Ultimately, politics comes done to winning two kinds of votes: elections and legislative votes. So when I see discussions about comparing the right and the left online, especially the current flavor du jour about a right’s YearlyKos, I want to make sure that a question is asked: what is it for? How are those structures going to effect winning votes?
Along a similar line, Patrick Ruffini argues a that the press focuses on the wrong questions:
When covering the netroots vs. the rightroots, reporters look at things through a particular frame that by definition excludes the vast majority of grassroots activity on the right. For something to be newsworthy in this space, it must be blog-based, it must have emerged in the last five years, and it must be focused on elections over legislative or policy outcomes.
There is an intuition that something is wrong. Patrick is right when he says that we have a real risk:
It would be one thing if we didn’t have any of these institutions, and could start from scratch just as the netroots did. My fear is that we have a bunch of institutions that still function somewhat well, but are long past their prime. With that, there is the danger we will slowly die without knowing it, as our techniques gradually lose effectiveness year after year. Just like newspaper circulation numbers. And there are a number of people on the right who are still complacent about this.
But what would actually solve the problems? And what are the problems? I see a couple:
- Our blogs are focused on pundity rather than politics. Punditry is important for eyeballs in interest, but they do not, necessarily, have a big impact on elections. (they probably do more on legislative votes at the federal level by moving information) This is a cultural thing, not an operational thing.
- We don’t have enough blogs with substantial local and state focus. Perhaps the best local political blog around is Gilford Grok in NH, and they are spinning off in NH. This will require finding bodies.
- As Patrick notes, we have eyeballs, but they are trapped in the wrong places (in the sense that they are not convertible to the activities that we think are important. (Perhaps the Ron Paul guys are like this too?) I don’t know if we have any ideas about how to address this.
- We don’t have tools to easily convert our grassroots energy. (such as it is, given my previous point) There are various approaches to working this out.
- We don’t have good information about the state of the races for focusing the attention of the media and activists. That is, there is information generated at one place, but needs to be consumed in another.
- Our state and local candidates and county parties, CR school chapter, and YR and Women county chapters may not have the know-how to do online credit card fulfillment. Clearly federal candidates do.
I am sure that there are other problems that are more specific (and I know of some that are still confidential) but we can start building these. Some of these are about building tools. Some of these are about finding bodies and educating. Some of these are about simply reorganizing currently existing information.
Let’s start solving the problems we have.