Dear RNC Leadership: Why I’m Not Donating

 

I recently received a letter from Tony Parker, treasurer of the RNC, excerpted below:

Chairman Priebus has written to you several times this year asking you to renew your Republican National Committee membership for 2012  As the Treasurer of the RNC, I’m concerned that we haven’t heard back from you … I know other things come up, and perhaps you’ve just been delayed in renewing your membership.  If that’s the case I understand … I hope you haven’t deserted our Party.

I replied with a letter, lightly edited below by the editors of Ricochet for clarity:

To: Tony Parker, Treasurer of the RNC; cc: Reince Priebus, Chairman of the RNC

Gentlemen,

Oh, no, Tony, I haven’t forgotten. I’ve made substantial political contributions in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. But for now, I believe the highest leverage can be obtained by contributing directly to campaigns I like, rather than to the RNC or its various umbrella campaign organizations.

For one thing, I’m not very impressed with the way the Republican leadership has chosen to conduct itself, which seems more geared to ensure long-term employment (followed by comfortable retirement) for members of the Republican side of the political class than pursuing political change.

But in addition, I’m extremely unimpressed by your political marketing skills, particularly in the ever-more-critical Internet arena. As I’ve written at the Chicago Boyz blog, something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr Priebus?

… Facebook is a poor source for news and a very inferior venue for political discussion. But the Left is using it very effectively to circulate memes, usually in the form of simplistic poster-like images with a photo or graphic of some kind and a few words or dubious statistics. There does not seem to be any coherent effort on the part of the RNC, or any other Republican campaign organization or conservative/libertarian organization, to rapidly generate refutations of these when called for, nor do I see very many counter-leftist memes that I judge to be good enough, from a marketing standpoint, to be worth circulating.  And there is very little of marketing value to be found on either the FB page of the RNC or the FB page of RNC chairman Reince Priebus.

You are failing at social media, neither using it effectively offensively or defensively. For example, this morning the following image was being circulated on Facebook:

11885204_907892592606031_7481520359598440573_n

Note the assertion that the problems with medical services for veterans are to be laid at the door of the Republican Party. A competent political marketing organization would monitor for things like this and make a hard-hitting response post available for sharing immediately. You don’t seem to be able to do this, nor even to see the need for it.

You’re not very good at traditional direct-mail marketing, either. Most of the very high volume of mail I get from you is so bad it’s embarrassing. Your DM people seem to think that we are living in the ’50s. Not the real ’50s, but some highly stereotypical version thereof: “Maw!  Maw! We got us a letter from these political people up in Washington DC — and it must be real important! It has this really long number on it, and it says we have to answer it!” Most people who have enough money to make significant political contributions are at least slightly astute, and are not likely to respond well to this sort of thing.

The verbal communication of the senior Republican leadership is generally pretty terrible, too. There is too much talking like a Martian, as Thomas Sowell has pointed out:

When the government was shut down during the Clinton administration, Republican leaders who went on television to tell their side of the story talked about “OMB numbers” versus “CBO numbers” — as if most people beyond the Beltway knew what these abbreviations meant or why the statistics in question were relevant to the shutdown. Why talk to them in Beltway-speak?

Sowell describes the GOP message problem:

You might think that the stakes are high enough for Republicans to put in some serious time trying to clarify their message. As the great economist Alfred Marshall once said, facts do not speak for themselves. If we are waiting for the Republicans to do the speaking, the country is in big trouble. Democrats, by contrast, are all talk. They could sell refrigerators to Eskimos before Republicans could sell them blankets.

You, the institutional Republican party, are doing a very poor job at selling and marketing. The consequences for this country and the world of your failure are likely to be very severe. I hope that you will solve the problem before it is too late, but history does not lead me to be very optimistic on this front. Until I see serious evidence of change and improvement, I will be directing my political contributions to individual candidates who appear to get it, rather than to the RNC or to the various Republican umbrella campaign organizations.

Regards

David Foster

 

There are 29 comments.

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  1. CandE Inactive
    CandE
    @CandE

    Well done.

    -E

    • #1
  2. donald todd Inactive
    donald todd
    @donaldtodd

    Those “give us your money and we’ll do something with it” letters are hard to take.  Thankfully I don’t get them anymore so I never have to figure out if I really want to answer them.

    • #2
  3. carcat74 Member
    carcat74
    @carcat74

    The last RNC begging letter I got, I wrote ‘Mississippi’ across the form in big letters, and sent it back in their post-paid envelope.  Can’t remember the last RNC letter I’ve gotten since……

    • #3
  4. skoook Inactive
    skoook
    @skoook

    I agree , I have a DM background and their mailings are exactly as described, dark ages. I’m not a social mediate , but I know how actionable databases are architected and actioned and I see nothing reaching me but emails from rightish media sites I frequent.

