Building Power

I'm going to follow on Chris's posts on diversity by explaining why I blog.  I have a certain set of values, and I want to see the political system adopt those values, including transparency, honesty, and civic democracy.  My hypothesis is that these values are shared by a wide group, and that organizing through the blogs is one route to pressuring for social change.  In other words, blogging is just a means to power for a progressive movement that I want to see succeed.

And surprisingly, it's not actually easy to have an impact on the political system.  As weird as it sounds , a link from Atrios or Firedoglake, or a mention in the New York Times, does not change the political system.  It is in fact a lot of work to get a change to happen.  For instance, I've written between 125-175 posts on net neutrality, each of which required a combination of one or more of the following: original research, coordination through conference calls, meetings on the hill, extensive reading of alternative points of view.  Each one required a new angle and a new way of explaining policy and politics.  And even with all this work, I was only one small part of a large coalition, and we haven't yet won.  This is not counting the large number of issues I've blogged on that have had little to no impact, all of which can be seen as loss-leading investment where we are prodding for vulnerabilities in the business coalitions of the right.

All of this is to say that change is not easy, and you have to go looking for it if you want it.  You have to do a lot of work to make it happen.  Much of the handwringing about the progressive political blogosphere seems to come from an unwillingness to either do the work to make change happen or an ignorance that change and building power is really really hard.

Now, there are many ways to have an impact using the medium of blogging.  Here are some strategies that by themselves don't work.

1) Getting a link from big bloggers:  This is neat, since there's lots of traffic and the validation is cool.  But magically, change doesn't just happen with a link.

2) Whining about linking:  Since getting a link doesn't actually create change, whining about getting a link doesn't create change.

3) Complaining about how nobody cares about your pet issue:  This is often a subset of whining about linking.  Here's the real truth.  It's not that nobody cares about your pet issue, it's that it's not a priority for most people.  That's why it's your pet issue.  You have to explain why your pet issue is worth prioritizing and how by doing so others can have an impact.  Until you do, it remains your problem.  Don't take it personally if people don't share your priorities.  Instead, convince and lead the way.

4) Erecting mythical barriers to entry:  I hear a lot of complaining about large blogs keeping out other voices.  That's a self-destructive attitude.  If you really think there's an underserved niche, that's an opportunity and not a barrier.  In 2002, the blogosphere was dominated by Instapundit and a 'civil' crew of bipartisan bloggers all of whom were 'serious' and pro-war.  Rather than whining,  Atrios saw a niche and created a compelling blog.

The big difference between the blogs and the media is that you don't have to go through a cable booker to get onto the internet.  To get a big blog, you have to create compelling content and market it.  No one is stopping you but you.  And if you are reading this then arguments about class and access to the internet are not applicable to you.  If you are part of an underserved niche, great, that means there's a market opportunity.  Seize it.  

So those are some tactics that don't work.  Here are some tactics that can help build power.

1) Raise money for candidates: You don't have to raise a lot to be meaningful.  Even a few thousand dollars from a few hundred people matters if it's early enough.  Saveinternetradio can clearly raise that, but there isn't, which means there's an opportunity to build power.  Actblue is open to all, there's no physical gatekeeping anymore.  And if you can't raise any money at all, my guess is that you're just not trying.  Asking for money isn't easy, but again, neither is creating change or building power.  If you don't want to do it, then don't whine about people who are willing to do it using the power they create for stuff they care about.

2) Originate compelling information: News shapes pubic opinion.  If you can originate compelling information or analyze news in an interesting and unique way, you can shape public opinion.

3) Bother/persuade the right people: There's a small group of people who make policy in politics.  If you can annoy them by reaching them with effective arguments, you can shape their thinking.  This is true for corporate policy as well, or any policy world; small networks that are penetrable by blogs exist.

