The famous (or depending on who you ask, infamous) Grand Old Party is an aging party. The party that once prided itself on its affluent, 20-something voting base has now become the party of stodgy, old white men. The 20-somethings now are increasingly identifying with the Democratic Party.

Why? Policy issues aside, the Democratic Party, and more specifically presidential candidate Barak Obama, has done a great job using new communication technology advancements towards its advantage. One needs to look no further than Senator Obama’s text message announcement of his running mate in late August. Although some criticized the text message as a failed stunt, many young voters and statistics firms saw it as a success.

In the age where young people are the communication technology early adapters, it really seemed like a no-brainer for the pre-2006 minority party to seek out new or disenfranchised young voters by using early adapters’ kryptonite – Web 2.0 technologies.

Facebook, MySpace, Digg, Blogs – all technologies more-or-less successfully used by the Obama campaign in the present race. It’s no wonder many younger voters are identifying with the Democratic Party; the party is speaking their language.

After the Republican presidential candidate’s Internet strategist Mark Soohoo excitedly proclaimed that “John McCain is aware of the Internet,” the Republican decision-makers most likely realized they had a problem communicating to their once-faithful demographic – young people.

Now, it’s time for the Republicans to play a game of much-needed catch-up.

The GOP National Convention Web site boasts something its Democratic counterpart lacks; a plethora of Web 2.0 technologies. Although the utilization of new communication technologies is nothing new for the Democrats (i.e. Obama’s text message), the Republican National Convention has finally begun to implement Digg, Facebook, MySpace, UStream, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn into their Web operations.

Although these communication technologies are different from each other (Facebook and MySpace allow for social networking), all represent the Republican Party’s attempt to reclaim its former young demographic.

Each Web 2.0 technology is linked to in the convention Web site. For example, clicking the YouTube link on the Web site would yield a pop-up of the GOP YouTube profile page. There, viewers can peruse roughly 100 videos of the convention, including speeches, interviews and other miscellaneous uploads. Clicking on the other Web 2.0 links on the site yields similar results; a window pops up and you are directed away from the main GOP National Convention site.

Unfortunately, just offering links to Web 2.0 technologies is not the most effective use of the media. Rather, if those behind the Republican National Convention Web site were to more completely integrate the technologies into the RNC online hub, then the effectiveness of the Web 2.0 communication tools would be maximized. However, effective change does not occur over night; including these technologies on the Web site is a decent starting point by the Republican Party.

What the GOP National Convention Web site needs to do in the future (in 2012) is use new media tools more proactively akin to Senator Obama’s 3 a.m. text message.

There will most likely always be a conservative party and liberal party in the United States, and their general issues will probably not evolve too much over time. However, what does change is how the political parties utilize new technologies to publicize their agendas. The Republican Party has fallen behind in the new media race. It has lost many of its powerful demographic; young people. If it hopes to become salient and important again, the GOP must continue to proactively use new communication technologies to spread its message.

J.J. De Simone

Originally posted September 2, 2008 at PolicyByBlog

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