Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | October 09, 2003

The blogosphere and political process

Those of you who think my Clark writings are "negative attacks" on Clark himself are really failing to understand my obsession with process, and the role the blogosphere can play in revolutionizing the political process and governance.

The Internet now allows rank and file Democrats, otherwise unaffiliated with any traditional powerbrokers or interest groups, to exert collective influence on a campaign. It's not merely a way to raise money (a big misconception), but to encourage people to use their own initiative to advocate their preferred candidates and issues any way they see fit.

We are no longer an industrial economy. We are no longer cogs in a machine. We are taught from early on to use initiative and be proactive, and to solve our own problems. Yet political campaigns had failed to adapt, insisting volunteers take orders from those at the top of the campaign heirarchy. "Lick envelopes" they would say. Or "canvass a neighborhood". But we are no longer programmed to take orders.

People can now use technology (blogs, meetups, message boards) to get educated, download campaign collateral (posters, brochures, etc.), and get motivated to head out into the offline world to evangelize for their candidates or causes.

And the beauty is that given the manpower and money such a netroot operation exerts on a campaign, those elected officials are now beholden not to Enron, or Halliburton, or Indian Casinos, or prison guard unions, or any other entrenched interest group. Rather, they are beholden to the people. No matter how I look at it, this is the promise of true participatory Democracy one step closer to reality.

Could you imagine what would happen if Dean suddenly, say, shut down the Dean blog? The backlash would undo his candidacy. He has been lifted up by the people, and they can bring him down.

In a way, that's Clark's problem. The DC people working the campaign have, for whatever reason, upset many in the Draft movement. That Draft movement provided Clark much of the impetus for his campaign, and allowed the general to hit the ground running.

That netroots effort was a thing of beauty, straight out of the Dean playbook. There were two campaigns over the summer that were riddled with buzz -- Dean's, and the hypothetical candidacy of Clark. The reasons why are no mystery. It's the new power of the netroots. And candidates that benefit from them cannot turn around and bid them adieu when it's time for the "grownups" to take over.

There is a role for both. They are not mutually exclusive. And in fact, any successful campaign will need to employ both.

James Moore, senior fellow at Harvard and expert on technology and its impact on society, puts it well:

The highest hope for the emerging role of the blogoshere in politics is that we can increase the concentrated power, activation and activation speed of citizen groups with broader, higher minded interests.  The web allows millions of people to come together easily and inexpensively. Web discourse on blogs enables the co-evolution of facts and arguments that results in thousands of people becoming more aware of the stakes in any given political decision, and thus more activated to try to be involved.  And the web enables swarms to come together in minutes rather than days.  Our hope is to improve the adaptability and openness of our democracy.

The Clark case is not just a story about a group of Clinton and Gore advisors who are consolidating power over a campaign.  My sense is that the professionals who have taken over are attuned to the former demand environment, but are not appreciating how much the new demand environment differs from the old.  They are attuned to traditional Democratic interest and donor groups and power brokers, but are missing out on the new, more broadly constituted groups that are swarming across the blogosphere.  The professionals running the Clark campaign do not understand the new emerging topology of Democratic politics in America.

This isn't about Dean vs. Clark. Either guy would rock my world and rid our nation of the Bush plague. This is bigger than this primary election. It's about reshaping American politics to give people like me and you a more direct role in how we are governed.

If you still think this is an issue of mere partisanship, then you really don't get what I, or this site, is about -- community and empowerment.

We are on the cusp of something amazing.

I don't care if you think I'm biased for this guy or that guy. Whatever. Not everyone will get me or agree with me. I'm glad we're all free-thinkers unlike those on the other side. And there are plenty of blogs who would be happy to host you if this place isn't for you.

But do understand that this medium will change politics, and that you are playing a key role in this transformation. It's not about me. Or Dean. Or Clark. Or anyone else.

Don't reduce my arguments about process to simplistic "us vs. them" rhetoric. This is much bigger than that.

Posted October 09, 2003 04:05 PM | Comments (148)


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