    • #4
  5. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    You’re not very good at traditional direct-mail marketing, either. Most of the very high volume of mail I get from you is so bad it’s embarrassing. Your DM people seem to think that we are living in the 50s….not the real 50s, but some highly stereotypical version thereof:

    “Maw! Maw! We got us a letter from these political people up in Washington DC…and it must be REAL important! It has this really long number on it, and it says we HAVE to answer it!”

    Most people who have enough money to make significant political contributions have at least some degree of astuteness, and are not likely to respond well to this sort of thing.

    These letters are designed to motivate geezers on the verge of senility sitting in their trailers watching Fox…I recall one time when my mom was in her dotage I was visiting one day when she got three separate FedEx deliveries of URGENT fundraising appeals from Pat Robertson’s Elmer Gantry operation… I believe FedEx cost something like $12 to $15 a package back then, real money at the time.

    • #5
  6. david foster Member
    david foster
    @DavidFoster

    I got a reply to my email of the above post to the RNC:

    Hello David,

    I am sad you feel this way, but I understand your frustrations and hear your concerns loud and clear. We are working to get things on the right track and your feedback is so valuable in helping us move in a positive direction.

    The Republican National Committee’s mission is to support Republican leaders at all levels – from a local state commissioner to a U.S. Senator. We promote limited government and constitutional values as outlined in our party platform, here.

    We are the figurehead for the party, working towards electing a Republican President in 2016, and we continue to make strides in our digital and data departments – both extremely important areas we must succeed in to take back the White House.

    My name is Alex and I am the Director of Outreach and Support at the RNC. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out me. You are a valued member of the Republican party and we are very interested to what you have to say.

    All the best,

    Alex Sarp

    Director of Outreach and Support

    RNC

    • #6
  7. CandE Inactive
    CandE
    @CandE

    Well, at least you got a reply.  It’s more than I would have expected.  Unfortunately, he didn’t say anything that makes it sound like they’re fixing the specific problems you enumerated.

    -E

    • #7
  8. david foster Member
    david foster
    @DavidFoster

    No, it was more of an “I feel your pain” sort of thing.  If he really was starting to grasp interactive marketing, he would have headed on over to Chicago Boyz and joined the comment thread….I just suggested that to him….we’ll see if he bites.

    • #8
  9. CandE Inactive
    CandE
    @CandE

    Old dogs and new tricks I guess.  Not that I have room to criticize.  I have no idea what “Chicago Boyz” is, but it sounds so hip that I don’t even want to google it.

    -E

    • #9
  10. david foster Member
    david foster
    @DavidFoster

    Chicago Boyz is a group blog to which I am a frequent contributor.  Not particularly hip; some of the members are from Chicago and some are followers of the Chicago school of economics.

    http://chicagoboyz.net/

    • #10
  11. BastiatJunior Member
    BastiatJunior
    @BastiatJunior

    david foster: as Thomas Sowell has pointed out: When the government was shut down during the Clinton administration, Republican leaders who went on television to tell their side of the story talked about “OMB numbers” versus “CBO numbers” — as if most people beyond the Beltway knew what these abbreviations meant or why the statistics in question were relevant to the shutdown. Why talk to them in Beltway-speak?

    They can’t even bring themselves to point out that it is the President shutting down the government, not the congress.  All it would take is one sentence.  One sentence!  and they can’t push that sentence past their lips.

    • #11
  12. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Glad you posted this, David. I’ve been wondering why on earth these idiotic memes are being shared on Facebook with no effort by anyone to counter them with something more sophisticated. Why is no one making any effort, for example, to explain budget issues in a way people can grasp?

    • #12
  13. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    That meme doesn’t look like it came from the DNC (I’m assuming they would manage to use appropriate capitalization, for instance).  Even if the RNC devoted all its efforts, they’d be outgunned… we couldn’t depend on them to do it.

    So who on the conservative side is up to the job?

    • #13
  14. Del Mar Dave Member
    Del Mar Dave
    @DelMarDave

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:…Why is no one making any effort, for example, to explain budget issues in a way people can grasp?

    Because the Ruling Class Republicans think and act in Beltway-speak.  Sort of like the scorpion crossing the river, “That’s my nature.”

    • #14
  15. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    This is slightly off topic, but the “Why won’t they send their own kids?” meme drives me crazy. If a person is old enough to be sent to war, then he is old enough that his parents have no say in the matter. Regarding Jeb specifically, his children range in age from 32 to 39, all old enough to make their own decisions regarding whether or not to enlist, and all but maybe the youngest too old to do so anyway!

    • #15
  16. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Also a response to the image: Since when has “Where will the money come from?” ever mattered to Democrats?

