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Under Construction: Metaphor or Madness?

September 25, 2009

The Republican party is currently under construction.  It lost twenty-one seats in the House of Representatives, nine seats in the Senate, and control of the executive branch in the 2008 elections.  With just over one year left until the next election, leaders are scrambling to rebuild their party.

The RNC website is also currently under construction.  It has been under construction since late April 2009.  An update in May assures its audience that “the complete rebuild is around the corner.”  Now, four months later, it is time the party rounded the aforementioned corner.

Is the RNC website assuming some sort of solidarity with its party, remaining under construction until Republicans can figure things out?  Is the website some metaphor for the ever-changing nature of political parties in America?  Is it instructing its viewers to essentially reconstruct their own party?  Or is it just some unnecessary detriment to the party’s online presence?

As is evidenced by the 2008 Presidential Campaign, the Republicans lag behind Democrats in internet savvy.  Interestingly, a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that:

“Democratic voters are less likely to go online and to be online political users than Republicans, but the Democrats who engage in the online political process do so more intensely than their GOP counterparts.”

Sixty-eight percent of Republicans are active online political users; eight-four percent regularly access the internet.  Of those Republicans who use the internet, seventy-nine percent are online political users.  Democrats, however, lead in online activism, content-creation, and social networking.

Republicans are willing to access and spread information about the GOP, but the RNC’s efforts have fallen short of providing them with such opportunities.  The eternally unfinished website offers few resources to its audience: from the main page one can access the news, the currently inactive RNC blog, a donations portal, a volunteer form, a brief “about us” page, and a link to a list of the state party pages.  With some digging, a reader can obtain a link to the 2008 platform, a store which sells stuffed elephants, and a page with information on voter registration.

In contrast, the DNC website clearly presents its users with information on the party and how to get involved.  Its blog, given the oh-so-classy title “Kicking Ass,” is updated almost daily.  Its party’s goals and central tenets are easily accessible, and the site is overall navigable.  The social networking component is integrated smoothly with the informational components.  The site even has pages for specific groups such as women and rural Americans.  It even has an entire featured section devoted solely to “when a Republican official violates the public trust by lying about reform.”

Of course it is not advisable for the RNC to replicate the structure of the DNC; they must instead create their own online portal for their internet-using activists.  But those sixty-eight percent of Republicans who are politically active online need a site that is fully constructed.  Continuing the metaphor, then the real construction begins.

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