4) Create useful policy ideas:  If you create interesting policy ideas and push them repeatedly and consistently, you will succeed.  This is a lot of work, since it means you have to take in a lot of feedback and aggressive push your ideas, maybe for years.  But America is big, and so small changes in policy have huges consequences.  That means it's a lot of work to make these changes, but the payoff can be large.

5) Watchdog an institution:  A blog that focuses on an institution, like the CBC, the Human Rights Campaign, a caucus, a candidate, or a journalism, can be very influential if you are making good arguments.  You can only be ignored for so long if your case is good.

These tactics should probably be used interchangeably for maximum success.  And in a lot of ways, though it's harder to create a new blog brand these days, it's actually easier to have an impact on the political system.  Politicians read Dailykos these days, they read the diaries, which means you have an audience of influential people built-in if you can say something compelling.  A few years ago, influential people did not read blogs or user-generated content, but those obstacles have been cleared.  Now politicians are online, doing video, reading and writing on blogs, and just generally interacting with citizens.  They are trying to figure this stuff out. Of course, though there is leverage on the internets, this isn't the only place there is leverage so by no means is blogging the only way to create power.

There are big opportunities here.  Seize them.  No one is stopping you but you.

Tags: Blogosphere, netroots (all tags)



Re: Building Power

It's not a matter of whether we share values. It's a matter of whether we see the same route for achieving them. Specifics and context matters. I find your approach versus that of Chris's instructive. His produced what I thought were some very good comments. Yours probably will produce a flame war. But, maybe thats your goal.

by bruh21 2007-05-07 08:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power

Hmm.  I don't understand your point. Could you elaborate?

by Matt Stoller 2007-05-07 08:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power

I don't really get it either. If anything, Matt's comments are more constructive and to the point than Chris'.

by clarkent 2007-05-07 08:40AM | 0 recs

you be more specific about how this post relates to Chris' two "diversity" posts?

by taylormattd 2007-05-07 08:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Can

That's a great question.  The argument about diversity is an argument about power.  The problem with the progressive movement is that older white guys have a disproportionate amount of power over the entire structure.  To change this structure two things are required:

1) Opening up the playing field so everyone can compete.

2) Having everyone compete.

These are different aspects of the diversity question.  It's not clear to me that a lack of diversity in the progressive blogosphere is related to a closed playing field, and that's the most common argument made about diversity issues.

I should link these more closely.

by Matt Stoller 2007-05-07 08:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Can

You think mydd and daily kos are on the same level as a blog starting now?

by bruh21 2007-05-07 08:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Can

Is Markos white?

by Sam L 2007-05-07 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Can

are we limited to only one per group?

by bruh21 2007-05-07 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Can

If the Blog That Dwarfs All Blogs is run by Markos, it seems odd to imply that his being on a different "level" makes him responsible for a barrier to entry for bloggers of color.  My guess is what you really want to see is more major bloggers who focus on issues of import to minorities, not more major bloggers who are minorities.  And I completely agree with that, but I guess I don't see how Bowers' and Stoller's blog on electoral issues can remedy the problem except by turning itself into a completely different blog.

I haven't followed the ins and outs of this debate very closely, so I apologize if I'm missing some obvious points.  I won't pretend that I have a perfect plan for diversifying the blogosphere, but I think given Kos' prominent position, its pretty clear that simply adding a minority blogger to the front page of MYDD, if he's selected to cover the same issues, will not do very much to diversify either the message or audience of this blog, or the online activist community.

That was the point I was trying to make about Markos' ethnicity, sorry if it came of snarky.

by Sam L 2007-05-07 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Can

its only odd if you see this in terms of "well we got one"

by bruh21 2007-05-07 11:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Can

and its not the snarkiness that bothers me- its the lack of understanding that one isn't enough to represent all minority groups. as i said elsewhere is diversity a progressive value?

by bruh21 2007-05-07 11:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Can

Lucas (below) made the point I was trying to make much more succinctly.  This is not a blog that focuses significantly on racial issues, except to the extent it is about coalition building.  I don't think that adding a black blogger with the same focus as Chris and Matt would help blogospheric diversity anymore than having Markos as king of all the blogs does.  Having three big latino bloggers would not make a difference if they all had the same interests as Markos.

