I swore to myself when I read this earlier that I was not going to write about it, but it just appears that I am a sucker for this sort of shit:
Susie Madrak started blogging in 2001, just after Sept. 11, back when the country was hurtling head-first into war and the blogosphere was a mysterious frontier on the far edges of the Internet.
“It was infuriating,” Madrak recalled of the political moment that spurred her to start throwing her own commentary online. “I could see that they were fabricating the reasons for war. Blogging was what I did instead of throwing a brick through the window.”
She started her own site, called Suburban Guerilla, and it soon became one of the boldface blogs of the “Netroots,” a new network of engaged political progressives giving a voice they thought was missing in the mainstream press. In time, millions like her took to their own keyboards, and thousands of similar sites bloomed. The Netroots became the world’s first online grassroots political organizing effort, and the goal was nothing less than to remake the American political system by pushing Democrats leftward.
“We didn’t trust the traditional progressive movement—labor, the issue orgs, the party—because of a record of failure and futility,” writes Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, in an email. “In turn, they didn’t like us petulant upstarts. A popular sentiment was, ‘What are those bloggers going to do, hit George Bush in the head with a laptop?’”
Now, however, the Netroots, which were once thought to do to the political left what evangelical Christianity was supposed to do to the professional right, are 10 years old. In that time they vaulted Howard Dean to within a scream of the presidency, helped Democrats take both houses of Congress and several statehouses across the country, and gave the party what many in the movement believed to be some much-needed spine.
But with another critical election two weeks away, politicians, political operatives, and even the bloggers themselves say the Netroots are a whisper of what they were only four years ago, a dial-up modem in a high-speed world, and that the brigade of laptop-wielding revolutionaries who stormed the convention castle four years ago have all but disappeared as a force within the Democratic Party.
The article goes on to list quotes from Madrak, Peter Daou, and others, and when I linked this piece to DougJ I asked him- “Why do they keep interviewing the same sad sacks who have never managed to change with the times,” and he just responded “DEMOCRATS IN DISARRAY.” Look, I’m sorry some of the old school of progressive bloggers have not figured out a way to monetize their websites, I really am. But hey- when you were all in for Edwards or Hillary then spent all of 2008 linking Hillaryis44 or No Quarter, hoocoodanode the current administration would be skeptical. As a side note, maybe Susie Madrak could send a thank you email the next time we send a donation from this website (which I have) or linked to her fundraising pages (which we have).
And that is what it boils down to, really. There are a group of progressives out there who are unwilling to compromise their values (bully for you), but when they find themselves outside the mainstream of both parties, still feel as if they are entitled to a living from their writing. Blogging is just like everything else, and subject to market forces. If you are selling a product no one wants to buy, it isn’t because your ideas are better and everyone else is too stupid to see the light, it’s because people don’t agree with you and don’t care to hear you.
Look- there are lots of things our progressive betters are absolutely right about. For my money, drone wars and the Obama admins behavior on the drug war both come to mind. Progressives are right. They are right about the grand bargain and cuts to medicare and social security. But here is the rub- when you spend your entire online life doing everything you can to sabotage the Democratic party (STOP PICKING ON RUSH! OBAMA COULDA HAD A PUBLIC OPTION! OBAMA HAD AN ANTIGAY SPEAKER AT HIS INAUGURATION!) because what they are doing, while light years better than what Republicans are doing, doesn’t meet your high standards, don’t be surprised when people deem you irrelevant. Don’t spend years savaging every Democrat because there was no public option and then get all confused that Chuck Schumer won’t buy a blogad.
You see it over and over again. Point to the President’s accomplishments, and mention Lily Ledbetter and the end of DADT, and the progressive response is “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY. WHAT ABOUT X and X and X? ALSO TOO, TIM GEITHNER!”
And that’s great, be an advocate for your beliefs. But why do you think your beliefs should reward you with money?
Next- there are a lot of progressive voices out there on the internet. They just haven’t tried to build themselves into a business enterprise. Every single day I read links to websites I had never heard of before, with bold, vibrant liberal commentary. Check the rec list at DKOS. When you see a commenter say something you like, click on their name and and go check out their website. The progressive blogosphere isn’t dead- it’s as vibrant as it ever was. Just the folks are different than they were ten years ago.
And most of all, if your traffic sucks, it isn’t because your readers just don’t get your particular brand of genius, it’s that they have determined you aren’t worth reading. Period. And if you can’t even build a community in your own personal sphere of the internet, just why the hell do you think your ideas are going to build an actual viable candidacy?
And I know that yes, when the Netroots started, I was a filthy Republican, and now I consider myself a proud Democrat (I never call myself a progressive though. I’m a liberal.) But I figured out how to build a community. You share things. You allow open comments. You let people speak their piece. You don’t judge, and when you do, you let people tell you why you are an asshole. You invite interesting people to write what they want, and you have a crowd of people who who care about each other even though they only know each other as black and white pixels. And you also recognize that you have to work within the system to get shit done.
This is all kind of rambling and insider baseballish, so just start flaming.
*** Update ***
And whaddya know. The Daily Beast completely misrepresented Markos, so who knows how much of this piece is trustworthy.
Talked to Susie, said she was told the interview was supposed to be about the old-style single-proprietor blogs, not the entire progressive blogosphere, so like Markos, her words were taken out of context. My apologies.