    • #16
  17. GirlWithAPearl Inactive
    GirlWithAPearl
    @GirlWithAPearl

    This is very well done. I applaud your efforts to thoroughly critique the situation and provide an excellent example of the lunacy which needs to be answered… somehow. Yet, having observed many and varied attempts by the Right to answer “in kind,” I do not find those efforts very effective, memorable or convincing. The fact is, we’re wired differently.

    I liken the problem to the church growth/mega-church/“relevant” theology movement which has severely diluted and all but destroyed American Evangelicalism, and which is more and more poisoning orthodox Christianity. Playing by the world’s rules or the culture’s rules, it seems to me, makes us much more like the world/culture and less distinguishable as an alternative.

    For a time I was very much persuaded and excited by Andrew Breitbart’s contentions, and I did so love and enjoy him. But he was unique and I don’t think his attitudes and skills are transferrable on a large scale. For me personally, pretending to be socially hip or overly interested in Millennial angst is wearying and depressing (and fails miserably). I was raised around adults who didn’t much countenance foolishness, and who instead encouraged me to reach up to their level of intellect, behavior, virtues and desires. That’s where I wanted to go, and still do.

    to be continued…

    • #17
  18. GirlWithAPearl Inactive
    GirlWithAPearl
    @GirlWithAPearl

    continued…

    While I have many problems with the GOP and several years ago decided not to donate anymore $$, I really cannot lay the problem of social media on its shoulders. Which is not to say we can’t do better or shouldn’t try. But the social media crowd’s sensibilities are formed elsewhere. Once they veer into politics, I think most of them are already addicted to technicolor nonsense and rank agitprop of a very immature and shallow nature – just enough mindless sloganeering to create an “us vs. them” tribal feeling, but not enough info or facts to challenge their pristine brains or cut into their entertainment time. Leftworld, Inc. is willing to shovel this fluffy stuff all day long, and does so expertly. I am not convinced the Right can truly compete in this space. Maybe the goal is to lead and entice people out of Egypt, so to speak, to places like Ricochet and The Federalist, where they can think for a few minutes, and encounter a complete train of thought. Because inside the hamster wheel of social media does not seem like the most conducive place to discuss actual history or hammer out ideas and solutions.

    • #18
  19. Pelayo Inactive
    Pelayo
    @Pelayo

    Social Media is but one front of many in the war between Democrats and Republicans.  Sadly most Republicans lack the character to fight or fight effectively.  I do however have one positive example to share.  A few days ago Jeb Bush’s campaign launched a retaliatory attack against Hillary Clinton’s campaign on Twitter.  The RNC may be clueless but maybe some candidates are realizing they need to engage on this front.  Jeb posted the logo below with the line “fixed your logo for you”

    • #19
  20. david foster Member
    david foster
    @DavidFoster

    GirlWithAPearl:continued…

    While I have many problems with the GOP and several years ago decided not to donate anymore $$, I really cannot lay the problem of social media on its shoulders. Which is not to say we can’t do better or shouldn’t try. But the social media crowd’s sensibilities are formed elsewhere. Once they veer into politics, I think most of them are already addicted to technicolor nonsense and rank agitprop of a very immature and shallow nature – just enough mindless sloganeering to create an “us vs. them” tribal feeling, but not enough info or facts to challenge their pristine brains or cut into their entertainment time. Leftworld, Inc. is willing to shovel this fluffy stuff all day long, and does so expertly. I am not convinced the Right can truly compete in this space. Maybe the goal is to lead and entice people out of Egypt, so to speak, to places like Ricochet and The Federalist, where they can think for a few minute…

    I don’t think the “social media crowd” is all that distinct from the population at large.  Most of my FB friends are over 40, some of them have started and run significant companies, most of them are successful professionals, etc.  Unfortunately, FB and other social media…which, as you note is hardly an ideal forum for coherent discussions…is sucking up a high % of the people-time that might have been spent visiting intelligent blogs.

    • #20
  21. GirlWithAPearl Inactive
    GirlWithAPearl
    @GirlWithAPearl

    david foster: I don’t think the “social media crowd” is all that distinct from the population at large.  Most of my FB friends are over 40, some of them have started and run significant companies, most of them are successful professionals, etc.  Unfortunately, FB and other social media…which, as you note is hardly an ideal forum for coherent discussions…is sucking up a high % of the people-time that might have been spent visiting intelligent blogs.

    Well if the RNC were to make a serious effort to combat Facebook trolling, tit for tat, I think it would require a small army of dedicated, well paid employees. I’m not opposed to that at all. But I think an equal amount of time ought to be spent cajoling and appealing to the more independent-minded people, basically challenging them to step off the hamster wheel, cut the umbilical cord from the womb of groupthink, and see if they can thrive in the land of the big kids and stand on their own two feet.

