Patrick Ruffini is one of the most prominent of the few Republicans of the Millennial Generation. But in being so it’s meant a pretty good gig as a point person for articles explaining why the GOP is so far behind the times when it comes to Internet activism as opposed to mere blogging for example. He brought more attention to himself with a piece in the Washington Post on his efforts to try and set up a conservative “rightroots” to try and compete with Daily Kos and other such leftist Internet activist sites.
One would think Mr. Ruffini would want to work with the one group of Republicans that are already ahead of everyone else in terms of Internet activism, Ron Paul supporters. But, Ruffini, a Rudy Guliani supporter, apparently regarded the Paulites the same way as every other Republican regarded them, as the peasants with pitchforks looking to storm the manor castle.
Granted Paul’s numbers in hard votes on paper don’t look all that impressive but they would not be in a party a large majority of whose primary and caucus voters are 45 and up and don’t use the internet. I was at the Iowa Straw Poll watching campaign workers for Romney and Tancredo have to drive their elderly supporters across the Hilton Coliseum parking lots in golf carts and there were a lot of them. Paul did quite well among GOP voters under 30 in several primaries and caucuses.
So Ruffini can do himself a big favor and drop his ideological and political blinders and work with the Paulians instead of against them and bring them into the party and use their energy to help rebuilding, especially in blue states and urban areas where many of them live. He may be surprised to learn the netroots were largely leftists in red states who used the internet to build activist cells across the country, giving the Democrats organization they didn’t have as officially. If Ruffini’s serious about rebuilding the GOP, he can do the same with netroots that are already organized. He doesn’t have to start from scratch.
And it will be beneficial to the Paulites as well to have a focus to their activism instead going off in million different directions (although, given the nature of the movement, that’s bound to happen. There’s just too many diverse groups involved). And those who will stick with the GOP are not going to be “Truthers” or other wackos so he doesn’t have to worry about that. Those not willing to be a part of the mainstream are not going to take part.
What it really boils down to is this, either Ruffini can continue to do what Republicans normally do and treat their party like exclusive, members only country club so that the only young Republicans out there will be those junior members already wearing the blue blazers, or he can open the doors wide open and invite in people who already have an organizational infrastructure and lists of people that can be channeled towards party building in areas where Republicans are very weak and away from the traditional RNC model.
It will be interesting to see if Ruffini really “gets it ” when it comes to online activism or is just another right blogger who feels he has to clear everything with party headquarters and waits for the latest talking points email. We already saw once promising Free Republic turn into an annex of the RNC and thus became a mini-Thermidor. Don’t let the same thing happen again.