JASON BELICH: Conservatives can easily outstrip the Left's campaign technology with the right vision

In politics, complacency is catastrophic. Recent elections, notably in 2020 and 2022, have illuminated a stark reality for the Republican Party: it's falling behind in the critical task of chasing every ballot. Time is running out for a comprehensive Republican technology revolution, akin to the Manhattan Project, to counter the Democrats' data-driven dominance.

Gone are the days when political campaigns relied on broadcasting their message on TV in the hope of swaying voters who decide on their own whether to vote or not. Electioneering today is a sophisticated data-driven endeavor where victory is not left to a matter of chance. To win, a party must be absolutely sure that their supporters have cast their ballots.

The Democrats have adeptly constructed a technology and data ecosystem that's nothing short of an electoral powerhouse. With the not-really-legal-but-who’s-gonna-prosecute-us support of Big Tech, they've harnessed advanced data analytics, directed action tools, and effectively mobilized their base. Behind the scenes, they've even pioneered "Impact Investing" where activists ‘consult’ the ultra rich into donating to extremist causes, turning achievements like the Citizens United case on its head.

Once upon a time, the GOP was synonymous with political innovation. We led the way in Direct Mail fundraising, demographic analysis, and predictive analytics for decades before the Democrats caught up. Their wealth of resources, technological tools, and data-driven strategies have since outcompeted our tools – tools which once brought us the majority, state houses, and the White House.

In all such cases, complacency is to blame. While our institutions have hoarded data in order to chase paychecks, the Left has shared and enriched theirs. As a result, ActBlue is leaps and bounds ahead of direct mail, and the Left has turned a network of shady nonprofits from the 60’s, originally created by the Soviets themselves, into a field army for harvesting ballots. 

If we want to beat this menace, we have to understand why its strengths exist in the first place. Understanding our opponent’s weaknesses is key to exploiting those weaknesses, yes, but weaknesses can be fixed. Outstripping their strengths, on the other hand, as they did to us, will force them to overhaul their entire strategy at great cost.

And make no mistake, while Democrats have temporarily outstripped our strengths, they aren’t invulnerable. Their approach harbors significant vulnerabilities, which we can easily exploit.

Look at Big Tech, whose business model essentially turns scrappy and agile startups into bloated and inefficient corporate monsters using artificially inflated estimates of value. As a result, Silicon Valley has come to believe – falsely – that the more staff a startup has, the greater its market value. 

There’s just one problem: as Elon Musk proved when he gutted Twitter/X’s staff, most of these “workers” are superfluous. Many of them don’t even work. The same can be said of Big Tech’s support of the Democrats: it doesn’t even work for them anymore. What tech company is improved by having Leftist ESG and DEI mandates force it to swell its workforce with incompetents? Thus, if the GOP were to approach its digital strategy with the lean, skunkworks-style mindset of an early stage startup, it would almost certainly be able to outcompete its inefficient, bloated enemies.

So why haven’t we? It’s not that we don’t have the talent; there are many conservative coders who would dearly love to help design the campaign platforms of the future. The problem is that they fear for their careers, and thus, for their ability to feed themselves and their families if they help out. So why, then, is it the case that even though the Democrats are using Big Data technology that’s been around for 25 years, much of the GOP seems to not even know what a Data Graph or Profile Marketing even are? Well, because we don’t know how to bring our actual coders out of the closet, we’re stuck relying on “coders” who are really just up-jumped politicos hired by donors who are more concerned with minimizing costs than with attracting top talent, most of whose existence they aren’t even aware of.

This won’t change overnight, which is why, if conservative want to catch up, we need to re-learn how to harness the power of grassroots finance, just as we did with direct mail. Our greatest enemy, in other words, is ourselves. If we got serious about fixing our problems, we could run roughshod over the “Big Nonprofit” network of non-transparent, totalitarian, shady, and painfully woke extremists who support the Democrats. But doing that would require something akin to a Republican “Manhattan Project,” only instead of nuclear weapons, we’d be building campaign technology that would reduce the Democrats’ advantage to atoms. 

To do that, we would have to do several things very differently. Firstly, we’d need to cultivate our existing top-tier technology talent, which at its best could easily rival that of Big Tech.

Secondly, we’d need to radically alter our campaign strategy so that it follows the data, rather than massaging the data to suit our preferred strategy, with the goal to eventually conduct our operations through a dedicated technology toolkit. 

Thirdly, that toolkit would then need to be shared – not sold, shared – with every conservative grassroots organization in America, who would be trained to use it, thus turning them into political “SEAL” teams who could be activated at any second, even down to the town and precinct. 

Fourthly, because our path to victory goes through the grassroots, we’d need to empower small donors, and integrate grassroots finance into all our fundraising, so that small dollar donations continually punch above their weight, ending the party’s overreliance on big checkbooks. This would involve not only traditional fundraising approaches, but would also extend to using new methods from within the tech space – microtargeting, micropayments, P2P fundraising, etc. 

I can’t stress this enough: I’m not just talking about a new app or social news feed. I’m talking about building a comprehensive technology platform that can serve as the foundation for a new era of social and political engagement; a platform that, like the Manhattan Project, will be less one single innovation than a whole host of them, combined. This would include a Data Graph Warehouse (an advanced data modeling technique that surpasses traditional databases); a finance system that bypasses traditional payment rails; presentation code that bypasses the restrictive traditional “app store” update processes; tools for direct contact with voters and media, rather than relying on Leftist-controlled services like Twilio and Sendgrid; and finally, group management tools and incentivization methods built around reputation management.

How do we build this? Simple: We need to go where the talent is: namely, to “open source” coders. Granted, the “open source” world predominantly leans Left, but if the GOP were to embrace their methods and community, it would foster goodwill and also reassure top tier developers of our savvy and seriousness about their craft. Not to mention, it would enable us to tap into a pool of talent and resources that Big Tech often overlooks, to its detriment.

Obviously, we don’t have much time to do this. There’s only about a year left until the 2024 election. The situation is urgent, and demands immediate action. Software development takes time, talent, and funding, all of which is available, if we have the will. I am already attempting to begin the process of creating a platform like the one I’ve described, through a venture I call Project VICI, not because I want to profit, but because I want to enable Republicans to transform the future of politics, and with it, their own futures. The GOP will die as it is, but we can resurrect it.

Image: Title: Dem big tech