Time for the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) To Join the Information Age

Information, if properly presented , is POWER. Benjamin Franklin knew it, that’s why he organized the Post Office in 1775. The Post office was the main median of how information was shared. That’s why it was explicitly defined and established in the Constitution. Print on paper was king as far as espousing ideas (think Federalist Papers, Thomas Paine’s pamphlets, newspapers). Our founding fathers were aware of the power of words on paper and, in a totally inspired and selfless move, made the freedom of speech and PRESS sacrosanct. Think of it….In no other country is the right of free speech explicitly spelled out and protected. What a wonderful gift our founding fathers gave us.

Today we are overwhelmed with mediums to access the news. 24 hour news channels on TV, talk radio and the Internet. All are electronic and the vast majority of our people have the tools to access and absorb the information available. Newspapers are dying. Why pay for what you can get for free? Most daily newspapers have a web presence, hoping (mostly in vain) they can make it a profit with web ads, but it appears that only financially oriented papers are able to sustain themselves by charging for access (people will pay money to make money).

However, the internet has proven to be fertile ground for political pundits and they have proven to be game changers in elections and political discourse. (Here is a link to a summary of some of the best political sites (left/right/non-partisan) Think Blue dress and Drudge Report or George Bush, CBS and fake report on Bush’s National Guard Service or ACORN and hookers. And finally, while the printed newspapers are dying a slow death in the Sunshine State, online their most visited sites are their “Political” blog sites that cover Florida (and all lean left!).

Start up costs to host a site are minimal (I bought a domain name for 10 years for a 100 bucks and use Google’s free Blog hosting site). While more complicated sites require more money and infrastructure, the start up costs for a real time, information dense site to serve as a outlet for Republicans to get their message out is nominal in the great scheme of things, especially when comparing it to paying for airtime on TV/Radio for commercials or even placards for name recognition.

The RPOF has already invested in creating a site, called “Drive the Discussion”  (http://www.drivethediscussion.com/). It has been a complete disaster. Boring content, irregular updates and completely mismanaged. What we need (in addition to electing new leaders on Feb 20th) is a commitment to turn this site into a blend of both news and advocacy for Conservatives and the Republican Party of Florida. We can, with a small dedicated cadre of professional technical geeks, amateur political junkies and some monetary support from the RPOF, make the “Drive the Discussion” site both a source of hard news, political advocacy and an alternative voice for the citizens of Florida against the left leaning newspapers of the state. We should strive to make it a must read of every Republican and independent voter of the state. We can take on the newspapers and beat them at their own game. The beauty in all of this is we are not in the news business for profit (like the newspapers), we are in the news business for the votes.

If a Senator is crafting a economic recovery plan for Florida, then he and his staff can explain it and break it down for the average reader and “Drive the Discussion” (or whatever we name it) can put it out there for all to read and evaluate. We can respond rapidly to Democratic or leftist hit pieces in the press. We can embed a stock ticker, a news ticker and a sports ticker and of course, give space to a home grown cadre of Florida Republican Bloggers to comment on all subjects local, state and national. We can use it as a medium for Republicans to air their differences and get instant feedback from the grassroots. (It would have come in handy during the recent rail vote) We can also link to influential sites like RedState, National Review, Hot Air or Pajamas Media. We link to official Republican campaign sites, emails of elected officials and state government offices. We become, in effect, the electronic “newspaper” of record for the Republican party and like Fox news, we give voice to the center-right majority in the state. We take away online readership from the loony left press and while they may complain, they will either have to adapt to the new reality and start putting a more impartial spin to their news, or embrace the far left and, like MSNBC, consign themselves to irrelevancy.

There is nothing wrong with the RPOF having its own internet newspaper. (Show me where in the constitution it says we can’t.) We put together a initial design, make sure we can subscribe to a few wire services and get the RPOF leadership to approve it. Once we get it ready to debut, we have a few TV spots on statewide touting it, put it up on some billboards and get the conservative blogosphere to promote it. We could even buy a few ads in the papers!

We start off modestly but aggressively. We will need a fulltime (but minimal staff) to maintain the hardware/software side, make sure we have enough bloggers to keep up the content constantly being updated during the day, and we can have moderated forums on subjects in the news. We have news/sports/stock widgets from the wire services and we scan the Florida papers and respond to them as quickly as possible when we think they are being unfair to our side. (If you are a member of the Fl House or Senate, you go to the designated DTD rep and give them your side of the story. Same goes for members of U.S. Congress.)

Above all, we need people willing to write, to opine, to push the envelope. We need to be serious about the subject, but witty in our repartee. Staid prose that doesn’t inspire need not apply. We need passion and true believers to write for us. they must be informed, they must be honest and in the blogging world, MUST BE WILLING TO ADMIT A MISTAKE IF FACTUAL IN NATURE AND RETRACT ASAP. (That is a cardinal rule in the Blogger world.)

Mistakes will be made and it may take a while but by 2012, if the RPOF commits to this effort (AND I MEAN REALLY COMMIT!), we will be beating any paper in Florida in online readership and I bet we will have sister Republican sites in other states doing the same thing. Of course, we will link to them!

The Democrats will probably copy us, but don’t worry…we are the true party of ideas…Look at the Democrats today….Their answers are all mired in the failed past.

The RPOF is meeting next week to elect a new chairman and vice-chairman. I respectfully request that this issue also be put on the front burner of actions the party needs to do by the time the August 24 primary over. We need to be ready to get our message out and the local papers in the Sunshine state ain’t gonna help… So we give folks an alternative.