Since Obama took his oath of office, everyone’s waited with bated breath to see how the new president will use the Web to his advantage.
They’re still waiting.
Since Obama won the election in November, everyone’s waited to see how the Republican Party would adapt and change to implement new ideas and technology.
They’re still waiting, too.
I sympathize with both sides, I really do. The Obama team rode in on a campaign that boasted incredible Web-driven fundraising power. They demonstrated openness to technology and cutting-edge Web activity. They promised to bring that same Internet-savvy mentality to the White House. They thought: If we can do it for Obama the candidate, we can do it for Obama the president.
Then they ran smack dab into the bureaucracy of the federal government.
Likewise, Michael Steele won the RNC chairman’s race because he promised change, because he claimed his party would not continue the trends that led to the Republicans’ 2008 loss. He promised to listen more to voters, implement new technologies and turn our party around.
Then he ran smack dab into the criticism of frustrated Republicans and inside-the-beltway pundits, for whom patience is not a virtue.
At the White House, the Obama team is now confronted with mountains of red tape higher than Mount Everest. To make matters worse, they arrived to find outdated technology, archaic rules and regulations, and privacy concerns that had ballooned overnight. (As it turns out, privacy is a much bigger issue when you’re the government and not the movement.)
At the RNC, Steele took a good first step by holding an open TechSummit, where people presented suggestions for improving the GOP. The RNC also created a Ning social network to keep the conversation alive and last week presented a report to Steele and the transition committee. Steele, however, has been slow to hire staff and seemingly spends more time being a talking head on CNN than building the RNC. This behavior has brought him under fire by GOP consultants.
Due to these hurdles, neither team has fulfilled the promises it made. The Obama team’s plan to post legislation for public comment five days before it’s signed, for example, hasn’t come to fruition. And it’s experienced a few hiccups on WhiteHouse.gov regarding the blog feature and use of YouTube. The Obama team also promised some great sites, like recovery.gov and innovation.gov, which have yet to be completed.
When The Washington Post gave Macon Phillips, the man in charge of WhiteHouse.gov, the chance to respond to these developments, his response was: We’re working on it.
Same goes for Michael Steele’s crew. When confronted with criticisms from GOP folks, upset that Steele hasn’t hired anyone yet or done anything substantial, the official response was: We’re working on it.
Once both sides get through the jumbled mess that is the federal government and a total restructuring of the Republican Party, I believe they will get their strategies moving full steam ahead. It’s just taking a little longer than expected to get going.
We can scrutinize. We can be watchdogs. And, sure, both sides do need to move quickly, but let’s realize – you can’t turn around a ship the size of the U.S. government – or the Republican Party – in one month.
Katie Harbath is the Director of Online Services at DCI Group. She has more than 5 years of experience in the online political sphere including work during the 2008 and 2004 Presidential Elections. Her personal blog is at www.katieharbath.com and she’s on Twitter @katieharbath. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Katie Harbath.