Conservative bloggers associated with the “Save the Debate” petition seem to be unconvinced that Republican candidates have really grasped the significance of the YouTube debate. George Ajjan, writing in New Jersey’s Herald News, takes Republicans to task for their failure to understand basic aspects of the political internet:The comments of those skeptical about the YouTube debates sadly exemplify many of the traditional and stereotypical shortcomings of Republicans. The GOP has got to shatter the image of country-club elitism that plagues the party. Giuliani’s campaign prioritizing fundraising over a one-day commitment to appear before millions of viewers and answer tough questions directly from the electorate is deplorable and plays right into that regrettable typecast….
As far as YouTube itself goes, the issue is not that national Republicans don’t want to use new technologies. Both Giuliani and Romney have invested heavily in their online efforts and have specifically touted their embrace of YouTube as a campaigning medium. But their behavior seems to indicate the belief that the internet is a switch they can turn on and off, depending upon whether they’re in the mood to communicate. But the internet is always “on,” although it’s not always “on your terms.”
Until our party truly grasps that, we will continue to alienate voters and activists, especially young people for whom the internet is not “new,” but an integral part of their political upbringing.
The Republicans don’t have a technology problem, per se. They have an arrogance problem, and it’s spilling over into their online outreach efforts. Coming at a time when polls show young voters abandoning the GOP en masse, this bodes ill for the elephants.
This is more than just arrogance, though. The internet is a medium that lends itself to free speech, egalitarian values (at least as far as right to ones own opinion goes), empowering the people.
The internet might have made sense in the old Republican party of Barry Goldwater, but it is really nothing but a threat to (or at best only a tool to be exploited by) modern day neo-Republicans who have ditched libertarian values in favor of big government as big brother.
In other words, it is not modern Republican arrogance that puts them at odds with the internet, but rather modern Republican culture that is diametrically opposed to a medium that gives us peasants a way of talking back at them ... and talking amongst ourselves.
Can the neo-Republicans and their vision of authoritarian government keeping the people in line succeed in the internet age? I doubt it. The party is already fraying and showing serious signs of breaking. They are going to have to reinvent themselves or destroy the internet to preserve their privilege.