Now, I think a blogger on MYDD who focused, within the MYDD theme on coalitions and electoral politics, on how to energize and communicate with African Americans and AA activists might be a really good addition.  I just think what I interpreted as your focus on the ethnicity of specific bloggers is probably misguided.

by Sam L 2007-05-07 11:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Can

I think that is more likely to happen with higher representation of people of color than with less.

by bruh21 2007-05-07 11:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Can

I think that the focus on bloggers' ethnicity is shorthand for the perspective that might be had by not being a well-educated white male. So it isn't that the topics that get written about should be different (your example of how to talk with AA activists) but that the same topics (eg Obama) get talked about from a different POV.

by CT student 2007-05-07 12:28PM | 0 recs
I agree

that lack of diversity in the progressive blogosphere is not due to a "closed playing field." It seems to me that all too frequently, that phrase is simply shorthand for "I've been slighted by and/or banned from Daily Kos."

Regarding point #2 ("having everyone compete") that's the real question, isn't it?

I've read Chris' two posts several times, and I don't particularly understand them. They seem be a push back against an unknown (to me, anyway) attempt to have more diversity on the front page of places like MyDD.

If I was Chris, I would simply argue that yes, of course diversity is a worthy goal, even for a "niche" blog like MyDD. Isn't it self-evident that additional and perhaps different perspectives to electoral politics-related issues would make MyDD a better place? (Not that I don't love it now, mind you).

Now the feasibility of finding and seamlessly adding additional compatible voices is an entirely different question. On a blog that has only a few full time front page writers, it is wholly understandable that such an endeavor would be difficult.

I just don't understand why Chris doesn't understand the value of diversity at a site like MyDD. Or maybe I'm completely misreading Chris' posts.

by taylormattd 2007-05-07 10:13AM | 0 recs
Correct me if I am wrong

But it seems you are saying that the lack of diversity in the progressive blogosphere is not the result of a closed playing field, but simply because minorities are not doing "a lot of work to make it [diversity] happen."  Specifically, those who do not have power in the blogosphere are in this position because:

~Linking: they put too much emphasis on it and whine too much when they can't get it.
~Pet issues: they complain when no one appears to care about them.
~Barriers: they are mythical and talking about them is self-destructive.
~Money: they don't raise enough of it.
~Original news and analysis: they don't provide enough of it.
~Influence: they don't target the right people.
~Policy ideas: they don't do the hard work of creating good ones.
~Institutions: they don't go after specific ones.

To an outsider this looks patronizing and recycles old arguments common in racism and sexism, namely, "You need to learn how to work harder if you want the same power us white men have" and "You complain too much"  and "The idea that there are barriers is hogwash" and the circular logic of "You would have more power if you gave away more money and had more influence."
Let me go through each item you list and address it.

~Linking:  It is not just about being neat or cool.  It is about reciprocity and acknowledgment and advertising.  It is not an end in itself but a means, a significant step toward attaining influence.  And no one is obligated to link to anyone else, but the act of linking has begun to create a "cannon" of must-read blogs.  It is not always clear if this cannon is based on merit or favors, represents like-minded bloggers or cliques.  Do you want your readers to be informed, or do you want you buddy who has a blog to get more traffic?  These are valid issues and do not always come from a place of self-pity but of genuine concern.

~Pet issues.  I agree each of us has to make a convincing case for issues which are important to us.  But when those issues are race- or sex-specific they can also become targets of racism or sexism.  I think it is the luxury of white men that issues important to them are not called "pet" issues because they are "universal."  That is, things that disproportionately DO NOT effect white men are demeaned with the label of "pet".

