One or two closing notes from this weekend’s Family Research Council summit…
First, take it for what it’s worth, I heard a rumor from an attendee that some conservative with deep pockets was ready to start financing conservative grassroots efforts “in a way that makes George Soros look cheap.” No word on who, when, or how. (Whoever this guy is, I just hope he (or she?) doesn’t forget NRO.)
A portion of the political blogosphere panel discussion touched on what the left is doing well on the blogs, and where the right needs to catch up. I made a little fun of Markos Moulitsas, but noted that if he says “this guy in this House district can win if we support him,” then an avalanche of money, volunteers and attention follows Kos’ spotlight. (And to think, the right is the side that has its base mocked as “easy to command.”) The lefty blogs have readerships that are ready to put their money, time, and effort where their mouths are, and that’s a powerful resource, even if they don’t always use it to maximum advantage.
I noted that the power that these groups harness might just be an element of spite: MoveOn.org raised $500,000 on the day that its “General Betray-Us” ad was denounced by the Senate. (I didn’t mention this Saturday, and I realize that it’s comparing apples and oranges, but think about what $500,000 could have meant in that Massachusetts special House election.)
N.Z. Bear noted that MoveOn.org is exactly the model he would hope the conservative grassroots choose not to emulate – that they’ve become geniuses of self-promotion, but do more for their own fundraising and publicity than they do for any cause or political candidate or party they support.
But Jon Henke, Thompson’s web guy and a blogger at QandO, noted that there may be a method to the seeming madness of MoveOn.org’s ad beyond self-promotion. He discussed the “Overton Window” – a concept I’ve not heard of, but that explains a phenomenon I’m sure many of us detect in our guts. Each time a group like MoveOn.org makes an outrageous charge, they push the boundary of acceptable discourse a bit further to the left. Think about what gets said on Keith Olbermann (“the leading terrorist group in this country right now is the Republican Party”), or by Howard Dean (“I hate Republicans and everything they stand for”), or is written on the blogs, and how it would have been greeted five years back, ten years back, twenty years back.
By comparison, a group like MediaMatters for America does its best to stir up outrage against conservative voices in the media. They succeeded in driving Don Imus (not a conservative, but not a friend of Hillary, from the airwaves for a while). We saw similar efforts against Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. The aim, it would seem, is to push the right end of the window of acceptable discourse a bit more to the left.
The lefty grassroots are doing an effective job of pushing public discourse further to the left; will the right get itself organized enough to counter this?