(CNN) –- Rather than pointing fingers and assigning blame for Sen. John McCain’s recent defeat at the hands of Sen. Barack Obama, a group of young conservative activists have issued a manifesto of sorts that challenges the next head of the Republican National Committee to embrace the Internet as a method of political organizing in the same way that the Obama campaign effectively did for the last 20 months.
The coalition of eight conservatives, many of whom are known for their activity in the online space, launched the Web site http://www.rebuildtheparty.com on Thursday. The site lays out a set of principles the group believes the RNC must adopt in order to bring the GOP into the future and succeed in upcoming state and federal races.
“The time is now to set in motion the changes needed to rebuild our party from the grassroots up, modernize the way we run campaigns, and attract different, energetic, and younger candidates at all levels,” the site says. “We must be conservative in philosophy - but bold in our approach. We don't need a slight tweak here or there. We need transformation. We can't keep fighting a 21st century war with 20th century weapons.”
The group calls using and mastering the Internet the “#1 priority in the next four years.” The power of traditional connections is being replaced by the power of mass connectedness,” the site says. “Politics is taking place on a grander stage than ever before, with millions, and not just tens of thousands - participating directly in the process.”
To catch up with the Democrats online, the coalition urges the RNC to recruit 5 million new Republican online activists, hold campaigns and local parties accountable for developing their own e-mail lists and conducting their own fundraising in lieu of relying on the RNC, and adopt a more open technology ecosystem that encourages innovative approaches online and then supports the best of those.
The group is also urging the RNC to fundamentally rethink the way that the Republican Party organizes and connects with its base of grassroots supporters. “This isn't just about the Internet - it's about recognizing that in a people-powered era, with the power of technology-empowered grassroots movements on the rise– everything about the way we mobilize voters changes,” the group says.
To develop a more-“people-powered” party in the future, the group of activists is encouraging the RNC to reform how its organizes Republicans at the most local, volunteer-to-volunteer level, to move away from large-dollar donors that have historically financed the party and toward fundraising on the Internet from a base of small-dollar donors in the model of the Obama campaign, recruiting 25,000 new campaign workers, and making use of online technologies pervasive throughout the RNC’s operations.
Finally, in another approach strikingly reminiscent of the Obama campaign and the Democrat National Committee under Chairman Howard Dean, the group is encouraging the RNC to field candidates in all House races by 2012 rather than just concentrating on those districts that already appear to be leaning Republican, encouraging the GOP’s state parties to contest all statewide races, and setting a “40 under 40” goal of having 40 percent of congressional candidates in who are challengers or running for open seats be individuals under the age of 40.
The coalition’s ambitious platform is somewhat at odds with how the GOP has traditionally operated – a fact the group acknowledges:
“We must trust the online grassroots who want to take action on our behalf, and who need a decentralized, peer-to-peer volunteer community supported by our campaigns to really be successful. That will require giving up some control - more control than our traditional institutions are used to giving up - in exchange for an exponentially larger and more effective volunteer/donor/activist ecosystem.
Obama tapped the Internet successfully because he made it about "you" and "us" not "me" and "I." You were invited in. You were a key part of his campaign/movement. Your help was truly appreciated. Republican candidates need to grow more comfortable talking in these terms and focus less on being inaccessible objects of hero worship (the "me/I" strategy).”
The coalition is composed of: Erick Erickson, RedState.com’s managing editor; David Kralik; Mindy Finn, the former head of online strategy for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign; Patrick Ruffini, a former eCampaign director for the RNC; Mark Harris; Phil Musser, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association; Michael Turk, another former RNC eCampaign director; and Justin Sayfie, former spokesman for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.