quick snapshot of the relative power of the presidential campaigns online, which is already stirring up a good bit of discussion online. Nothing in it will be shocking to regular followers of online politics, but it does have some good quotes from some names that’ll be familar to the e.politics crowd, including David All, Daniel Glover and Kung Fu Quip’s Mike Turk. A relevant excerpt:

One reason for the disparity between the parties, political insiders say, is that the top Republican candidates are not exciting voters the way the Democratic front-runners are. Another is that it takes a certain level of technical skill and understanding to be an online strategist, and Republicans admit that “the pool of talent in the Democrats’ side is much bigger than ours.”

But an underlying cause may be the nature of the Republican Party and its traditional discipline — the antithesis of the often chaotic, bottom-up, user-generated atmosphere of the Internet.

Judging from (beer-fueled) conversations I had with several Republican strategists at this weekend’s Personal Democracy Forum conference, the Post article hits the mark quite well — the main sentiment I heard from that side of the partisan divide was frustration mixed with fatalism. Republicans may have to get the pants beaten off of them a couple of times before they start to build a lasting online infrastructure. But bear in mind that tactics have switched sides before: Democrats started the extensive use of political direct mail, for instance, but Republicans ended up turning it into a decisive tool. So let’s nobody get complacent here, either way.


Written by
Colin Delany
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  • This is exactly right. Because we’re currently behind is not a reason to stay behind. It is, in fact, quite likely that the Internet, like any tool in a political arsenal, will be adapted by both parties.

    In 1960, there was no question that the Democrats were more prepared for TV, but the GOP adpated and used it quite effectively in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

    The Internet will likely follow the same trendline…

  • Clearly both the GOP and DNC will continue to find ways to use the Internet more creatively and think Turk’s larger blog post is right on. I would disagree with both of you, though, that direct mail and TV are good analogies as they are both single to multiple point forms of communication, which tend to be more corporatist in nature. And I do think the GOP is better using a downstream broadcasting model.

    The other problem with this analogy, which I don’t see addressed well in the article or any of the posts, is that the netroots base for the “left” and DNC that developed more of a grassroots movement that came out of the feeling of being in the political wilderness.

    Hence, its more natural that one would see more innovation by those who feel left out of the political system as that was a large part of the development of the machinery/tools of the modern conservative movement. And while the GOP has had some set backs politically it’s far from being in the wilderness.