The left-wing blogosphere is MUCH more powerful than what you see on the right this cycle and it reminds us of the advantage Bush had in '04. While we all know about that so-called right-wing voice machine, don’t forget that there is now a left-wing noise machine (on the internet) as well. And it has found its voice.
The Politico's Ben Smith points to the media bulldozing on the Left and says "It's just a small glimpse, I think, of the level of heat the media is going to take in the general election, and John McCain doesn't seem to have any equivalent."
That's true. The Right has what might informally be called a "noise machine", but it is a product of the time in which it was created: the 70's, 80's and 90's. It has never really evolved.
Meanwhile, the Left - in particular, the Progressives - have built a very powerful, very effective noise machine and they have built it both online and off. There are many cultivated (funded, strategic) elements to it, but the base - the underlying elements that make the cultivated, funded elements really effective - is basically organic. The Right, I fear, is going to try to reproduce those organic elements through cultivation - or, worse, by funding the existing infrastructure to "do something online" - and they're going to fail. Miserably. I'd be glad to change my mind about this, but almost everything I've seen suggests that the Right just doesn't understand why the Left has been successful at this, so they're throwing their resources at misguided projects.
Meanwhile, the Leftosphere continues to have an impact, with the Leftroots effectively (and regularly) pressuring politicians and candidates to adopt the agenda they create and promote.
So why - with very rare exceptions - can't the Rightosphere do that? Fundamentally, the Rightosphere can't do that (effectively) because the Right doesn't have the gravitational pull to draw candidates to its agenda. The Left has a well-organized blogosphere that can do three things for Progressive candidates:
Messaging - between Moveon.org, the blogs and the many issue-advocacy outfits, the Leftosphere has a very powerful communication mechanism for candidates and issues. They have messaging and distribution capacity and it is well-coordinated with advocacy and awareness elements of their coalition.
Money - the Presidential money is high-profile and not every candidate gets a lot of online money, but the Leftroots can move significant sums of money to the challengers that hit the right notes, make the right friends, and jump into the hot progressive issues. They have succeeded in tapping the long tail to move fundraising - and the financial incentive machine - outside of the establishment channels.
Mobilization - the Progressives are passionate, energized, over their ideas. They have a story they're excited about, they have effectively tied their stories together and they're tightly wedded to the (dangerous) tactic of populism. They're unified around that mission, so they can and do mobilize people. Again, that moves significant power outside the traditional channels.
The Leftroots can deliver messaging, money and mobilization, so Democratic candidates become path-dependent on them. They have sufficient power to move politicians to their ideas. The Right does not.
Meanwhile, what is the Right passionate about right now? Not much. To build an online infrastructure as effective as the Leftosphere, the Right must find its own story to tell - an organic story, relevant to current grievances, with politically viable solutions - about which people can be passionate, around which a coalition can rally.
The Right can accomplish the same thing, but it cannot start on third base. The Right has to develop the gravitational pull before it tries to pull the political system into its orbit. That may be complicated, but I don't believe it is actually difficult to do. However, it is not something that can be done simply by funding more of the same Old Guards. If the Right is to do something about the current long train of abuses and bad government, it must, to borrow from the Declaration of Independence, "provide new Guards".
The observation about the "organic" nature of the netroots is important. Part of the reason that Rush was successful was there was an audience that was tailor-made for him. White working class or middle class men (and women) who were riding in their trucks or cars to work or around a jobsite could flip him on and listen to him. These were people who were already disenchanted with liberalism, but with Rush they found something to rally around. Every time the Left tries talk radio they fail, mainly because their people just aren’t listening to the radio.
I think there’s a similar phenomenon with the internet. It is a great way to organize young, upwardly-mobile, left libertarians, mainly because in my experience those are the people were are drawn to the internet to begin with. You can’t just "make" that happen, no matter how many billions of dollars you spend.
The Left has billionaire patrons who are providing a quasi sense of organization and purpose to their superficially disconnected agents. They have people for who that is their day job.
