September 19, 2005

The Power (or Lack) of Blogs

Peter Daou has a fascinating post about what blogs can and cannot do for politics. (Note: even if you don't subscribe to Salon, you can read this post by clicking through the ad.) He draws upon his experience in the Kerry campaign and combines that with his observations about the blogosphere since then and concludes that bloggers without the mass media and political establishment are powerless to change the conventional wisdom.

To understand what happens when the online community is on its own, look no further than electronic voting. The progressive netroots has been hammering away at this for years, but the media and the political establishment is largely mute. Traction = Zero. The conventional wisdom puts it squarely in the realm of conspiracy theories.

And certainly, it is easy to see that the rightwing blogosphere have a real leg up because they have the ear and mouth of the right wing media: Fox, Limbaugh, and Coulter, or should that be the Rove machine, Fox, Limbaugh and Coulter have the rightwing blog world to amplify their voice? The rightwing blogs simply have to repeat the day's "talking points" and they are doing what they need to do to keep the focus on the right.

For the left blogosphere, the necessary triangle: blog, media, politician, is much weaker. First the liberal media is very weak compared to what the right controls. Second, Democratic politicians have been "focus tested" in to believing that they must reflect moderation in order to not alienate the independents they rely on to get elected. Nevertheless, the left blogosphere is starting to affect the politicians as witnessed by those that drop in on Daily Kos to talk to the activists. Yet, on this front as well as with the media, the left has to work much harder to make a difference. Still, the effort can definitely be worth the time and energy:

It would seem reasonable to conclude, then, that the best strategy for the progressive netroots is to go after the media and Democratic Party leaders and spend less time and energy attacking the Bush administration. If the netroots alone can’t change the political landscape without the participation of the media and Democratic establishment, then there’s no point wasting precious online space blasting away at Republicans while the other sides of the triangle stand idly by. Indeed, blog powerhouses like Kos and Josh Marshall have taken an aggressive stance toward Democratic politicians they see as selling out core Democratic Party principles. Kos’s willingness to attack the DLC is mocked on the right, but it is precisely the right’s fear that Kos will “close the triangle” that causes them to protest so loudly. Similarly, when Atrios, Digby, Oliver Willis, and so many other progressive bloggers attack the media, they are leveraging whatever power they have to compel the media to assume a role as the third side of their triangle.

Daou believes that today's battle ultimately comes down to the legacy of Bush. Will he be remembered as the great leader or the miserable incompetent?

For rightwing bloggers who have fiercely defended one of the most controversial and polarizing presidents in our history, their fortunes will rise or fall with his approval ratings. The blind allegiance to Bush and the furious assault on his detractors will be vindicated if he leaves office with popular support.

Rightwing bloggers will thus do everything in their power to prevent another Katrina triangle, where the confluence of blogs, media, and Democratic leadership exposes the real Bush and changes the conventional wisdom about his ability to lead. And they will struggle mightily to boost his poll numbers, whether it means ignoring the reality of the Iraq fiasco or the terrifying implications of the bungled federal response to Katrina.

For progressive bloggers who see a president presiding over the collapse of America's credibility, the urgent work ahead is to cement the post-Katrina impression of Bush as a failed president. Whether or not they succeed depends to a large extent on their ability to compel the media and Democratic establishment to stand with them and speak the truth.

In my opinion, as patriotic Americans, we absolutely must be dedicated to doing what we can to make our blogging count, and to disrupt the triangle that reinforces the lies that threaten to keep Bush's legacy as a strong, decisive leader in place. It's time to ask the Democratic establishment to understand the fight is bigger than what they see - it is about the future of our country and their weakness will only guarantee the worst for us all.

Posted by Mary at September 19, 2005 02:11 AM | Blogging | Technorati links |

One can presume from the post that the weakness of the Democrats comes from "focus-testing." That is indeed one of the core reason Democrats are infuriating: they don't adhere to principles. That's why the polling data comes back as stating the "Democrats need to stand for something."

I am all down and out and moping like hell, but really I am very angry. The Democratic party is not extricating themselves from their war votes and they are doing absolutley nothing new or innovative in organizing the base.

They're simply sitting there hoping utter disatsers to the country--which they are partly responsible for--will swing the pendulumn back their way.

We desperately need change, yet we get nothing. It is so discouraging I don't have the text for it--black foreboding thoughts that my generation let the country become stolen and watched helplessly as it smashed right in front of us.

I have to get my ass back to work. Thank God I have some tangible distraction of worth from all this destructive, infuriating insanity.

It's not fucking hard to do the right thing and build a government that works reasonably well. It's not. We're so much better than this.

Posted by: paradox at September 19, 2005 07:01 AM

paradox, it is good to see you over here. I also find the Democrats infuriating because they just can't seem to get their minds around the monster that they are facing. Is it focus-testing, or fear or greed or wanting to be seen as a good guy? I can't tell anymore - but it is scaring the sh*t out of me because they are the people we elected to oppose the totalitarian Right and they don't seem to get it.

Posted by: Mary at September 21, 2005 10:12 PM