Wednesday, May 9, 2007

TechRepublican vs. TechConservative?

TechRepublican, "a group blog dedicated to helping the Republican Party online," went live on Monday. Maybe it's just semantics, or maybe it's just me, but I'm curious why, given the increasing divide between Republicans and conservatives—between those who want to harness government for right-wing goals and those who want to curb its growth—the site isn't called techConservative?

Co-founder David All, who is doing brilliant work with new media and from whom I have learned much, responded as follows:

I had that same conversation with a close friend who I now believe owns tC. What the Republican Party and the conservative movement needs is more people that claim to actually be a "Republican," or will at least work toward helping to elect Republicans.

Huh? What the Republican Party needs is not people who merely call themselves Republicans but those who actually believe in Republican principles, like limited government and a market economy and fiscal restraint.

Update: David replies:

I was talking with Robert Bluey at lunch today and he said something wise so I'm going to steal it and use it here: To build the movement, we need to add and multiply, not divide and subtract. . . .

At the end of the day, it's us versus them. We're in this boat together.

In other words, disagreement is dangerous because it disrupts unity. (Ironically, this is the exact same view of the liberal establishment bloggers, or netroots that Jonathan Chait profiles in this month's New Republic. Quoth Daily Kos himself, "I'm not ideological at all. I'm just all about winning." Translation: "What they cannot forgive is Democrats or liberals who distance themselves from their party or who give ammunition to the enemy.")

To give this view its due, consider the endless infighting among libertarians compared to the stay-on-the-message orthodoxy of the GOP. Then look at the respective electoral results. There's a lot to be said for the virtue of strength in numbers, as the Baker-Hamilton commission, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board, and the netroots have all recognized.

But if it's one thing to respectfully disagree and another to gratuitously censure, David seems to view even disagreement as unhelpful. I couldn't disagree more. I do not indulge in the "us. vs. them" mentality, and I do not put party before principle.

For that matter, nor does Mike Pence, who is famous for calling himself a conservative before he's a Republican. Indeed, even if you subscribe to Reagan's 11th Commandment, I would hope that you agree with Pence—which is why, to bring us back to the original question, I prefer "techConservative" to "techRepublican." (Incidentally, this is why the American Conservative Union is not the American Republican Union; that's what the RNC is for).

Instead, I think in terms of what's right, regardless of who's saying it. And, as a matter of fact, I think David does, too. Why else would he play such a big part in the Open House Project, a beautifully bipartisan movement to increase congressional transparency among both Democrats and Republicans?

Ultimately, David is right: we need to "add and multiply, not divide and subtract." But indulging in the latter does not undercut the former. It might technically be a distraction, but it's a necessary and perfectly healthy one.

For the Internet is not a zero-sum game. If anything, it's the exact opposite: a world wide playground where we can learn from—and improve upon—those we disagree with rather than seeking simply to "beat" them.