    Example, my favorite theology podcast is a program called Issues, Etc. The show got me hooked with the line: “Talk Radio for the Thinking Christian.” It annoyed me initially, but sparked my curiosity and inner snob, big time. And it didn’t take long before I agreed that the content was rich, thoughtful and worthy of large chunks of my time.

    • #21
  22. Topher Inactive
    Topher
    @Topher

    Who was it who said, “there is the stupid party, and the dangerous party. I’m with the stupid party.”?

    • #22
  23. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Leigh:That meme doesn’t look like it came from the DNC (I’m assuming they would manage to use appropriate capitalization, for instance). Even if the RNC devoted all its efforts, they’d be outgunned… we couldn’t depend on them to do it.

    So who on the conservative side is up to the job?

    We have a fair number of conservative organizations who focus on meme production, and groups like CATO and Heritage for whom it’s a key focus without being their chief thing. It’s not that our side don’t do it, it’s just that there’s a massive network effect on social media and our side don’t have nearly so many young and social media adept folks.

    The RNC probably shouldn’t be focused on this much; it’s not a core competency and it’s hard to do it without having much of a message.  Since the RNC is neutral between different wings of the party, it has to be pretty careful about its message focus. Instead, the RNC mostly focuses on ground game efforts. It’s been successful in this, and our ground game is one of the reasons that we’ve been winning so many state legislatures and governor’s mansions.

    If we only support politicians we’ve heard of, we’re not going to have an easy time getting those state house races red, and we’d have a lot fewer gun rights, more abortions, a slower economy, etc.

    The point of the RNC is that it does the slow, boring, expensive, important work. Obviously, the flashy stuff that appears on Facebook is important, too, but we ought not to wish that to be all that we do.

    • #23
  24. Blue State Blues Member
    Blue State Blues
    @BlueStateBlues

    Topher:Who was it who said, “there is the stupid party, and the dangerous party. I’m with the stupid party.”?

    Dennis Prager.

    • #24
  25. Del Mar Dave Member
    Del Mar Dave
    @DelMarDave

    Blue State Blues:

    Topher:Who was it who said, “there is the stupid party, and the dangerous party. I’m with the stupid party.”?

    Dennis Prager.

    And it was Stan Evans who said, ““We have two parties here, and only two. One is the evil party, and the other is the stupid party. … I’m very proud to be a member of the stupid party. … Occasionally, the two parties get together to do something that’s both evil and stupid. That’s called bipartisanship.”

    • #25
  26. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Dear mr Priebus,
    You’ve had Congress for a year now.
    Accomplish something and my money will flow to you like Saudi petrodollars to Isis.
    Very truly,
    dr Robert

    • #26
  27. david foster Member
    david foster
    @DavidFoster

    James of England…true that the issue advocacy by the RNC is limited by the fact that they have to support a range of candidates, who are by no means all in sync on those issues.  But there is a whole universe of attack memes being circulated, attacking Republicans *in general*….such as the one I reproduced above.  Failing to respond to these, or enable supporters to respond to them quickly and conveniently, seems to me insane.

    I get the feeling of the French Army in 1940, attempting to use slow, top-down WWI tactics against a much more nimble opponent.

    • #27
  28. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    david foster:James of England…true that the issue advocacy by the RNC is limited by the fact that they have to support a range of candidates, who are by no means all in sync on those issues. But there is a whole universe of attack memes being circulated, attacking Republicans *in general*….such as the one I reproduced above. Failing to respond to these, or enable supporters to respond to them quickly and conveniently, seems to me insane.

    I get the feeling of the French Army in 1940, attempting to use slow, top-down WWI tactics against a much more nimble opponent.

    There are a lot of possible memes, and they ought to be produced, but the RNC isn’t, in general, going to be the most efficient producer of them. It’s not what their job is, although they do produce a few memes on the side. If you want to give money to people whose core competency is producing memes, I think I can put you in touch with some folks (I thought I had their addresses to hand, but don’t seem to, so I’ll get back to you in a couple of days). The RNC’s chief job is to GOTV, not to persuade people. They’re better than anyone else at that, and their efforts work at every level of government (local, state, statewide, House, Senate, President).

    Obviously, this goes for anyone else, too. The RNC does vital work and needs support, but memes and such are important, too.

    • #28
  29. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    I don’t think that the DNC is particularly more nimble than the RNC. They have a lot more women’s studies/ african American studies majors, which really is helpful when you’re wanting to appeal to those demographics. They have a lot more high tech volunteers, which helps with big data analysis, but they still lost to the RNC in a big way in 2010 and 2014 because most of the fight in GOTV is in relatively conventional efforts and the RNC has some extremely talented people, with Reince Priebus standing out in particular.

    • #29
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