The Next Right: New Political Technologies

At the end of any of the week-long courses at the Leadership Institute, Morton Blackwell passes out a framed document, The Laws of the Public Policy Process. Number 9 is: “Political Technology Determines Political Success.” It is clear that at various points, the Republican Party has dominated certain areas of political technology. In the 70s and 80s, it was direct mail. In the 90s, it was talk radio. In the 2004 election, it was probably micro-targetting and the depth of information about voters in Voter Vault. At other times, the Democrats were similarly able to use new ideas to out organize us. The construction of the FDR coalition depended on a robust ward and precinct system in urban areas coupled with intense local corruption. Earlier Democratic majorities depended on strong organizations in immigrant communities. The movie Gangs of New York has a scene in which a Democratic Party official is standing at the docks in New York passing out food and Democratic Party literature to people as they get off the boat. And today the GOTV operation run out of the black churches is astonishing in its effectiveness and is an important factor in the inability of the GOP to make any significant inroads into the African American community.

In each case, some method of political organizing corresponded to some sociological phenomenon that increased the ability to organize that group. One of the keys to build the next Republican coalition will be to connect demographic subgroups, issues that motivate them, and political technologies that mobilize them. These may end up being unique to each demographic.

By way of clarifying, let me pose a question. Reihan Salam suggested that working class whites and latinos may be joining as a political force:

Suppose the white working class, which is to say the Anglo white working class, is actually expanding to include Latinos of a similar cultural disposition and economic status. Look beyond the color-coded demographic projections and it’s at least plausible that a working-class coalition built around an Anglo-Latino bloc will more than hold its own in raw numbers against the emerging Obama coalition of social liberals of all classes, black voters, and reform-minded members of the mass upper middle class.

About this, Michael Barone noted:

For nearly four decades, enlightened opinion has seen Latinos as “people of color,” who will respond to American politics much as blacks have done. All recent experience (and my own The New Americans: How the Melting Pot Can Work Again) suggest this is not so.

If the white working class follows the pattern since the 80s and trends Republican and Hispanics continue the trend of the last several President elections and become increasingly Republican, we could have part of the basis of a new coalition. But how do we organize them?

I don’t have the answer to this question. I have no experience organizing Latinos and hope that people who run campaigns in Latino districts participate in our discussion. One of the functions of The Next Right will be to provide a forum for sharing best practices. For example, Gen-Next is organizing and recruiting new donors in Orange County, the University of Oregon Students for McCain is creating a huge presence on an incredibly liberal campus, Stephen Taylor and the Conservative Party of Canada are dominating the left online even more than the left dominates in the United States, and the Florida GOP has done categorically better than almost any state party in the country in organizing Hispanics, even discounting Cubans.

I suspect that the successful experiments that are taking place out there in the real world can be shared. Pat Hynes has written on the power of small groups in evangelical churches to connect and inform people. My experience at John McCain’s campaign suggests that a more full-scale political organizing method may be possible that borrows from these ideas. McCain enthusiasts all over the country were reaching out, holding conference calls, recruiting people when the campaign was incapable of overseeing them, or, in some cases, even communicating with them. With some tools, a campaign or the Republican National Committee might be able to harness energy that links online activity and offline activity. The College Republican National Committee is beta-testing one such tool right now from We the Citizens, which also used successfully in the re-elect of Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue.

Stay tuned. This will be one part of The Next Right.