"the crazy political junkies that hang out in blogs"

To follow up my post about the intra-party turmoil between leftist bloggers and mainstream Democrats (occasioned by Dick Polman's analysis in the Philadelphia Inquirer) I thought it might be worth a look inside the minds of the bloggers said to be causing the trouble.

Despite my abhorrence of labels, it's tough to avoid them in this type of analysis, especially when so many people toss them around, including the labeled parties themselves.

Right now, there's a very thoughtful series of posts at MyDD, including this fascinating debate over rude and over-the-top commenters:

I just want to make one thing clear to some people who do not view MyDD as a place for thoughtful, strategic appreciation of the progressive movement: your days are numbered. Do not consider MyDD a place to work out your frustrations that you cannot work out elsewhere. Do not consider MyDD a place for random, open discussion of the latest news and current events. Do not consider MyDD to be a message board for total progressive purity. MyDD is, ultimately, a place for people who are serious about politics to congregate. It is a place where serious discussion and debate on how to fix the horrifically dysfunctional progressive movement. While grassroots, MyDD is the blog for political progressives serious about political, progressive change to find one another, and to discuss how to make progressive change take place.

This is not a casual chat room. This is not another random political message board. When MyDD is fulfilling its mission, it is a place for serious people to make serious comments. I have always argued that bloggers should be taken seriously because they are serious people.

The comments in response are well worth reading. Many of them sound depressed, and some commenters have threatened to leave.

In all honesty, they have my sympathies, even though I don't share their political views. It's as if someone told me to "grow up!" -- and people have been telling me that all my life. One of the toughest things in life is to try to stay in touch with that side of you which does not want to grow up (because, let's face it, growing up sucks) and nothing feels more condescending and irritating than being scolded. Indeed, on the right, a form of this phenomenon fuels the calculated immaturity characterizing some of the backlash against political correctness.

For some people, the whole rude-commenting thing is almost a netroots lifestyle feature. Vent freely and go ballistic at every opportunity. After all, Bush has been elected twice, no one on the right will listen to you anyway, so it's an outlet for people who view themselves as disenfranchised.

As Chris Bowers explains, it's about lifestyles:

the netroots does not organize around advocacy organizations design to influence public policy, but instead around lifestyles. This is an important difference between the political culture of the progressive netroots and the political culture of Washington, D.C.
Bowers also expresses concerns over "overall impact" on the rank and file:
. . .the $640,000,000 question is whether or not blog readers really are the influential, cutting edge of Democratic public opinion, or whether we are an isolated group that has little overall impact on the sentiment of the Democratic rank and file. Considering results from the recent Iowa poll, the recent Connecticut poll, and the Montana Senatorial primary (among other things), I am strongly inclined to believe that the opinions held by progressive, political blog readers eventually come to be shared by a wide percentage of the Democratic rank and file. If that is the case, given these results, the question is not whether or not Hillary Clinton is the heavy favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2008, but whether or not she will have any serious impact on the primary season at all.
Far be it from me to slam anyone's lifestyle, but if netroots activism revolves around lifetsyles, I think it's worth a closer look.

Wikipedia notes MyDD's use of the term first, that Joe Trippi credits them for Howard Dean's successes, and offers Kos's definition:

In a December 2005 interview with Newsweek magazine [1], Markos Moulitsas Zķniga, founder of Daily Kos, described the netroots as, "the crazy political junkies that hang out in blogs."
I'm no netroots activist (at least I don't think I am), but in the proper context, that would seem to encompass over-the-top commenters.

Whether they're going to win or not (the recent James Webb victory is already being attributed to them), they are clearly a powerful force with which the Democratic Party mainstream must reckon. (Or be reckoned with by. . .)

It is impossible to predict where any of this might lead politically, and that is because future projections based on present-day circumstances necessarily is a form of static (as opposed to dynamic) analysis. And what could be less static than lifestyles?