The Left and Right have always had political philanthropists. The Right built many projects in the 70’s and 80’s with the help of millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The problem, as far as I can tell, is that the Right has created an entrenched bureaucracy of institutions, establishments and paths. They’re not often relevant to, or effective within, the new media space. And the emerging political landscape (and media dynamics) are being created by that space. As Sean says, the current conditions favor what the Left has and has built.
I think what you consider a weakness might be a strength. More decentralized, organic on-line groups may be more effective than top-down organizations. Also, the Left has a few larger issues that drive them now: the war and healthcare while the Right doesn’t have many issues except to keep with existing polices - I think that’s means the Right has been winning and is defending gains.
If the Dems win big, all of a sudden the Right will have tons of issues to attack on...and I wonder if this is not why some people on the right want to sit out this election...defending McCain (or Bush) can be exhausting, while sniping at Hillary or Obama can be fun.
Oh, and the nutroots have forced the Dems to support such losers as Lamont which helpfully alienated Lieberman and other moderate Dems.
Jon - I’ve been thinking about this a bit over the last few years too. I think you are hitting at the right pressure points. Maybe part of the problem is that seeing policies that you fervently disagree with motivates political activism more than seeing politics you are lukewarm/cold too - meaning that an Obama presidency should have the silver lining of at least providing plenty of motivating force for the old libertarian/conservative unholy alliance.
The Right will not match the Left’s structure until it feels it needs to. Which will be when it either loses the Presidency, or effectively loses Congress. (i.e., not by a narrow margin, but by a margin so large that the Left can push through anything it wants with at least a filibuster-proof majority, if not a veto-proof majority). Until then, it won’t happen.
Once the need is perceived, it will come together quite quickly. The technology gets better and cheaper every year, and it’s not as if there’s really any secret sauce to making social websites... basically you make a whole lot of them and see what sticks. Motivation is the missing piece.
Presidential elections are won by party turnout and by capturing the middle.
The Democrats have two candidates, one very very far Left, and one not Left enough for the nutroots, but who nonetheless is a longtime Leftist who specializes in being a centrist poseur.
As Thomas Sowell put it — as a disaffected conservative libertarian — John McCain could not convince him to vote for McCain. Only Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could convince him to vote for McCain.
If nutroot activism helps turn out the nutroot base that’s a challenge that can be met, as it was in ’04 by Rove’s huge grassroots turnout effort.
Whether that happens or not is what the election is about. The GOP’s chief disadvantage is war weariness with what is seen as a GOP war, disenchantment with its architect (Bush), and a desire for "change."
The GOP’s job is to show precisely how the "change" being offered is more government offering more free stuff, which is bad and gives the government more control over your life.
One of the keys to winning the election is to turn the Left’s organized nutroots into a GOP asset by showing them to be the arrogant, radical, treacherous loutish slobs that they are, e.g., that whiney imbecile Kos and his followers. The fact that they have their own nightly MSNBC program that panders to them with the rantings of that neo-Nazi Olbermann is not an advantage. That’s a lot of explicit leg for such a radical movement to be exposing.
The lack of interest so far on the GOP side is the result of no enthusiasm among the base for any of the candidates. McCain is not a base favorite, to put it mildly (see Sowell’s comment, again).
The huge interest on the Democratic side is the result of a hot contest between the pre-crowned favorite, Hillary Clinton, and the new prince of liberals, Obama, and of course the hatred of "Bush" (in quotes because the object of this hate does not actually exist, and is a the product of the far Left’s malignant imagination). Neither "Bush" nor Bush is running this time, much to the nutroot’s chagrin, I’m sure.
McCain can win the election as the comfortable old shoe, who is neither a third term for Bush nor a Leftist radical who will nationalize health care. But who is a moderate who is not strongly connected to the GOP conservative base.
McCain is a good candidate, but he will make a terrible president. His advantage is that Clinton would be a horrible president and Obama would be catastrophic.
Merely terrible and somewhat moderate gives McCain an advantage.
