November 7th, 2008
03:07 PM ET
14 years ago

Young conservatives: RNC must adopt Obama's online model

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A group of young conservative online activists have published a plan to revive the GOP."]
(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 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,’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.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • RNC
soundoff (128 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    Do you think the Republicans understand what the internet is?

    I wholeheartedly believe that one of the key missteps of McCain's failed presidential bid was ignoring at worst and marginalizing at best the web and its intricate embrace of life on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis. McCain felt it was not something that required he have a working knowledge of, unfortunately the web is here and ain't going away my friends....

    Enough said.

    November 7, 2008 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  2. Tim

    This is an exercise in futility. It's not a model the GOP needs to adopt, because any model will already be outdated by the next campaign. If they really want to remain competitive, they need to look to the Obama campain's ability to read the culture and adapt. Creativity, which is what the Obama campaign truly had, cannot be squeezed out of a model.

    November 7, 2008 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. teesha

    Should change your minds also.. know hat I mean...

    November 7, 2008 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  4. PK

    Just be careful of what you wish for. If more Republicans kept up with the developments in the country around around the world, they may unbecome Republicans. Young conservatives may want to reexamine what conservatism stands for: clinging onto the past.

    November 7, 2008 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  5. Ann

    The RNC needs to stop catering to the religious freaks. Think about it. McCain didn't choose Lieberman as his running mate because of Lieberman's pro-choice stance, so he chose Caribou Barbie to appeal to the religious conservatives. The RNC does not need to do that because the Democratic party will always be pro-choice, so the religious freaks will still vote for the RNC, and maybe they'll get more independent voters too. Why couldn't they figure this out before?

    November 7, 2008 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  6. Real_Eyes

    First the took jazz, then rock and roll, then R & B, then rap, now this too. Wow, always the imitator, never the originator.

    November 7, 2008 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  7. Oldie

    Anyone freaked out by the definition of 'youth'? Under 29! Dang – just a couple of years ago I would been the 'youth'. OK, maybe 3 years ago. We are just not that important anymore.

    November 7, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  8. Dennis

    Sure they were out-managed, out-financed, out-worked and out-thought, and adapting to today's technology and media is essential. But that's not enough. McCain won the nomination because he WASN'T a tool of the far right. But instead of sticking with what got him there, he believed Rush, Hannity and the other blowhards who said he needed to be a "real conservative" to get their crucial support. He gave in to a completely negative campaign that lacked substance and topped it off by neutralizing the best weapon he had – Obama's relative inexperience – by picking a VP candidate that was a joke...all to placate the far right. America has moved on...goodbye Rush, goodbye Sean...see you in 2012 if the party doesn't wise up first.

    November 7, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  9. Bridg

    More lipstick on a pig. Adopting Barack's on line method is not going to change the fact that the GOP is a hateful, divisive party that hates America.

    November 7, 2008 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  10. Tracy

    You don't get it – it was more than technology – it was the ground game, the solid team work/leadership, consistent strategy and a message that kept the American people as the priority of the campaign.

    November 7, 2008 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  11. Luigi ina California

    Neocon copycats. But, hey, whatever floats your ideological boat.

    November 7, 2008 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  12. Bill

    Consider that even without highly efficient Web media tactics and even against a fully biased mainstream media, that "old man" McCain came within 5% points or so. I suggest all of you haughty hipsters realize that the things that make this country great are our ideal, which have been around since the Constitution. So maybe you should think twice about being addicted to "change" like some kind of political crack. Our Constituion, based on the "evangelical" notion that we are all equal because we were CREATED equal by a Divine Person, has allowed more change within the USA than any other nation, on every level. So lets not confuse shallow tactics with great statesmanship. How about piping down on the offensive names like Caribou Barbie? The hate from the left is getting out of hand. Tone it down. Your guy is in deep poop and we'll see if his performance equals his promises and whether his statesmanship equals his salesmanship. BS time is over. And all the clever net tricks and media savvy in the world can't cover up whether he can truly lead or not. I hope that he can. For the sake of our country and the world. Lets just stop the bitter crap and get down to business.

    November 7, 2008 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  13. Rorschach

    Time, and past time, for the Republicans to get the message that this election sent: steer away from the fringe politics. The majority of Americans are right around the political center: some a bit left, some a bit right, and all of them are sick to death of the shrillness and anger of the far-right factions that hijacked the Republican Party.

