Blogosphere as “netroots”

Last night at the Peach Pundit drink-fest I had the opportunity to talk politics (what else?) with frequent poster chrisishardcore. Chris and I, along with Mike Hassinger and others talked over the Georgia political landscape, and it was a blast.

There was something I wanted to discuss with Chris, but never got around to it so I thought I’d bring it up here. Before I ask the question, please allow me to lay some groundwork.

Daily Kos is a left wing blog and the most visited blog in the blogosphere (it’s founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga recently spoke in Atlanta and audio of the event is available here). Markos makes no bones about it, he want’s to reshape the Democratic Party and while’s he at it, the media. He and the Kos Kids, have set out to make his dream a reality by raising money and volunteering for candidates, and holding an annual Yearly Kos convention which takes place next week in Las Vegas. Markos even appears in a TV ad for a US Senate candidate taking on Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut.The Kos Kids might need to be smarter about the candidates they support, i.e. less longshots and more candidates with a decent chance of winning, but I’m not aware of any right wing blog which attempts to influence elections in such an organized and specific manner.

So here are two questions:

1) Is the Daily Kos model the future or just a flash in the pan?

2) Just how much influence do the Kos Kids have within the Democratic Party?

13 comments

  1. jacewalden says:

    Buzz,

    Not sure what the answer is, but I will tell you what I saw on CNN the other day regarding Daily Kos. The guy was a democratic strategist talking about the potential nominee for President 2008. He said that the Kos crowd was not the mainstream of the DNC and that their picks typically didn’t end up winning primaries.

  2. buzzbrockway says:

    Here’s a partial list of mainstream Democrats and Presidential hopefuls who will be at the Yearly Kos:

    Wesley Clark
    Joe Wilson
    Nancy Pelosi
    Barbara Boxer
    Howard Dean
    Tom Vilsack
    Ralph Neas
    Mark Warner
    Harry Reid

  3. Rusty says:

    Thanks for the links today Buzz.

    I read Kos’ book, and it was better than I expected it to be (which isn’t a high bar because my expectations were low).

    I think he’s dead-on about the dominance of single interest groups being a cancer on Democratic politics, and that his theory about 50-state elections is a good idea. But, the latter would require convincing a lot of people to be sacrificial lambs, which is no small feat. The question of whether it’s practical has yet to be answered.

    And I think he gets hyperbolic about “the consultants.” A number of them are crappy, as you’ll find in any profession. But you can’t just fire everyone to let a bunch of neophytes take over, who will end up being just as bad and maybe worse. A lot of those people bring valuable knowledge about running campaigns that’d be silly to throw away. I detect a little self-interest there.

    Regardless, that group clearly has Howard Dean’s ear, as Dean is funding paid DNC staff in every state against the advice of many people who would rather see that money spent on mid-term elections.

  4. GAWire says:

    Daily Kos isn’t a model for anything except leftist rhetoric. RedState has more realistic (even if right leaning) coverage and analysis of politics. Everyone, including Dem insiders look at Kos as a MoveOn.org type extreme part of their Party – those types of orgs have thier uses, but are typically not part of the core Party.

    I do think you will see more focus on and activity from the major blogs, including RedState and the other big ones. The only problem is that everyone and their dog can have a blog and call themselves political strategists/analysts. There is not a great deal of a competitive marketplace that weeds out the bias and focuses on the realistic players (i.e. like Fox News did to CNN). Thus, you get the Daily Kos and Jessica Cutlers of the world.

    Overall, these types of sites will continue to grow and I think become the basis of netroots politics, but I don’t think Kos is the model. The online and political communities are starting to strategize, though, so perhaps you could see some big players and significant change emerge b/f the next national election …

