Yearly Kos: Do blogs matter, anyway?

| Fri Jun. 9, 2006 8:14 PM EDT

Over at Townhall.com, Jeff Emanuel, a young conservative and himself a blogger, wonders if bloggers and blogs, particularly liberal ones, are all they're cracked up to be (as we in the Riviera Hotel and Casino strongly believe). He asks, specifically:

1) Is the Daily Kos model (and are blogs in general) the way of the future or just a flash in the pan?
2) Just how much influence, if any, do Moulitsas and his "Kos Kids" have within the Democrat Party?

Here's his gleeful take:

The Daily Kos model, and blogs in general, are not just a flash in the pan. The Kos has been among the most-viewed websites for several years now, and his exposure appears to be growing rather than receding. He's penned an article in the American Prospect and been the subject of a piece in Campaigns & Elections as well as other publications. As long as Air America is up and running (perhaps not long), Moulitsas will have a voice over the airwaves as well.

The bad news is that Kos has just about the most-viewed blog on the planet. The good news—-and it is very good [sic!]—-is that conservatives have not been afraid to follow suit and have jumped on the opportunities offered by this medium. With the exception of Daily Kos, nearly all of the top blogs in the nation—Michelle Malkin, Instapundit, Townhall, Little Green Footballs, Club for Growth, and others—are conservative. More and more Republicans in Congress are even being convinced of the merits of the blogosphere, the result of a Capitol Hill blogging revolution currently being engineered by new-media enthusiasts like David All, communications director for Representative Jack Kingston, R-GA. Blogs offer an extremely quick and efficient way to get information out to large numbers of people and will become more and more utilized in the future—-not less.

Fair points. It's certainly true that, as John Palfrey, Harvard's top Internet-watcher, puts it, Republicans "have been much more effective than Democrats, generally, at integrating blogging and other Internet tools within campaigns. Even the Democrats will say Republicans were much better at using these things functionally."

Emanuel goes on:

As to the second question, Kos and his Kids (perhaps unfortunately) have little or no influence over the day-to-day activities of the Democratic Party. They stand firmly against any principles which lie to the right of pure socialism; thus, they cannot support any candidate who could ever have a chance of winning an important election. ...

Well, this is nonsense. If "Kos and his Kids" lack influence, it's not because they're wild-eyed lefties. I'm not quite sure what Emanuel means by "pure socialism," but reading Kos's book on the plane ride over here I was mostly struck by his--and co-author Jerome Armstrong's--flexible, pragmatic approach to electoral politics. They argue that if Democrats want to win more votes they're going to have to tame their special interest groups, and those groups--be they pro-choicers, environmentalists, or what have you--are going to have to learn, on occasion, to subordinate their narrow concerns to the common good. That vision of the common good is broadly "liberal," no doubt, but not "left" in any predictable, dogmatic sense. (It can occasionally demand, for example, that Democrats throw their support behind anti-choice candidates.)

But the question remains: how important are bloggers to the Democratic Party? Or, as this piece puts it, "Can bloggers significantly affect turnout or shape issues, or are they mostly echo chambers with little measurable sway? Will those trends change as more Americans turn to the Internet to get news, nurture their personal relationships and make commercial transactions?"

The answer is...nobody seems to know. Liberal bloggers have notched up some notable successes, powering the meteoric (if short-lived) rises of Howard Dean and Paul Hackett. And though Hillary Clinton is conspicuously giving YKC 06 a miss, Mark Warner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Howard Dean are scheduled to drop by, and Wesley Clark looked in earlier today. Even so, though Kos himself sees the convention as evidence that "We have arrived," it's Warner's equivocal, hedging approach that seems to capture the uncertainty around the blogosphere's influence.

"When I go anyplace now, I'll usually call some of the key bloggers," said Warner, who also is hosting a party for bloggers at this week's convention. "I'm trying to shift the debate from 'left vs. right' to 'future vs. past.'...

Blogging, Warner said, "may just be the tip of the iceberg" in terms of the impact the Internet has on campaigns in 2008 and beyond.

"How significant is podcasting going to be? Text messaging and video messaging to cell phones?" he said. "As people look at new ways to slice and dice demographics, the personalized way somebody can talk to you as an individual voter about the issues you care about?"

Translation: I have no idea where this thing is going, but I've nothing to lose by rolling the dice on these guys--for now.

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