Legislation Via Youtube
by Matt Stoller, Wed Jan 10, 2007 at 07:43:25 AM EST
Ok, well it's not that big a deal, but Senator Byron Dorgan is on Youtube introducing his net neutrality bill. Dorgan is one of the best Senators we have, an extremely progressive politician from North Dakota who is also quite popular. Dorgan gives the lie to the whole red state nonsense. There are corporate elites and the South, and then there's everyone else.
It's pretty cool that Dorgan is going directly to internet communities to drive support for his bill.
It's not surprising that Dorgan would go directly to the people for support. He's always been a progressive populist recognizing that our elites are selling us out.
I am though surprised and heartened by Senator Schumer's recent comments about blogs. I tend not to care if a politician praises blogs, since that could easily be dismissed as pandering. What is clear about Schumer's comments is that he 'gets' the larger forces at work here.
I read KOS -- I read the whole thing but I read it once every couple of days. But I go for the subject more than the blog. But I like the political blogs, and I think the blogs democratize things.
So my family and I saw this movie. ... It was a movie about -- Oh no. Sorry. It was a play: "Jersey Boys." That's it. It's about The Four Seasons, the old singing group. Do you remember them? And it had great songs. And it was just a whole lot of fun.
This is the night before Thanksgiving. It's the one show we go to. We can't afford many shows, so the one show we go to a year is the night before Thanksgiving because my wife doesn't have to cook Thanksgiving dinner. My sister-in-law always does.
Anyway, it was just great. I loved it. Then I went home and read The New York Times review. The review, it was so snide -- that it wasn't great art and this and that.
But then, they had a blog on it, and people wrote their own reviews. And everyone loved it. And I said to myself, "I'm so glad the bloggers -- they democratize it."
Do you know what I mean? Here you have this sort of very snobby critic who goes to a hundred plays a year and is looking for things the average person wouldn't even care about, and yet the blogs criticized his review and brought him down to earth.
So yeah, I like them. I think it's a good democratizing force.
I've met Schumer and talked to him approximately once, at an American Prospect roundtable for liberal media (which Maria Leavey used to set up). The transcript of the meeting is here. One thing you'll note about Schumer is that he hates what he perceives as cultural elitism, and having been elected in 1980, he ascribes elitism to liberal groups.
Reagan came in; we deserved to lose. We stopped being democrats -- small "d" -- talking to average people about what affects their lives, and instead had these ideologies. OK, Reagan comes in and basically accomplishes a lot of things that he wanted to accomplish, especially on those type issues -- crime. I spent 10 years trying to get the Democratic Party to move to the middle on crime.
In the discussion, if you read it, there's an interesting back-and-forth between Schumer and Mark Schmitt in which Schmitt tries to point out to Schumer that Moveon and the blogs are not single-issue liberal narrow-minded groups, but are instead broad-based constituencies that have as much concern about the Bankruptcy Bill as abortion. I could sense that Schumer was trying to argue that something fundamental had shifted in American politics since 1980, but that he didn't get that the same fundamental shift had happened in the liberal community itself.
Anyway, it's important that this incredibly intelligent and abrasive Senator, a man who is really a force, gets that the internet is a democratizing force, that the New York Times theater critic is as unrepresentative as Adam Nagourney of the concerns of the public. Schumer hit Alito on abortion, but he didn't believe that there was an organized group that cared about the unitary executive. There is, and it's on the internet. If Schumer can make the shift, and recognize that he could have allies on broader issues like constitutional prerogatives instead of just narrowly focused liberal groups he didn't like in 1980, he and the progressive movement can generate a lot of political leverage.
It's a bit unusual to hear what sounds like praise for a figure I have derided in the past, but I have always had respect for Schumer's immense abilities and sense of the political zeitgeist (unlike Rahm Emanuel, who strikes me as less capable of effective strategic insight). If Schumer is moving to take internet progressives as a serious and democratizing force, that means a whole lot of others are as well.