Sunday, January 29, 2006

Will Bloggers Save or Destroy the Democratic Party?

The recent decision of Sen. John Kerry to choose the popular Daily Kos blog as the platform from which to announce his decision to support a Senate filibuster in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Samuel Alito has the blogosphere and media world at large zooming with buzz.

Crystallizing and in some ways fueling the debate is a Saturday Washington Post piece entitled "Blogs Attack From Left as Democrats Reach for Center". While looking at a variety of ways in which blogs are affecting the political process, Staff Writer Jim VandeHei chose to portray the liberal and center-left focused blogosphere as a unified group enraged by the "gutless sellouts" that hold leadership positions in the Democratic Party.

There was an immediate pushback and response from blog land, as could be expected, led from the left by MyDD:

To be fair, there is some tension between the Democratic Party and the
progressive blogosphere. Unlike the rightist blogosphere, we tend to be a bit more independent and suspicious of power. But to pretend that we're in an all-out war is silly. If that were the case, I doubt the majority of us would still consider ourselves Democrats. Some of our favorite Democrats are people like Jack Murtha, the pro-life Harry Reid, and Russ Feingold, who voted to confirm Chief Justice Roberts. As Markos has pointed out time and again, the tension doesn't stem from ideology. It's all about entrenched power and reform.

Some blogs, MyDD included, felt it important to look at VandeHai's own purported bias as well as that of The Washington Post itself. The Left Coaster had this to say:

You can always tell when the traditional corporate conservative media and the Beltway Democrats start feeling a little heat from an energized and well-informed pushback by the center-left blogosphere. In the case of the media, and especially the GOP water-carrying Washington Post of late, their clueless ombudsperson Deborah Howell whined that the center-left bloggers were mean to her for pointing out her careless dismissal of easily-verifiable facts about the Abramoff/GOP connection.

Others, such as The News Blog, felt it important to apportion blame for Democratic failures in the appropriate place, namely with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, stating "… It is the DLC and friends who sandbag Democratic candidates and follow Republican talking points. Not the bloggers. We support Dems who fight, simple as that. Jack Murtha, Russ Feingold, doesn't matter. The only litmus test is a willingness to defend principles."

Markos Moulitsas ZĂșniga, the man behind the influential Daily Kos, also defended his right to call it like he sees it, saying, "There's nothing 'extreme left' with demanding Democrats act like Democrats, no matter how much these out-of-touch and self-important beltway insiders think it is." This comment, of course, touches on one of then presidential candidate Howard Dean's popular refrains during the heady early days of the 2004 primary season: I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

Conservatives, who are likely as concerned with encouraging a center-left split amongst Democrats as the Dems themselves are in unifying, brought a host of their own opinions to the digital table.

Captain's Quarters looked at the strategy behind Kerry's appearance on Daily Kos and what it means for his and the Democratic Party's political future:

Democrats should take careful note of this development, which shows exactly how desperate Kerry has become in his desire to win the Presidency. He knows that the party establishment will have nothing to do with another Kerry candidacy, having failed miserably against a vulnerable George Bush. This week, in his decision to post at Daily Kos (which he disavowed during his campaign after Kos' "Screw them" statement) and his sudden passion for a filibuster, he has now separated himself from the current party leadership to make himself the chief representative of the activist base. He wants to convince the bloggers and the special-interest groups that run the Democratic Party that he speaks for them, not for some namby-pamby centrist urge promoted by the Democratic Leadership Council.

JustOneMinute took the angle of relating the changes the blogosphere has brought in how politicians and candidates have to approach base and special interest constituencies, where the energy and money to drive a successful campaign always lies:

I would guess that blogs and the internet have made the unelectable left even better organized and harder to work around; the days when a candidate could tell Barbra Streisand what she wanted to hear, pocket her check, then tell the public something that made sense are long over.

The Volokh Conspiracy shed light on the difference between how conservatives and progressives/liberals utilize media in saying, "Think of it this way – if John Kerry were a conservative, he would have probably phoned-in a filibuster to Rush Limbaugh rather than blogging on Daily Kos."

At the end of Sunday morning's installment of Meet the Press, host Tim Russert, in response to NBC Correspondent Kelly O'Donnel's speculation that President Bush would like to see Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice run for president, said, "Whoa, that's going to get the blogs a-running!"

No matter how blogs influence the political process –- and this will surely change and morph over time to the chaotic pace of the Internet itself –- there can be no doubt now that the influence is significant, and growing.

Althouse summed up the significance of Kerry's decision by saying, "Kerry could have found a forum in any number of places. And the fact is, the NYT was calling for a filibuster too."

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