Clinton is the tougher opponent. Obama the easier (I really don’t see him winning Florida or Ohio, no matter what he promises, nor is he going to win anything in the South — like Virginia — and he could even lose some other surprise states).
Obama’s is a McGovern candidacy with the added ingredient that Obama is getting creepier by the moment, just like the nutroots who are devoted to him.
Good campaign mechanics would give McCain not an easy but a pretty clear win over Obama. The Clinttons, on the other hand, know how to beat Republicans, and they know how to go after the middle. That doesn’t mean that she can’t be beat, because she is an awful candidate and if she gets the nomination now black voters will stay home in droves.
The rise of right-wing talk radio was a result of the democratic president. The rise of the left-wing internet communities was a result of the right being in control of the government. I fully expect the trend to reverse and we will see the rise of a strong right-wing internet community if a democrat win the presidency.
Which is worse, a Bush endorsement(33% approval rating)
OR the press’ endorsement?
"The poll also showed a significantly declining percentage of Americans say they believe all or most media news reporting compared to those who participated in the 2003 poll. Currently, 19.6 percent of those surveyed said they believe all or most news media reporting, down from 27.4 percent in 2003."
The poll revealed that Americans generally gave the national news media poor ratings in six different areas measured. The average positive ratings were:
Quality of reporting — 40.7 percent Accuracy of reporting — 36.9 percent Keeping any personal bias out of stories — 33.3 percent Fairness — 31.3 percent Presenting an even balance of views — 30.4 percent Presenting negative and positive news equally — 27.5 percent
Additionally, the poll showed a growing perception that the media try to sway public opinion, 87.6 percent, up from 79.3 percent in 2003, and public policy, 86 percent versus 76.7 percent in 2003." [link]
I wonder when the press will start reporting what people think of them.
The GOP’s chief disadvantage is war weariness with what is seen as a GOP war, disenchantment with its architect (Bush), and a desire for "change."
Don’t leave out The Economy. Today as ever, many many people hold the president and his party personally responsible when gas and grocery prices get a little scary. That may be irrational and unfounded, but people who think that way vote in droves.
At this moment, however sound our overall economy, however far we are from anything even approximating a depression, prices are a little scary.
Even so, pocketbook voters are apt to be more scared of Obama and his America-hating clique than they are of rising prices.
But Clinton, in the eyes of the economically squeezed — hey, not only is she not a Republican, she’s got a name and a comic sidekick that slews of voters associate with a bygone era of high times and easy living.
However it uses the blogosphere between now and November, the GOP needs, right now, to encourage big Obama wins in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, and to do anything and everything in their power to tamp down prices at the pumps.
"Meanwhile, the Leftosphere continues to have an impact, with the Leftroots effectively (and regularly) pressuring politicians and candidates to adopt the agenda they create and promote. "
Whether that influence is actually helping or hurting the Democratic party is arguable. The structural differences that distinguish in how noise builds and how energies are directed on the right are a feature not a bug. There were huge ideological differences between contenders for the Republican nomination, where the arguments amongst us were passionate and intense, but fundamentally political. There are almost no discernable ideological differences between the Democratic contenders, where in contrast, the arguments are abusive, vitriolic, and personal. "Progressive" noisemakers on the left have yet to make any substantive electoral or legislative gains and are effectively tearing their putative party apart, turning what should have been yet another Democratic given in ’08 into yet another open question. Study them in order to avoid their pyrrhic victories, not emulate them.
"Progressive" noisemakers on the left have yet to make any substantive electoral or legislative gains
Other than delivering control of the US Senate, you mean? They did that. And they’ve won quite a few other races, both primaries and general elections.
The Democratic gains in 2006 were typical for the out party in the sixth year, second midterm elections when the other party has controlled the White House.
Left the economy out because it’s not clear where it will be in September-October.
It’s not clear where the economy is now.