What is, pray tell, this lifestyle? Hanging around at Drinking Liberally events? Living one's entire life online? Wearing baggy shorts and preferring peanut butter sandwiches to shrimps and martinis? Leaving hundreds of comments which look like they might have been written by Sean Gleeson's autorantic virtual moonbat?

To argue that lifestyle attributes will all be the same in 2008 (and that mainstream perceptions of them will remain the same) is to engage in static analysis. What will happen is that over time the netroots activists will inevitably tend to engage in a process called "growing up." By this I don't mean putting on a suit and drinking martinis (although I suspect there will be more of that than any of the netrootistas would care to admit). There's a form of growing up that (as I think the rude-comments post indicates) simply means taking things into account that you might not have taken into account. It's called getting wiser, and it works with the young as well as the old. The netrootistas will inevitably grow up, and their "mainstream" opponents will inevitably grow older.

Neither should forget that new activists will eventually come along with new labels. Newness never remains new.

One astute MyDD commenter also recognized that the lifestyle war isn't just about age. It involves geography:

Why does the Democratic party need to worry more about the northeast when its the only region where we win already and its the region that is losing population (and CDs/EVs) the fastest.

We're fighting for our lives out in the midwest and have only recently once again shown signs of life in the interior west and southwest, can barely compete in much of the south -- and thats where the population is growing the fastest.

And isn't the 50-state strategy supposed to be precisely about diverting our resources away from existing strongholds and into the areas I listed above, so we're competitive in the future?

I'm not much of an expert on the geography of netroots activism, but if the phenomenon is primarily limited to the Northeast, I'd say this does not bode well for Democrats.

In another post, Chris Bowers examined the demographics of the netroots activists. While the post doesn't say much about their location, they tend not to be the way they've been stereotyped. Not only are they older than commonly believed, they're well-educated, and financially well off:

Active readers of Democratic political blogs are very highly educated, highly politically active, quite well-to-do, voracious consumers of media, not very young, and skew male. Apart from the male part, these indicators fly in the face of stereotypes about progressive bloggers, who are supposedly drooling, rabid, anti-social, uneducated, teenage extremists with no political value and out of touch with current events. Quite to the contrary, active blog readers have a tremendous amount of political capital to spend, and are in search of adventurous progressive politicians and organizations to spend it on. Is there any major progressive political group in the country that would not want to appeal to the demographics of this readership? High concentrations of wealthy, highly educated, highly active media junkies cannot be found in many areas in either this or any other country. Mischaracterize and misjudge them at your own peril.
This finds support in a comment (by the leader of the "crazy political junkies" himself) about the YearlyKos demographics:
"Itís actually a cross-section of the real Democratic Party. Maybe a little whiter, maybe with a bit more money than the typical party person. But generally speaking, we are the Democratic Party and all the efforts to marginalize us really are falling flat."
I'm not trying to marginalize anyone, but my problem is that I don't know where they live (nor how representative they are of their respective areas), and the geographical data are rather slim.

But I'm just wondering, this recent YearlyKos convention. . . It was held in Las Vegas, right? (As for next year, Kos is talking about Des Moines.)

Might that indicate a concern with geography?

Some things aren't changed by "growing up."

(I may be wrong, but I don't think doing things like killing Lieberman is going to play well geographically.)

posted by Eric on 06.14.06 at 08:40 AM


They are tied to two dead horses socialism and anti-war.

That socialism horse has been dead so long it is starting to stink.

And yet the net root Dems don't seem to notice. In fact they are tied to those policies.

We are watching the Dem fleet crack up.

M. Simon   ·  June 14, 2006 5:15 PM

DailyKOS has talked more and more about making the left less interested in authoritarian economic policies. Certainly, he's OK with sticking it to the rich, but as for OSHA trying to shut down every home business in America unless they conform with nonsensical ergonomic standards, he seems to be against that. Which is good, I'd say.

Jon Thompson   ·  June 14, 2006 7:52 PM

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