June 16, 2006

What Conference Did He Attend?

Ryan Lizza of The New Republic has written up his thoughts about YearlyKos. And what a conference he attended. One where the bloggers, reporters and politicians circled each other warily. One where the bloggers were full of themselves and rude. One where he saw hypocrisy in action on the part of those bloggers who deigned to judge the probity of the real journalists who partake in cocktail parties with the pols.

This uncertainty over what will happen at the first major convention for liberal bloggers drives Yearly Kos participants into a strange and ritualistic dance. Throughout the four-day convention, bloggers, politicians, and reporters circle one another like a trio of underwater species not quite sure who eats whom anymore. The bloggers alternatively ridicule and suck up to the reporters. The politicians prostrate themselves before the bloggers one minute and then roll their eyes at them in off-the-record pow-wows with the "mainstream media" the next. The press smile and yuk it up with the bloggers during the day and escape to decadent, MSM-only meals at night. All three groups seem to agree that everything in their respective spheres is changing because of the blogs, but nobody is quite sure how.

For their part, the bloggers are at a turning point. In Las Vegas, they are glimpsing their first taste of the establishment and watching as some of their leaders actually join it. "What they seem to be struggling with," says a Democratic operative here with the bloggers for the weekend, "is when the rebels become the establishment, are you anything more than being rebellious? What does it mean when Markos has a press secretary and gives a speech in a ballroom?"

And gee, the bloggers certainly showed that they won't play nice with the politicians that came to meet and greet them. Here's Lizza on Warner and his "first date" with the netroots.

Under Armstrong's tutelage, Warner has become one of the more sophisticated 2008 prospects when it comes to seducing the bloggers. He was the first one to agree to attend the convention. He dropped at least $50,000 on the party. He spoke at the convention the following day and blanketed the ballroom with black Warner t-shirts emblazoned with the Yearly Kos logo. His PAC set up an information booth in the exhibition hall.

And then the whole effort seems to backfire, exposing exactly the new rifts that are on display all weekend--the establishment versus the rank-and-file bloggers; the partisans versus the ideologues. While meeting with a group of bloggers, Warner is confronted by one Edward Anderson, who forces him to fess up to the $50,000 party tab. "We don't want to join the consultant class," he scolds Warner. On the blogs, the debate over the Stratosphere bash turns into an opportunity to attack Warner for his views on Iraq and Iran and his association with the DLC. "[A]ll I saw at the Stratosphere was an old-fashioned politician spending something like $70,000"--the number somehow keeps rising--"on a garish party to soften up a constituency," Micah Sifry writes on Personal Democracy Forum "If I'm gonna settle for a DLC, I'm going to settle for Hillary," a Kos commenter spits. (Clinton, who chose not to attend, is no doubt enjoying this effortless measure of success.) Moulitsas tried to suppress the uprising with a front-page defense of Warner that only angered his troops even more.

Yes, those bloggers don't seem to like Hillary much because she ignores them. Nevermind that one of the reasons that people like me think she is missing the boat is that one of the worst parts of our political system is the horrendous amount of money sloshing around it, and by ignoring the netroots, she is cutting herself off from some of the cleanest money around. Indeed, money that has the least strings attached. After all, we small "d" democrats aren't about to ask for an earmark for our district or a special tax break for just the blogosphere. And why are we supposed to be excited about Hillary when she co-sponsored the a flag burning amendment bill?

Evidently, it is only the hoi polloi that is so bad-mannered to ask rude questions.

Warner, who spent 20 years in the high-tech field, understands the blogosphere enough to speak about both its ideological divisions and the split between its opinion-making elite and its grassroots. He tells me that, with his Yearly Kos speech and interviews, he held his own with "some of the more ideological" bloggers, and he suggests that the ice sculpture uprising was more a phenomenon of the rank and file than the blog leadership. "Nobody would have said anything about it that are part of the big bloggers." With them, "there was a certain sense of, 'Gosh, this guy respects [our] values.'

According to Ryan, even General Wesley Clark is seen as being someone who found the experience a bit much.

General Wesley Clark, who was already on the list, impresses with a similar sense of humility. He throws an expensive party at the Hard Rock Casino, but it is nothing like the epic Stratosphere bash (no sushi, no chocolate fountains, no Elvis impersonators), and so he is spared the attacks that Warner suffers. Moreover, the bloggers, many of whom are self-described geeks, love that Clark attends their science panel. But what is cool for the Kossacks is a little humbling for Clark. Clark's handler tells a columnist for Time.com, "Ten days ago, he had a street named after him in Kosovo; today he's on a science panel with a man named 'Darksyde' and a woman in a bonnet."

Obviously, it's clear that the pearls of wisdom passed down by the politicians that came to Las Vegas was cast in front of the swine of the "rank and file" attendees.