    The last thing the Republican Party needs is "loyalists" who show up at rallies shouting "Kill him", or candidates who, by their silence, encourage that kind of thinking. Can the gimmicks, forget the clever and easily-regurgitated soundbites and slogans. Show some reason and some recognition that whoever governs this country owes respect to ALL of its citizens – not just some "base".

    November 7, 2008 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  14. Maryland

    The younger republicans needs to take over. The old politics is not going to work any more. It is time to turn the page like obama said, and I believe the younger generation will do a better job. Not the old worn out Rush's kind of politics

    November 7, 2008 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  15. Jaye

    They can begin by making a pledge to stop negative lies and vulgar attacks against their opponent...

    November 7, 2008 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  16. Truth Hurts from Liberty Island ; )

    Hey old elephant!!! Try to be positive that should be your top priority, never mind the Internet...
    What dyu think 200.000 germans came out to see ?

    November 7, 2008 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  17. Mike, Vancouver

    The GOP needs to change it's Grand ol Name to something that is more non-partisan and a party that will work with whatever party in unison to move the "UNITED STATES of AMERICA" forward for all AMERICANS regardless of political stripe.

    The GOP is experiencing a changing of the guard and what better time to bring it's politics into the present that are according to the constitution "By the People, for the People".

    Get rid of the policies that have allowed the GOP to lose contact with the American populace.

    Don't forget 2 heads are better than one.......and technology really helps.

    November 7, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  18. anthony

    They need to come up with a new message. Obama would not have emerged from the Democratic primary if he did not have the right message, no matter how much technological savvy his supporters had. Conservatives do not need a better way of broadcasting the same message. We all know what their message is: government is the problem, cutting taxes is the solution. It has not changed since Reagan. It is just not working anymore.

    November 7, 2008 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  19. tyler w (portland, OR)

    Hey i know how repubs can win an election...

    have a canidate that can lift his arms above his head!

    O'REILY/PALIN 2012!

    haha you lost sucks to be republican ahahhahahahahah


    you lost

    just to remind you.

    you lost.

    November 7, 2008 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  20. MikeH

    Creative Staunch Conservative minds is an oxymoron. Creative thinking is the hallmark of us do-gooder liberals, and "Obama's on-line model" is an example of creative thinking and adopting new ideas, something 'Coservatives' hate to do.

    The more rigidly religious the conservative, the less creative. We'd still think the earth was flat and was at the center of the universe if the right wing Republicans had their way.

    I'm more concerned with the hate and divisiveness these evil people spread.

    November 7, 2008 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  21. MikeH

    Creative Staunch Conservative minds is an oxymoron. Creative thinking is the hallmark of us do-gooder liberals, and "Obama's on-line model" is an example of creative thinking and adopting new ideas, something 'Coservatives' hate to do.

    The more rigidly religious the conservative, the less creative. We'd still think the earth was flat and was at the center of the universe if the right wing Republicans had their way.

    I'm more concerned with the hate and divisiveness these evil people spread.

    November 7, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  22. ar


    In your recent question (November 7) about Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, I noted that you quoted people from Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas, all red states. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you also get comments from blue states. Afterall, more Americans live in blue states than in red states.


    November 7, 2008 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  23. PDX Gal

    What? Recruiting from church isn't good enough anymore?

    November 7, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  24. Jaiskrilla

    I'm a registered independent and the way the GOP can fix itself is rather obvious. They need to do five things:

    1. Tell the "base" to go to hell! They need to distance themselves from Rush, Hannity, Savage, Coulter, etc...basically all of the hateful segments of that party.

    2. Become more inclusive! The GOP rallies have nothing but old white guys there (no one that looks like me). They need more diversity if they are going to be a serious contender.

    3. Find more common issues! We could spend time at each other's throats arguing about petty issues or we could come together to solve problems that could benefit everyone (we might not agree about abortion or anything like that, however neither of us wants our children to go to bad schools).

    4. It's not the issues but the tactics! There's nothing wrong with having disagreements about policies (a healthy debate is normal) but when it resorts to name-calling (i.e...godlessness, anti-american), those tactics turn people off. Independent voters like me do not like this stuff at all!!!!!!

    5. Put the "good book" down! Now I know this sounds crazy but not everyone lives by the principles of the bible. It's time for this party to stop talking down on those different from a religious point of view. This is outdated and the reason why there is a separation of church and state.

    November 7, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  25. Kona

    This from the group that made fun of community organizing. Who's laughing now folks?

    November 7, 2008 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6