The Democrats and The Bloggers

The New York Times looks at the role of the netroots, claiming an uneasy alliance between bloggers and Democrats:

Like the music obsessives who plunked down $500 for first-generation iPods, Web-based activists served as the party’s early adopters in 2006, just as they provided much of the early money and vigor behind Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. This year, they coalesced around dozens of House and Senate candidates in highly unfavorable states or Congressional districts, showering them with seed donations and praise while softening up G.O.P. incumbents with amateur opposition research, campaign stunts and homemade Web advertising.

Answerable to no one in particular, they could sometimes go off-key: During the Democratic primary, a blog supporting Mr. Lamont put up an altered photograph of Mr. Lieberman showing the senator in blackface, much to Mr. Lamont’s embarrassment.

They were also sometimes poor judges of what will sell in the larger political marketplace; most of the 19 netroots-supported candidates listed on ActBlue, an online clearinghouse for donations to Democrats, lost on Tuesday. But the online activists also gave some once-underrated candidates — like the Senate candidates Jon Tester and Jim Webb, in Montana and Virginia, respectively, and the House candidates Paul Hodes in New Hampshire and Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania — a chance to be taken seriously. All ended up winning on Tuesday.

“It was the early support, the attention — the ability to create opportunities for candidates to break out with energy and passion,” said Jonah Seiger, a Democratic Internet strategist.

Thanks in part to the netroots, said Mr. Seiger, the more promising candidates got a second or third look from the mainstream news media, major donors and party officials, especially as the political environment became increasingly unfavorable to Republicans.

The problem with any article on the netroots is that we are just people with computers. There’s as much variation between us as there are between people everywhere else, and articles which attempt to lump all bloggers together become grossly over simplified. Even more than the media, the ones who really are clueless about what the liberal blogosphere is about are the conservative bloggers.

The Politcal Pit Bull is typical of conservative bloggers in believing that the netroots is pulling the Democrats towards the far left. That’s not to say their individual examples are necessarily wrong. Liberal bloggers have made plenty of mistakes. I’ve criticized Kos often myself, and I left The Democratic Daily partially due to its abandonment of the reality based community. JustOneMinute is correct that Jane Hamsher made a mistake with her altered photograph of Joe Lieberman, but, while still wrong, this is trivial compared to the spreading of outright lies about the war records of a veterans such as John Kerry and Max Cleland by the right.

There are lots of looney lefties posting to the blogs, but there are lots of kooks left and right, and they are not limited to the bloggers. There’s also considerable diversity among liberal bloggers. While Kos can say incredibly stupid things at times, it is also incorrect to characterize him as far left, with many of the Kos posters being fairly conservative economically while being liberal socially and strongly opposed to the war. Tester and Webb, noted as winning candidates supported by the netroots in the article above, are also being cited by the media as moderate Democrats who won. While the conservativism of winning Democrats has been exaggerated by some, they are also hardly on the far left. Atrios also noted that the netroots didn’t do so badly when compared to the DCCC.

There’s one other difference between the extremists of the left and right. On the left, the bloggers raise money and support candidates but the extremists do not have influence over the party’s positions. In contrast, the Republicans are dominated by the extremists of the far right. The type of people controlling the GOP today are those laughed off kooks in past years, and the type repudiated by men like Barry Goldwater when he was alive.

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