Rebuilding the Party: The Technology Part 2

We now have a new Chairman for the Republican Party. With a new Chairman comes new people and new vendors and new ideas.

When I first wrote on this topic on Christmas Day, the post made it round the world — surprising particularly because the post was written on Christmas Day.

There were five points I made and that I stand by:

  1. That you have come to me thinking I am a technologist is an indication of the problem;
  2. Luckily for you, I have come to recognize my limits, but sadly there are too many others out there who do not recognize their limits and, unfortunately, offer themselves as solutions to our tech problem instead of offering real solutions;
  3. If anyone you talk to says you need to duplicate what Obama did, run the other way as fast as possible;
  4. When looking for people, choose technologists who are interested in politics, not political guys who learned tech; and,
  5. Look outside Washington, D.C.

In my post, I discussed who Cyrus Krohn is and why keeping him at the RNC is important. Since then, all the thinking we have done at RedState over endorsements, etc. has come down to one this: will Cyrus be kept at the RNC.

He is that important. We will know whether Michael Steele is serious about bringing change to the party by, ironically enough, whether he brings change to the e-Director’s position. Change in that position will most likely mean he was not serious about change at all.

Allow me to explain:

Why Cyrus Matters

This is what I wrote on Christmas Day. Allow me to incorporate it into this post.

Mike Duncan made a very wise decision hiring Cyrus Krohn to head the RNC’s technology efforts. Krohn came from a technology, not a political, background. Cyrus, a communications guy at heart, worked at CNN, Microsoft, and Yahoo gaining experience in technology with technologists instead of in politics with politicos. When he got to the Republican National Committee in 2007, he was pretty immediately able to size up what worked and what didn’t. Why? Because he is a technologist by trade, if not by specific training. He knows this stuff.

We will not really see Cyrus’s full potential at the RNC until the 2010 cycle. He did not get to the RNC until into the 2008 cycle when things were already in place. That Duncan chose to go outside the beltway to find a true technologist is worth commending. …The next RNC Chairman will do the party a great service by keeping Cyrus.

It is easier for a technologist to learn about politics than it is for a political consultant to learn technology. It is easier for a technologist to consider how average Americans use technology than it is for a political consultant to do so. It is vastly easier for a technologist to vet a shiny new tool with pretty bells and whistles than it is a political consultant. Too many political consultants get distracted by the shiny.

This is not to say there is no role for political guys who have turned to tech. There absolutely is a place. Candidates still need help with online operations — that’s not something a technologist really needs to focus on. The political guys out there can do it. There will still need to be organized Facebook group efforts, Twitters, etc. The political guys can and are doing that.

But if the right is going to truly be successful, we’re going to have to go beyond the political guys turned tech guys and go straight for the tech guys. We’re going to need to find more Cyrus Krohn’s and put them in key technology positions on the right. We are going to need to build out our infrastructure and our proprietary technology.

The Metrics Related to Cyrus

Under Cyrus Krohn’s technology leadership at the RNC, the RNC’s mail list has grown from 2 million names to over 12 million names.

The RNC Facebook Group is 10,000 members larger than the DNC’s Facebook Group. We didn’t even have one until Cyrus got to work.

Under Cyrus’s management, the RNC, believe it or not, developed a very advanced operation for micro-targeting their voter file — even better than what Obama and the DNC have.

Cyrus out-innovated the Democrats on the party platform operation, building an open, easy to use site to allow the grassroots to have input into the party platform.

Prior to getting to the RNC, Cyrus worked at Microsoft for a decade and spent two years at Yahoo. You all probably know one of the things Cyrus started that lives on — Slate.com, now owned by the Washington Post (don’t hold it against him — he did tech, not editorial content).

By any measurable metric, Cyrus, though only in the job a short time and mostly locked into pre-existing vendors, succeeded at a place not known for technological success.

What It All Means

My friend Eric Odom on Twitter the other day, wrote, “Also, it would be a good move for Steele to not let McCain staffers run his eCampaign for him.”

Unfortunately, those are some of the people now trying to oust Cyrus and take over the technology he has started building. And it is not just them. A host of people are working to shove Cyrus out of his job and get lucrative RNC contracts for technology.

Cyrus, near single handedly, has protected the RNC and, indirectly, all of us from charlatan poseurs who claim to be technologists, but really are not.

I should not say Cyrus is the indispensable man. Few men are. But right now, if the RNC wants to really innovate technologically, Cyrus is the indispensable man. He has not had a chance to really show what he can do, though the few things he has done have been stellar.

If Michael Steele is serious about wanting to innovate and reform, he should leave Cyrus Krohn in place and give Cyrus the resources and authority he needs to lead the GOP into technological dominance.

I encourage you to join the Facebook Group and email Michael Steele to ask him to keep and support Cyrus.