Erick Erickson at RedState recently posted a commentary on the state of technology on the right. While it may be accurate to point out that there is no parallel to ActBlue on the right, it’s hard to accept the generalizations Erick draws from this observation. I do agree, along with my colleagues at ProjectVirginia, that political campaigns on the right do tend to get bogged down in technology, but for reasons other than what Erickson describes. We see more of a bottleneck with campaigns on the right overlooking the every day opportunities to exploit new media. The right needs to get to the point when new media is like door knocking or phone banking – everyone in the campaign can do it.
We’ve seen the right do a better job in adopting technologies that are developed commercially and adapting them to political needs (think Twitter). Clearly there are benefits to coordination and institutional investment, but responsiveness and a willingness to improvise are often more helpful and more suited to the way the right’s grassroots likes to work. Particularly for the typical underfunded and understaffed campaign, “off-the-shelf” services with low learning curves and minimal costs are more likely to yield results than the single “killer app” that is too expensive or complex to deploy properly.
The bigger hurdle to the use of technology on the right, which Erick didn’t address, is the actual deployment of what’s available. We’ve seen lots of press on big-budget campaigns using specialized technology or building expensive infrastructure. What we need is more help with publicizing the practical best practices for the thousands of small campaigns at the state and local level– the “true” grassroots – that can help these campaigns level the playing field against the institutionally-organized campaigns of the left (think unions, Acorn 2.0, etc.).
Erickson mentions the Concord Project as an example of innovation at the grassroots. Another example is TurnNevadaRed – a website which describes itself as a “showcase of how a state party or GOP legislative caucus can use ‘off-the-shelf’ new media technology to create an effective campaign tool without spending a lot of money or needing a lot of technical expertise.” In my mind, the high-tech stuff garners the headlines, but the payoff is in the low-tech new media tools that even the most technology-challenged campaigns can use every day without tying themselves in knots.