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Posted by on Aug 3, 2007 in Media, Politics | 5 comments

YearlyKos Convention Underscores Blogging’s Tricky Political Role

Blogging is definitely starting to come of age politically — to the extent where the Washington Post calls the YearlyKos convention the Democratic party’s other convention.

But the Post also notes that there is also tricky part for Democratic politicians who decide to bond with bloggers as well:

Last month, in a straw poll on the popular liberal blog Daily Kos, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the front-runner for her party’s presidential nomination, won only 9 percent of the vote, lagging far behind former senator John Edwards (N.C.) with 36 percent and Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) with 27 percent. She couldn’t make it past 4 percent for most of the year.

But as the who’s who of the progressive blogosphere — the “Net roots” — gather in Chicago for the YearlyKos convention, which started yesterday, Clinton will be there. Her attendance underscores two seemingly contradictory realities: blogs’ growing influence as powerful backroom players in Democratic circles and the fact that they don’t reflect the views of most Democrats, much less the general public.

“The fact is, the Net roots cannot win elections by ourselves,” Markos “Kos” Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of Daily Kos and the namesake of the event, said this week. “But we can be a key component to a winning Democratic strategy.”

Zuniga’s comment indicates he is much more the hard-nosed political realist than some of his critics on the right paint him to be.

And this convention will not always contain the name of the Kos website:

The convention’s chief organizer is not Kos but Gina Cooper, a former high school teacher who became a Net-roots activist and borrowed Moulitsas’s nickname to inaugurate the conference last year. Next year it will have another name.

“This event is much larger than any one blog,” Cooper explained, “though we’re all a fan of Kos and certainly not distancing ourselves from his blog.”

And, indeed, it’s a smarter move to do so. The convention is gaining importance in terms of perceived clout — to the extent where Fox talk show star Bill O’Reilly blasted it and Democrats to who go there (but then O’Reilly is blasting Democratic candidates who dare chat with any liberal groups he doesn’t like ). The importance of progressive weblogs goes beond one weblog (the same holds for blogs in the center and on the right).

And the ascention of progressive weblogs can be seen in a tantilizing fact noted earlier in many news reports: Democratic candidates have flocked to be seen at the YearlyKos convention at the same time as they scrambled to avoid going to recent centrist Democratic Leadership Council get together.

What does that mean? Does it mean:

–The Democratic party’s authentic “center” has now swung to the left?

–Disgust over President George Bush, the Iraq war, and the intentional polarization of American politics made the DLC seem to be too much akin to cooperating with “the enemy?”

–The perception that the DLC had some clout is largely gone now due to the nature of both the 2006 election results and polls that show increasing ire among Democrats over the performance of Democrats in Congress who are perceived as not being tough enough?

–All of the above?

Regardless, bloggers are increasingly seen by campaigns as being people who can help raise money for candidates, help get the message out (particularly through these “blogger conference calls” candidates in both parties hold that should more aptly be called “friendly bloggers conference calls” since only perceived blogging buds are invited), and help recruit campaign workers.

The dangers for candidates: convention bloggers can be cranky (Hillary Clinton as just found this out) — and their ideas (and demands) may not be the ideas that can help win in a general election but could turn off some voters. Bloggers on both sides tend to be uncompromising.

The trick for candidates: use blogs as a useful component but don’t forget that elections can’t be won unless centrist and independent voters are wooed and convinced. And right now polls show those voters heavily flowing to the Democrats.

UPDATE:

— A conservative blogger attending the convention for Pajamas Media comes away with a different view then he might have had than if he unquestioningly believed Bill O’Reilly.
–Thoughts on the convention from the always independent The Gun Toting Liberal.

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