“The difference between the approach of the left in general, and the Republicans, is that the left was more interested in just putting cool software up. The idea was to put up the tools and let people use them.”
He derided net evangelists who believed that the answer was ‘let’s come up with new ways of talking!’
“The belief was ‘let’s get 5,000 people out there and they’ll talk to each other. but to put a president in office we need to get people organized and trained.” In the end, he said, a field organization was far more valuable than blog blather.
Um, well sure, Zach. But anyone who tries to claim that we lost the election in November because we focused too much on the technology, well, I’m just not seeing it. I mean, that’s a nice convenient excuse, but doesn’t it overlook the fact that for the first time in recent memory, the Democrats outraised Republicans, more people voted for Kerry than all but one other candidate in history, and more contributors donated to political campaigns than ever before? Don’t we think the tech might have helped just a bit with that?
The Democrats lost because we had a weaker message, less discipline, and almost no coordination between the various levels of the party. I’m the chair of my local Democratic Party, yet have never so much as received a form letter from the chair of the state party, let alone from the DNC. John Kerry rescued his campaign in October during the Iowa primaries by firing his campaign manager and reorganizing a fractured staff. Factions grew once again over the summer, and Kerry didn’t take control — leading to an unfortunately predictable result. (Contrasted with the Republicans’ discipline on message, I think the conclusions are easy to draw.
When Zach says that we need organization, he’s right. But to suggest that the technology can’t improve the organizational abilities flies in the face of what we did well this cycle, not to mention it’s laughably ignorant of where things are heading. (When Disney is encouraging grandparents to download social networking software to plan family vacations, it’s a safe bet that online organizing to improve political organizing just might take hold…)
Zach’s wrong when he suggests the left was more focused on building the tools than using them. Are there some corners where a few people just wanted to play with cool tools? Sure. But was that the focus of the entire party? Not by a long shot. And to lay the 2004 loss at the technology’s feet seems ridiculous on its face.
(Big caveat: The Register’s Orlowski — the reporter on this story — is notoriously anti-blog and a bit of a rabble-rouser, so I’m more than happy to be corrected on the substance of Exley’s comments…)