In Need of Further Edjamacation
by Chris Bowers, Mon Jan 30, 2006 at 07:18:34 PM EST
I am not a "first generation" progressive political blogger, like Josh Marshall, Teagan Goddard, Jerome Armstrong or Kevin Drum. I'm not even a "second generation" blogger, like Markos or Duncan. Like many people who are now bloggers, I came from the great unwashed masses of the blogosphere. In late 2002, I started as a lurker. In early 2003, I started making comments. Eventually, I started writing diaries on Dailykos. Then, I started writing lots of diaries. It wasn't until May of 2004 that I actually started blogging myself.
I always thought that coming from the greater blogosphere community gave me special insight into what blog readers want from blogs and what they expect from bloggers. I have to admit, however, that my experience with the Alito fight has left me at a loss. I just don't understand what happened over the past month. Maybe its just that two years with this big podium has resulted in me getting too distant from the community, but whatever the cause, I'm pretty sure I need some re-education.
Let me explain what is perplexing me. On the first day of the hearings, when I was with Tim Tagaris blogging in the Hart Senate building, I made the following opening salvo:
I want to make that last sentence clear. I believe the Democratic goal for the Alito hearings should be to defeat his nomination through a filibuster of 41 votes or more, and then to defeat the nuclear option with a vote of 51 votes or more. Samuel Alito is an unacceptable choice to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. That post got 11 comments. 11. And that was actually a lot compared to the Alito blogging we had done on MyDD since November. Of the eight posts we made on Alito in the two weeks before the hearings, only two of them received more than 11 comments. Clearly, Alito was not a hot topic on MyDD before the hearings began. In fact, even during the hearings there wasn't much that we wrote on Altio that generated all that many comments. Just check out the two pages we put up on Alito during those two days, here and here. Apart form the Guess Alito's Freeper Name contest, there really did not seem to be all that much. And the story was pretty much the same over at Dailykos. The posts Armando wrote during the hearings received fewer comments than most other posts on Dailykos at the time (if you don't believe me, check it out for yourself).
So then, earlier this week, I remember reading in Hotline one morning hat five Democrats had come out in public opposition to using the filibuster to stop Altio. I saw that and I figured it was over. These weren't even what I considered "persuadable" Democrats for the netroots. We're talking senators like Ben Nelson, Tim Johnson and Mark Pryor--not exactly senators who have a history of listening to the netroots in the past, and not exactly the sort of Senators to whom we have given much support in the past. I think I muttered a series of explicatives to myself, stomped around my apartment for a bit, had a pot of tea and then went back to work on matters other than stopping Alito.
That same day, a couple of hours later, John Kerry publicly announced that he was going to try and organize a filibuster to stop Alito on Dailykos. Suddenly, after weeks when trying to generate interest in Alito blog action was like trying to pull teeth, there was nothing else a huge number of commenters wanted any blog to discuss. I was one of many bloggers who was suddenly regularly accused of not paying enough attention and devoting enough resources to trying to stop Alito. I was really dumbfounded by this.
For weeks before Kerry's announcement, quite a few large blogs had spent quite a bit of time and resources blogging about Alito and calling for Demcorats to use any and all methods to stop him from being confirmed. We had generated what seemed to me fairly little interest from the community, at least compared to other stories that were occurring at the time. However, a couple of hours after the whip count on the filibuster had failed, John Kerry coming online and saying he was trying to organize a filibuster suddenly changed everything. Now, after we had spent weeks calling for the same thing, now only a couple of hours after defeat had already been pretty much assured, now we were supposed to do everything we could to organize the filibuster.
Pardon me for asking this to no one in particular, but what the fuck? Why was the progressive blogosphere community suddenly interested in making a huge stand against Alito only after victory had become nearly impossible, and only after John Kerry--not exactly the most popular Democrat in the blogosphere before last week--had announced that he would give it a shot? What happened?
Edjimacate me. What was the psychology of the netroots interest in Alito? Why was Kerry the catalyst? Did the fact that the fight had suddenly become nearly impossible actually play a major role in people suddenly wanting to engage it? Did bloggers such as myself just do a crappy job leading the netroots against Alito in the first place? If so, what could we have done differently?
I need to know. I came from the blogosphere community, but maybe I don't understand it anymore. I often hear calls for better leadership from top bloggers, and as many campaigns as we try to lead, there is still clearly a lot of disconnect on certain major issues. This can't stand, because the last thing we need is for the progressive establishment to be disconnected from the netroots, and for netroots leaders to also grow more disconnected.