Erick posted “Rebuilding the Party: The Technology” a few days ago, and it was a repost from 4 years ago. The fact that the message was still valid four years later speaks to the technological stagnation that exists in Republican circles. While there are many reasons for this stagnation, it is crucial that we acknowledge and accept the weakened position we are in relative to the Democrats because of it.
My take on the technology gap we face follows.
If we, as a party, are in the same place technologically in 2012 as we were in 2008 (and we are), I believe that the technologists of the Republican Party have clearly failed in establishing the technology that the party needs.
Voter Vault has had a new paint job and been re-created as Data Center. Data Center was made available to Republican Precinct chairs in September 2012—with only 6 weeks until the election! To imply that those in charge of the technology for the Republican Party are not directly implicated in our epic loss in 2012 is to ignore the obvious! The technology department of the Party has been AWOL and derelict in not properly arming the grassroots activists—the Precinct Committeemen/Chairs—to actually do meaningful voter contact work.
I agree with Erick’s proposition that we do not need to blindly follow the initiatives of the Obama campaign since we are a different party than the Democrats. However, one thing the Democrats learned in 2004 from Howard Dean’s MoveOn.org experience was that money and enthusiasm do not equal electoral success.
Howard Dean followed his loss (he couldn’t even win the Iowa caucus with millions of supporters and millions of dollars collected online) with a starring role as Chairman of the DNC. In that position he brought the Voter-Contact System known as Voter Activation Network (VAN) into the Democratic Party under the name VoteBuilder. His 50 State Solution laid the groundwork for Obama’s primary win and his two subsequent presidential victories.
VAN was designed by Steve Adler with Mark Sullivan with the purpose of breaking the consultant/vendor lock on the data. In 2004 the Dems were in the grips of self-interested consultants just as Republicans are today. The implementation of VAN/VoteBuilder worked even better than anyone had expected.
Because of VAN the Democrats have a Unified, Distributed, Networked Voter-Contact System that allows them to run an “Engagement Campaign” where the infrastructure is permanently in place, not installed by the campaigns in the months before Primaries or Elections and removed after the election. Because of VAN the Democrats can integrate their campaigns vertically where each door knock or phone call by a down-ballot campaign contributes to the knowledge of the electorate for the entire party. Because of VAN the Democrats have a single training curriculum (See NewOrganizing.com) for all of their campaigns, thereby streamlining and standardizing their activist training. Because of VAN the Democrats have an entire “reserve officer corps” or “national guard” of trained activists who can easily move laterally between campaigns and organizations.
All the bells and whistles of the shiny exterior of the Obama campaign are dependent on the backbone and architecture of VAN. Without it Obama would have been no more successful than Howard Dean. Enthusiasm and Social Contacts do not equal votes unless they are actively converted by the party or campaign.
We do not need to start some random search for “technologists” for the Right. The very same back-end, crucial architecture of VAN coupled with the activist interface is available to the Right under the name rVotes. Check out the History of rVotes here, or read "Taking Our Country Back" by Daniel Kreiss to learn the history of VAN and how we can compete.
rVotes has been offered to the Republican Party but was rejected in favor of continuing to allow the data to be owned by self-serving Campaign Consultants who do not share the same interests as Republicans. The search for “technologists” on the Right has overlooked the architect of the Democrats' VAN, Steve Adler, who has offered us the same core capabilities that have made the Obama Ground Game so powerful. Ironically, the capabilities that the Romney Campaign spent $40 million to engineer under the failed Project Orca were already available in rVotes had we only chosen to use them. Check out the rVotes GOTV video to see the $40 million of GOTV "strike list" capability that we left on the shelf.
Hopefully we will be spared any NIH (not invented here) drama lamenting that our data will be tainted and compromised if not used in a system designed by Ronald Reagan himself. As a good capitalist, Mr. Adler has millions of reasons to make his system work for the Right!
We are two generations behind the Democrats. There is no time for R&D. With rVotes we can begin to build the permanent political infrastructure that we need to compete with the Democrats. There may be many technologies that are built on top of the core architecture of rVotes but the unsexy, crucial, back-end architecture of rVotes coupled with the revolutionary concept of putting the data in the activists’ hands makes it the essential core of the Republican Political Infrastructure. If we don’t adopt it this year, we may never close the gap the Democrats are opening up in technological infrastructure.
If you care about the future of Grassroots Organization on the Right, if you want to actually DO SOMETHING about the Democrats' ever-increasing technology lead, then you owe it to yourself to go to rVotes.com and spend some serious time learning about why the polls were right and the Republican Pundits were wrong. It was the Ground Game powered by VAN that made the difference!
View the Intro to rVotes video, see the side-by-side comparison to VoteBuilder, explore the site and then realize that most of these tools have been available to Progressive activists for years. Is it any wonder that their Ground Game completely outperformed ours? Read the FAQ, hover over the Contact Us tab and read the articles in the drop-down list. By this small amount of research, you will have surpassed the knowledge of most Republican Consultants about the technology that has carried Obama to two Presidential terms and left Republicans in the minority until 2016 at least.
Ask yourself WHY, as a Conservative Activist you are not equipped with the same or better organizing tools than the Democrats. I'm serious--why are these tools missing on the Right?
I’d welcome the comments of anyone who cares about the future of Republican Grassroots Organizing.