Thursday, December 30, 2004

Political Modernization

Over on the New Democrat Network blog there is an interesting post on technological modernization (link). It is a response to Washington Post article on the GOP's own technological mastery (link). The Republicans, under their incoming RNC chairman Ken Mehlman, have become very good at integrating market research methodology into their political apparatus. NDN says that Democrats need a leader who can do a similar job for them (e.g., Simon Rosenberg, who just happens to be the head of NDN :-).

I'm all for this. But we shouldn't become to enamored of whiz-bang technology. Modernization shouldn't be seen as a panacea. It is just one of the many things Democrats need to get better. We should be careful not to get into a political technology race simply because we will never be able to match the Republicans dollar-for-dollar in their market research efforts.

Nor do I think Democrats have to. 

Democrats have one advantage over Republicans in the race for political hearts and minds: the people are naturally inclined to vote Democratic. Why do I say that? Because, traditionally, Republicans outspend Democrats 2 or 3 to 1. Yet Democrats, despite that disparity, continue to remain competitive in the political arena. This tells me that, given an election without all the market research and Madison avenue glitz, the people are more inclined to vote for Democrats than Republicans. It is through their monetary advantage that Republicans are able to persuade some of those voters over to their side.

Democrats should know their strengths and work with them rather than simply adopting a "take what works for the Republicans and replicate it" strategy. We should always be willing to learn lessons from what works for the other side. But we should take those lessons and integrate them into the Democratic way of doing things. We shouldn't just graft them onto the Democratic body politic like some kind of weird Frankenstein experiment.

That's the kind of mistake the DLC has made.


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