Republicans don't (or don't want to) "get" the internet

An interesting article from the New York Times (via the Denver Post so no registration required) -

GOP squirms over YouTube debate as Dems thrive online
The hesitance of some Republicans to join the CNN/YouTube debate reinforces the idea that the GOP doesn’t “get” the Web.

When the two leading Republican presidential candidates started to squirm last week about attending a Sept. 17 YouTube debate in which the public would ask them questions via video, they faced a surprising backlash from their ideological allies in the blogosphere.

At the same time, Bill O’Reilly has tried to make an issue of the fact that all of the Democratic Presidential contenders are attending a leftist bloggers convention this weekend.

At issue seems to be “control of content”. Conservative Michelle Malkin agrees:

*Michelle Malkin, another conservative blogger who wants all the Republicans to join the YouTube debate, said that “if they put a premium on getting their message across online, they wouldn’t have hesitated” to join the debate.

“But they want to use the medium only if they can control it,” Malkin said. *

The internet is unscripted, a free-for-all, where all voices are heard, and it means that sometimes there will be stupid people, rascists, conspiracy theorists, etc. speaking their piece. Democrats are embracing it, or at worst accepting it, while Republicans seem at best uncomfortable with it.

"In an interview Wednesday with the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, Romney said he’s not a fan of the CNN/YouTube format. Referring to the video of a snowman asking the Democratic candidates about global warming, Romney quipped, “I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman.” (

Republicans have mastered and own talk radio, which follows an opposite pattern - Hosts control the microphone and can speak at length about a subject without interruption. Callers are screened, and guests are chosen with an agenda in mind. You can spend a whole day listening to talk radio and never hear a dissenting opinion.

Is this going to be a problem for Republicans or does it not matter? Is it a generational thing? If this seeming divide turns out to play a big role in the 2008 elections, will that mean that the right will start to allow more internal debate (a good thing, IMO)?

They’re looking back to the good old days when Ronald Reagan paid for the microphone and could use it outlaw Russia whenever he darned well pleased.

Which Internet are you referring to?

It’s bad news for the Republicans, just as it was bad news for the Democrats to be locked out of talk radio. The Internet is a tremendous tool for grassroots organizing and fundraising.

The one with the tubes.

Exactly. We need to enact the “Fairness Doctrine” for the internet, as one side is obviously getting all the bandwidth. We should even have it so you can’t make a Democratic-oriented post w/o setting up the appropriate Republican response beforehand (and vice-versa, too). :smiley:

While it is always dangerous to take seriously a post ending in a smiley, I will point out that the justification for a fairness doctrine for radio is that the airwaves are a public resource to which broadcast access is severely restricted. The latter is not true of the internet (although there is the different issue of “net neutrality”).

It’s hard to understand for those of us who live our lives online, but there is a big chunk of the population that still believes the internet is nothing but nerds in their parents’ basements and pedophiles. I’ll go out on a limb and say that these people probably skew Republican, and that they’re particularly overrepresented among those they’d consider their “base”. I bet that if a GOP candidate showed an Al Gore level of sophistication regarding the Internet, it would be a net negative.

Bill O’Reilly’s bizarre fatwa against Daily Kos relies on this ignorance. He got his researchers to dig up a few offensive things said by the thousands of people who leave comments on Kos diaries every day, declared them to be representative of the site, and denounced it as a “hate group”. He actually compared them to the Nazis and the KKK. Literally.

Anyone who has a passing familiarity with DK knows how ridiculous this is, but that set and the set of people who take Bill O’Reilly seriously don’t intersect. His fans aren’t going to see any difference between the words of a nameless commenter and the words of Markos himself.

The whole episode is unhinged, even by O’Reilly’s standards.

Another example that just came to me: it was just two years ago that Tom Delay (R-Undead) lit into Justice Kennedy because Kennedy said he did research on the internet:

You seriously need to check the calibration of your Sarcasto Meter.

We’ll never progress until every single Baby Boomer is dead.

Sounds like a bad move on the whole to avoid the debates. One look at the comments on a political youtube vid or a FARK link cements the fact that Republicans are alive and well and “estoy usando el internet!”

The internet may be ‘unscripted’ but what I saw of the youtube debates was as incisive as a kitten and as unpredictable as a boulder.

The one that’s not a truck but small enough to fit in my email inbox.

Well, I understood that JohnT was being a bit tongue-in-cheek but, not knowing his political leanings, it was a little hard to figure out who he was poking fun at and I think it is reasonable to assume it might be the Democrats for talking about the need to re-instate the fairness doctrine. So, that being the case, I did want to point out why radio and the internet are two very different beasts in this regard.

Perhaps, but the worst offenders here are probably the pre-Boomer over-60 crowd. They’re going to be the most afraid of the internet, they traditionally skew Republican, and they’ll crawl through fire to vote. If the candidates are pandering to anyone by intentionally “not getting” the Internet, it’s the geezers.

Or married.

As much as I hate to say it, I think Mitt “Strap my dog to the roof” Romney does have a bit of a point. However, I do think our democracy would be much better served with average joes asking candidates questions in a public forum. With campaign managers micromanaging every single aspect of a candidate’s life, candidates not only wind up with a certain “image,” but they also don’t have any idea what the majority of the population thinks, having encounted only those people who’ve been carefully screened to make sure that they fall into the “right” demographic and don’t ask any questions for which the candidate hasn’t spent hour upon hour memorizing pat answers to.

We need open discussion in this country (now, more than ever, IMHO), and if that means that someone asks candidate Jack Johnson a question he doesn’t know how to answer, so he comes off looking really stupid, thus costing him the election, so much the better.

I can’t imagine why the motivation for Republican candidates avoiding internet open-forum type debates is a mystery. Why would Republicans want to put themselves in an environment in which they’re vastly unpopular for the purposes of a debate? What could a Republican possibly gain from a debate like that?

I told you not to mess with the hippies. Couldn’t leave well enough alone, could ya?

You are so out of my will…

Didn’t something similar happen with Clinton and MTV back in the 90s? While the Republics generally stuck to traditional media, Clinton embraced the relatively new network and the young people vote was enough to win him the election?

It’s like an electronic letter…or a quiet phone call