~Mythical barriers to entry.  Let's talk about that.  Blogging takes time.  Women and minorities often have to work longer hours to make the same or still less money than white men, and often shoulder more responsibility for caring for the family.  They have less free time and therefore less time to blog.  Lack of free time is a barrier.  Also, lack of education and especially computer expertise is a barrier.  Say you have the time to blog.  Who decides who gets front paged?  Who gets in the blogroll cannon?  Blog seniority, most often white men.

~Fundraising.  On average, minorities and women and their peers have less disposable income.  And the idea that one's influence is directly related to how much money they give away is NOT a progressive value.

~Analysis/News.  I mostly agree with you but will reiterate the "free-time" issue.

~Influence: "There's a small group of people who make policy in politics."  Annoy them by reaching them with effective arguments?  Don't take this the wrong way, but getting access to those people is not easy, and it does not matter how effective your arguments are if those same people benefit from not listening to them.  Or if you don't have any money to give them in return for their time.
~Creating new ideas: I mostly agree with you but will reiterate the "free-time" issue.  And it is just extremely demeaning to suggest that power is directly related to the amount of hard work you do.  I don't doubt you do a lot of hard work.  But I don't doubt the underrepresented do a lot of hard work as well.  Also, women and minorities face a learning curve when it comes to policy expertise, though that is beginning to improve.

~Going after specific institutions.  Would that not put one in the "pet issues" category.  I don't see the big bloggers doing this.  It sounds like you are saying others should focus on something small and let you take care of oh, the whole media, the entire electoral process, etc.  

So, your post has few points of failure.  

~Failure to acknowledge that institutional and societal discrimination outside the blogosphere impacts the way people who experience this discrimination can participate in the blogosphere.  

~And failure to acknowledge that the blogosphere does not exist independently of our outside reality, but is comprised of members of this reality who reflect, promote, defy, ignore, etc. the dynamics of the outside reality in the same way they would were they not on-line.  It is a continuation of our culture, and instance of it.  We are all products of it.  

by poemless 2007-05-07 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Correct me if I am wrong

exactly- they aren't recognizing their own power here.

by bruh21 2007-05-07 10:32AM | 0 recs

~Pet issues.  I agree each of us has to make a convincing case for issues which are important to us.  But when those issues are race- or sex-specific they can also become targets of racism or sexism.  I think it is the luxury of white men that issues important to them are not called "pet" issues because they are "universal."  That is, things that disproportionately DO NOT effect white men are demeaned with the label of "pet".

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

by CT student 2007-05-07 10:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Yes

Right, but there a lot of liberal issues that were (and still are) pigeonholed that way.

by clarkent 2007-05-07 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Can
 I think the "closed playing field" idea is a problematically simplistic way of looking at the issue.
Playing fields shift all the time, and yet like has a way of continuing to replicate like.
by sb 2007-05-07 03:15PM | 0 recs
Pet issues?

When over a hundred bloggers come together to blog about the same issue it is no longer a pet issue. It is a movement. To ignore such a blogswarm is, well, bad form.

Schaller is talking about the importance of women in the Democratic party. Without any reference to the recent blogswarm. As in they have ears but they hear not.

You cannot ask people to contact Steny Hoyer and support your work if you will not reciprocate. And really, if you do not prepare the ground ahead by enlisting the support of the local Democratic bloggers I really do not see you getting anywhere.

And how can MyDD be a specialist in talking about campaigns & elections without reference to those who actually vote Democratic?????

I respect all the hard and poorly compensated work you have put into this, but acting like a movement requires a certain mentality, and right now it is not clear to me that you have it.

Get it right out of your head that this has to do with site traffic. Most of us are not dependent upon blogging for our income, thank Jesus fasting. What some of us want is a sense that the conversation goes both ways. You cannot ask us to have your back if you don't have ours.

by Alice Marshall 2007-05-07 09:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Pet issues?

To ignore such a blogswarm is, well, bad form...Schaller is talking about the importance of women in the Democratic party. Without any reference to the recent blogswarm. As in they have ears but they hear not.

