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Comments by YACCS
Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The problem with Redstate


I promise that we can go Republican
stomping
after lunch

Redstate was the site built to be the counterpart to Daily Kos. Only problem is that it isn't.

Matt Stoller posted this up

GOP.com Distances Itself from Redstate Racists

by Matt Stoller, Tue Feb 14, 2006 at 01:30:47 PM EST

The national GOP doesn't like Redstate, and that's not really a surprise since Ken Mehlman knows that fanatically racist communities don't sell to their suburban soccer Moms. As much as we bitch about Democratic insiders, the Republicans have a much tougher time on the internet, and will for the foreseeable future. In a post on why the RNC can't build a personal fundraising page, here's a comment Mike Turk, who worked at the RNC on this project:
As the immediate past eCampaign Director for the GOP, and the eCampaign Director for Bush-Cheney 04, I may be one of the only people who can answer this directly.

We started to build this in January of last year. The plans for the launch of GOP.com last spring included two things that have never made it to the light of day - a viral fundraising component, and a "MyGOP" functionality that would have let activists build a MySpace-like site on GOP.com. Practical reality set in, however, and killed both. The trouble with the MyGOP concept was the conflict it created with incredibly tight internal controls on message.

When we were forced to pull a Social Security Testimonials tool off the site because someone dared to use the word "private" instead of the more acceptable "personal" accounts, it became apparent that our internal tolerance for self-expression would not allow that sort of openness. Arguments that restrictions of that nature are ridiculous and hamper our ability to be effective online were met with stony silence. In the end, MyGOP went nowhere.

The fundraising tool was a different problem altogether. The fact is, allowing that sort of functionality causes a slew of legal problems that the FEC (and clearly the Democrats) have not considered. We looked at developing an ActRed site, but the legal restrictions prevent a national committee from doing so. It could be done by a third party, and I undertand several are working on the concept. Unfortunately, the RNC is bound by FEC laws, not to mention our party rules, and would run afoul of both.

As far as I know, a viral fundraising tool is still under development. However, given a tendency within the RNC to view the site as nothing more than a communications vehicle - a really, really, expensive brochure - I'm not sure when that may get done.

For anyone who is casting aspersions on Patrick Ruffini, I would caution against that. Patrick is pretty much the only friend we have in that building. That's the reason I suggested they hire Patrick when I left. Patrick gets this stuff.

Unfortunately, Patrick has an enormous task ahead of him. He has to convince a generation of political professionals to see the net as a community, rather than an audience. It's a tough job, and he needs our help, not our derision.
Yes, he has a really really really tough job, because the Redstate community is racist. Even as GOP.com celebrates black history month and Bush spoke at Coretta Scott King's funeral, here's what their netroots 'audience' had to say:

Why is it that we have to accept the Pantheon of the Left and see their funerals televised -- from Wellstone to Mrs. King?
Coretta Scott King's funeral is apparently 'our' funeral, instead of a memorial to national hero. Is it any wonder the GOP wants an expensive brochureware site? If you ask me, that's the right strategy, unless they want an RNC fundraising page dedicated to 'Strom Thurmond was right the whole time' fund by Trent Lott's internet savvy political heirs.


No matter how pissed you get at Kos or this site, remember, we're private individuals with no official, or in my case, ANY ties to a political party. The same with every major left blogosphere site. We did this on our own, not as an adjunct of the DNC.

So we don't have Ken Mehlman over our shoulders.


Mike Turk, Mike Krempasky, and GOP.com

After the Hotline blog picked up my post about the GOP.com and the conflicts they are having with their netroots, both Mike Turk and Mike Krempasky went after me fairly aggressively. Turk, the former eCampaign Director of Bush-Cheney '04 and the RNC, called me crazy and suggested my doctor prescribes me a different set of pills (this presumes a functional health care system, fyi). Krempasky sneered at my Harvard education. I have tremendous respect for both of these guys - they are smart, savvy, and personally very congenial. Krempasky, for instance, was even willing to go against the phenomenally racist grain on his own web site, however meekly.

Unfortunately, Turk is trying to twist what he said, most likely in order to help his web buddies at the RNC and to influence Hotline. Or maybe he thinks he said something other than what he wrote. Regardless, let's go to the record. In this post defending the RNC's tolerance for dissent, here's what he wrote:

This was absolutely not the point. I have nothing but respect for Ken. I enjoyed working for him for nearly two years and find him to be anything but a control freak or a person who would quash dissent. That's not his style.

My issue is with the GOP communications machine. Their issue isn't dissent, it's semantics.

But go back to his original comment:

The trouble with the MyGOP concept was the conflict it created with incredibly tight internal controls on message.

