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Fat Cats and Slim Canaries

Jun
9
2004

Sitting at “D—All Things Digital” listening to former Dean campaign consultant Joe Trippi talk – whine, really – about how no one in the party was listening to him, to his message, to his tech guys, you could glimpse a look of quiet satisfaction pass across Republican organizer Ralph Reed’s face.


You could almost see the feathers drift softly to the ground at Reed’s feet as the cat swallowed the canary. Gulp! There go the swing voters! Trippi’s complaint – that Democrats within the established parts of the party don’t want to understand the Internet – was music to Reed’s ears.
Twice in the past month, Reed has appeared before an audience more liberal than he professes to be and outlined his plans to use the Internet to beat the pants off the Democrats. And Democrats have, well, they haven’t exactly sat up and noticed.
Republicans aren’t fooling around with ‘blog semantics and social software and better tools to re-engineer Democracy or start a conversation or change politics as they know it. They don’t think it’s necessary to reinvent a perfectly working set of wheels. They’re in the White House and they understand – as Reed told D host and organizer Walt Mossberg, as he told the New York Lefties a few weeks ago at the Personal Democracy Forum — that the ‘net restores a human element to politics. It takes politics back to being the networked social activity it was before it was ruined by television, by consultants (who are paid as they place television ads) and by the belief that all political battles could (and should) be fought on TV.
Reed not only understands the technology – listen to him talk about how he used email in 1999 to fill a George Bush rally and you can almost see the light bulb going off all over again – he understands how those breathing things called voters want to use the technology. And that’s a big difference in how many of the Lefties in tech approach their new self-appointed mission.
The Republican National Committee says it has six million email addresses on file. And they don’t just talk about tech. Those six million folks in touch with the Republican National Committee get mentioned in the same breath as the 490,000 volunteers. And my gut tells me those are low numbers; they probably grow, as one list reinforces the other, every day. That’s verified email addresses of people whom the RNC can count on to vote, to register others to vote and to help get folks to polling places and rallies.
Reed has a whole scenario of how Republicans can add to their local voting rolls and when he talks he uses English – the language favored by those breathing voter things – not tech babble about reinventing democracy, restoring the commons or engineering the network. For Reed, democracy is in perfectly fine shape. It’s just a matter of keeping it that way.
He’s not fooling around. Not at all. When all is said and done in November, it’ll be interesting to look back and see which mechanics – the new understanding of politics or the old politics of understanding – triumphs.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 1:54 PM | Permalink

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