The other side not only has data whizzes but the wherewithal to manipulate voters.
There has been a considerable amount of chatter over the past three months about the GOP’s challenges and travails. Much of that has focused on the perceived deficiency in the party’s technical capability; some written by people with very little technology experience at all outside of booting their computer.
So let me preface this by telling you three things about me. First, I have been building and repairing PCs for almost thirty years. I got my start in technology by jamming RAM chips into motherboards as a teen and built every computer I owned from scratch for almost twenty years. I have been doing tech since long before tech was cool.
Second, I started in politics working for the New Mexico GOP. I cut my teeth in political campaigns at all levels by volunteering to do grunt work and climbed the ladder.
Finally, I was the eCampaign Director for George W. Bush’s re-election and subsequently the RNC’s first eCampaign Director under Chairman Ken Mehlman — the last Chairman to fully appreciate the need to invest heavily in tech.
I have read the near-daily diatribes decrying our lack of technologists and hand wringing over our inability to recruit Silicon Valley talent to our team.
As a digital strategist and party activist, as someone who has been involved in the field of digital politics since before people even knew that was a thing, I have no concerns about our ability to catch up on tech, on data, or on talented programmers. I do, however, have a fear about the GOP that leaves me gravely concerned.
For the last ten years, and even in the wake of Obama’s election, I have heard countless members of the establishment consultant class say, “but nobody has won because of the Internet.”
In the case of Obama, that’s certainly true. Obama did not win on Internet technology. Obama won on something much larger, much more sophisticated, and much more frightening.
Some will tell you that Obama won on data. This, they claim, is the insurmountable lead the left has. I heard the same thing about data between 1994 and 2000 when the RNC invested heavily in a nationwide voter file with deep profiles of every registered American voter. The Democrats, we were told, could never catch up to the RNC data operation.
Data, and the ability to catch up on data, is not at issue. Significant investment in database technology, consumer data, and polling can reverse that trend. Paying top dollar for people is how you recruit the best talent. More than a few companies have found they could take talent from their competitors by offering a sweeter pie.
When the party makes data and technology a priority, and spends appropriately, it can and will catch up. That needs to happen sooner than later, to be sure. But tech, data, and developers are not an insurmountable advantage, nor are they the sole purview of either party. They are a prioritization problem.
That said, when tech becomes a priority, and the GOP spends big to catch up, the infrastructure we build must allow every state party, every campaign, and every cause to access and share that data. An open platform will be critical to the party’s success. That presents challenge number one.
The GOP needs fewer proprietary solutions and more sharing. The party must break the habit of rewarding sole-source contracts for privately owned technology platforms and adopt an open-source approach.
Todd Herman (one of my successor’s at the RNC) was headed in this direction — providing open APIs to RNC data and the ability to develop applications for the RNC platform. That project was shut down. It was a tragic miscalculation, but can be corrected.
More important than the open platform, however, is the second, and the much more daunting challenge the GOP faces.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?