The Corner

The Blogosphere, By CNN

This CNN op-ed (news piece? news analysis?) is odd. CNN’s political editor seems to have a very odd understanding of the blogosphere. He writes:

Liberal bloggers were the cyber cheerleaders for Barack Obama in the 2008 race for the White House. But now that he has won, these “netroots” activists face a major challenge: criticizing the new president and his administration.

It is an interesting dilemma for liberal bloggers who pride themselves on being independent, especially as it relates to the Democratic Party and its leaders.

Former President Bush served as the glue for the often divided liberal blogging community, whether it was their opposition to the Iraq war and domestic spying or frustration about Bush’s approach to education and health care.

Liberal bloggers spoke early and often about holding the Bush administration accountable, but will they do the same to the Obama White House?

“I think our challenge is that line from destructive criticism to constructive criticism, because there is going to be criticism,” Markos Moulitsas, founder of DailyKos.com, said in a recent interview. “The issue is how we manage that and it’s a fine line and it’s very tough sometimes.” Watch more on the future of political blogging »

Moulitsas and Jane Hamsher, founder of firedoglake.com, stopped by to talk about liberal blogging in the Obama era as well as their new political venture to help fund primary opponents against Democrats who they believe are not representing their constituents’ views.

“We want to be responsive to people, to what constituents want,” Hamsher said. “Not what the corporations want.”

Blogging is to liberals what talk radio has been for conservatives: a forum to express and promote their ideas and views. While there are successful Republican blogs, Democrats gained an early foothold in cyberspace, and now GOP leaders and grassroots activists are working to catch up to them.

Having just spent the last eight years with a Republican in the White House, I think the point about the dilemma for left-wing bloggers is real. But what is Preston talking about when he says that liberal bloggers pride themselves on being independent from the Democratic party? While obviously there are some very independent liberal bloggers, the story of the last half decade has been the symbiotic relationship between “the netroots” and the Democratic party. Whole books have been written on how the netroots had, in effect, become the base of the Democratic party. Democratic politicians attended YearlyKos as if it was the first presidential primary. “Fighting Dem” bloggers took credit for Howard Dean’s historic race and for his tenure as head of the Democratic party. Various netroot bloggers became Democratic political consultants.

Part of Preston’s problem is that he seems to have a weak grasp on the distinctions between liberal and Democratic, conservative and Republican. If he understood the difference it would help clarify a lot of these issues.

For example, while it’s true that the netroot bloggers took off under Bush, most of those bloggers were the least independent from the Democratic party. Meanwhile conservative blogs actually had an earlier foothold on the web, because the Internet really began under Clinton. What Preston understands as “Republican blogs” — i.e. right-wing equivalents of Daily Kos and Firedoglake — were slow to take off for various reasons, including the fact that such blogs thrive when they represent the party out of power. This is a dynamic Kos seems to understand a lot better than Preston.