Ray Glendening (left) and Nathan Daschle, the sons of well-known politicians, launched the online organizing tool Ruck.us after no longer feeling connected to the Democratic Party.
Ruck.us certainly isn't the only group vying for the attention of Americans who are dissatisfied — or downright angry — with the political system. But unlike No Labels or Americans Elect, Ruck.us is not a nonprofit group, but instead a startup corporation. According to Daschle, Ruck.us received an initial round of money from angel investors to build the site and will explore different ways to monetize as more people have a chance to interact with a fully functioning website.
Thus far, the formerly Democratic duo seems to be enjoying the transition from political campaign to tech startup.
Daschle and Glendening now share a small office space in Washington, D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood, almost a dozen blocks north of the DGA offices on K Street, and their walls feature more boxing memorabilia than political propaganda.
They've also traded in their suits and titles (executive director for Daschle and national political director for Glendening) for jeans and the more businesslike titles of CEO and chief strategy officer.
At this rate, you're more likely run into them at South by Southwest — the annual music, film and interactive conference in Austin, Texas — next summer than at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
But the transition hasn't been seamless. For years, both men were forced to hit major milestones every couple of days, whether it be the next fundraising report, the latest poll or an upcoming election.
"It's difficult to wean yourself off of that type of decision-making," Glendening said. Now, they have self-imposed deadlines and the opportunity to make more thoughtful decisions based on what the market demands.
But despite the polls showing widespread dissatisfaction with the political system, it remains to be seen whether enough Americans will turn from the parties to a site like Ruck.us.
Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of prominent liberal blog Daily Kos, has been a vocal critic of Ruck.us since January, before the site was even launched.
"You need a market to gain traction with any startup idea," said Moulitsas, who also co-founded SB Nation, a nationwide network of more than 300 sports blogs. "Politically engaged people on the left and right already have outlets for political expression and organizing," he said, also using more colorful terms like "moronic idea" when discussing Ruck.us.
But because Ruck.us does not push a specific ideology, Daschle sees opportunities to partner with groups that might look like competition. Despite their Democratic backgrounds, Daschle and Glendening don't care whether liberals, conservatives or moderates use Ruck.us.
Groups such as Students First (former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's group), LiveStrong (cyclist Lance Armstrong's cancer-fighting foundation) and Rock the Vote are onboard to use Ruck.us, which should give them an organizing vehicle and the opportunity to find people with similar mindsets who weren't previously familiar with their cause.
Team Ruck.us isn't navigating this venture alone.
Mark McKinnon is a veteran media consultant who also shuns a partisan label and has his hand in multiple anti-party groups, including Ruck.us, where he is on the board of advisers. McKinnon is a founding member of No Labels, and in 2006, he helped launch HotSoup.com, which ultimately failed.