Since the politicians that I found the most inspiring: Howard Dean, Harry Reid and even my own Barbara Boxer weren't included in the list of people who were discussed in Lizza's piece, I wonder why the oversight? And what about all those other politicians that showed up? Candidates like Brian Keeler, John Laesch, Jack Carter (who by the way, I met at one of those poorly attended labor roundtables), Ed Eric Massa and Joe Sestak? And no, I didn't go out of my way to meet the pundits, so I can't tell you who was having fun meeting the weird bloggers and who was on the job.

Ryan's piece seems to be designed to take the energy and optimism that came out of Las Vegas and drown it in a bucket of cynicism and doubt. No wonder we so love the MSM.

Update: Commenter catherineD pointed out that the quote from Clark's handler was taken out of context and truly changed the message that was given. As Ana Marie Cox who was told the remark reported (emphasis mine):

Everyone knows that the attendance at Yearly Kos by so many traditional politicians (we’re also going to be treated to speeches by Tom Vilsack, Howard Dean and Harry Reid) assures bloggers’ place in the political universe. Shortly before Moulitsas’s speech, Joe Trippi gropes for the right metaphor, comparing politicians’ courting of this nascent movement to the presidential primaries: “No one wants to skip Iowa.” Yet the politicians especially seem to be figuring it out as they go along — fear of missing the boat outweighs doubt about its final destination. Clark gives his speech on American innovation to a well-attended science panel flanked by bloggers whose name recognition is high in this room and nowhere else. One of them is wearing a colorful, flowered hat. Clark's handler leans over: “Ten days ago, he had a street named after him in Kosovo, today he’s on a science panel with a man named ‘Darksyde’ and a woman in a bonnet. That is democracy.”

So why did Lizza decide he needed to drop that last sentence?

Posted by Mary at June 16, 2006 12:45 AM | Blogging | Technorati links |
Comments

The man takes up half the science panel with a slightly modified stump address, AND his handlers consider his having to mingle with us bloggers to be a humbling experience.

I know that he's super popular in the blogosphere, but I'm having a hard time after this past week not seeing him as a bit of a snob and a definite mike-hog. And dammit, I really wanted to hear Darksyde speak, which he didn't get a chance to do. I didn't get up that morning and skip breakfast to hear some sort of pseudo-canned speech by someone who's already got a media megaphone.

Posted by: natasha at June 16, 2006 10:30 AM

The old media don't know what to think when they cover something where everybody isn't on script. Oh my god, what's the frame, what's the frame?

BTW, its ERIC Massa, not Ed Massa.

Posted by: op99 at June 16, 2006 10:32 AM

Look, TNR still implies that we're to blame for the war in Iraq going south. What makes you think they'll play nice with us now?

Posted by: palamedes at June 16, 2006 10:38 AM

Let them do their thing, we'll keep doing ours. When the dust settles, we'll just see what happens.

The blogosphere is getting collectively better educated, training up new people, experimenting with getting people involved, all sorts of things. In 2002, we were a bunch of marginal kibbitzers, now we're a political force. That's a hell of a steep curve and I think that we ain't seen nothin' yet.

Posted by: natasha at June 17, 2006 09:19 AM

I only wish that finances and work were able to allow me to attend the conference. But, the stars were not aligned for me this time.
So, I have to rely upon you fine folks to tell me what happened and how it felt.

Fortunately, I do not rely upon wonks and wanks like Massa (and York, TNR, DLC, CBS, The Note, NYT, or the rest of the MSM) to give me what I need.

It's very interesting that all of these MSM twits rail against us for how we 'frame' them as 'waterboys' but validate that opinion at every turn.

Thanks for the run down, maybe next year I can make an appearance.

Posted by: David Aquarius at June 17, 2006 09:41 AM

The Clark comment leaves off the vital last sentence. Here is the whole thing from Instapundit:

ANA MARIE COX reports from YearlyKos:


Everyone knows that the attendance at Yearly Kos by so many traditional politicians (we’re also going to be treated to speeches by Tom Vilsack, Howard Dean and Harry Reid) assures bloggers’ place in the political universe. Shortly before Moulitsas’s speech, Joe Trippi gropes for the right metaphor, comparing politicians’ courting of this nascent movement to the presidential primaries: “No one wants to skip Iowa.” Yet the politicians especially seem to be figuring it out as they go along — fear of missing the boat outweighs doubt about its final destination. Clark gives his speech on American innovation to a well-attended science panel flanked by bloggers whose name recognition is high in this room and nowhere else. One of them is wearing a colorful, flowered hat. Clark's handler leans over: “Ten days ago, he had a street named after him in Kosovo, today he’s on a science panel with a man named ‘Darksyde’ and a woman in a bonnet. That is democracy.”

Posted by: catherineD at June 17, 2006 10:35 AM

That's an interesting observation, catherine. It shows that Ryan was purposefully altering the substance of the comments to belittle the attendees at the conference.

I'm glad I got to attend the convention and have come away with many great memories, a renewed desire to see where I can help with building a progressive country and a some more ideas about where I might help.

Posted by: Mary at June 17, 2006 11:18 AM