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My Beef With Michael Steele

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Who is your GOP precinct committeeman? Your GOP county chairman? Your county’s representative(s) on the state’s central committee? What if you’re looking for any local upcoming Republican Party events in your county or district? What if you want to host one such event yourself? What if you want to organize with other Republicans in your locale in support of a reform-minded conservative Republican running for a seat on the local school board, city council or to fill a state legislative seat? How do you go about making where you live, if already friendly to Republicans, even friendlier, and if hostile, less so?

Off the top of my head, I would suggest having a ZIP code module on the front page of gop.com. You enter your ZIP code and it gives you a list of upcoming events within this many miles, your local (precinct, township, county, district, state, federal) elected and party officials, vacancies in the party structure, upcoming races/elections (no matter how small the office), candidates and their donate buttons, snippets of local news, lists of local (friendly) bloggers, links to relevant party and candidate websites, etc. Checking the “Remember My Locale” box means that every time you visit, the front page would reflect your set locale.

And, quite part from redesigning gop.com, we should have developers coming up with widgets (I’d call them “gopgets”) that Right-leaning blogs and websites can place in their sidebars. We should have RSS feeds (including dedicated internet video/radio channels) and “gopgets” developed for people to install as their default google-type desktops. I would imagine allowing the user to specify his/her ZIP code in the settings would help localize content and create a sort of “e-universe.” The aim is to make it as easy as possible for Republicans to participate, to interact, to self-organize, to stay/be informed, to donate, to communicate with their local and national leadership and elected officials.

My real beef against Michael Steele is not his recent propensity for gaffes that require painful explanations and embarrassing apologies the next day, it is the fact that he was once a state party Chair and therefore I expected him to hit the ground running with goals in mind and specific programs to achieve these goals ready to launch on day one. So far, I’ve heard and seen nothing except for the man inserting both feet into his mouth every time he’s faced with a microphone and television camera.

For example, the GOP needs its own version of the so-called “50 State Strategy” so that we can start being competitive in Blue States the way the Democrats are in Red States. Katon Dawson at least had something of a plan along those lines with his “Project 3141” (strengthening the party in all 3141 counties in the United States). Blackwell chose to focus on investing in precinct level organization with GOTV and task management technology thrown in. In other words, get local. What is Steele’s plan?

Allow me therefore to make a suggestion to our Chairman – with a hat tip to Mr. Brian Hibbert.

It should be a principle issue for the GOP to fill the hundreds, if not many thousands, of party organization positions that are today empty at the ward, borough, precinct, township, district and county levels. At the minimum, the Republican National Committee should secure solid commitments from every one of the state parties to ensure that no county precinct, no matter how heavily Democratic, is without a Committeeman. Failing that, the RNC should undertake its own program to ensure that these seats are filled.

One of the reasons I became excited about Ken Blackwell’s candidacy for RNC Chairman (and so very disappointed that he apparently never stood a chance in the first place – which, I suspect, means that no one outside of his supporters in the 168 actually read his “Conservative Resurgence Plan“) is the amount of attention his plan devoted to getting organized at the precinct level;

The highest emphasis must be put on precinct level organization. If we are organized at the precinct level, our organizations at other levels will be much more efficient and productive.

The Blackwell Plan specifically called for the recruitment of a “new generation of precinct leaders and block captains …” These “Precinct Organizers” and their delegated “Street Captains” would have access to a set of (online) database, mapping, management and task tracking applications to enable them plan and direct their on-ground activities and resources in their areas of responsibility from well before people go to the polls to cast their votes.

My thoughts upon reading this boiled down to three;

  1. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered – for a party that purports to espouse federalism, the Republican Party has paid far too little attention to local and state level politics over the past eight years, and in the end, it has hurt us badly at both the local and national levels. Bringing the focus down and empowering the party structure at the precinct level hopefully flips things back to their proper order. Being strong at the precinct level means being strong at the county level, the district level, state level, and ultimately, the federal level.
  2. The Democratic Party is in the fortuitous position of being able to outsource the bulk of its GOTV and party building legwork to the unions and an allied plethora of Left-Wing “non-profit” front groups (usually funded with taxpayer money) – ACORN being just one of them. This lays an architecture upon which just as large (or as effective) a ground-force to compete can be easily spun up, activated and organized in the weeks and even days before an election.
  3. There’s no need to create another infrastructure when one already exists. I believe the GOP should leverage on the precinct and county leadership structure that is already in place (and supplement where necessary) and task these offices with playing a significantly more active role in rebuilding the party and also serve as the linchpins in forging closer ties between the leadership and the rank and file.

One thing that we all need to remember is that technology is ultimately nothing more than a tool – an F-22 is no more harmful than a paper plane without a pilot to get it off the ground and press the trigger on its canons. So we can have all the latest innovations in party management applications and software, which is very important, but without the army to use them and the dedication to standing up that army, all that development work doesn’t really matter.

But with the people in place, and technology (the aforemention “gopgets“) targeted toward enabling the party structure share information, manage resources, coordinate their activities and identify targets to be met, the GOP’s committeemen and other local level activists can be harnessed into one powerful, “always on“, self-organizing “GOPe-universe” that would be far more than the sum total of its parts.

As it stands now, the typical precinct committeeman does little more than the occasional literature drop, attend meetings for leadership votes and get lobbied for endorsements. This needs to change. Under this plan, every single committeeman must maintain an active website armed with special widgets (“gopgets …?”) and RSS feeds for candidate profiling, organizing/popularizing events, fundraising, volunteer recruitment, voter canvassing and registration (note that in many locales, precinct committeemen are also deputized as voter registrars), etc.

Committeemen not prepared (or able) to meet up with the new requirements (an added bonus is that this would almost certainly shine a revelatory spotlight on the frauds – i.e. Democrat infiltrators – like the so-called “life-long Republican” exposed by Kansas Meadowlark here) would have challengers recruited and contingency measures built into the e-platform would be taken in the interim before they are successfully escorted out the door.

In the words of Gamecock, more on this and the “GOPe-universe” later …

Either way, it’s stuff like this I expect Steele and his team to be coming up with on a daily basis, tweaking, improving, implementing and even discarding as the situation and feasibility demands, not seeing our Chairman going on liberal TV shows where some smug smirking numbskull likens the Republican Party to the Nazis and watching said Chairman … let it slide.

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