Considering the way my friends were treated, I’m sure glad that I decided weeks ago that travelling to Hot Springs for the Republican Party of Virginia’s annual “Advance” wouldn’t be worth the opportunity costs. It’s not really a surprise that there was no bloggers row or any effort to accommodate bloggers. But it is fairly disturbing that Crystal Clear Conservative was lectured for her “disloyalty” and for “causing trouble for the party”. And it’s sad that Bearing Drift was bad-mouthed, although it is pretty funny that banning its bloggers from the Advance was discussed.
As I’ve written before, I’m not as concerned as many others are about the Republican Party’s laughable incompetency with social media. I think that a far more pressing need is for the Party to return to conservative principles. Until it does that, it won’t have a message worth communicating, so its fumbling the social-media ball doesn’t really matter.
But the hostility displayed toward the bloggers at this weekend’s “Advance” points out that the abrogation of principle and the poor treatment of bloggers are related.
The Republican Party wants to win. Okay, that’s fine. Except that in pursuing victory, it has jettisoned its core principles. (How’s that working?) Typically, those of us who oppose its liberal policies and liberal candidates are seen as obstacles and treated as lepers for our “disloyalty”, as though Republican power were a first principle.
The Party wants to choose its candidates and pick its policies, and it wants the rest of us to follow lock-step. Sorry, that didn’t happen much before, and it’s going to happen less and less in the future. The two-way nature of social media allows more frequent and more public criticism than ever before. If the Party cared more about principle than about power, it could embrace blogs and other social media tools.
People whose commitment is to sound principles welcome open expression, including criticism, because only when all reasonable ideas are exchanged and challenged do the best rise to the top. But people whose primary interest is political power will always seek to control the conversation and to silence criticism, because they view it as a threat, which it is.
The irony is that, if the Republican Party were more interested in sound ideas than in its own power, it wouldn’t have to silence criticism, and it wouldn’t be lost in the wilderness, looking mean and clueless.