We’ve seen a credit/liquidity crisis, but I don’t think that we know enough about this economy to say where it’s headed. Paradigms are shifting when it comes to monetary issues. (Which is not to say that truly bad monetary policy can’t kill an economy; I’m talking about the nature of a credit crisis in an economy that has all sorts of poorly understood market inputs.}
But, It’s always a good time to convert statist programs like Socialist Insecurity and Medicare to private programs, and let the market take care of retirement pensions and health care. That would add good complexity to the market, and reinvigorate the American economic engine.
Basically, I think it comes down to the fact that conservatives are really true spirits, who go with what interests them. In the ’sphere, we tend to go after the liberal media and the liberal agenda. On the port side, they seem to exist to get Dems elected.
You do not see fundraising buttons on conservative sites that often, and, when they are there, it is usually around election time. They seem to be there all the time for the big liberal players.
Once you get beyond the big players on the port side, the smaller liberal blogs tend to parrot what they big folks say. You will get some of that on the right, but, typically, when folks start linking up, they are offering their own viewpoints, rather then being parrots.
The Democratic gains in 2006 were typical for the out party in the sixth year, second midterm elections when the other party has controlled the White House.
That’s quite unresponsive to the situation described. Races have been swung by the blogs, and they continue to wield a great deal of influence based on the impact they’ve already had. You can dismiss it all you like, but the people actually involved in those races know just how big an impact the blogs had. And still have.
While I agree that the left has such mechanisms in place, I wonder a bit if you don’t over-estimate their ability to change minds, which is what one presumes such mechanisms are for, in the end..
As an example, have they helped solve the debacle of Obama vs Clinton? If they can’t use these new communications effectively in their internal squabbles, and have demonstrably been unable to change minds within the party, with people who supposedly are already friendly to the basics of leftist politics, are we really going to see them being that much more effective with the general electorate than they’ve been in the past several cycles?
That’s quite unresponsive to the situation described.
Noting a large-scale historical trend is "unresposive to the situation described?"
Races have been swung by the blogs,
Races are swung by a lot of things, but the fact remains that the ’06 gains by Democrats are typical of out party gains in the sixth year, second midterms of a two-term presidency. That seems to be the trend that often applies in Congressional elections whether the media is newspapers, television, telephones, blogs, etc.
and they continue to wield a great deal of influence based on the impact they’ve already had.
So does television. But the media, whatever it is, has to be a reflection of something. Voter weariness of the party in the White House, for instance.
You can dismiss it all you like,
I’m not dismissing it. I’m just noting that the ’06 outcome didn’t show an unusual reversal of fortune for the party in the White House for its second term at the second midterm elections
but the people actually involved in those races know just how big an impact the blogs had. And still have.
Blogs are part of the political discourse. My opinion is that most people go to most blogs to have their opinions confirmed, or to gain clarity about their own positions. If blogs tend to make people more vocal about their positions, then that could account for increased turnout. But your warning suggests that Democrats have an advantage this year because (in what is clearly a Democratic year) blogs and other online media are more centrally organized on the Democratic side. But from my point of view the real diversity in blogs is on the conservative and libertarian side, which is far less centralized, has a much greater range of interests, talks much more directly not just to individuals but to the question of individualism, and thus has much less of a herd instinct.
In the big old larger world out there I think that the cranky individualism of the right side of the blogosphere is ultimately more appealing than the neo-fascist sissies of the more centralized Kos world.
So, sure, blogs do play a role. Do they move any given contest as much as 1%? I doubt that. There are too many factors. Blogs might in fact be truly a subset of word of mouth, as opposed to a true media alternative.
I’m shocked by the uniformity of opinion on the Left, which I know to be based on a selection of fact that rigorously fits the opinion. That is the extent of rigor on the Left. So, if that conclusion is true, then I can go on to conclude that blogs are not an instrument of learning, for the Left. They are an instrument of conformity, sans thought.
Which is why I always counsel people on the right to stop framing debates in terms of the Left’s conventional wisdom. For instance, you can never gain perspective on the war in Iraq if you frame your understaning of it within the confines of the Left’s conventional wisdom.
