A fun pattern has emerged among the Republican efforts to reach out to voters through the new social-networking online media: They’re failing massively, with episodes that just make them look stupid and ham-fisted, and even sometimes force them to apologize for offending people.
Michael Steele has made a big deal of reaching out to online media in the same way that Democrats have done very effectively — cultivating what is known on his side as the “rightroots.” And of course, honorable mention goes out to former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), who spoke of the GOP’s need to compete in the “ethernet.” So how’s it working out for them?
In just the last few days, we had two ignominious events from just one state. A prominent South Carolina GOP activist, Rusty DePass, said on his Facebook page that Michelle Obama was a gorilla (and not in the sense of the evolutionary fact that we are all apes — DePass actually seems to be offended by this). He kind of apologized — but said Michelle started it.
Newt Gingrich Tweeted that Sonia Sotomayor was a “Latina woman racist” who should withdraw her nomination — sparking a controversy that didn’t quite work out the way he probably hoped it would. He later backed down from the explicit use of the word “racist.”
An attempt to create a unified brand for right-wing Tweeters, “Top Conservatives On Twitter,” collapsed a month and a half ago due to internal disagreements. It had lasted just several weeks as an officially-organized effort, though the “#tcot” tag still shows up on individual bloggers’ posts.
Rep. Joe Barton boasted on Twitter that he’d “stumped” Energy Sec. Steven Chu by asking where oil comes from. Chu was indeed stumped — that someone who is apparently this dumb is an elected official:
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff (R) accidentally Twittered a public announcement that he was challenging incumbent Sen. Robert Bennett for the Republican nomination — he thought he was sending private text-messages to a friend.
Back in February, then-Virginia GOP chairman Jeff Frederick Tweeted that a Democratic state Senator was in negotiations to switch parties and give the Republicans control of the chamber. The Democrat in question then ended up not switching — with some reports indicating that the Tweet itself played a part in any potential deal falling through. Frederick was later removed from his post as chairman, due to various complaints of mismanagement.
Even the relatively less embarrassing Twitter incidents can have their own unintended consequences. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is a prolific Tweeter who has attracted a big following — mainly for the reason that a 75-year old elder statesman posts online messages in the cyber-lingo of a 13-year old.
So what’s next? Will we see an explosion of interest in the online blogs, once the political winds truly start to turn and the people involved find their way through the learning curve? Or will we see a continuing implosion, of one blooper after another?