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Why national Dems are clueless about blogs

Bloggers and politically passionate citizens of the Web who read them are the unwashed, dirty masses to national Dems. You receive email after email asking for money, your volunteer time or both, but when it comes down to it, you’re just the rich, uncouth cousin that they’d never invite to a social gathering of their friends, but know they have to rub shoulders with at a family event to hit up for dough.

Glenn Greenwald got it straight from an anonymous Dem horse’s, er, donkey’s mouth. Via Glenn’s gig at Crooks and Liars:

The way in which so many national Democrats run away from the blogosphere and try to pretend that it does not exist — as though it is some sort of dangerous, poisonous sewer — is really quite bewildering. Within the last two weeks, I had some extensive communications with a high-ranking staff member in a Democratic Senators’ office (whose identity I promised not to reveal before the discussions began) in which I argued that systems should be created to enable Democratic Senators to work cooperatively with the blogosphere in order to prevent the Bush Administration from continuing to suppress investigations into its wrongdoing, including as part of the NSA scandal and other scandals.

I explained that there is a bursting and eager energy among the literally millions of people who write and read blogs to take meaningful action against the Bush Administration. The people in the blogosphere are highly motivated, informed, and politically engaged. Activating that energy and having national Democrats work cooperatively with the blogosphere (rather than ignore it or scorn it) could make an enormous difference in how these stories end up being covered and resolved. It is monumentally dumb not to embrace the one mechanism which has the ability to unleash genuinely impassioned, mass citizen action. And there are obvious and easy — yet quite potent — ways for national Democrats to work with bloggers and the blogosphere to maximize the force of these efforts.

This was the response I ultimately received:

I think there is an opportunity for us to figure out a better way to work together. But, you have to understand, my ultimate goal is to help [the] Senator [] achieve his objective of real oversight on national security matters by the Intelligence Committee.

Even with the best of intentions, I’m not convinced that bloggers can help us meet that goal. In fact, I worry about it hurting our efforts given the increasingly partisan environment.

This response is not uncommon. Many – if not most – national Democrats really are afraid of working with actual citizens, and are particularly afraid of having any involvement at all with the blogosphere. It’s as though they think they need to remain above and separated from the poorly behaved, embarrassing masses. They actually have been scared away from working with the very people who they are supposedly representing and who are on their side.

Bush followers, along with their media allies, recognize the lurking power of the anti-Bush component of the blogosphere and — for that very reason — have been expending considerable efforts recently to demonize it as nothing but fringe, extremist lunatics who are political poison. Rather than combat that demonization, national Democrats — as usual — have meekly acquiesced to it — even internalized it — and are now intimidated to go anywhere near one of the very few vibrant, living and breathing instruments of political activism available to them.

Based on this condescending, frightened behavior, one would think that Democrats are enjoying one success after the next and don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the great political machine they have built — especially not do anything as risky and bizarre as work with the lowly throngs of peoplewho are activated, interested, energized and eager to wage the battles against the Bush Administration. Despite their glaring need for new strategies, so many of these national Democrats are completely closed off to new ways of working because, it seems to me, so many of them are, at bottom, personally satisfied with their chronically defeated, minority status. They prefer to protect the safety of their own individual political positions than to try to find ways to end the string of victories by the Bush Administration.

Could anyone have said it any better than that? Glenn rocks.

These creaking Dem establishment figures are clearly not ready for prime time, and we’ll probably see the GOP get out ahead of the game in figuring out how to mobilize the netroots for their side while the Dems continue to wring their hands, worry about “image” and wonder why they can’t win, even as the other party fails our country over and over yet manages to succeed at the ballot box.

I have to lift just a little more of Glenn’s post, which should be spread far and wide. The state of the party is in such disarray, and it’s because of the craven self-interest of too many Dems who care more about holding onto their individual threads of power by triangulating or pandering to the Right.

Nothing seems to hurt these impotent folks more than having to take a stand on anything remotely progressive, heaven knows they get tagged as “outside of the mainstream” by the lazy, bought-off MSM and even worse, the GOP — why let that morally bankrupt party drive this train?

The fact that so many Democrats are so resistant, even hostile, to one of the only venues which exists where truly impassioned and energized activism can be found illustrates just how dysfunctional and frightened they have become. They care far more about securing the approval of pompous establishment media pundits and even the approval of Bush allies who continuously push them around, than they do about working with the people who are on their side and actually winning.

They don’t want to go anywhere near the citizen activism in the blogosphere because Tim Russert and Chris Matthews will no longer think they’re a moderate, serious, responsible Democrat, and Republicans might accuse them of being an extremist or a liberal. They’d prefer to avoid that disapproval even it means losing (as it usually does), than be criticized and win. The reason they run away from their own allies in the blogosphere is the same reason they so often run away from taking a real stand against the Bush Administration — it’s because they are petrified that the establishment media and even Republicans will criticize them as being too combative, too liberal, extremist, etc.

Those of us who represent the rich, uncouth cousin known as the blogosphere will just expect to continue to get solicitations to help pay for the party that we won’t get invited to.

By and large that’s ok in some respect, since many bloggers are flamethrowers — with every bright idea or two comes unstifled expressions of personal political frustration at how inept the party is. I think they used to call that free speech back in the day. That inherently makes the medium of the blogosphere frightening to focus-tested, endlessly massaged, PR-driven machines like political parties. They get publicly called out early and often, blowing their carefully created “images” away when the hypocrisy is exposed in the blogosphere (hi sHillary) and it spreads like wildfire. That’s a PR nightmare for them. However, that doesn’t excuse ignoring and dissing the entire blogosphere.

When it comes down to it, the real problem is that today’s national Dems have no interest in reframing any issues or reshaping the discourse, it’s all about scraping just enough votes to win. Perhaps if they actually read and engaged the netroots they could figure out how to excite the massive number of citizens who are turned off by the current political fakery and don’t vote at all — and stop chasing the Republican sheeple. Listening to handpicked-Dem focus groups and highly paid consultants with years of experience hasn’t seemed to do much for the party at the national level, has it?

The party is clueless — the fact that the dance of continually asking the uncouth cousin to remain silent yet foot the bill for their party of friends is over. There’s no going back, unless the dolts in both parties want to try to ignore, or if scared enough of blogs, attempt again to legislatively crush or regulate the netroots. And don’t think it couldn’t happen, given the established political culture in Washington that has everything to lose when speech is free.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding