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Internet ‘Rightroots’ Key to GOP Revival

Only a stronger conservative online community and a compelling story will lead Republicans out of the wilderness.

by
Jon Henke

Bio

November 17, 2008 - 12:00 am
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Much like the conservative movement breathed life into the Republican Party in the 1980s, the Left’s progressive movement has given new life to the Democratic Party today.

It’s important to note that both the Right and Left built their movements out of paranoia at the machine they believed the other side had built. In The Power of Ideas, the story of the Heritage Foundation, Lee Edwards wrote:

Envious conservatives watched the powerful liberal coalition of academics, think tank analysts, members of Congress, White House aides, interest group officials, and journalists run much of the business of the nation’s capital and wondered: “Why can’t we put together an operation like that?” … As the future head of The Heritage Foundation described the state of legislative affairs in the early 1970s, “The Left had a finely tuned policymaking machine, and the Right had nothing to match it.”

Meanwhile, the modern progressives have very explicitly modeled their new movement on the movement built by the Right in the ’60s and ’70s.

Paranoia is an excellent strategist.

Which brings us to the current problem: What does the Right do now? At the 30,000 foot level, the Right needs …

  • better information organization, which will help a movement coalesce around …
  • the organizing agenda, out of which flows …
  • the storyline/narrative, which motivates …
  • the grassroots/netroots to get engaged, mobilized, and donating, all of which is channeled effectively by …
  • movement infrastructure, both online and offline.

Each of the items is a necessary precursor to the next. Without more effective information organization, we will not fix on a coherent agenda. Without a coherent agenda, we will not have a good story to tell. Without a good story to tell, we will not energize the grassroots and netroots. Without an energized grassroots/netroots, all the movement infrastructure in the world will be for naught.

For now, the goal should be to build ideological infrastructure — organically — outside the entrenched political establishment. We should build unifying grievances. We should organize ideas and then people. The Republican Party will not lead the Right out of the problems that plague the Republican Party; it will have to follow.

If a movement is to draw a party into its orbit, the movement must have the gravitational pull of messaging, mobilization, and fundraising capacity. For now, it is our role to uncover, organize, and deliver information.

In other words — to change the story.

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Jon Henke is an internet political strategist and co-founder of The Next Right
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