When we were forced to pull a Social Security Testimonials tool off the site because someone dared to use the word "private" instead of the more acceptable "personal" accounts, it became apparent that our internal tolerance for self-expression would not allow that sort of openness.

So the "internal tolerance for self-expression would not allow that sort of openness?" That doesn't sound like semantics to me. In fact, what Hotline wrote sounds pretty accurate:

His answer seems to be (in part): his former boss, Ken Mehlman, would not tolerate much dissent from The Message or bear to relinquish control over any lever of political power.

Now, there are a couple of other points to note. One, I was making a structural argument about the GOP.com and Redstate. The RNC cannot afford to embrace their netroots as an audience because of the increasingly extreme and racist nature of their base. It's not Redstate specifically, it is, as Glenn Greenwald notes, their entire pundit class. Actually, it goes beyond that, to their leadership. For instance, it's not just James Dobson embarrassing Republicans anymore; Senator Jeff Sessions, Senator Sam Brownback, and Senate candidate Michael Steele have all compared stem cell research to the holocaust.

But the right-wing blogosphere is where racist and extreme sentiment is most obvious and trackable, it is a veritable steady diet of the stuff. No matter how persuasive Patrick Ruffini might be, and he seems like a smart fellow, the RNC cannot afford to be tagged with their base sentiment, whether it's Little Green Footballs calling for nuclear attacks on Muslims (or 'constitutionally protected hate speech' as advertisers who don't want to be associated with the site see it), right-wing and neo-Nazi embraces of extremist groups like the Minutemen, voxday calling rape victims 'stupid', or front-pager Blanton at Redstate calling Coretta Scott King's funeral which President Bush spoke at a 'Def Comedy Jam spectacle' with 'demands for handouts'.

I'm going to shrug off the personal attacks from Mike and Mike, because they aren't really the issue. Nor is Ken Mehlman being a control freak or not; for all I know he's a great delegator. The issue here is that the RNC is making the correct strategic choice because they understand how toxic their base really is. Some right-wing bloggers, like the excellent My Election Analysis, understand that as well. Many Republicans are fine, honest, and hard-working people who care deeply about their country. I have no doubt that Mike Krempasky falls into that category. But I spent seven months in New Jersey going through right-wing message boards, I've read FreeRepublic.com, and I've been to Townhall.com Meetups, and I can tell you that there is a substantial portion of the right-wing base that has, as Redstate community-leader Blanton does, a vicious racist mentality.

So Ken Mehlman and the RNC are obsessed with message control. Mike Turk even admitted it in his original post, though he backtracked and tried to cover his tracks by calling me crazy. But the RNC is doing it for the right reasons; they know that opening up their system is quite dangerous. And what that means is that ultimately, the right-wing is doomed. We are moving to an open world, one where the Mike Turk's of the world can't modify the record to suit their audience and the Michael Steele's of the world can't hide from their true extremist sentiments.


Matt,

Michael Steele is an extremist. He's a black Republican who compared Stem cell research to the Holocaust, in front of a Jewish group.

As to the rest of it, Stoller got attacked personally because he's telling the truth. The hard right is filled with two kinds of people, those who revel in racism and those who deny it exists, while reveling in it.

This is going to grow as an issue because the GOP needs to me more inclusive to survive and if they become more inclusive, they lose their base.

I bet Mehlman was patting himself on the black with the number of black GOP candidates he's got running. The problem for him is what happens when they lose? Badly. With underfunded campaigns?

He's got a real problem. He needs the GOP to be seen as inclusive, but he can't afford to alienate the current base of the party. And if it doesn't change, it will not survive. He's also running with less than stellar candidates, because the GOP simply doesn't cultivate them.

JC Watts moved into the leadership, before being disrespected, then just throwing up his hands and leaving Congress. They don't talk about him much, now. Nor does he stump for GOP candidates. Last I heard, he was doing seminars on getting government grants. At least that's what the grainy ads in the paper say.

Melhman can't even make a coherent argument for expanding the party, while refusing to even promote the blacks he has working inside the organization. Several black staffers were either ignored or given crappy jobs like PR in the Mississippi Prison system after working on successful campaigns.

What the GOP doesn't get is that if they want to seem inclusive, they have to be inclusive, and promote from within.

Notice all the black GOP candidates running in this cycle: only Blackwell and Steele have government experience and only Blackwell has an elective history. None have run successful Congressional races or an independent statewide race. Not one has moved from staff to Congress like black Democrats have. There is no farm system for black Republicans, just a lot of cheap talk.

Of course, when you mention this, they go nuts. They deny the obvious and attack you. They can't face the fact that they have served black Republicans poorly.

posted by Steve @ 1:26:00 PM

1:26:00 PM

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