The way for the right to counter the Left’s centralization of its position in the blogosphere is to increase interaction with its (the right’s) many nodes, not impersonate the Left, whose means and methods are suited to its clients, who need pre-formed and repetitious conclusions to fit their narrow selection of facts, indeed their narrow exposure to facts, much less perspective.
At the heart of the Left, in its base, is a neo-fascist mass movement that perpetually accuses anything that disagrees with it of being fascist. (The unknowing use of the term reflecting about the intellectual solvency of the Left.) At the heart of the right is a coalition of individuals who want freedom to move within a context of recognizable values, as opposed to submitting one’s life to the care of the government in exchange for the faux individuality of the libertine. While the right is willing to tolerate libertines; libertines have no tolerance at all for freedom, which is as ironic as their habit, as true fascists, of calling fascists those who seek greater personal responsibility and less government.
I think that you can draw a conclusion that even the Leftist method of organizaing itself will be unsuited to the right, which far more than the Left needs room to turn around and look at a lot more things than the Left has any desire for.
Give the neo-fascist Left enough road and they will march themselves off a cliff. Give them power and they will try to drive the country off a cliff.
Their method of organization is inherent to what they are, and if the right fights back, it should do so as a coalition of individuals who acknowledge one another on the political battlefield and call on people to think a little.
Other than delivering control of the US Senate, you mean?
And exactly how many of those seats did the Progressive noise machine deliver? They were won by moderate and conservative Dems, despite progressive efforts to make candidates tow their line, and that may well be a large part of why Republicans have successfully stymied so much of the Democratic agenda. Not to mention rather famously turning Joe Lieberman — the party’s own Vice Presidential candidate! — into a free agent. That extraordinary achievement is helping John McCain right now. Their first gift to party, of course, and one that keeps on giving, was Howard Dean.
I’d argue that constant gloom and doom from folks like Pelosi, Reid & Co along with continuous belittling of Bush & Co by media pundits has had a far greater impact on the country’s mood than the leftist blogosphere. The role that Rohm Emmanuel & Chuck Schumer played was nothing to be sneezed at, and Hastert’s House Republicans did the rest, a fact which your reverse triumphalism also neglects. If the ’08 elections are not the total rout that, by any measure, should be a Democratic given, I’ll be thanking the noisemakers. You have accurately described them as an organic movement, but that means they are answerable to no one but themselves and makes them more wild card than reliable base.
It’s not our settings. The commenter "Cannoneer" left a massive link for his URL and the page stretched to fit it. I’ve had to delete the comment to get rid of the problem.
Totally unreadable. No point in me returning.
Guess you won’t see the answer to your question then.
And exactly how many of those seats did the Progressive noise machine deliver? They were won by moderate and conservative Dems, despite progressive efforts to make candidates tow their line, and that may well be a large part of why Republicans have successfully stymied so much of the Democratic agenda.
Well, there’s no question that Progressive blog support delivered Virginia for Webb. They did, and everybody from Webb to his opponents recognizes that. You don’t seem to understand the leftroots very well, as evidenced by your apparent impression that some "moderate" Dems won "despite" the netroots, and your apparent lack of recognition of the importance of the Dean campaign and movement. I don’t intend to write a thesis on it in the comment section here, but I would suggest you study them much more closely. Superficial snark is no substitute for careful analysis.
And tagging a thoughtful response as superficial snark is not a helpful substitute for addressing the multiple points I raised. Jim Webb is hardly a liberal in the progressive mode, and Allen ultimately met his "macaca" Waterloo on the tube. Dealing with progressive bloggers strikes me as a kind of political snake handling, and that divisive, potentially poisonous model is not one that I’d like to see Republicans pursuing. You have yet to make a convincing case that it has been a net positive, so to speak, for the Democratic party rather than a major factor in the party’s current disarray. I recognize the importance of the Dean campaign. I would suggest that his agenda and tenure at the DLC deserve much closer scrutiny, because I believe the consequences are playing out in the conceivably disastrous Democratic nomination battle right now.
Jim Webb is hardly a liberal in the progressive mode, and Allen ultimately met his "macaca" Waterloo on the tube.
