When the two leading Republican presidential candidates started to squirm last week about attending a Sept. 17 YouTube debate, in which the public would ask them questions via video, they faced a surprising backlash from their ideological allies in the blogosphere.
The candidates' failure to embrace the new format, which the Democrats participated in last week, has prompted public soul-searching by some of the party's most loyal supporters.
The candidates, they say, reinforced a notion already bedeviling their side: that Republicans don't "get" the Web. While the Republicans have mastered talk radio, the Democrats have led in using the Web for fundraising, organizing and energizing the grass roots.
"The YouTube debate snub is the symptom, not the disease," said Patrick Ruffini, a prominent Republican blogger and the e-campaign director for the Republican National Committee from 2005 until earlier this year.
The "disease," Ruffini said, is the Republicans' failure to convey that "the online community matters to them," even if they have active Web sites and are using them to raise money. He has helped start an online petition to urge the candidates to participate in the YouTube debate.
Andrew Sullivan, one of the only reasonable conservatives left on the Earth:
Andrew Sullivan, a conservative blogger writing on theatlantic.com, put it this way: "The current old white men running for the GOP already seem from some other planet. Ducking YouTube after the Dems did so well will look like a party uncomfortable with the culture and uncomfortable with democracy."
Be sure and read the comments from the local yokels (including me) at the link above.
The GOP presidential candidates are simply terrified of facing the voters like this. Answering a question in a completely unstructured format is anathema to the style of governance established over the past six-and-one-half years, and the Republicans don't want to return to the old days. Much too democratic (small 'd').
Hell, maybe even Hillary can beat these clowns.