Who is steering the ship?

Posted on February 23, 2012 by

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Jay Cost over at the Weekly Standard, has a post up in which he offers his take on why the GOP finds itself in it’s current state. He feels that this is the culmination of a process in which state and local organizations have had their influence reduced:

In the pre-reform era, that was a fairly easy question to answer: the state and local party organizations were in charge. Political scientists often conceived of the old system as a “truncated pyramid,” with the local party organizations on the first rung, the state party organizations on the second, and really nobody above them (the national committees were mostly just figurehead organizations). The main vehicles for party business were the conventions – local, state, and national. This is where the party nominated candidates to compete for office and established the platform (once important documents that were actually read and indicated the party’s positions on the big issues)…….

He argues that this has been replaced by a candidate-centered setup:

 …….In its place arose a candidate-centered political party – if the old system was a truncated pyramid, the new system was a series of disconnected circles, representing individual candidates and the organizations they build up to pursue elective office.  The party organizations were no longer responsible for selecting nominees, and the candidates (not the platforms) came to define the issues in the campaign. Unsurprisingly, the state and local parties atrophied, and the national convention devolved into the useless spectacle that greets us every August in a presidential year.

He goes on and offers for possibilities of people that would then be responsible for the state of the GOP now, as well as candidate selection—people, national committees, the candidates, or the establishment. He concludes that, “In reality, nobody is responsible for the well-being of the party, to manage its reputation and maximize its chances for a broad victory in November and beyond.”

A few notable things jump out if you read the entire article. First, he feels that the state of political organization has regressed. He is biased to party organizations although he feels they are now toothless. Second, it is not clear how he defines the “people” he seems to consider them as a mass electorate, but he mentions them in passing, and appears dismissive about their suitability to affect a reputation and narrative over the long-haul. Needless to say, this is an interesting comment in light of the Tea Party movement, which was ‘people’-driven.  Finally, there’s no mention of media or technology, either as their own groups, or as tools within the four groups that he does mention. It would be interesting to see what his thoughts are on whether they play any role.

Given that new media is central to our interest on this matter, it is interesting that from this viewpoint it is not even on the radar.  If nothing else, it is a good reminder that social media as an election/campaign tool does not operate in a vacuum , and that other variables need to be researched.

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