You really don’t seem to understand what you’re talking about, so I’ll make this last response and let it go. No, Webb was not a perfect Progressive candidate. But they embraced him anyway, because they realized that he was with them on some important areas, they knew he was electable and they knew he was the best shot they had in Virginia. They were right. And yes, Allen did make his own mistakes, but who was it that built the narrative that made the macaca story so important, and who was it that broke and drove the narrative of the macaca story? It was bloggers. Who was it that put Donna Edwards over the top in her race against Al Wynn? Bloggers. Who was it that drove stories and donations that culminated in the unseating of numerous Republican Representatives? The Netroots.
Blogger influence is not without its potential downsides, of course, but you don’t seem to be event remotely aware of what they’ve done, how they’ve done it or why it matters. If all you know is that Democrats sometimes fight, and you think this is the product of Howard Dean’s tenure at the DNC, then perhaps you should spend more time learning about what’s happening, rather than wading in to announce your ignorance. That kind of naive presumption looks ridiculous to the people who have been watching this stuff up close.
In 2004 when John Kerry got the nomination he had to essentially open brand new Democratic party offices in numerous states. In 2008 when Obama finally gets the nomination he won’t have to do so. There are funded Democratic offices across the country, even in blood red states like Alaska. Unlike in the past the Democratic party is not something that needs to grow anew every 2-4 years, but instead is working and building between elections. If this is Howard Dean screwing up I beg him to screw up some more.
Well, there’s no question that Progressive blog support delivered Virginia for Webb.
Oh? No question? No question for whom?
They did, and everybody from Webb to his opponents recognizes that.
And they picked the "progressive blogs" as cause to the effect out of the political hairball precisely how? There’s a tight fit here even on correlation (unless you live in a caricature of elections where the instrument that you wield in the contest is drawn like a pair of ears six times the size of the head).
Virginia began trending back toward Democrats in the previous governor’s races.
What percentage of voters watched the Webb-Allen race develop on television or newspapers as opposed to following it on blogs? And just touching a blog a few times doesn’t equate to getting drenched in TV ads and commentary. How about direct mail? How about automated phone calls?
More than anything else the Webb-Allen race suggests to me that the bonds of affection between voters and Allen were weak. Webb — though an incredible ass — nonetheless had some "background," as they call it in the South, as a genuine military man. And the war in Iraq was not going well at that time.
And it was a classical moment for party switchers: again, sixth year midterms in a two-term presidency. Weariness of the party in the White House.
I don’t intend to write a thesis on it in the comment section here, but I would suggest you study them much more closely. Superficial snark is no substitute for careful analysis.
Start shoveling the data right down that chute that your shoveling the assertions. Your thesis is clear; put something, anything, down to back it up.
Because you’re not exactly making a statement against interest here.
I think you’re confusing the argument here. Nobody is saying that blogs are the sole driver of the election. But blogs have driven the narrative, the media coverage and the grasstops conventional wisdom sufficiently to make a very significant marginal difference.
Jon, I think you should make posts when you see the left blogosphere doing this kind of thing, to flesh out this idea with examples. Like, I can kind of believe that bloggers did Allen in, because I read Brendan Nyhan and he laid the groundwork with all those examples about the noose in the office and stuff. If you were making posts saying, "See this article? It came about because of Brendan Nyhan" then it would make a little more sense. It seems to me that hardly anybody reads Brendan Nyhan, though, so I don’t know if I believe he had that big of an impact. But I don’t read Daily Kos, so I can’t evaluate your belief that they have a huge impact on elections. They get a couple politicians to come to their get-together, is all I know.
Martin, what are you trying to say by saying the swing is typical for the sixth year, etc, etc? That the swing is totally explained by the factors that caused the other sixth-year swings, so blogs don’t matter? If you look at other sixth-year swings, won’t you find they’re driven by farmers’ parties or labor unions or other forces that were not driving this election, so that if nothing like blogs had come up, the Democrats would have lost?