The immediate assumption here is that I am ignoring this campaign out of malice.  I had no idea that this was going on, and no one asked me to join or explained why I should.  I don't really understand this campaign but I'm open-minded.  I become closed-minded very quickly when I am insulted for not knowing something I don't know about just because a hundred blogs linked to it.  A hundred blogs link to stuff all the time that I don't know about.  I'm not omniscient.

Get it right out of your head that this has to do with site traffic.

What is your criteria here?  A hundred blogs link to lots of stuff.  Why is this different?  Make the case.

by Matt Stoller 2007-05-07 09:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Pet issues?

My apologies, I did assume you knew about this and decided to ignore it. It grew out of an earlier incident outlined in this post. I think the proposal for the blogswarm is buried in the comments.

The blogswarm is over and done with, so I don't know that there is any case to be made, save that it is dissapointing that such a huge event wasn't even on your radar.

Look, you can be mad or not. You can be persuaded, or not.

I would simply suggest that local lefty blogs are the obvious partners for a campaign specialist like MyDD (as oppposed to foreign policy or economics blogs) and that you should scan them occassionally. It makes it eaiser to call for action when you already have a relationship with someone.

It's your blog, you can be convinced or not.

by Alice Marshall 2007-05-07 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Pet issues?

Speaking only for myself, I also did not know about this initiative, and only now have a hazy understanding of what was done and why.

Why is that?

It's because I have a full time business and only do politics in my spare time, voluntarily (I've already cheated enough on my work today to engage all this stuff, after working all through the weekend).  

These days, I'm only writing one or two posts a week, when I'm needed and available, and even beyond that, I'm trying to save more of my discretionary political time to other movement facilitation and infrastructure development activities.

Though my situation is my own, it's not really very unique.  Even people who are able to devote and finance their full time energy to politics or blogging miss things.  There's a whole lot going on out there.  It would be nice if we could keep up with everything, and even nicer if other sites and groups could generate larger and larger audiences so they don't even need people like me or Matt or Atrios or Jane or Christy or whomever.

While I have admitted it would be nice if I were aware of more things (and there are weekly at leats a dozen stories that catch my interest that I never have the time to write about), I have to point out that communication is a two way street.  If we're not notified when some interesting organizing is going on, then the organizers have to rely on the chance we might find out on our own.  When we don't it seems the fact that we did not may be taken as conscious malice.  Why?

The hard part is that sometimes, when we do hear from some quarters, the message is always about how wrong or evil we are regarding [insert issue or subject].  On a purely human, coalition building level, how does that help those who would like to gain some collaboration or cooperation from us in fact to gain that cooperation?

I get that there's a trust gap in some places, and   there have been fights.  Fights leave scars, and we all have them.  But do those fights need to define all that follows in perpetuity, or will potential ambassadors emerge on either or both sides to help create productive alliances and better understanding when such may be possible?

And beyond that, can we come to a better appreciation of where all parties operate within a broad movement ecosystem without assuming bad faith - such as a conscious decision to ignore something - where in fact there is none?

by Pachacutec 2007-05-07 12:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Pet issues?

I address only the issue regarding the blogswarm.

My blog Crablaw hosted the Take Back the Blog blogswarm a week and a half ago that Alice Marshall linked to (and which she supported both in promotion and participation with exceptional generosity and diligence, even compared against other generous contributors.). It was very much a success.

I promoted the blogswarm on many sites (as did Alice!) and the response from leading feminist blogs' readerships and from elsewhere was overwhelming.  I had to go to work Sunday at the day job almost immediately after a near all-nighter Saturday night from the sheer volume and quality of responses.  Had MyDD also been a promoter, I would have either missed my deadline grossly or missed work.

I did not notify MyDD directly because I viewed TBTB as a human rights issue, not a Democratic issue.  Plus, Chris Bowers has made it BLOODY clear that MyDD is not Second Life for any other blog, and it was the poor response of another blog - a long time ally of MyDD - on the issue of violence and online predation against women that motivated me to arrange the TBTB blogswarm in the first place.

