This whole unseemly contest business (have we no shame? paging SATSQ…) reminds me of one of my favorite posts from the not too distant past. I don’t know whether anyone has seriously debated why RedState has plateaued while Kos can’t add servers fast enough (I have no doubt that many people have unseriously debated it). As far as I can tell it doesn’t have much to do with a disparity in talent, in fact just the reverse. Opening my shit umbrella, I think that the stable of writers at RS at least holds their own in terms of basic writing and reasoning.
One shouldn’t dismiss the insurgent advantage. Having everything to attack and little to defend energized the liberal blogosphere and left the rightwing blogosphere with the awkward choice between defending the government (not a great place under any administration, and most particularly this one) or hurting the movement. More than that I think people realize blogosphere left faces real trouble when when and if Dems sweep government in ’09. At the very least partisans have to reconsider their relationship with muckrakers like Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum contrarians, and I honestly can’t wait to watch Glenn Greenwald become an intolerable pain in the ass for movementarians on the left.
Even so the insurgent advantage only gets us partway there. An equal component of the leftosphere’s success clearly comes from the distinct attitudes that Democrats and Republicans have towards us noisy, undisciplined hordes in the netroots. Practically every day now a Democratic politician stops by Kos to ask for support or forgiveness on whatever issue of the day, and half the time they don’t get it. Instead they get abuse, sometimes to a comical degree. Yet they keep coming back. The leadership treats internet leaders like allies. The story on the right is a bit different. From that post I mentioned at the outset:
Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank that in recent months has been advising Democratic members of Congress and their staffs on how to take full advantage of the Web, argues that the culture of Democrats is a much better fit in the Internet world.
“What was once seen as a liability for Democrats and progressives in the past—they couldn’t get 20 people to agree to the same thing, they could never finish anything, they couldn’t stay on message—is now an asset,” Leyden said. “All this talking and discussing and fighting energizes everyone, involves everyone, and gets people totally into it.”
As the old saw goes, ask three Democrats and get four opinions. The flip side of that has long helped to explain the huge popularity of conservatism in the old media. Researchers like Bob Altmeyer have exhaustively demonstrated that conservative followers like being told what to think and conservative leaders don’t tolerate input from the masses. In that way radio is the perfect medium, sending the Party line through a select group of reliable disseminators to the polloi with little chance for feedback, which liberals value but authoritarians hate.[…] I cannot make my point any better than this recent exchange: (via)
Rep. John Linder, a Republican from Duluth and a member of the steering committee that made the Calvert appointment, was the first congressional office targeted for calls by RedState.com. But Linder brushed off the online critics.
“I really don’t pay much attention to blogs,” he said. “You can say anything on those blogs without any attribution and get away with it.”
Liberal blogs have been influential, the Georgia lawmaker acknowledged. But he dismissed their conservative counterparts, saying, “I don’t pay any attention to them.”
Even some conservative bloggers object to the new blog activism.
“If you look at the top tier of right-wing bloggers, they’re almost unfailingly civil,” wrote Dean Barnett for the opinion Web site Townhall.com.
He charged that Erickson was trying to turn right-wing Web sites into “the kingmakers that the left-wing blogs are.”
It is hard to imagine a more trenchant, telling and dispiriting exchange for conservative bloggers than this short anecdote. A Republican lawmaker outright says that the influence of GOP blogs is a pale shadow of their Dem counterparts, and more than that, this subservient position in the political discourse is exactly where he thinks they belong.
I don’t have any particular beef with Erick and RedState, and even if I disagree with practically every post I respect what they’re trying to do. It seems to me that they’re up against an institutional disadvantage that runs deeper than just having to defend government rather than criticize it. With luck some years in the wilderness will improve Republican leadership the way it (sort of) did for the Democrats. It will only be good when when the party treats well-intentioned members trying to effect change from the inside like a squeaky wheel rather than like an unhammered nail.
Ron Paul. We lib bloggers lived through the Deaniacs, you guys can survive this. But boy does he show how the party reacts when someone hits the party line from the inside. Heterodoxy is schism.