Article out today on In These Times entitled “Can Blogs Revolutionize Progressive Politics?” attempts to answer that question, but misses the boat for the most part. Of course most of the talk is about Kos and MyDD, but I think that misses an important factor that is building and will continue to build into something even more than the millions who gripe and parrot over on the big box blogs: networks of connected, local, and engaged political blogs.
While Chaudrey quotes notable big box blogger Matt Stoller saying things like:
Stoller predicts that as an organizing tool, ?blogs are going to play the role that talk radio did in 1994, and that church networks did in 2002.?
…she never defines how that might happen. I don’t think Kos and company can be the end all be all. In fact, I think it works quite the opposit. There are many on Kos and MyDD who keep local blogs and put something up when they want to spread the word nationally or focus more attention on something. So it works in a bottom up way and not necessarily top down. Big blogs are a great way to get the word out and leverage a very large base of netroots (see Paul Hackett circa August 2005). But the real leverage that exists is in the power of the highly distrubuted and loosely connected network of local and regional blogs. Of course there is top-down messaging and activism possible via the 3Bs (big box blogs), but that requires this network of engaged folks (whether diarists or indie bloggers) who will initiate the “blogswarm”.
Case in point where this national focus misses the regional boat is this snippet:
When Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) decided to take on Iraq veteran Paul Hackett in the Democratic primary for the Senate race in Ohio, he moved quickly to neutralize his opponent?s advantage as the unquestioned hero of the progressive bloggers. The ace up Brown?s sleeve: Jerome Armstrong, founder of the influential MyDD.com and veteran of Howard Dean?s online campaign. Brown?s next move was a blog entry on The Huffington Post titled, ?Why I am a Progressive.?
…and that’s pretty much where she leaves it. Now you and I know that the most important blogosphere is not at all neutralized. You know, the one in O-H-I-O. Sure, Brown may have effectively bought and paid for some in the 3B, but his home state bloggers are far from neutralized. I’d even go so far as to say they are anti-neutralized. Stirred up like a rising swarm of pissed off wasps that are looking to sting him at every turn. I’ve seen a great lot of them turn even from being avid Sherrod supporters to downright hostile toward him – and I don’t even have to mention names on that one.
But that is the ever-living myth of the 3B, and a misuse of their power in my estimation. The way the emphasized part of the above quote is written adds to the deep sense of distrust many of us felt when stories flipped based on ads placed on 3B sites.
Then the real kicker is the mention of GrowOhio:
This time around, Armstrong is determined to match the GOP?s success. GrowOhio.org, which he describes as ?a community blog for Democratic Party activists,? will coordinate field operations for not just Brown but all Democratic candidates in each of Ohio?s 88 counties. Its primary goal is to reach rural voters in areas where the campaign cannot field organizers on the ground.
I have a mental image of a sign hanging on a cafe which reads “Out To Lunch”. The author should maybe spend some time on Ohio blogs and realize that people are calling this site “Groan Ohio” and we have all figured out with a quickness that this site is less about growing a base of Dem activists than it is about promoting Sherrod Brown for Senate. The problem being that it is NOT party based, but candidate based. For whatever reason, there is not much activity there and if this is the gauge upon which Ohio grassroots activism will be measured in ’06, we are hurtin’ bad folks!
So Jerome is going to have his ‘net outreach coordinators in all 88 counties. Nice. I wonder if they will be utilizing the existing structure of the blogs already out there or reinvent the wheel again a la Grow Ohio. It’s probably just blither blather for the article. What is telling is the grand total of 3 comments on all front page articles on Grow Ohio today, along with video of Sherrod at the candidate’s forum as well as more Sherrod video from WKYC. All Sherrod, all the time.
Some argue, well yes of course it is Sherrod focused because he started it and finances it. OK, then don’t call it an Ohio grassroots building site. Call it what it is, a site to build grassroots support for Brown and people Brown likes. Otherwise it feels like bait and switch…which some are obviously already feeling due to the cobwebs and crickets chirping.
Apparently Markos and Jerome both miss the boat in their forthcoming book when they say:
We are at the beginning of a comprehensive reformation of the Democratic Party?driven by committed progressive outsiders. Online activism on a nationwide level, coupled with offline activists at the local level ? can provide the formula for a quiet, bloodless coup that can take control of the party. Money and mobilization are the two key elements of all political activity, and if the netroots have their way, the financial backbone of the Democratic Party will be regular people.
No guys, not national online and local offline – the true formula is national online, local online, and local offline activism. I understand that doesn’t do much for your readership, but it is the more workable plan…if in fact you are interested more in a workable plan than readership.