While praising Chris' excellent piece, Ed Kilgore
falls into the very trap Chris describes, seeing the Blogosphere as an "interest group":
Interesting and valuable as it is, Chris' analysis doesn't quite come to grips with . . . issues.
. . . The second issue is the bigger one: the question of exactly how much impact any activists have on rank-and-file opinion, especially in a widely contested presidential nominating process like the one we'll probably see in 2008.
Why is this an issue for Ed? Is it an issue how much influence the DLC has on "rank and file opinion?" This comment reminds me of the classic swipe at Markos - the "0 for 16" crap - not considering that kos was not picking the Kos 8 in order to pad his record, but to help Dems be competitive everywhere. Do we need to quantify "how much impact" the "blogosphere has?
We already know Washington Elite Activists have never had the power to simply impose their will on the Democratic electorate, long before there was any netroots. Lyndon Johnson in 1968, Ed Muskie in 1972, a whole host of candidates in 1976, Ted Kennedy in 1980--these were all "DC elite activist" candidates who crashed and burned. And by the same token, Democratic nominees George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton had limited support from those quarters when they first ran for president.
The "netroots" activists are too new to have that kind of humiliating track record, but the fate of their two favorite 2004 candidates, Howard Dean and Wes Clark, cannot simply be dismissed as irrelevant. This is by now an ancient argument, but I'm struck by the unwillingness of many Dean veterans (more now, oddly enough, than at the time it was happening) to worry about the fact that the campaign peaked before a single actual Democratic voter had a chance to say anything about it. Yes, there were many factors that contributed to Dean's demise, with media obsession about "the scream" being one of them, but the widespread assumption in the netroots that Dean was "taken down" by Washington Democrats unfortunately avoids reflection on the possibility that all the cash and energy and excitement simply were not communicable to actual voters.
I think that is an interesting take in that (a) Was Clark REALLY a pure netroots candidate? I was for Clark and became involved in the Left Blogs BECAUSE of my support for him, not vice versa. I imagine Dean's support happened the same way. I think there is a real misinderstanding of the Dean phenomenon still. An unknown Vermont Governor came real close to winning the nomination with NO institutional support. That is hardly descriptive of the Clinton ascendance in 92, or the Dukakis win in 88. Of course, Dean did not win, so the limits in 2004 were apparent. But what it signalled was a new financial approach in politics, and it mattered and matters. Hillary would be impossible to beat BUT FOR this new method because no one can match her traditional fundraising. But that simply is not true anymore.
In other words, activists of every class and every stripe are important to what happens in 2008, and perhaps netroots hostility to Hillary Clinton is a leading indicator of an attitude that could eventually engulf an HRC campaign (if she actually runs, which I for one am not that sure about). But in the end, it truly is about the party rank-and-file, and even the independent voters who participate in many key stages of the nominating process. All of us activists need to remember that, and regularly balance our self-regard with a slice of humble pie.
Of course that is obvious. No one will dominate and the Left Blogs are not monolithic. Did Chris need to consider being a bit more humble? Yes and no.
I believe that Hillary Clinton is disliked by a large segment of the progressive activist base primarily because she is perceived by the activist base as standing with the progressive activist elite. In 200, I believe the Democratic candidate who will do best among the netroots will be the candidate who does the best job of overtly distancing themselves from the progressive activist elite while still representing him or herself as standing with the progressive activist base. In retrospect, this is pretty much exactly how the Dean campaign was able to portray itself, and portray Howard Dean, to the activist base in 2003. I intentionally list the Dean campaign and Howard Dean as two separate entities, because for any Presidential campaign to succeed among the netroots next cycle, it needs to portray not only its candidate, but itself as representative of the progressive activist base.
Figuring out exactly how a campaign does this will not be easy. In order for any campaign to pull it off, they will need to draw upon staffers and consultants from within the netroots itself. It is simply not possible to use institutional staffers and well-heeled consultants to pull this off, and not just because I don't believe such staffers and consultants would understand the nature of the beast with which they are dealing. The main problem is that the use of institutional staffers and well-heeled consultants are one of the primary complaints the progressive activist base has against the progressive elite, and no matter how brilliant those people may or may not be, they will usually be considered part of the problem on an a priori level.
No in that Chris is not arrogating a special power to the blogospere, merely describing his view of how it works and what motivates it. I think he is wrong by the way.
But yes in his view that "consultants from the netroots" will be needed. I do think that seems not arrogant exactly, but, well, I think Chris places more belief in the idea that the netroots will look to "netroots consultants" for guidance that I do.
Comments are closed on this story.