Monday, July 21, 2008

Hard-Left Bloggers Prepare for Democratic Victory

If there was ever any question that the netroots form the base of the Democratic Party, today's Washington Post may help settle the debate: "Liberal Bloggers Brace for Victory." The left bloggers, sure, must share the bill with the legions of traditional left-wing party constituencies (civil rights groups, organized labor, etc.), but when it comes to current vocal intensity, the netroots takes the cake. The Post discusses the influence of hard-left bloggers following last weeks Netroots Nation convention:

Nancy Pelosi Netroots

"Yep, the way it's looking, we might actually win this thing . . ."

Markos Moulitsas talking, a.k.a. "Kos" to everyone here at Netroots Nation, the four-day liberal blogapalooza that ended Sunday at the Austin Convention Center. He's got a head cold, which explains his hoarse, strained voice, and by "we," he means the Netroots and their candidate of choice, Sen. Barack Obama. If the Netroots can be compared to high school -- still maturing, somewhat cliquish but definitely a community -- then Obama, as the presumptive nominee, had been voted Most Likely to Succeed.

Hardest Worker and Best Dressed honors went to House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi, who kicked off Saturday morning's program with a freewheeling 40-minute "Ask the Speaker" session. ("Damn, Nancy looks grrreat in that pantsuit," a blogger was overheard saying.) Most Popular would go to Al Gore, who brought the crowd of more than 2,000 conventioneers to its feet with his surprise appearance, repeatedly asking bloggers to visit, home to his new group, the Alliance for Climate Protection.

But Obama, who leads Sen.
John McCain in recent national polls, is Topic A among the Netroots, his fate somewhat married to theirs. Five years ago liberal bloggers made a name for themselves at a time of defeat; Republicans controlled not just the White House but both houses in Congress. They craved a fight, and President Bush was their punching bag.

But these are changing times, and Obama, in his calls for getting past blue vs. red America, and in his recent positions on issues such as telecom immunity, is somewhat of an enigma. With the Dems taking back Congress in 2006 and the prospect of an Obama victory come November, many in the influential Netroots are left in a precarious, ambiguous position. The question is, who needs whom: Does Obama need the Netroots, or vice versa?
Moulitsas is modest about Netroots influence, and while Barack Obama snubbed the group this summer, the presumptive Democratic nominee, while not always appreciative, is well integrated with the left-wing bloggers:

Obama's standing here, especially with big-name bloggers such as Matt Stoller of OpenLeft, has proved complicated. Two years ago, frustrated by bloggers' reaction to two Democratic senators who voted to confirm John Roberts as chief justice, Obama wrote a posting on Daily Kos:

"According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists -- a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog -- we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party," wrote Obama, who voted no on the Roberts confirmation.

Last year, at the height of the primary campaign, Obama often placed second behind former senator John Edwards in the monthly and unscientific Daily Kos straw polls. In October, he fell third behind Edwards and Sen. Chris Dodd. When Obama examined former president Ronald Reagan's legacy earlier this year and said it "changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not," a blizzard of comments hit blogs, many of them critical.

A few weeks ago, after Obama's upcoming vote for the FISA bill provoked angry comments on his own social networking site,, Obama posted an explanation on his blog. "Democracy cannot exist without strong differences. And going forward, some of you may decide that my FISA position is a deal breaker," Obama wrote.

"Think about it: Netroots was born at a time when the Democrats were in opposition, and it's learning how to be a force of good when the Democrats are in power -- and could have more power next year," says Simon Rosenberg of the New Democrat Network. A speaker at the confab, Rosenberg is a bridge of sorts between Official Washington (he worked in the first Clinton White House) and New Washington (he wrote the foreword to "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics," which Kos co-authored).

Adds Andrew Rasiej, also a speaker at the convention and founder of Personal Democracy Forum, an online think tank that analyzes how the Internet affects politics: "For most everyone in the Netroots, the main goal right now is get Obama elected. Period. Now how the Netroots and Obama move forward after November, if he is elected, is another issue."

If Obama has a problem, it's not with the people who attended Netroots Nation, it's with the PUMA folks, are are intensely organized against Obama's nomination as the Democratic Party nominee, and perhaps the Illinois Senator's election in November.

The PUMA people have 1000 reasons not to vote for Barack Obama, and while that's significant, most Obama opponents can likely count the reasons on one hand.

Barack Obama's support by the nihilist, anti-Semitic Kos-kids contingent is certain to top the list.

See also, Protein Wisdom, "
Obama is Just Not That Into the Netroots."

Related: "Obama's Website: Agent for Vile, Filthy Change."

Photo Credit: Washington Post


UPDATE: See the New York Observer's perceptive essay, "Netroots Nation Reckons With Life After the Revolution."