It's January 26th, 2013 - And I'm The New Chairman of the Republican National Committee (I)

Let’s imagine we’re in some alternate universe, and everything else was the same (including regrettably, the results of Election Day 2012), except that, for some alternate universe reason, a majority of the members of the Republican National Committee in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the 25th of January 2013 decided to elect some guy named Martin Knight (yours truly) to be the Party’s new Chairman.

The following is in no particular order, or organized in any particular way – it’s a number of ideas that have been percolating in my mind for a while – but, in the alternate universe where I’ve just been elected the new Chairman of the Republican National Committee, this is what’ll be on my To-Do List …

1. Get Connected – “No More ORCA”

In the aftermath of the electoral disaster that was November 2008 for the Republican Party, it was commonly considered to be a key criterion for the next Chairman of the RNC that he develop a plan for getting the party rank and file organized and engaged to match the fundraising and party-building juggernaut that was Obama for America.

My support for former Mayor of Cincinnati and Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell for Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 2009 was for exactly this reason. His Conservative Resurgence Plan was, and still very much is, an excellent piece of work – most especially, his plan to revitalize and arm the party with the necessary web and standalone applications at the precinct level. The end goal was to have GOP neighborhood activists not only interconnected online, but also enabled and encouraged to act as the Republican Party’s boots on the ground, operating neighborhood by neighborhood, recruiting volunteers, canvassing and talking to voters, explaining the GOP’s stand on the issues, organizing events, etc. in every single precinct across the nation.

In that light, the very first order of business for me as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee would be to set about bringing Mr. Blackwell’s precinct rejuvenation project to life. First of all, I’ll publicly call for Republican activists (including TEA Party members) to register to become Precinct Committeemen and women – to become official voting members of the Party. If the position is already occupied in the precinct, the applying activist will automatically be registered as a Precinct “Representative” with the RNC, state and county organizations. This will, ideally, be a concerted effort that will be done in conjunction with the state and county-level GOP organizations in all 50 states and Territories, and while there may be state and local laws with regard to Precinct Committeemen and coordination that may cause some friction, ultimately the goal is to ensure that every neighborhood in the country, from the Reddest county to the Bluest city has a GOP Point-of-Presence – i.e. a Republican Precinct Committeeman or Representative maintaining a website, armed with modern web-based and/or standalone party-building tools at his/her fingertips and serving as a nodal point in what it is hoped will grow into one massive always-on 24/7 self-organizing e-community.

This would mean that I’ll have to recruit an in-house team of software developers and task them with developing the necessary suite of web-based and standalone applications for party-building, information and organization (including apps, portlets, widgets, modules, components, plugins, RSS feeds, etc.) for activities like voter registration, canvassing, fundraising, social networking, volunteer management, etc. to enable any and all Republicans to independently plan, coordinate and direct their on-ground activities and resources across their neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, states and nationwide, both in and out of campaign season.. The endgoal is to develop tools that make it as easy as possible for Republicans to participate, to interact, to self-organize, to stay/be informed, to donate, and to communicate with their local and national party leadership and elected officials.

In practical terms, I’d imagine this means establishing a locale-sensitive portal (e.g. mygop.net) based on both a heirarchical and peer-to-peer bidirectional architecture that generates content and options for activity based around the visitor’s location data and the level at which the visitor wants to operate i.e. the mygop network. The idea is that a visitor enters a ZIP code (5 or 9 digits) and is presented with icons i.e. My State, My County, My City, My Precinct, etc. For example, the visitor from Darke County, Ohio enters ‘45304’ in the text field and hits the ‘Go‘ button, clicks on the ‘My County‘ icon among the icons that pop up and and he or she is promptly taken to oh.mygop.net/county/darke, a sub-site managed by the Darke County GOP with content of its own, and content pulled automatically from levels above, (national and state), peer levels (other Ohio counties) and levels below (towns, cities, precincts). This is, of course, not including widgets and other extensions for events, registering voters, donating, volunteering, livechat, video, and getting connected with other Republicans via the mygop platform and the already established social networking platforms (e.g. LinkedIn, facebook) within and outside the Darke County area. The content of oh.mygop.net/county/darke itself would of course, include listings of upcoming events, local (precinct, township, county, district, state, federal) elected and party officials, vacancies in the party structure, upcoming races/elections (from President to school council), candidates and their donate buttons, snippets of local news, lists of local (friendly) bloggers, links to relevant party and candidate websites, etc.

Additional items for development would be extensions (i.e. modules, components, plugins, widgets, etc.) for the more popular open source blogging and content management systems (CMS), e.g. WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, DotNetNuke, Umbraco, etc. for blogs and other friendly sites to integrate into the mygop network. Speaking of the open source community, I’d restart the project begun during Michael Steele’s tenure at the RNC (and subsequently abandoned) to develop open APIs to the party’s data banks so outside coders can develop applications for the mygop platform. In the same vein, another important set of deliverables would be various versions of these open source CMS, bundled and pre-configured with the aforementioned extensions so sites are set-up and connected to the mygop network straight out of the box. The idea is to have a pre-configured CMS available for the various level party organizations and affiliates, i.e. high school and college Republican clubs, precinct, city, county and state party sites, and sites for office holders and candidates. An advantage for a candidate is that as soon as his/her site comes online, he/she immediately pops up on the radar of everyone registered on the mygop network with a location setting (ZIP code) within his/her constituent area – it’s the kind of exposure and opportunity to build a following that campaigns would kill for.

This will very likely cost a huge amount of money – in terms of hardware, software and human resources, but it will certainly be worth it. This enables the GOP to build something along the lines of on-the-ground army the Democrats and their union allies are able to field on Election Day, it turns the GOP into a full-time civic institution (one of Ken Blackwell’s explicit aims for his precinct project), empowers the rank and file, and provides a solid avenue of communication between and across the party at all levels and to the electorate as a whole. It means that in and out of campaign season, neighborhood/precinct activists can be tasked with literature drops, taking polls of their neighbors and reporting back to data miners and analysts at party and campaign HQs, identifying actual and potential Republican voters in the Blue neighborhoods that have never been turned out to vote, and even just simply marketing the party/candidates. The effect of this is that there is always an already active infrastructure, and a candidate for any office simply needs to plug his campaign in – in other words, especially at the Presidential level, starting from scratch becomes a thing of the past.

This is, of course, just the beginning – the Obama Campaign broke a lot of new ground in technology in 2008 and 2012 and, thanks to the GOP’s campaign consultants, we haven’t even begun to catch up. We need to not just duplicate but improve on the Democrats’ innovations, from data mining and analysis to network and application security. The interesting thing though, (something noted by Bill Whittle) and something that should give all Republicans hope, is that, despite everything they got right, from the technology, to their GOTV operation to the establishment media’s slavish devotion and covering up for Obama, a few hundred thousand votes in a handful of states would have changed everything.

Read more at the links below;

(do check out the links in the references …)

H/T – ColdWarrior: Check out this diary by John Fowler on rVotes – a system (rejected by Romney’s Campaign Consultants, of course) that is somewhere quite far along the lines of what I’m thinking about.