Monday, February 13, 2006


A shout out to liberal blogs! (January 17, 2006)

Yesterday on The Stranger’s blog, “Slog,” staff writer Josh Feit posted an apparently ill-thought-out plea to left-wing bloggers: ”Why Democratic Blogs Undermine Democrats’ Chances of Regaining Power.” In it, Feit writes,
Too often, Democratic blogs are bona fide public brainstorming and public strategy sessions. Democrats are cultivating and honing their ideas in public—for everyone to see, especially Republicans... [snip] The key to the Republicans’ success at overthrowing the established order of the ‘70s and ‘80s was this: In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Heritage Foundation and Norquist et al, operated below the radar screen. The Democratic establishment was largely unaware of the right-wing thought machine, the right-wing hand wringing strategy sessions, and all the Republican brainstorming. And so, in 1994, the conservatives were able to take Clinton, seemingly by surprise, and unveil an ideology that they’d been stoking and cultivating quietly for years. And, in 1994, they successfully ended the era of liberalism that had dominated this country since about 1970. In comparison, today, the Democrats do their brainstorming and hand wring and strategizing out in the open. They do it on the blogs. It’s all right there for the Republicans to see. This is why the Democratic blogs, as good as they make us feel, are jeopardizing a successful liberal revolution. Democrats do too much plotting out loud.
My first reaction was that I was facing another so-called “moderate” Democrat urging his fellow liberals not to “politicize” politics. You know what I mean: “the Lieberman Effect.” Among some members of the Democratic Party, there’s a shame regarding liberal ideology, as if they believe what the right-wing spinsters say about the left and feel the only way to win national elections is to hide our beliefs. But then Emmet O’Connell nailed it in the comments:
That Republicans were insular over-all in their rise to power pre-1994 is a good reason to not be insular now. If politics is a zero-sum football type game where you adopt the other side's game plan, then I don't want to play. Politics is about being involved, it's about being engaged. It isn't about closing doors and keeping conversations out. While some of what goes on online is a "shout to flame" process, the internet is a conversation. Lets keep it out there.
Feit also misses the important role of blogs, which can be found in Peter Daou’s fascinating essay on Salon, “The Triangle: Limits of Blog Power,” a must read for any blogger. According to Daou, the way blogs can be influential in today’s political arena is as part of a “triangle.” The other two legs are the political establishment and traditional media.
...[B]log power on both the right and left is a function of the relationship of the netroots to the media and the political establishment. Forming a triangle of blogs, media, and the political establishment is an essential step in creating the kind of sea change we’ve seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina...Simply put, without the participation of the media and the political establishment, the netroots alone cannot generate the critical mass necessary to alter or create conventional wisdom. [snip] Bloggers can exert disproportionate pressure on the media and on politicians. Reporters, pundits, and politicians read blogs, and, more importantly, they care what bloggers say about them because they know other reporters, pundits, and politicians are reading the same blogs. It’s a virtuous circle for the netroots and a source of political power. The netroots can also bring the force of sheer numbers to bear on a non-compliant politician, reporter, or media outlet. Nobody wants a flood of complaints from thousands of angry activists. And further, bloggers can raise money, fact-check, and help break stories and/or keep them in circulation long enough for the media and political establishment to pick them up.
Recently, Daou checked in with a progress report on how well this triangle is working:
A flurry of activity among bloggers, online activists, and advocacy groups is met with ponderously inept strategizing by the Democratic leadership and relentless -- and insidious -- repetition by the media of pro-GOP narratives and soundbites...
Daou goes on to show how his “triangle” broke over the NSA scandals and the Alito confirmation hearings. He concludes:
This, then, is the reality: progressive bloggers and online activists -- positioned on the front lines of a cold civil war -- face a thankless and daunting task: battle the Bush administration and its legions of online and offline apologists, battle the so-called “liberal” media and its tireless weaving of pro-GOP narratives, battle the ineffectual Democratic leadership, and battle the demoralization and frustration that comes with a long, steep uphill struggle.
But is the triangle so broken? Enter Gore's stirring MLK-day speech! As digby reported:
Al Gore has become the conscience of the Democratic Party. Following the lead of the new media, and the blogosphere in particular, he just laid out the case as to how the invertebrate Republican congress has sold out its constitutional duty to a president who sees himself as above the law and why this poses an unprecedented threat to our constitution.
(The rest of the post is also a must-read, as is the speech transcript.) Gore’s speech – dead on, addressing the fear-mongering of Republican leaders and fearful reaction of their followers – propped up the second leg of the triangle. Of course traditional media outlets failed to run with the story. It should be front-page news, but wasn’t. Still, this shows that Feit is insane for believing liberal bloggers should shut up. Who else would speak out?
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