The Tea Parties that were held yesterday throughout America are precisely what the Republican Party needs. They represent a grassroots movement and network-based formation that has so far been relatively lacking on the Republican side of the aisle.
One of the primary reasons behind the Democrats’ recent successes was their use of the New Media and internet technologies to organize and interconnect millions of Americans. Not only did this help to mobilize new demographics that were previously not politically active, but it encouraged more established bases to become more active. The use of Facebook, blogs, and the internet by many of these new organizations, such as Move On, Huffington Post, and more, was a prime way to reach out to America.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party has been dragging heavily in using these new forms of mobilization and communication. The Tea Parties were a watershed event in reversing this. Contrary to the conspiracy theories in the mainstream media, the Tea Parties were a bottom up movement, utilizing the same technologies that the Democrats have so successfully used in the past.
This is refreshing for a couple of reasons. First of all, it allows a greater flow of ideas amongst the base and between the base and leadership. It allows the Republican Party to become more in-touch with the average conservative American. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership has so far been somewhat out of touch with its base- at least some of it. This will allow Republican candidates to tweak platforms to appeal to a wide-range of voters and enable greater success at the polls.
Secondly, it changes the image of the Republican Party. Lately, particularly in light of the Bush administration, Republicanism has been popularly viewed as out of touch, old, and elite. This needn’t be the case. College students so readily flock to the Democrats because the left is simply more readily accessible on campuses. This of course has to do with biased instruction and administration, but also has to do with the fact that the Democrats are more present in these ‘youthful spaces’ such as the internet. By moving into these spaces the Republicans can offer a second option- a better option.
In other words, the Republicans need to “youth-enize” their thinking. They need to appeal to a younger, more tech-savvy, network-oriented base. They need to figure out how to sell their ideas in a fashion that appeals to the new everyman.
This does not necessarily mean compromising on ideals or policies. What it does mean is that these ideas need to be first repackaged and second distributed in better ways. Repackaging entails selling policies from new angles and perspectives. This can simply be accomplished by reevaluating what is important to these new bases and how to frame policies in this light. Distribution of course involves the methods of interacting with and communicating to the base. The use of these new technologies is the prime way of achieving this [and naturally is one of the inspiring factors for this, and I’m sure, many other blogs].
The Tea Parties were a successful start, but there is much work to be done. What they have shown us, is that the new media and network-based models work well with conservative ideals, as long as the ideals are properly presented. Uniting behind the notion of hard-working, self-sufficient, reasonable, individual, American is just this image.