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Insurgents Within the Minority

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, June 1 2010

Mother Jones' Kevin Drum expands upon an idea we've entertained here. New media or direct media or whatever you want to call it is going to naturally be more appealing to insurgents, a factor at play in the emerging notion that Republicans are eating Democrats lunch online. Parties in political power might make the calculation that their time is best spent pulling the levers of government, while minorities judge tweeting to be a decent use of their time. That's especially true where media is keyed towards reporting on insurgencies and conflict, as it is in the U.S., and super true where minority parties have little institutional power, as is the case in, at least, the House of Representatives. Drum might be overlooking one internal wrinkle within the GOP in his analysis, but first, here's Drum:

The political internet, at least in its current incarnation, is fundamentally crowd-based. Anyone can jump in, nobody's in control, and it's an ideal medium for people who are pissed off at the establishment (including their own establishment) and are looking for a way to break through. In other words: people who are out of power. In the early Bush era, this was liberals, and the blogosphere was the cutting edge of online activism. So liberals took over the blogosphere and made it into a liberal duck pond. Today it's conservatives, and social media is the cutting edge of online activism. So it's not surprising that conservatives are doing the same. Nancy Pelosi probably figures she has better things to do.

Recent history suggests that to be true, as far as it goes. But recent recent history suggests that there's something more going on right at the moment with the House GOP in particular, which is where we see much of the more innovative online stuff happening on the right side of the aisle. When you look at whom amongst the House GOP is most aggressively pushing online, you see faces largely devoid of wrinkle. The minority whip, Eric Cantor, is 46. His chief deputy, Kevin McCarthy, is 45. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the vice chair of the House Republican caucus, is 41, which pretty much puts her in diapers in the context of Congress. Those are the folks most engaged online. There seems to be some element of the up and coming element within the Republican Party seeing new media as a way to shape the GOP in its image and likeness. It's not just that Republicans are cast as insurgents by virtue of being out of power, but that young(ish) Republicans are functioning as insurgents from within their own party as Republicans try to figure out where to go from here.