  5. Jeff Emanuel says:

     I’m a blogger for Townhall.com and for the UGA College Republicans website, and am definitely a supporter of blogging as an efficient way to rapidly disseminate information. In my view, the blogosphere is to other media what 24-hour news was to the old, twice-a-day cable version–faster, more accessible, and more efficient.
    As far as the questions go, here’s my take:
    1) The Daily Kos model is not just a flash in the pan. Kos has been among the most viewed websites for several years now, and his exposure appears to be growing rather than receding.  He’s been the subject of articles in the American Prospect and in Campaigns & Elections, as well as other publications, andas long as Air America is up and running (perhaps not that long), he’ll have a voice over the airwaves, as well. The bad news is that he has the most-viewed blog on the planet; the good news is that conservatives have not been afraid to follow suit and to jump on the opportunities offered by this medium–and almost all the rest of the top blogs in the nation are conservative (Michelle Malkin, Instapundit, Townhall, Little Green Footballs, etc.).  Even Republicans in Congress have been convinced to take advantage of the blogosphere, with a Capitol Hill blogging revolution being engineered in large part by Rep. Jack Kingston’s Communications Director, David All. Blogs offer an extremely quick, efficient, and broad way to get information out, and will become more and more utilized in the future–not less.
    2) Very simply, Kos and his Kids have little or no influence over the Democrat Party in the sense that they are against any non-socialist principles of the left, and thus do not support any candidate who would ever have a chance of winning an important election.  While candidates like John Kerry have had to approach Markos while pandering to the far left in hopes of gaining the Democrat nomination for national office, virtually none of Kos’s anti-American (reference his "indifference" about contractors killed in Iraq, etc.), anti-Capitalist, and pro-Communist ideals can ever be put into practice, regardless how long and how loudly he rails against the status quo.  Even his threats last year of "Blowing up the DNC and starting over" (which he shelved "temporarily" in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina) didn’t cause much consternation among those whom he was claiming to target.  The bottom line is, as long as there are folks like Kos and the Democrat Underground available to the far left, there will be followers–and there will always be a need for Democrat politicians to pander to them during the primary.  However, when compared to the number of supporters necessary to win a national election, the entire following of Kos and his ilk is almost insignificant in number, and "smart" Democrat politicians (I know, an oxymoron …) will immediately not walk, but RUN toward the center of the political spectrum after securing a nomination.  Two faced? Yes.  Politics as usual? Yes.  However, should Kos and other far left bloggers begin to increase their influence in the Democrat party, it can only be good for the right–as the 250,000,000 Americans who are moderate or conservative (or even slightly liberal) will desert these politicians and their party, leaving the Right in a position of even more leadership, solidarity, and strength.

  6. Rusty says:

    Don’t know what happened to my last comment. Looks like WordPress ate it. I was basically saying the jury is still out. Thanks for the links today Buzz.

  7. Chris says:

    but I’m not aware of any right wing blog which attempts to influence elections in such an organized and specific manner.

    Club for Growth? More of a PAC than a blog, but their Blog is the one I visit right after PP.

  8. I don’t think they are able to (and maybe don’t even want to) deliver their votes in a way an organization like a union might. Dean’s campaign kind of tried to get a unanimous endorsement out of the Kos website but was never able to get the ball rolling even though a majority on that site were probably for Dean when he was still in contention.

    I think candidates like Warner are going to the Kos convention the same way they might speak to a group of influential trial lawyers. Not seeking an all or none endorsement, but realizing that there is a lot of influence in the party (they are the activists after all) represented there. Does Warner want the Daily Kos endorsement? Probably not, but does he want 10% of the donors that visit that site to visit his website, absolutely.

    Also, I think the left has sites like Daily Kos become so massively popular because it’s filling a void that is occupied on the right by more mainstream media mainstays like Rush or Hannity. The right hasn’t really seen one website materialize where the activists can go to get their talking points because they already get them from Rush.

    I personally really enjoy Al Franken’s show, but he doesn’t really fit the mold of a Rush Limbaugh, his show is much less personality opinion driven. The other hosts on Air America don’t really do much for me. But that said, AA hasn’t really caught on to the level of right wing radio and in part it might be because Kos type sites (primarily Kos) have already filled that void. That’s how the marketplace works, I guess.

  9. GAWire says:

    Don’t forget, Chris … the majority of America still connects themselves closer to the right and that is why more people listen to Rush/Hannity.

    Air America hasn’t caught on b/c it is a leftist, Hollywood wet dream that doesn’t even remotely connect with mainstream America.

    I’m not attacking, just clarifying, and that’s not rhetoric, it’s cold, hard facts.

  10. More Americans call themselves conservatives than liberals these days but if you look at most polls there is a solid majority of self identifying liberals/moderates who are basically on the same page issue wise. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but 40% of conservatives will never beat the 60% of liberals+moderates if they decide (which they might this year) to throw out the GOP.

  11. Mike Hassinger says:

    I think Kos is a very successful example of blogs being used for what they’re good at: putting out a breadth and depth of information (some facts, some persuasive rhetoric) quickly and cheaply. In his case it’s to people who are already inclined to believe Kos and his candidates anyway. So, yeah, he’s successful, but he hasn’t (yet) brought any new voters to the table. That’s not because his ideas are so far-left, it’s because believe it or not, there are still some voters who do not a)read stuff on the Internet or b)believe it if they do.

    (I’ll pause while all you youngsters clutch your pearls at this heresy.)

    The set of people who vote skews older; most 18-28 year-olds don’t vote at all. Internet users, as a group, skew younger. So Kos can get all the net-savvy voters of a certain age group and mindset, but can his model influence an election? Hasn’t yet, and we’ll have to see.

    I think Chris is on to something, though, when he describes Kos as the left’s answer to Rush. Remember, Rush started out in the 1980’s, about the time Kos and his “Kids” were born. It took a long time for him to catch on, even though he was filling a demand in the market for conservative talk. Kos is fulling a similar demand, he’s just using the Internet, (a medium with far fewer barriers to entry than AM radio) to do it.

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