National Democrats V. The Blogosphere

The New York Times this morning published an extremely favorable review of the new book by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and Mydd.com founder Jerome Armstrong, entitled Crashing the Gate. One of the principal themes of the book raises a topic which I truly believe is of unparalleled importance -- the role of the blogosphere in influencing the nation's political debates as well as shaping the strategies adopted by the Democratic Party.

With very few exceptions, national Democrats in Washington see the blogosphere as composed of uninformed, ranting, dirty masses who need to be kept as far away as possible. While they are willing to take your money, many of the Beltway Democrats see the vibrant activism in the blogosphere as some sort of an embarrassment, while others see it as a threat to their feifdoms. As The Times' review of Crashing the Gate makes clear, national Democrats -- although they don't seem to know it yet -- don't really have the option anymore of ignoring the blogosphere. Its power is growing inexorably and is going to influence the country's political debates one way or the other:

This comically depressing glimpse of today's Democratic Party is recounted in "Crashing the Gate," a smart new book by two leading bloggers. Democrats have complained about their national leadership at least since Will Rogers wisecracked, "I am not a member of any organized political party-I am a Democrat." But in their book, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the liberal blog Daily Kos, and Jerome Armstrong, founder of myDD.com, give these complaints a 21st-century spin. . . .

The netroots' power comes from the same network effect that made eBay a retailing phenomenon. Far-flung political activists now join together on sites like dailykos.com, and inject themselves into matters that used to be settled behind closed doors. . . . .

Much of the authors' criticism of the party establishment is dead-on. . . . The Democratic establishment could not hold the netroots back even if it wanted to. Their ability to raise money, recruit volunteers and shape the debate will make them indispensable.


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National Democrats v. the Blogosphere

The New York Times this morning published an extremely favorable review of the new book by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and Mydd.com founder Jerome Armstrong, entitled Crashing the Gate. One of the principal themes of the book raises a topic which I truly believe is of unparalleled importance -- the role of the blogosphere in influencing the nation's political debates as well as shaping the strategies adopted by the Democratic Party.

With very few exceptions, national Democrats in Washington see the blogosphere as composed of uninformed, ranting, dirty masses who need to be kept as far away as possible. While they are willing to take your money, many of the Beltway Democrats see the vibrant activism in the blogosphere as some sort of an embarrassment, while others see it as a threat to their feifdoms. As The Times' review of Crashing the Gate makes clear, national Democrats -- although they don't seem to know it yet -- don't really have the option anymore of ignoring the blogosphere. Its power is growing inexorably and is going to influence the country's political debates one way or the other:

This comically depressing glimpse of today's Democratic Party is recounted in "Crashing the Gate," a smart new book by two leading bloggers. Democrats have complained about their national leadership at least since Will Rogers wisecracked, "I am not a member of any organized political party — I am a Democrat." But in their book, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, founder of the liberal blog Daily Kos, and Jerome Armstrong, founder of myDD.com, give these complaints a 21st-century spin. . . .

The netroots' power comes from the same network effect that made eBay a retailing phenomenon. Far-flung political activists now join together on sites like dailykos.com, and inject themselves into matters that used to be settled behind closed doors. . . . .

Much of the authors' criticism of the party establishment is dead-on. . . . The Democratic establishment could not hold the netroots back even if it wanted to. Their ability to raise money, recruit volunteers and shape the debate will make them indispensable.

The way in which so many national Democrats run away from the blogosphere and try to pretend that it does not exist -- as though it is some sort of dangerous, poisonous sewer -- is really quite bewildering. Within the last two weeks, I had some extensive communications with a high-ranking staff member in a Democratic Senators' office (whose identity I promised not to reveal before the discussions began) in which I argued that systems should be created to enable Democratic Senators to work cooperatively with the blogosphere in order to prevent the Bush Administration from continuing to suppress investigations into its wrongdoing, including as part of the NSA scandal and other scandals.

I explained that there is a bursting and eager energy among the literally millions of people who write and read blogs to take meaningful action against the Bush Administration. The people in the blogosphere are highly motivated, informed, and politically engaged. Activating that energy and having national Democrats work cooperatively with the blogosphere (rather than ignore it or scorn it) could make an enormous difference in how these stories end up being covered and resolved. It is monumentally dumb not to embrace the one mechanism which has the ability to unleash genuinely impassioned, mass citizen action. And there are obvious and easy -- yet quite potent -- ways for national Democrats to work with bloggers and the blogosphere to maximize the force of these efforts.

This was the response I ultimately received:

I think there is an opportunity for us to figure out a better way to work together. But, you have to understand, my ultimate goal is to help [the] Senator [] achieve his objective of real oversight on national security matters by the Intelligence Committee.

Even with the best of intentions, I’m not convinced that bloggers can help us meet that goal. In fact, I worry about it hurting our efforts given the increasingly partisan environment.

This response is not uncommon. Many - if not most - national Democrats really are afraid of working with actual citizens, and are particularly afraid of having any involvement at all with the blogosphere. It's as though they think they need to remain above and separated from the poorly behaved, embarrassing masses. They actually have been scared away from working with the very people who they are supposedly representing and who are on their side.

Bush followers, along with their media allies, recognize the lurking power of the anti-Bush component of the blogosphere and -- for that very reason -- have been expending considerable efforts recently to demonize it as nothing but fringe, extremist lunatics who are political poison. Rather than combat that demonization, national Democrats -- as usual -- have meekly acquiesced to it -- even internalized it -- and are now intimidated to go anywhere near one of the very few vibrant, living and breathing instruments of political activism available to them.

Based on this condescending, frightened behavior, one would think that Democrats are enjoying one success after the next and don't want to do anything to jeopardize the great political machine they have built -- especially not do anything as risky and bizarre as work with the lowly throngs of people who are activated, interested, energized and eager to wage the battles against the Bush Administration. Despite their glaring need for new strategies, so many of these national Democrats are completely closed off to new ways of working because, it seems to me, so many of them are, at bottom, personally satisfied with their chronically defeated, minority status. They prefer to protect the safety of their own individual political positions than to try to find ways to end the string of victories by the Bush Administration.

The fact that so many Democrats are so resistant, even hostile, to one of the only venues which exists where truly impassioned and energized activism can be found illustrates just how dysfunctional and frightened they have become. They care far more about securing the approval of pompous establishment media pundits and even the approval of Bush allies who continuously push them around, than they do about working with the people who are on their side and actually winning.

They don't want to go anywhere near the citizen activism in the blogosphere because Tim Russert and Chris Matthews will no longer think they're a moderate, serious, responsible Democrat, and Republicans might accuse them of being an extremist or a liberal. They'd prefer to avoid that disapproval even it means losing (as it usually does), than be criticized and win. The reason they run away from their own allies in the blogosphere is the same reason they so often run away from taking a real stand against the Bush Administration -- it's because they are petrified that the establishment media and even Republicans will criticize them as being too combative, too liberal, extremist, etc.

As Crashing the Gate makes clear, the national Democratic apparatus is broken in so many ways, and the blogosphere and Internet-based citizen activism can either be the antidote for those problems or the force which wages battle against that dysfunctional machinery. Many of these frightened national Democrats are shutting their eyes tightly hoping that the blogosphere and its dirty masses just go away, or at least remain quiet and at a safe distance.

That obviously isn't going to happen. So the sooner Democrats realize that the blogosphere and citizen activism is something to embrace rather than scorn, the sooner it will be that they can find ways to finally cause the Bush Administration and all of its appendages to come crashing down.

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