Sunday, August 05, 2007

Liberal Bloggers: Unappreciated and Unimportant?

(Update: thanks to Progressive Gold for the link.)

So, at least according to one writer, Bloggers' power ain't what it used to be. Ben Smith at the Politico writes:

Officials of the Democratic campaigns, meanwhile, speak about the Netroots with a new relief and distance.

“Guys like Jerome and Markos -- I look on them like state legislators,” said a senior aide from a different presidential campaign... “They have constituents who matter, but they don’t really matter themselves.”"
Story's more complex than that, but that's what it boils down to: the Washington crew aren't really that enamored of even the big bloggers, and bloggers are lacking the kind of leverage that really gets Washington's attention.

Obama is especially wary:

Obama, alone among the Democratic candidates, hasn’t hired high-profile bloggers or engaged his campaign in their fights -- a move consistent with his strategy of avoiding traditional Democratic constituency politics, and of delivering a similar, universal message to a variety of constituencies.

Instead, Obama has channeled the energy around his campaign to creating an alternative online base of support on As others courted YearlyKos by battling O’Reilly, Obama offered convention guests a handy, apolitical guide to Chicago.

Obama still remains popular among the site’s rank and file, who are in other ways typical Obama voters -- younger and more educated than your average Democrat. But his persistence in casting himself as a bipartisan figure, and of reaching out to Republicans, has limited his appeal to the leaders of the liberal blogosphere.

“Obama has had the advantage on the war, and its ideological underpinnings, but he's not created any other credibility since then, and his lack of partisanship has given Clinton the advantage,” said [MyDD creator Jerome] Armstrong.
I can't say I disagree with Armstrong on Obama; he's a strong candidate, but when even Hillary Clinton is out-partisaning you, you've got a bit of a problem. Swing voters are nice and all, but if you lose your base, you aren't going to get to the general in the first place.

It's a little sad, actually. I'm convinced that one of the main reasons why blogs like DailyKos have been doing everything they can to become all-encompassing one-stop political sites is because they want to be big players. Markos, especially, seems bound and determined to be a big Democratic player, and doesn't care how many "diarists" are providing him with free content so long as this bigger goal is achieved. He clearly wants his site to be like the big Republican "institutes", or the DLC of old, that are absolutely part-and-parcel with the party itself.

The problem is that while having people provide your content for you is pretty much what "Web 2.0" is about, it doesn't necessarily mean that Markos is going to be seen as anything but a representative for his own community. They'll pander to him as much as they need to ensure that he keeps his people on-message and donating time and cash, but don't really care about anything his diarists write. DailyKos isn't like the "institutes": nothing the diarists or commentators write is being cited on television or in print, or really acknowledged by anybody outside the community. None of them are going to be talking heads on television, and while some may have books, they aren't going to be pushed like the right's think-tank stuff. It seems to have stalled as being seen as a "community", nothing more.

(Not surprising: a lot of the "netroots" seemed to stop paying attention to the actual generation and discussion of ideas back in 2004 or so, and for all their faults that's what think tanks and instututes and the like are for. If Kos et al don't care about anything other than scooping up as many bodies as possible under the label "Kossack", not caring about what they've got to say, then why on earth should the Dem leadership?)

What's ironic about all this is that the hat tip goes to Chris Bowers, considering his desperate attempts to seperate the top-tier bloggers from the hoi palloi. Apparently, it hasn't worked. The hoi palloi (in all their numbers) are apparently a lot more important than he is or anything he writes. He claims that...

In the end, it seems that Smith's means of measuring blogosphere influence is how scared insider and establihsment types are of the blogosphere. Frankly, I think that is a pretty immautre appreciation of the situation. If the only thing we had the power to do was scare people in the establihsment, then the blogosphere would never change from the way it operated circa 2003. However, the progressive blogosphere has grown twenty times larger since 2003, making change both inevitable and necessary. It is almost as though Smith is saying "I liked the blogosphere's earlier albums, before they got popular and sold out."
This is a terrible misread of what the article was saying. The point Smith is making is that bloggers are only seen as bodies; that what they write simply doesn't matter. That isn't a function of the size of the blogosphere, and sure as hell isn't "I liked the blogosphere's earlier albums". It's they aren't listening to you anymore, and they aren't interested in what you have to say, because you don't appear to be interested in anything anybody else is saying either. You aren't another voice in a debate, or even a chorus; instead, you're just another schmuck to exploit.

It's not that they've stopped "fearing" you. It's that they've stopped paying attention to what you have to say. And, yes, that's far worse.

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