Friday, January 30, 2009

All the little birds on J-Bird Street

Front page story in today's WSJ on how the GOP Is All Atwitter About the Internet:

Within days of the election, a technology consultant in Nashville, Tenn., started a Web site devoted to getting Republicans on Twitter, spotlighting which of the 168 RNC voting-members use the tool (last count: 20). A conservative strategist issued a 10-point action plan for rebuilding the party, declaring the No. 1 priority to be "winning the technology war with the Democrats."

Mike Duncan, the incumbent RNC chairman running for re-election, was pressed during a recent interview with conservative talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt about the perceived "tech gap" between the two parties.

After Mr. Duncan, 57, called the gap a "big myth," Mr. Hewitt pressed him.

"Are you on Twitter, by the way, Mike Duncan?" asked Mr. Hewitt, himself a heavy Twitterer.

"I do not Twitter," replied Mr. Duncan, who explained that he doesn't like to be distracted by Twitter while talking to people. Many like to use the tool during conferences or other events. "But we have the capability here in the building -- a lot of the guys here do it."

Duncan's response sounds a bit like a twelve-year-old boy's, "Well yeah, I could do that too...if I wanted to."

About a month ago, following the guidance of Mr. Hewitt (when Ralphie says shoot your eye out, we say, "Which one?"), I signed on to Twitter. Even though the words "social networking" usually make my skin crawl, I can see the value in such a tool, especially for needling colleagues and debating meaningless topics. It's like what you would do at a bar if you actually had a social life. But I'm still a little unclear as to how this going to help conservatives win elections. The "tech gap" is far from the biggest challenge facing the GOP:

Jon Henke, who advised former Tennessee Republican Sen. Fred Thompson on new-media efforts last year in his brief presidential run, agrees tech savviness is only a means to an end.

"The party right now is like someone seeing their neighbor buy a shiny new truck, and wanting one, too," says Mr. Henke, 34. "But then not realizing the neighbor has something to haul."

You don't need a nice truck to haul garbage. Hopefully, the resistance to the stimulus package is a sign that conservatives Republicans will have something more valuable to haul in the future.

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