Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Grassroots and the web

Minnesota Republicans are underutilizing the Internet. I'm not talking so much about the state party, but the party's BPOUs, the basic political operating units (local party groups organized in state Senate districts or counties).

There are only 29 BPOU web sites listed on the state GOP web site. Increasingly, people expect businesses and nonprofits to have a web site. Not having a web site in the 21st century is like having an unlisted telephone number in the 20th century.

BPOUs are the entry points for party activists. If the party wants to grow, it needs to provide an easy entry point for future delegates, election judges, volunteers, and candidates. Sure, you call the state party office at (651) 222-0022, but a web site can instantly provide a personalized, in-depth introduction to the local activist group.

A BPOU web site should:

  • Identify the area's elected officials

  • Identify the BPOU officers with contact information

  • Make it easy to make a contribution and obtain a Minnesota Political Contribution Refund (PCR)

  • Publicize BPOU events such as meetings, precinct caucuses, parades, conventions, and fundraisers

  • Invite and encourage participation

  • Articulate Republican values and platform points

  • Convey the image of an active, relevant, high-quality, and fun organization

Two of the best BPOU web sites according to these criteria are from Senate District 42 and Senate District 63.

The center column of the SD 42 home page has a news feed that is updated locally and continually, and includes links to news sources and sometimes even this blog. The site is packed with party and community event information, and includes a link for donations via PayPal. Somebody (or a group of somebodys) is working very hard on this site!

The SD 63 web site is another activist-centered web site with lots of great information. It includes a link to Jerry Plagge's SD63 blog.

Some BPOUs use web space and a format (template) provided by the state party. Other BPOUs roll their own, hosting their web site independently.

I am reminded of a vintage video with Ronald Reagan showing Republican voter ID and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts using then state-of-the-art technologies: typewriters, ditto machines, maps, pushpins, and lots of volunteer power. BPOUs have a lot of unused potential power in Internet technologies such as web sites, e-mail, instant messaging, podcasting, RSS, and discussion groups. With each election cycle, these technologies will grow in importance in attracting the newer voters who are growing up with them. The state party should be aggressively enabling the BPOUs with these grassroots-reaching tools.

EPILOGUE: Just before I was going to publish this post, my point was disproven somewhat. I was invited to join the SD 43 Meetup Group, the 475th Republican Meetup Group on This idea is a continuation of the successful national "Parties for the President" by the Bush Cheney '04 campaign. Check it out, this another way activists are using Internet technologies to find each other and make connections, which will be essential to winning elections in 2006. I'm glad to see that Republicans are "getting it."

1 comment:

Douglas said...

How is the Minnesota DFL doing by comparison?