Google bomb squad: New election, old tactic

Politico related Tuesday morning how liberal activists are bringing the awesome power of the Google to bear on Republican opponents:

Chris Bowers, campaign director for the Daily Kos, is launching a behind-the-scenes campaign against 98 House Republican candidates that attempts to capitalize on voters’ Google search habits in the hopes of influencing midterm races.

Bowers wants the Daily Kos’ thousands of participants to dig up little-noted or controversial news stories about the candidates that could hurt their chances with undecided voters. Users would click on the links and blog about the stories with the goal of boosting their rankings on search engines, so that undecided voters will discover them more easily.

These activists are… well, we don’t know who they are.  One might say their identities could be  somewhat “shadowy.”  They aren’t necessarily based in the districts in which they are campaigning, so I assume you could call this group “outside” activists.  But regardless of what one calls this shadowy outside group, one must admit that they have every right to make their voice heard, right?

In all seriousness, though, this “new” tactic isn’t all that new at all (for a couple years, searching for the the term “miserable failure” famously brought up links to President George W. Bush’s profile thanks to a similar effort).  A more valid question is what good this tactic will do – and its main value may be as a team-building exercise to start getting the Democrats far-left base back involved.  That may not mean much in two weeks, but you can bet that Democrats will be looking to re-take the majority on the morning of November 3 – and that means they will need these types of activists to fuel excitement and energy just as the Tea Party groups have done for the Republicans.

Building the GOP’s future on five pillars

TechRepublican’s new editor, Meghann Parlett, reported on a conference call held by the GOP’s new New Media Director, Todd Herman.  Amid all the newness was Herman’s five (new) strategic pillars for online organizing, which are pretty good:

1.  Use New Media Properties to Expand GOP Reach.

2.  Acquire Actionable Data.

3.  Broadcast Impeccable Logic. (This involves creating a repository of online conservative thought.)

4.  Curate Passionate Stories.

5.  Establish Real Connections with Voters.

I suppose #3 might be a load-bearing pillar – a nod to conservative activists who feel the national party is out-of-touch with the rank-and-file activists.  But I don’t like it.  First off, the party should avoid getting into the business of defining conservatism, because Arlen Specter does have a point: what plays in Tuscaloosa may not play in Philadelphia, or vice versa.

The Republican Party has enjoyed success when it leaves power in decentralized hands.  The 1994 takeover of Congress and subsequent policies were great examples.  The 1994 campaign had no national figurehead, and battles fought and won on a district-by-district basis added up to a large national victory.  Similarly, a recurring policy theme involved pushing responsibility – and freedom – out to the states to ease the over-burdened Federal government, a theme which resulted in a reformed welfars system and budget surpluses.

A “central library of conservatism” may be asking the RNC to do too much.  Of course, I suspect this will be window dressing – a spot on the website with links to conservative think tanks while the rest of the team focuses on doing what a political part should: getting people elected.

Many of the others are good, basic ideas that encompass the “blocking and tackling” of what a party should be doing – such as fostering communication with potential voters and amassing as much data on the electorate as is possible.  These are things the Republican party has done well when their famous microtargeting and 72-hour get out the vote strategies were in full display in 2002 and 2004; Herman is wisely updating them to reflect the technology available today.

One of Herman’s pillars, however, strikes a particularly innovative chord: the concept of amassing “stories.”  Logic wins a debate but emotion wins elections.  Stockpiling stories will help create that emotional appeal – and since online media is probably the most efficient way to do it, Herman has apparently recognized that it’s a task that he’s uniquely positioned to help out with.

Rebuilding the GOP

The RNC has started its rebuilding process by launching the website Republican for a Reason. It’s a good idea with a slightly flawed website.

The GOP has three central tasks to re-asserting itself:

  1. Reconnect with the broad coalition of Americans who delivered repeated election victories over the past three decades.
  2. Develop a forward-thinking, positive platform.
  3. Retool the party infrastructure to restore the voter identification and mobilization efforts to their 2002 and 2004 levels of dominance. starts the ball rolling with forums that allow grassroots Republicans to weigh in on the issues that are important to them. This will give the RNC a good roadmap for where their party members are, and could end up serving almost as an activist-generated wiki-platform.

There are some things about the site, however, which suggest the RNC may not be forward-thinking enough to capitalize on its potential. For instance, the opening video shows glowing highlight reels of the past three Republican presidents, mostly focusing on Ronald Reagan. The video’s title is “Rebuilding our Future,” but it sure looks like they are leaning on the past.

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