Meet the folks who want to build the right's digital army

When it comes to elections and spreading conservative principles, social media and technology are essential–and the political right has been failing miserably in this field. Engage DC released a great report on the Obama campaign’s digital effort during the 2012 cycle. It was also incredibly disconcerting how far the right has fallen behind investing in the digital side of campaigning.

While American For Prosperity’s Right Online conference is tech-based, it’s often geared towards bloggers, web developers, and online fundraisers. At the same time, the panelists at Right Online give great advice to beginners on how to blog, how to build your own website, how to engage on social media, and how to sell yourself in this virtual landscape. Yet, what about people who are fighting in the trenches? Those professional political operatives who don’t have time to blog or build websites. Well, that’s where Lincoln Labs comes in with their Reboot conference, which will be held next Friday in San Francisco.

Who are these guys? Well, after the 2012 shellacking Team Obama inflicted on Romney, techies Garrett Johnson, Aaron Ginn and Chris Abrams discovered that the Republican Party really had no tech or digital expertise within their ranks, which is becoming more and more crucial to running successful elections. Moreover, these three gentlemen knew that they couldn’t possibly be the only right-leaning techies in the country. Nevertheless, these folks probably adopted a bunker mentality, given the ultra-liberal slant of tech hubs, like San Francisco.

The Lincoln Labs agenda is three-fold. They seek to create a channel of communication with Silicon Valley in the hopes of importing the best talent into the political world; offer a talent pool filled with right-leaning digital experts and engineers for conservative organizations and campaigns to tap into for their outreach operations; and generate discussion on how the continuing amalgamation of technology and politics is good for public policy debates, especially on issues like immigration and net neutrality; it can establish the foundation for a medium in how to solve these problems.

If you take a peek at the conference’s agenda, you’re going to see representatives from Google, Facebook, Targeted Victory, Microsoft, Medium, Americans For Prosperity, SnapChat, EventBrite, and other tech outfits that campaigns and organizations use to spread their message. On the political front, we have the digital directors for the Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio campaign, along with digital officers from the Republican National Committee.

Overall, the goal of Reboot is to foster relationships between tech and the politicos. In 2014, the right made a digital comeback. We’ve almost made up our tech deficit with the Democrats in voter outreach, targeting and mobilization. The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich, who was with the Washington Post at the time, said that Americans for Prosperity had a “sophisticated” ground game strategy for turning out their supporters at the polls. Moreover, Democrats have hit an outreach obstacle of their own with white, working class voters who have flocked to the GOP. Yahoo!’s Matt Bai even mentioned that perhaps the 2008 and 2012 elections were more of an Obama surge than one that can be attributed to the Democratic Party and its policies.

Again, we’ll see what happens as 2016 begins to ramp up. For now, Lincoln Labs has a long term project for building a bridge of communication with an industry that’s generally dominated by liberals, and providing a safe space–for lack of a better term–from where conservative/libertarian digital foot soldiers can be deployed to various campaigns and organizations seeking to bring solutions to some serious issues facing Congress.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022