Stoller, Bowers and the rest of MyDD deserve a complete acquittal for their non-participation in the TBTB 2007, though a contribution from them would have been received with gratitude of course as from any other blogger.  The decision not to involve MyDD, Atrios and a number of other blogs was mine.

I have no other comment regarding any other topic here, other than again my immense gratitude to Alice Marshall.

by Bruce Godfrey 2007-05-07 10:29AM | 0 recs
thank you for your kind words

You are correct that MyDD is only responsible for MyDD.

I had not considered the question of volumne, but you are correct, you probably would have been overwhelmed by contibutions. Really, the scope fo the swarm took my breath away, we had contibutions in Romainian, French, German, and Spanish.

It was truly an international event.

I guess I am just sick and tired of women supplying the vast majority of Democratic votes and being informed our issues are fringe.

You don't have to be female to take on these issues. It was Rep. Rick Boucher, back when he was a state senator, who rewrote Virginia's sexual assualt laws so you could no longer conduct character assasination against rape victims.

by Alice Marshall 2007-05-07 10:42AM | 0 recs

The immediate assumption here is that I am ignoring this campaign out of malice.

That's because there multiple blogs out there devoted largely to believing all people in any way remotely connected to DKos are power-hungry pawns of Markos, who function only to prevent others from becoming successful bloggers.

by taylormattd 2007-05-07 12:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power

It's weird, and I think it's often a communications/perceptions thing, but in spite of all the criticism, Matt is among the people in the netroots who has done and is doing as much or more than anyone else to expand access, build coalitions and create the instititional supports to promote the empowerment of the traditionally disempowered.

The challenge is that most of that occurs offline, and the nature of this kind of trust building is that such conversations must of necessity remain confidential.  

Just think about how candid and open you can be if you think you're talking to a "reporter," someone who will put your conversation up on a web page, rather than talking in confidence with someone with whom you can do the hard work and listening to build mutual understanding.

That's why this stuff happens offline, and why Matt doesn't write about it.  Plus, as I know him personally, Matt really isn't interested in tooting his own horn, because he is very much about connecting people who can work together to create collective, progressive power.  That means focusing on others, on systems, on promoting networks and strategy.

So, there's this ongoing conundrum:  people who want to promote the development of broader coalitions who are not actually building those power coalitions, doing the things Matt describes above, think it's not happening because they're not reading about it.  But making that back end work open for public review means sabotaging the process.

The result is that online or public perceptions don't meet reality, and Matt, for example, gets caricatured and pilloried.  He fights back on the merits of ideas, and occasionally defends his ideas, as he has every right to do.  In fact, he should do this, because this is the kind of forum where people introduce, digests and refine ideas.  Sometimes the conversation gets heated, fomenting a cycle where people still misunderstand what Matt's doing and why.  

Some of that may be a matter of communications and style, and some of it due to the limits of the medium as a communications tool:  all text, no non-verbal context.  

But it's also true that there's a lot of lazy criticism of "big bloggers" in general that gets recycled, criticism that makes fundamentally false assertions that don't stand up to what is in fact publicly available for all online to review and digest.  For example, popularly read progressives write a lot more about race and inclusion than many people suggest, but as Matt points out, writing is not the same as creating power that changes things.  

Now, Matt gets flamed far more than I do, but it would sure wear my patience thin to be targeted like that when many of the assertions made are just false.  I've felt like I've been in that position before, and when I've pushed back hard, the process has sometimes been productive and sometimes not.  I keep learning more about how to use this medium to promote real understanding, and we all have our own communication styles.

If Matt gets occasionally crusty, I don't blame him, and when he urges action, even if it's a bit bluntly presented, he is trying to get people moving, because time wasted is time lost.  He's arguing to try to help.

Whatever the situation and roots of it all, there are fundamental misperceptions about what the progressive blogosphere currently does and why, misperceptions that are larger than Matt, but which include him.  

