There comes a time in the life of every business where the market they serve shifts under their feet. While a few businesses anticipate these changes and adapt quickly, more of them find themselves unable to cope, thrashing wildly about in an attempt to find solid footing. Reduced to a shadow of their former success, they often limp along until bankruptcy claims the withering husk. In many ways, the Utah Republican Party is at this point, and the fight over its future will determine its eventual fate.
What’s happening in the GOP is what’s happened to many industries with the rise of the Internet: the loss of gatekeeper status. Take the journalism industry, for example. They were caught unprepared when Craigslist decimated their classified ad revenue, again when blogs offered “good enough” quality alternative options for news, and once more when Google and Facebook ate almost all of the online advertising market. The failure to either anticipate these changes or react appropriately to them has lead the business side of journalism to be in a very bad state even when the product itself is good. This is the hallmark of every successful business, the ability to adapt to changing conditions. While IBM still sells a lot of hardware and software, their bread and butter is now in consulting services. They went through some hard times, recognized a strength, and sold it like crazy. So too must the GOP recognize that our old model of acting as the arbiter of which candidates are or are not viable has collapsed.
Even prior to the ratification of the signature path to the ballot, PACs had shown that they had much more power in determining which candidates will or won’t make the cut. A strong contingent of the party, primarily “Gang of 51” types, seem to think the solution is to chase the new “market leader” and act as a PAC. This would be a mistake. History is littered with failed organizations that attempt to imitate the competitor that beat them. All too often, they miss some crucial element of why their competitor eclipsed them in the first place, and the leadership that persists in these models almost never recognizes their “also ran” status. Along the way, customers (or in the case of the GOP, party members) become alienated and choose to leave. Betting on imitating the competition and beating them at their own game has odds Vegas would gladly take you to the cleaners on.
So the question remains: if you can’t beat them by joining them, what’s the way forward? Like IBM, the GOP needs to find its hidden strength and capitalize on it. That strength is in being an introduction mechanism between volunteers, donors, and candidates. Re-focusing on making it as easy as possible to connect these groups and individuals with other like-minded groups and individuals would win more elections, attract more party members, and ensure that the Colorado playbook being slowly executed here is held at bay. The question is if