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So far there have been 4 announcements for candidacy in the upcoming 2016 presidential election. The Republican Party already have three official nominees, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul; the Democrats have Hillary Clinton. Times are changing and as America waits to elect its 45th president, the weight of the decision looms over the heads of both parties as to who will gain majority control. Republicans shocked the nation when it swept the last midterm election gaining control of the House and Senate. Will the presidency be next on that list of turnovers? And what part will Republican Americans play in that race beyond the voting polls?

In his book, “The Move On Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy”, David Karpf discusses the importance of “netroots” organizations in setting key agendas for many Americans and in fundraising for causes they support. Currently most netroots organizations are strongly partisan, more leaning left than right. Karpf’s main reason for that analysis is based on the idea that whatever party is on the defensive will have a stronger incentive to gain more support, and therefore more time will be spent investing in the issues and concerns of that electorate. Although no specific partisan structure has been foundational in the creation of most of these organizations, they have leaned in very specific political directions since day one.

Despite the data collected by Karpf, I would argue that Republicans have every advantage going into this race to stage a coup of many netroots organizations, thereby changing the structure of the organizations and taking fundraising control from left leaning political activists. Karpf explains, “MoveOn redefines membership from “small donor” to “message recipient.” The organization chose to decouple the member-donor linkage, counting all e-mail recipients as “members.” As a result, many of the organization’s members remain unaware that they merit such classification.” (1) If these organizations primarily rely on “clicks” and “diametric data” to dictate what information is presented to supporters, who is to say that Republicans who are in a defensive position could not overthrow the masses of people who may or may not be actively engaged with these organizations to begin with. The flaw in the operating structure of these organizations is the fact that most of their “members” are really only just email addresses, not people. People who engage, financially support and provide direct feedback will always have the advantage. If enough Republicans can do this with netroots organizations, it could change the structure of the organization and potentially the outcome of the election.

Karpf elaborates, “MoveOn is participatory and democratic in practice, but this participation is based in philosophy rather than bylaws. In the case of a massive, malicious strategic voting effort, the staff could just stop asking the membership for their opinions.” (1) Karpf argues that conservatives could potentially overthrow the organization in numbers, but that its founders could retain the political views of the organization by simply changing the way in which they ask questions. But wouldn’t that completely defeat the entire purpose of creating a netroots organization? Isn’t the purpose to engage members of the community and facilitate their political interest by way of providing information and fundraising opportunities? A change in structure would undermine that endeavor.

Using the structures provided by netroots organizations, this election could prove to be an interesting one. If conservative Republicans can make a dent in netroots organizations, it could just be the dent that breaks the Democrats’ money train to success.

 

References:

  1. Karpf, David. The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. N. pag. Print.

 

 

 

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