I know as an organizier it always requires ambassadors and boundary spanners between communities to do the work to build the bridges and coalitions between constituencies.  I hope more people will take it as a kind of organizing mission to facilitate this, rather than lob incompletely researched criticisms that accomplish nothing productive, and which, cumulatively, degrade understanding such that communities become alienated, rather than aligned.  That's a destructive outcome.

by Pachacutec 2007-05-07 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power

Matt is among the people in the netroots who has done and is doing as much or more than anyone else to expand access, build coalitions and create the instititional supports to promote the empowerment of the traditionally disempowered.

I agree, that is why I bothered to comment on this post.

There is building coalitions that occurs publicly, and there is behind the scenes work. Both are important.

We all get crusty, but there has been a very serious break down in solidarity where women are concerned.

by Alice Marshall 2007-05-07 09:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power

Alice, I'd welcome any thoughts you have about this comment: 255/24436/29#29

As a strategic and tactical matter, and as an institutional building matter, the approach I'm contemplating would go in a different direction than the one you link to, and that I understand you to be taking in this comment.

Feel free to email me if you like at my firedoglake address.

Obviously, we at FDL believe in creating a platform for strong women's voices.  Jane built it and we live it continually.  As a site that has accomplished this, I wonder if there might be some case study best practices we could share with others to review and adapt, resulting in assistance for the rise of more diverse voices and communities.

by Pachacutec 2007-05-07 09:30AM | 0 recs
Blogosphere and Democracy

Internet communities of interest  and the blogosphere are the only really democratic and real-time forums for making democracy possible in this broken social order. For that reason I applaud what you do, Matt, and the effort here to advocate for progressive values and to provide a forum for real dialogue and debate on the issues of the day. I have occasionally posted critically towards your content because, apart from disagreeing, I thought you have been a bit overly reactive when some political player wasn't toeing your version of the progressive mark. Nevertheless your youth and energy are what's needed in our time. It gives me some reason for hope for renewal of democracy.

by cmpnwtr 2007-05-07 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power

Slightly off thread, but...all this explaining/justifying/criticizing seems to be the direct result of Chait's critical analysis of the netroots. And in some of the comments from recent posts I've detected what can only be described as an authoritarian strain of progressive reasoning (akin to an advocacy for 'lockstep' conformity in the sole service of outcomes), an aspect of the netroots which Chait identified, but which I was previously unaware of.

Hmmm.... Gives me an idea for a book titled (ala Markos's oxymoronic 'Libertarian Dems') 'Authoritarian Progressives'.

BTW, so the snarky point doesn't reduce to mere cynicism, my own thoughts are that IMPOSING top-down types of solutions to problems existing within the progressive community is inconsistent with (my version of) progressivism. More specifically, imposing any requirements on so-called 'leaders' ('you can represent us if' followed by a long list of prohibitions) is self-defeating because it perpetuates traditional leader (active)/follower (passive) role assignments.

That being said, there is a tension in any political 'movement' which doesn't quite adhere to the principles being advocated. Progressive principles are (ideally) an end in themselves; the movement is a means to attaining the political enactment of those principles. How far can progressive principles be tweaked in the service of the movement?

by scudbucket 2007-05-07 09:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power

I am writing. of course, as what people would call an "older" (55) white male.  As such, I think several points need commenting.  The old MSM media structure (plus the political consultants) may indeed also consist of white males but, even as presently constituted, MyDD, Kos, etc.  do bring essentially different voices that had previously been shut out.

There is a fairly strong and somewhat important female component to the world of progressive blogging.  At the famous meeting with Bill Clinton IIRC around 8 of the 20 bloggers present were women.  I was surprised at that because, as pretty much hinted here, the traffic at MyDD may be 20% female.  That was a good thing.  In fact the diversity of voices itself is a good thing.

