Thursday, June 26, 2003

Well, well, well... looks like I've been migrated to the new Blogger. Interesting.

To be honest, ever since getting that monitor, I've been at a loss as to what to write about; most of the issues that I've been following (WMDs, the continuing conflict in Iraq, the Bush administration's fast-and-loose relationship with the truth) have been in some sort of disturbing holding pattern, with nothing much improving and nothing much getting worse.

Generously assuming, of course, that such a thing is easily imaginable when it comes to the occupation of Iraq.

Anyway, was delighted to discover DailyKOS had been in contact with Terry McAuliffe, and that McAuliffe agreed with the sentiment of many bloggers (including myself) saying that the Dems need to be more aggressive.

"You know what?" I said, "A lot of people I talk to every day, who comment at my site -- they won't aggressively support the party until the party starts acting like an opposition."

McAuliffe could only agree, "I know. We're trying."

I then launched into my spiel about how the blogosphere could help drive new political activism on behalf of Democrats, how blogs like dKos attracted people who might not otherwise participate in the political process, and how it was in the Democratic Party's interest to nurture the lefty blogosphere.

McAuliffe asked point blank: "How do you think we should do that?"

It's a question I want you guys to weigh in on, since I promised to put together a memo with suggestions.

I'll start it off with the following two suggestions:

1) pull a Dean -- get all the major party officials (starting with McAuliffe, and moving on to Pelosi, Daschle, etc.) to start doing interviews with blogs, commenting on message boards, becoming members of the blogging community, so they can listen first hand to the concerns and ideas that are bantied about every single day; and

2) Start a party weblog. Start communicating with the party faithful on a daily basis, not through newspapers or 30-second spots or any other middlemen.
I'll be putting this memo together this weekend. I would love to hear more suggestions. We have the chairman's ear, let's take advantage of it. How do we use the blogosphere, this wonderful, revolutionary tool at our disposal, and use it to strengthen the party and help it elect real Democrats?
Both are excellent suggestions, but I'm especially interested in the first option.

The big problem with political discussion on the Internet is that most people believe that it's unimportant. Thing is, there's a measure of truth there, and the only true exception to that is the integration between the GOP activist press and the Blogistanians that are aligned with them. The Dems don't have the sort of media machine that the GOP depends on, and thus I don't think they can leverage said machine to "reach out" to blogdom as well as the Republicans have with NRO and the like. (The problem with progressive activist media's poor relation with the electable left in the U.S. is something I'm not going to get into, but it's also an aspect of this.)

A conscious attempt to bridge the gap between bloggers and party will help to alleviate this situation. It will serve the dual purpose of connecting Dems with the (sometimes brutal) discussion and idea-creation machine that is Blogovia, and connecting online pundits (like Kos and, theoretically, your humble host) with the people that have to bear the brunt of the political fallout of the implementation of those ideas. Assuming that blogging grows as a medium, it will also ensure that American liberalism doesn't end up behind in leveraging technological and organizational innovation, as it has so often in the past.

As an added bonus, bloggers and the online political community might start to serve as a bridge between the supposed "far left" and "centrists"; one of the things I like about Blogovia is that dialogues between people aligned with these two groups can be (and often are) quite civilized. (Martin Wisse and Kevin Drum aren't going to call each other names). If there's one thing that the Dems need to learn from the GOP, it's the ability to connect with both the base and the fringe, recognizing both their passion for their ideals and reminding them that elections are supposed to be won by a popular majority, not a determined minority.

As for other ideas... there's one that I have that's related to this, and (unsurprisingly) to my own political interests. One of the problems with American liberalism is that it's letting the right define itself, and I believe that part of the reason that's happening is because those who are doing the thinking about what liberalism is, what its roots are, what its place is in American political culture and where it should go are too often divided from those who are doing politics "on the ground". This is partially due to the divisions between the academic left and the party that's supposed to be representing it, but it has had awful consequences- the GOP has been able to drive the debate, promulgate all the ideas, and control how Americans think about politics.

The reason they've been able to do that due to their funding of enormous numbers of think tanks. Thing is, all think tanks are really just groups of people paid to do the same thing that bloggers do every day: think and write about politics. Considering the relative quality and intellectual honesty of the output of several bloggers I read and some of the larger think tanks (AEI, I'm looking in your direction), I'd say that the Dems could leapfrog over the establishment of these organizations by simply, well, going "virtual"... using things like group blogs, left-leaning message boards, and individual commentators and bloggers to play "idea factory". It's not like it'd be inferior work: I'll take the political analysis of a Digby or a Kos over any number of NRO flacks.

This idea won't replace the necessity of supporting paid political thinkers and analysts; then again, most bloggers probably wouldn't mind a patron of some sort. Anonymity might be an issue, but then again it might not... not only would add an air of mystery in the eyes of some, but it would reinforce the message that it's the ideas that are important, not the people, and its ideas that the Democratic party needs to bring to the table.

There's more, of course, but that's what I can think of off the top of my head. Any thoughts?

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