SAN FRANCISCO, California – This weekend sees the ‘conservatarian’ ‘Reboot’ conference taking place at the W Hotel in San Francisco, California.
The proceedings kicked off with a speech by the House Republican Conference Chairman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who delivered a somewhat platitudinous though well received speech on creating what she called an “open source government” free from bureaucracy and pork barrel spending, which connects with people’s lives on a closer level.
McMorris Rodgers, who is being targeted in her home state of Washington by pro-immigration campaigners, was introduced by the Libre Initiative’s Jose Mallea. The organisation, he says, reaches out to an increasingly tech savvy Hispanic community with a view to winning them over to conservative or libertarian causes.
McMorris Rodgers spoke of how innovation changed America and the world, using examples such as the Ford Model T, the (Scottish invented) telephone, the (British invented) computer, and the (English invented and American perfected) light bulb.
She made the point that the innovations stemmed from the rights enshrined in the US Constitution – another British invention (read: Magna Carta) perfected by Americans disenfranchised Englishmen.
McMorris Rodgers made the point that in America, individuals can design and invent without the fear of government. Though some may scoff at such claims given the intrusive nature of the U.S. government, the fact stands that America is still one of the only places, even in the Western world, that doesn’t stifle innovation, or have the state muscle in on the fruits of creative, or even positively destructive ideas.
Then she spoke of how the Republican Party itself is adapting to the challenges of modernity, and the ‘millenials’ who are less interested in fiscal policy, but more so in the day to day interactions with government and markets.
The GOP, she said, has launched a Spanish language Twitter feed, hired a dozen new staff focused on online activities, with a new Digital Director, and Vine, Skype, and Google Hangouts accounts.
“[These] changes may seem small… but mark a significant cultural shift,” she stated.
The party has hosted over 140 training sessions for over 1000 Capitol Hill staff, and continues with its ‘Digital Challenge’ for Members of Congress, based on how many people follow members on social media, and also on actual engagement such as retweets and Facebook likes.
“We don’t have to be the party that is communicating old things in old ways to old people,” McMorris Rodgers said. “It’s time we have an open source government… Open up committee meetings to Skype… [and allow the usage of] smartphones to get appointments to the VA (Veterans Affairs).”
“For Americans to solve the problems we face means to disrupt the status quo,” said McMorris Rodgers to an enthused crowd.
Whether or not the tactics are enough to swing the vote in 2016 is still uncertain. But there can be no doubt that for many in the packed out conference room in San Francisco, technology matters as much as ideology. Striking the right balance will be the most important part of the entire endeavour.