Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Agonist: Obama's Anti-Blogginess?

Interesting bit on The Agonist by Ian Welsh about how Obama doesn't really care about blogs, but how that kind of makes sense because they didn't deliver anything to him.

Clinton and McCain have always been more blog-friendly, which is probably part of the reason why Clinton has managed to survive as long as she has; Clinton-backing blogs get a LOT of campaign support, even when the fix is undoubtedly in.

Anyway, Ian:

Progressive national bloggers as a group did not go pro-Obama until Edwards dropped out. Also, in most cases the readers were pro-Obama first, not the other way around. Obama reached our audience without going through us, and sees no reason to bother with outreach to us. Bloggers who now support Obama do so despite the fact that Obama can't be bothered to do blogger outreach.

Obama only works with groups who can deliver votes he can't easily get on his own. So SEIU has a voice. We do not because we did not deliver our readers, he got them on his own.

The two things we can do for Obama that matters are media pushback and atacking McCain. But we will do those things whether he's nice to us or not, and he may not even appreciate us attacking McCain, since he very clearly wants top-down control over message with no freelancers.

There is zero ROI on spending any time on us, for Obama, at least in the short term. Therefore Obama doesn't spend any time on us. He also, personally, finds us boring, and has said so.

This will come back to bite Obama if or when he's president and the bloom is off, and he finds he has few real friends amongst bloggers and thus amongst those who have some influence with the base. But that's a year and a half to two years down the road. I doubt he's thinking it through that far, or he may think that his charisma and skill is such that he can keep his followers so happy that they will scream us under if we dare criticize him when he, say, leaves a huge residual force in Iraq (or whatever.) I doubt it, because most bloggers will really only turn on Obama when the base starts being disillusioned. But, as I say, that's a long way out and is irrelevant to him right now.
Yeah, I find this a bit counterproductive as well, if only because bloggers have become really good at focusing resources on key races and (in some cases) making the primary campaigns of "Blue Dogs" really, really dicey.

Now, Welsh seems peeved, but it's still kind of makes sense. Obama isn't building on a blog model so much as a social networking model. He doesn't NEED DailyKos, becuase he has my.barackobama.com to serve as his hub, and it's based more on a Facebook-style online networking model than a Kos-style blog community model. People on his campaign can serve as the kingmakers, rather than the bloggers. Bloggers just aren't key to the process.

It shouldn't be a surprise, either. It's been the case from the beginning. Obama has always been pretty clear that he's not a big fan of the enormous partisanship of bloggers. While I thoroughly disagree with him on that, it's certainly consistent. It's Obama, not Edwards. Nonsense about the National Journal aside, he's by no means the most liberal leader in the Democratic party.

But Ian is very much right about the possible consequences. The real story coming out of this election is not my.barackobama.com, because that's a lightning strike that's unlikely to happen again. The real story is the importance of small donations, and the utter irrelevance of the big DLC-style donors that were the lifeblood of the Clinton campaign. While Obama is likely to become president, the true shocker is that Clinton didn't win in the first place; that the machine backing her lost so badly.

As I said a while back, bloggers will benefit enormously from that machine's decline. Obama can't replace it; no single president could. No, that will be resolved on a much bigger scale, and the successes that American bloggers HAVE had will put them in a good position to take advantage of the situation.

And once the sheen is off the president, he'll need to draw on the bloggers' resources. And all this benign neglect now is only going to increase the asking price when it matters.

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