Social Media Conservatives Find Their Voice At Right Online

This June I had the incredible opportunity to cover both the progressive and conservative bloggers’ conventions, Netroots Nation and Right Online, which were held on back to back weekends in Providence, RI and Las Vegas, NV., respectively.

Right Online was created in 2008 in response to Netroots and, before this year, had always been held in the same city at the same time as the Left’s conference. Progressives often refer to Right Online as the ‘copy-cat’ Netroots.

Rumor has it that this year, Netroots organizers worked out a non-compete agreement with the liberal-leaning city of Providence, forcing conservatives to hold their conference elsewhere. (Although conservatives still got their kicks by holding a summit on the future of journalism and the first-ever Breitbart Awards in the city that same weekend.)

Getting kept out of Rhode Island was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to the conservative conference, which has began to make a name for itself in it’s own right. It is now the Left that is disorganized and feuding over the reasons its movement is off message.

Right Online, created by then-Americans for Prosperity employee Erik Telford (now Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Outreach at The Franklin Center for Public Integrity), was created when new media was still in it’s infancy. Twitter had just been created and Facebook was in its first years of prominence. Few politicos and journalists could have predicted the impact that passionate no-name ‘just a blogger’ Americans would have on the country.

And as social media has evolved, so too has the conservative movement. In 2008, liberals were seen as the digitally savvy political movement, while conservatives were still struggling to navigate this new fangled creation called microblogging.

Now conservatives are dominating Twitter, beating liberals at every game they try start, and making hashtags created by liberals trend for all the wrong reasons.

This year at Right Online, conservatives were discussing how work together to help fellow conservative bloggers publicize the issues important to them and defend each other when attacked by liberal trolls.

Meanwhile, at Netroots Nation, progressives were still boo-hooing about their recent loss in the Wisconsin recall and playing the blame game over who was responsible for the loss. (They finally settled on the Koch brothers.)

It’s not to say that Netroots was without interesting, social media focused panels. I truly wish I’d had enough time outside of the panels I needed to cover for Red Alert to attend the Netroots panel about getting the most out of Google analytics.

However, while Right Online was focused on teaching conservatives young and old how to further develop their new media skills, Netroots Nation seemed to have lost it’s luster.

As the Washington Examiner’s Charlie Spiering quipped to me during the Netroots’ Friday keynote address featuring Darcy Burner, a candidate for Congress in Washington, Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Elizabeth Warren, a former Obama administration official who is running for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts against Scott  Brown, “Where’s Hilary? Where’s Obama? Remember when they were he keynotes for Netroots?”

The biggest name the Left was able to bring in was former Obama green energy czar and Color of Change founder Van Jones. Snooze.

President Obama did address the conference via a lame pre-recorded video, which was more than he did for Democratic Wisconsin recall candidate Tom Barrett earlier in the week, but that’s not saying much.

Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney did not address the Right’s conference either, to be fair. Instead, conservative hero and former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin served as the conference’s keynote speaker. But the difference between Right Online and Netroots is that it would have seemed out of place if political candidates were speaking at the Right’s conference because it’s supposed to be a conference for bloggers, not a place where candidates give canned speeches and ask people who don’t live in their state to volunteer for their campaign. (Yes, that actually happened multiple times during Netroots).

At Right Online, Palin, who is no longer a candidate or elected official, thanked conservative bloggers for their hard work and for holding the mainstream media accountable. Her only references to President Obama were to recognize that conservative bloggers had vetted him the way the old media refused to. The speech on the lamestream was by all accounts a speech on the power of conservative bloggers given in true Sarah Palin fashion.

At Netroots, Van Jones’ speech had little or nothing to do with social media and instead served as an opportunity for the former Obama official to drum up support for the President. Because even though Obama’s doing a terrible job, he’s better than the Tea Party, which Jones claimed was trying to destroy America.

The liberal response to this piece will undoubtedly be that Right Online is still of little consequence because Netroots had nearly four times as many participants as Right Online.

The President of Netroots told me on twitter that 2,800 seats were set for the conference’s War on Women keynote featuring Warren. However, I can personally attest that maybe half, if not less, of those seats were full. That still puts the number of attendees well above the number in the room for Palin’s speech, but Right Online organizers told me attendance to the conference was capped at 600 people this year.

Furthermore, roughly the same number of people showed up to see Van Jones at Netroots as Palin, and attendance was not capped for his audience.

And it’s not that conservatives couldn’t have drawn more attendees. I know a number of conservative new media gurus who were not at the conference. Not everyone can afford to jet-set across the country to conferences a couple times a year when they’re not privileged enough to have a trust fund or be living on mommy and daddy’s dime.

Likewise, many conservatives, even new media savvy ones, reserve their vacation time for the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in DC each year by the American Conservative Union (ACU). Conservatives have been gathering in DC for CPAC since 1973, also known as ‘before most of us were born.’

This year Netroots shifted from its core focus on new media and attempted to mirror CPAC, with the addition of gender, age and race specific caucuses so that people like Elizabeth Warren could meet more people like themselves. (I still want to know why you didn’t attend the American Indian caucus, Elizabeth. Call me.)

Don’t jump for joy quite yet, liberals, that I’ve compared your conference with the likes of CPAC – it’s not. It’s merely a comparison of the types of content, not prestige. You held your biggest conference yet this year. Congrats. You’re still 9,000 people and a few presidential candidates away from being as important as CPAC.

