As my friends Patrick Ruffini, Rob Bluey, and Justin Hart have pointed out, a bunch of us organized a new media training workshop at Heritage, sponsored by Google, on Wednesday. It was a success. About 200 people attended. It was truly extraordinary.
The goal, more than anything else, was to begin a discussion on how organizations, candidates, etc. can move move messages and engage people on line. We are planning to continue this in several forms:
- Smaller workshops for congressional staff, campaigns, and interest groups in Washington. We need to build their effectiveness.
- A road show. As a number of us have pointed out, the problem is less acute in Washington than it is in the state capitals and municipalities around the country. Simply put, if we had 100 more people like GraniteGrok and GilfordGrok — politically active, smart, technologically savvy, and very, very dilligent online activists –, Republicans and conservatives would be in a much better place.
Ultimately, this is a human resources and a skills question. We also need online tools like RightRoots, but you cannot produce information and framing of information. Ultimately, at all levels, the left is successfully framing the messages, especially at the local level, where the quality of reporting is lower, the amount of genuine news content is smaller, and the ability to speak directly to readers is larger.
One of the leading lefty blogs, Atrios, made an important point that we should keep in mind:
Now that’s not how I see things as I think blogs should be seen more as an opportunity to influence media coverage and narratives, as well as helping to stitch together a broader-based political movement.
But it isn’t very surprising the Democrats don’t really understand how blogs work within the media, as they’ve long failed to understand how the media works generally. So it’s difficult to communicate and explain the "good" the blogs can do when a lot of them just see us as a noisy sometimes-pain-in-the-ass. This isn’t true of everyone in DC, of course, but one has to remember that of congressional staffers are often shockingly young and really can’t be expected, no matter what their talents, to have a grip on all this stuff in a sophisticated way.
I think that we should take this and separate out his points.
First, blogs are a media tool. They have fundamentally changed the economics and ecology of all types of information in our society. The Democrats have an apparatus to move the media narratives to the left. Without a comparable force pushing back, the media and their narratives will go there. And the only way that we can apply that pressure is to develop bloggers at the grassroots and train staff to work with those bloggers effectively.
Second, movements use contemporary tools that match their constituencies. A number of liberal bloggers have told me that they feel like Barack Obama doesn’t care about them because he thinks that he can get his attention somewhere else. Well, he is getting the level of mobilization that he needs from young, rich activists through social networking tools like facebook and African-Americans through email. He is building a new movement. It looks like it may be going nowhere in the short term, but it may in the long-term. When conservatives figure out how to add to our coalition, we will use the tools of the day. And we will help build those tools and have the experience to maximize them.
In the end, football comes down to blocking and tackling. In politics, that means:
- GOTV. The RNC and the state parties are better at that than anyone else right now, if we can get the volunteers.
- Fundraising. We aren’t looking so good, but it is clear that "online" fundraising isn’t the answer, or the difference.
- Media. We are losing here big time.
Our effort on Wednesday is the beginning of a long, slow, necessary, and, ultimately, very valuable process to move on the third.