Jeb Bush is a lumpy, over-hyped, empty suit who operates under the delusion that his marginal success is more than an accident of birth, that it is a result of his inner specialness rather than a manifestation of pure entitlement. He spreads falsehoods about Republicans, asserting that the conservative base is an obstacle to success in the general election, and he embraces mortifying perversions, like amnesty and common core. In other words, Jeb Bush is the GOP's Lena Dunham.
Jeb appears to think that he can be nominated and elected by not merely ignoring the conservative base but by actively insulting it. Hillary Clinton adores this innovative strategy. Sure, Jeb currently sits at the top of the polls, something that he probably thinks has to do with his inherent awesomeness rather than the fact that everybody remembers his father and brother's last name. But this guy is a loser, and we conservatives are going to take great pleasure in watching him fail.
Conservatives are the heart of the Republican Party. That this requires repeating illustrates how out of touch the GOP establishment is. Conservatives do the majority of the actual election work, and they do the majority of the actual voting. Anyone who thinks the 2010 and 2014 tsunamis were manifestations of the moderate wing making itself heard probably still has an "Eric Cantor for Speaker" bumper sticker on the back of his Buick.
Here's Lesson One: It's a poor idea to start out with the basic premise that the people who might be inclined to vote for you are ignorant rubes who need to be ignored when you're not actively mocking them.
And here's Lesson Two: The GOP candidate who wins the nomination and maybe the presidency in 2016 is the guy who most effectively reaches out to conservatives.
So, how does a candidate, particularly an establishment-leaning one with little or no conservative street cred, reach out to conservatives? Well, he should start by taking a page from Andrew Breitbart and understand the changing nature not only of technology but of the conservative movement itself. He saw how technology is a way for concerned conservative citizens to develop personal connections as well as distribute information and coordinate action. The successful candidate will go out and use social media and new media to engage directly with the Republican base.
This is not the Republican Party of yesteryear, where you could go to a thousand rubber chicken dinners, give the same boring speech, and still expect to win. The conservative base is engaged and in touch, using social media to interact and organize. Whoever figures out how to exploit the new paradigm effectively is going to have a huge edge over his stodgy companions who are refighting 1996.
Lesson Three: Social media is not for issuing 140-character press releases; it is a way to personally connect with voters.
Have you ever read the Twitter stream of a major politician? Most will make you want to die. "Super pumped by the rally here in Boise!" Yes, I am sure you were super pumped by the rally in Boise, and Def Leppard truly thought that Oakland was the hardest rockin' city on its 1983 concert tour.
Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, is about allowing the candidate to talk one-on-one with voters. It's taking handshaking and baby kissing to the nth degree. It allows the candidate direct, unfiltered access to the kind of politically engaged people who are the most likely to vote – and to influence others to do so. If you engage conservative Stephen Kruiser, you also engage his 187,000 Twitter followers – for free. And it allows these high-propensity voters direct access to the candidate and creates a personal connection.
But you don't get that personal connection if your campaign decides that the Twitter guy is going to be some unpaid sophomore straphanger who gets the gig because he can't be trusted to make the coffee. Having Ted the Intern from Gumbo State typing clichés into the boss's Twitter feed may be safe, but it's also useless.
Lesson Four: Engaging with conservatives requires accepting risk, like the risk that the candidate might come across as a human being.
Candidates can't spend all day on Twitter, but investing a little time to make a personal connection with voters, to actually engage with them, pays huge benefits. If Mitt Romney actually talks to somebody using Twitter or Facebook – not as part of some preplanned, over-controlled event but in the normal course of the day – he’ll build a connection with that individual, but also with all the other people who see it and respond. And soon, conservatives will start to see him as a human being instead of a scary automaton.
Similarly, the candidates should hit conservative terrestrial radio, but also focus on nontraditional conservative new media, like the myriad right wing podcasts and the hundreds of conservative blogs and sites. If you want to reach conservatives, you don't sit down with some Obama-shilling pinko from the New York Times. You sit down with John Hawkins of Right Wing News and here at Townhall.com. Want to talk to libertarian-leaning conservatives? Chat with Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. Worried that the base thinks you’re squishy on the Second Amendment? Clear it up with Cam Edwards on Cam and Company. (Disclosure: I cite the examples here because they illustrate my point, and I regularly use each outlet I mention. However, I do know the people, and I have appeared in all of these outlets in some form).
This way, the candidate is not only going to reach conservatives themselves but will also engage with the conservative movement’s thought leaders who right now, frankly, probably think he’s a loser. It's a lot harder to mock someone you've gotten to know and respect.
Social media and new media are about restoring the personal connection that voters used to have with their candidates. Think about it – if you are watching your Twitter feed, and most people reading this Townhall column are going to have a Twitter account – and you see something come up from the John Kasich campaign, right now you're going to ignore it. It's going to be boring, and it's going to be useless, and when you periodically go through and unfollow unworthy accounts, his account is going to be at the top of the Adios List.
But what if you knew that John Kasich himself was writing his Twitter feed instead of whatever soulless hack is doing it now? And what if it was interesting instead of just a recitation of bland current events like, "Today I signed a bill making the dill Ohio's official state pickle!"
Instead of the nightmarish wasteland that is his Twitter feed today, what if when you see something on his account, you know it’s personal and comes from John Kasich himself and not some intern operating within strict guidelines imposed by overpaid consultants? Suddenly, Kasich's account has gone from being background noise to something interesting, and it's exponentially more interesting if Kasich might respond to what you say directly.
Now of course, this could turn into a disaster, and the vast majority of consultants will never let their client anywhere near his own Twitter account or to folks like the lunatics at
Yeah, that's a risk, but it’s a useful one. For instance, if Mike Huckabee was operating his Twitter account, you could expect a stream of complaints about those damn kids and their rock 'n roll music and how dancing has to be banned before Kevin Bacon's sexy pelvic gyrations turn the high school prom into an orgy. There is something to be said for the Darwinian natural selection effect upon people inclined to say stupid things; let’s get them to say them good and early so that we can catch and reject them before they Todd Akin-up the general election.
In other words, Twitter isn't just a tool. It's a test. If you're too damn stupid to use a Twitter account to communicate with people, it's a good indicator that you're too damn stupid to be president.
You better talk to us, candidates. We expect and demand it. You know, Lena Dunham’s show Girls on HBO gets a ton of press, and the elites love it. Except there's a problem – in the end, its ratings stink. No one outside the elite watches it. Let that be a lesson to you, Jeb.