The Marketplace Of Ideas Is Short On Big Name Shoppers
The need for leaders to carry the message of liberals in this country has reached its pinnacle, but who those leaders will be is yet to be determined. There is a democracy of ideas that is growing on the net, with so many lefty bloggers putting out new ideas and the readers of the blogs who give right back. It is a marketplace that is growing every day and the products being sold are hope, ideas and an opportunity to have your opinion heard. It can’t be long before some smart upstart is able to capitalize on the vitality and passion that is ripe for the picking and free to whomever chooses to harvest the best ideas and whittle them down into a cohesive platform with populist appeal.
Bernard Henri Levi wrote a wonderful article published in the San Francisco Gate titled, “When the left is not right in America: Lifeless liberals show a hunger for leadership on their causes”, in which he outlines the lack of political or cultural leaders willing to espouse liberal ideals. While I disagree with some of what he puts forth in this piece, for example his narrow scope of who is considered an “intellectual writer” and his chastising of Gore Vidal for not speaking out when I have read several great writings from Mr. Vidal recently (like this, this, this and a bit earlier, this), I do agree that we are sorely lacking in leadership. But with the advent of the Internet and the surge of liberal and progressive blogs, the landscape of political thought, protest and dialogue has changed dramatically. It’s not just the books, paintings, poems and music from the most well known artists where the energy is found. It is now found on the tens of thousands of lefty blogs that have anywhere from several hundred to several hundred thousand readers a day and independent artists and musicians who can now sell their wares on their own terms, bypassing the corporate censor machine.
This new political force is being resisted by old leaders who see any threat to their entrenched power in purely negative terms and the media elite who see their readership being plucked away by blogs that offer a more realistic view of our world and that often delve into subjects considered taboo by the corporate owners and the editors who are too meek to fight their bosses on behalf of their reporters. And unlike newspapers and television news shows, there is an opportunity for readers and viewers to be actively involved. They can instantly critique what they read and even throw in their two cents with the added satisfaction of having their opinions known to the author and other readers. This creates a dialogue that can only help hone the ideas and grow the community of people who are willing and able to make a contribution.
William Beutler wrote an article for The Washington Examiner on Friday titled “Politics and the risks of online activism” (that was beautifully picked apart by Matt Stoller at MyDD by the way) and in it he equates liberal bloggers with the conservative group Club For Growth, but without the accountability factor. Beutler contends that by encouraging readers to contribute money to primary challengers to incumbent Democrats that have failed us, bloggers are unnecessarily bloodying the Democratic candidates with the best shot at winning. This is just more beltway conventional wisdom crap that defies reality and refuses to acknowledge that we the people have a role to play in the democratic process.
Politics is not merely a numbers game. While it is important to know the numbers and to know where the best chances of winning are, it is more important to appeal to the voters in every district of this country. Calculating exactly what position they should take on any given issue based on the number of votes gained by that position is hallow politics plain and simple. Inside the beltway politicians, lobbyists, staffers and the reporters who cover them for the mainstream media may be getting bent out of shape by liberal bloggers who are changing the rules of the game, but they better adapt to the new political landscape or risk being left behind.
Lefty bloggers are making elections more about the process and the people and less about the strategy that has been traditionally hatched by the party elite. Where the message of candidates used to be tightly controlled and beltway reporters were the only avenue for getting the message out, the lefty bloggers have changed the face of politics and it is beginning to resemble democracy again. When individual bloggers can promote primary candidates that would, in the past, have been easily relegated to nearly anonymous status, the voters have more information at their fingertips and this tips the balance away from the traditional power holders. Easy to see why there’s so much resistance to the new political system but hard to see how this is bad for the Party or bad for democracy.