The problem with the Republican Party is there are too many woolly mammoths like me wandering around. It’s time to kill us off. Just slaughter us all. Drive us into the tar pits and move on.
Republicans working in leadership and the trenches are largely old, white, male, out-of-touch, out of ideas, technology averse, and living in the past.
One of brighter pundits on the right these days who recognizes the problem is Jennifer Rubin of Pajamas Media, who writes: “There is not just an intellectual dilemma for conservatives—which keeps pundits bickering about the meaning and direction of "conservatism"—but a realization that the organizational and technological advantage which conservatives enjoyed for nearly a generation has been matched or exceeded by the other side. One can quibble that the liberal opposition is not an intellectually robust or coherent one, but it is a darn successful political force which has swept to coast-to-coast wins in two successive election cycles.
The problem with the Republican Party is there are too many wooly mammoths like me wandering around. It’s time to kill us off.
“As for conservatives, the existing institutions don't quite seem sufficient to the task of growing the party, developing new talent, and incubating new ideas. Perhaps what is already there can be enhanced, but it may be that entirely new groups must be created to rebuild and revitalize a movement that is not just intellectually depressed but organizationally weak. So, while pundits already obsess over the next presidential nominee, a better question is: who will be the next Paul Weyrich?
“The identity of the individual or individuals is not clear, but the need is apparent.”
I was struck recently thinking about most of the people I know working in the Republican Party. I realized almost everyone is 50- or 60-something. And then there seems to be a huge generational gulf. There just isn’t much of a farm team people in their 30s and 40s toiling in the GOP consulting trenches. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I see the Moses’ that will lead the GOP out of the desert. And they are very young, very smart, very brash, and they are change the GOP can believe in.
These young Turks have fire, passion and moxie. To wit, one of the brighter young lights, Jon Henke, cofounder of TheNextRight.com:
“For a variety of reasons, Democrats are substantially ahead online. Some of those reasons come down to the cyclical political dynamics, but the Right also has not kept up with the emerging possibilities offered by technology. The Right has gotten complacent, bogged down at the political margins, path-dependent on the tactics and messages that it learned decades ago.
“The most important component of a revitalization of the Right will be new ideas and a more compelling agenda, and we are a part of that discussion. However, when that energy emerges, the Right needs to be ready to capture it. That means we need to develop ideas and tactics for how to use technology, both to get the movement focused on the internet as a powerful tool, and as a means of getting the Rightroots engaged and participating.
“We also need to dislodge some of the entrenched bureaucracy and traditional elements that have become chokepoints—barriers to innovation. We are trying to get the Right and Republicans to let go of some traditional campaign, communications and organizing frameworks, and replace them with the more decentralized, collaborative, and long-tail approach that the internet allows.”
The spark in Republican circles is coming from young activist warriors like Patrick Ruffini and Mindy Finn, partners in the firm Engage who 44 hours after the Democrats decisive victory started Rebuildtheparty.com, a robust site with a 3,200-word, 10-point manifesto, which has created a firestorm of energetic response and 7,000 sponsors.
Smartly, Rebuild recognizes that the future is outside the beltway. Says Ruffini, “Part of the ethos behind this effort is that we don’t need the mucky mucks in DC. We can do this on our own. Keep it going. Provide a resource for best practices for campaigns and state parties. The internet allow us to do create a virtual think tank for new ways to do campaigns.”
And from the Rebuild site: “2008 made one thing clear: If allowed to go unchecked, the Democrats’ structural advantages, including their use of the Internet, their more than 2-to-1 advantage with young voters, their discovery of a better grassroots model—will be as big a threat to the future of the GOP as the toxic political environment we have faced the last few years.”
Other young names to watch include Michael Palmer, Robert Bluey (Heritage Foundation), David All, Matt Lewis (Townhall.com), Darrell Jordan (HipHopRepublican.com), Moshe Starkman (TYNetwork.com), Chris Malagisi (Leadership Institute), Princella Smith (Republicans Helping Republicans). And while my old compatriot media gunslingers and I are sitting around still trying to work our VCRs, a new generation of young media wizards with Macs and cameras strapped to their backs are coming over the hill: Justin Germany, Matthew Taylor, and Laura Crawford.
A little time in the desert will be good for the GOP. A good thirst will weed out the weak and remind the party how refreshing and reinvigorating the cool water of new ideas and new blood can be.
As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, causes, and individuals, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono. McKinnon is co-chair of Arts & Labs, a collaboration between technology and creative communities that have embraced today’s rich internet environment to deliver innovative and creative digital products to consumers.