In fact, the same weekend liberals were holding their copy-cat CPAC, 2,100 conservatives were in Chicago for the second-ever regional CPAC, listening to folks like Herman Cain and Rick Santorum announce plans to grow the conservative movement through the formation of new grassroots groups.

I’ve often complained about the lack of focus at traditional conservative conferences on new media and youth. This has undoubtedly lead to new media savvy conservatives branching out and creating their own, unique conferences like Americans for Prosperity’s Right Online and FreedomWorks/Franklin Center’s BlogCon. With and without the help of legacy, conservative organizations, social media conservatives have plunged the movement into the 21st  century.

Now, the conservative movement as a whole is beating the Left on nearly every front, online and offline, despite having started out with such a lofty handicap.

So to the conservatives who understood that the role social media would play in the the grassroots movement long before myself and most others, I tip my hat to you. The Right has come a long way in very short amount of time and it has you to thank. Conservatives still have a long way to go in certain areas if the movement wants to catch up to its opponents on the Left, but because of your hard work, it certainly can be achieved.

Comments

Comments

  1. [...] to build communities, IGN's Rich Keen discusses the new challenges for media. more… Social Media Conservatives Find Their Voice At Right Online – Red Alert Politics – redalertpolitics.com 06/20/2012 Social Media Conservatives Find Their Voice At Right [...]

Polititainment

Obama channels Chris Rock again

At rallies for Democrats in Maryland and Illinois on Sunday, Obama dropped the name "Cousin Pookie" -- a character that he used frequently to energize black voters during his 2008 campaign -- during his speeches.

Oliver beats Supreme Court's camera ban
Comedian John Oliver is sick of the Supreme Court ban on cameras in the court room and the ridiculous ways it makes television news stations have to cover those cases. But all hope is not lost. “What happens at the Supreme Court is way too important not to pay attention to and yet the ban […]
Stewart and Colbert go after 'Fangate'

Both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had a field day with “Fangate” Thursday night.

O'Reilly v Stewart on 'white privilege'

Jon Stewart had one goal in bringing Bill O’Reilly on his show Tuesday evening: "I want you to admit that there is such a thing as white privilege."

Galifianakis gives Obama a nickname
Zach Galifianakis once came up with a very special nickname for President Obama, he recounted on “The Daily Show” Tuesday night. It all started when Galifianakis came to the White House to film the Emmy-winning “Between Two Ferns” episode to promote Obamacare. “Before we went to interview the president, I ate in the White House […]

White House

President Obama, unpaid bills and the curious editing of the White House transcript
President Obama, some unpaid bills and a curiously “inaudible” section of the White House recording of a speech — that’s how all good stories start, right? While at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Chicago, Obama cracked a joke about the “unpaid bills” at his home. The joke was reported by the White House Press […]
Secrecy shrouds how the Obamas cook their chicken wings

Now it seems the Obamas are tight-lipped even about their eating habits.

Obama delivers devastating blow to red state Democrats, calls them ‘all folks who vote with me’
President Obama can’t seem to stay out of the 2014 midterm elections, no matter how much his fellow Democrats want him to. Obama spoke on Al Sharpton’s radio show Monday, which was later replayed on MSNBC, insisting that red state Democrats are still his “strong allies.” “A lot of the states that are contested this time […]
Obama reveals his favorite Supreme Court decision

President Obama dished on his favorite Supreme Court decision during his presidency, and it wasn’t either of his interviewer’s top guesses.

Poll: Obama less ‘effective’ at ‘managing basic functions’ of government than George W. Bush
Since his popularity and approval ratings began to slide during his second term, former President George W. Bush has served as a scapegoat for Democrats and current President Obama. Bush’s name has been invoked with almost every negative event that has come America’s way. But it seems that the “blame Bush” strategy hasn’t made the […]

Congress

Udall struggles to think of his favorite books

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) seemed a bit rattled in his recent interview with ABC 7 News.

Rand Paul: W.H. hasn’t accurately described Ebola
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Bloomberg politics he believes that the White House has been inaccurately depicting the risks of contracting Ebola. “I think from the very beginning they haven’t been completely forthright with us,” said Paul. “They’ve so wanted to downplay this that they really I don’t think have been very accurate in their […]
Rand Paul doesn't want to 'turnip for what'
Sorry Michelle. It doesn’t look like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wants to “turnip for what.” Paul let the first lady know about his first stop in New Hampshire Thursday on Twitter. The likely presidential hopeful went from the plane to the Dunkin’ Donuts and snapped a photo. Just arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire. First stop: @DunkinDonuts cc: […]
Americans could face $15B in new internet taxes
If Senate Democrats don’t take up the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act before the end of the year, American internet users could be looking at nearly $15 billion in additional taxes, a new study found. The Internet Tax Freedom Act, passed during the 1990s, prevents state and local governments from taxing people for access to the […]
Rand Paul talks with NAACP in Ferguson
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) met with black leaders in Missouri Friday and urged them to use the “ballot box” not riots in the street to try and make a change. Paul headed to Ferguson, the location of another police shooting, for a 45-minute “listening session” with a group of 20 local black leaders, including pastors, local business […]