Far more important, is that within the past six months, we have a female Speaker of the House and one of the leading candidates for President is a woman.  This is (or at least seems like) real power not noblesse oblige or window dressing.

In the real world, the significant gap among women favoring Hillary (indeed actively working for her) is a key factor that is underplayed here.  We may have seen inklings of it for Liddy Dole or Geraldine Ferraro but this is real, strong, important, and needs to be developed more on this and other blogs.  

My guess is that blogger diversity runs much weaker in terms of race and ethnicity.  Much weaker. Ironically, today's Washington Post (at least the net version) carried a big article about Obama with the theme that the success of his campaign was dependent upon the support of white voters.  While this is true in the general election, my take is that its immediate future success is more based upon welding the support of a clear majority of black voters to the base of voters he already has.  We talk about the role of Iowa and New Hampshire in shaping the race.  Obama needs to depend on white voters to have a chance in those states but he needs to lock up black voters to lock up South Carolina.

The Edwards/Obama flame wars are in part a generational thing.  We talk about this a good deal more than the other splits.

Blogging has succeeded in opening up new sources of information and in developing new voices.  There is no indication that this process will stop or perhaps even that it could be stopped.

I hope that this post contributes more to add a small amount of light than to generate some heat.  

by David Kowalski 2007-05-07 10:18AM | 0 recs
blog niches

I've been blogging about niches which new bloggers can exploit in my series, "New Blog Friday".  The latest entry is on my blog here, and it discusses blogging about a particular industry from a progressive point of view.  I've got another one coming soon on culture-industry blogs.

by Shai Sachs 2007-05-07 10:22AM | 0 recs
You forget the most important: pursue ...

... hidden agendas. Without the pursuit of nefarious hidden agendas, where would be the fun?

by BruceMcF 2007-05-07 10:40AM | 0 recs
Re: You forget the most important: pursue ...


by Matt Stoller 2007-05-07 01:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power

You forgot the part about how you blog to improve the chances of the candidate that hired you by repeatedly trashing other progressive candidates......

by jalby 2007-05-07 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power


It just so happens, that candidate seems to enjoy his support from ...... a majority of White , wealthy males. Why am I not surprised then to find the last three posts on this specific blog?

I have never seen a more blunt and obvious display of active voter suppression by attempting to discourage the voice of Diversity while pretending to embrace it. This is a modern version of the Democratic Party (PRE) 1964 and I abhor it!

by ObamaEdwards2008 2007-05-07 01:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power

This is a fantastic post. One thing I'd note is that these are all tactics that have to come within a broader, overall strategy for promoting your ideas.

I'd love to read a post about overall strategy.

by afertig 2007-05-07 02:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Building Power

The two of the last three comments are instructive indeed. The overarching meme of America today is:

My blog...

My candidate...

My ideas...

No sense that others might see things differently or that just because 'the other', in this case Stoller, is criticizing the 'Me' in question it does not follow that 'the other' is acting  out of a nefarious and evil agenda.

This is what, theoretically, separates us on the progressive branch of the human family tree from the mouthbreathers. Sad to see that 'some' did not get the memo.

Community matters and if you cannot criticize in a manner that avoids corroding the ties that make up the community then you and your agenda will not be successful.

Further, I now cringe whenever a woman enters the thread with a complaint. Valid or not the complaint always seems to proceed from the viewpoint that 'the white men' want to keep the women down.

Many do, no question.

But I would ask, 'Why lead with your chin?' If you are, as you stoutly maintain, an independent progressive women why do you need anyone's assistance in making your ideas known? This from a man who hung out with the first generation of feminist women and who has seen this attitude do more to undermine feminism than any of the ravings of the ReighWing.

Ladies, it's your fight...

So fight it.

I support you but I've got my own agenda to work on.

by Pericles 2007-05-07 09:10PM | 0 recs

This post by you has nothing to do with West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District. Please delete this post and write something about WV-02.

by Carnacki 2007-05-08 05:46AM | 0 recs


Advertise Blogads