Relevant Conservatism in the Internet Era

As a conservative who is also supporting Barack Obama (Yes We Can) this fall, I’m fascinated watching the efforts both campaigns are making to reach out to an internet savvy Generation Y. With mixed results, mind you.

John McCain has been flogged for his gaffes surrounding the internet. Phrases likes, “I’m aware of the internet” are not gaining any points in the arena of internet geek public opinion. It is clear that Barack Obama is winning this critical demographic of 18-35 year olds with a grass roots campaign that encourages small several dollar donations from average web users and that the McCain campaign is desperate to appear relevant in their online outreach efforts.

However, it is not just McCain’s campaign. The Republican National Committee is going to its own great lengths to produce the appearance of relevancy in a hostile internet environment that is largely committed to the Democratic base.

Such was the effort of the RNC’s latest viral marketing campaign directed toward the Facebook generation. BarackBook is a spoof on the popular Facebook site and includes videos, a “MyFriends” section highlighting several “friends” of Obama involved in organized crime, political corruption and the often antagonized capitalistic market. The “news feed” uses typical Facebook prose to highlight these friends activities, “Barack Obama and Antoin “Tony” Rezko are now friends with Allison Davis“.

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The problem is as it always is. This marketing attempt is leveraged toward a demographic that does not believe what the Republicans have to say. They’ve feel like they have been lied to for at least 8 years and maybe 15 if you go back to 1994 when the Republicans took over Congress.

Obama’s appeal comes from a desire for change. Techies are already disillusioned by the current administration. By throwing in real and relevant issues to the technology community, such as Ted Stevens “false statements” charges, the cost of energy, the inability to secure H1B Visas for foreign engineers (many who are more brilliant than American engineers), the high cost of energy needed to power massive server farms that keep us online, a “too-little, too-late” government involvement in the mortgage scandal that is forcing people out of work and creating a shortage of job opportunities in the tech space as well as the weak dollar that makes it difficult for American internet companies to do international internet business has created an environment where the internet technology world is hostile toward GOP, laissez-faire, status quo policies.

Republican efforts to appeal to a technology audience are encouraged, but should not be expected to change sentiment overnight. A return to traditional conservative roots where opportunities are provided for the willing and able, government removing themselves as much as possible from the lives of the citizens, and barriers to technology innovation lowered (tax incentives for innovation) would play well over time with the technology crowd. Participation in the internet space on blogs (with comments enabled and dialogue in play) on social networks like Facebook (not just hands off Facebook groups) would go a long way.

I’m not a Republican. I left the Republican party several years ago as it became clear the party left me. I am a conservative and see a real need for real change. I mean, throw out everything we know and rebuild kind of change. The kind of change that keeps conservatism relevant in 2008 and going into the next decade.