Garance Franke-Ruta’s recent American Prospect article on key differences between Left and Right bloggers has created an interesting and useful debate. But I suspect she may be spurring a different, but equally useful, debate in a new post on Tapped that challenges the idea that bloggers are mainly “citizen-journalists” who represent an entirely new phenomenon in political commentary.Franke-Ruta goes through a whole list of leading Left and Center-Left blogs, including this one, and notes the various credentials–in terms of background, experience, institutional ties, and even social connections–their authors bring to the keyboard. Her post will probably set off a backlash among bloggers who (a) fear the blogosphere is being taken over by Washington and/or Establishment Types, and (b) really freak out at the idea that Washington and/or Establishment Types are eating, boozing, and shmoozing together in order to promote each other at the expense of their less-connected peers.I did a long post last fall providing my own, tentative take on the relationship between blogs and other forms of political expression, and concluded that the whole phenomenon represents the confluence of a new technology with a classic market failure in political journalism and advocacy.Alternatives to market failures create all sorts of new outlets for creativity and expanded involvement, and that’s been the case with blogs. But alternatives to market failures also produce a market response, and that’s why so many Washington political institutions have started up or blessed blogs.So: does that mean the Establishment is neutering the blogosphere? No, for two major reasons.First, the Establishment response to the growing influence of online competition has loosened up the Establishment itself in significant ways. Kos is now a player in Democratic campaign planning. Nobody involved in Democratic strategy on the Social Security issue can ignore Josh Marshall. And institutional blogging is changing institutions. The stable of young bloggers at the Prospect is changing that staid journal’s image and emphasis significantly. I can tell you a lot of people seem to be taking a new look at the DLC thanks to this blog and The Moose. The Center for American Progress and the New America Foundation are now sponsoring blogs, along with most political magazines. Co-optation of market-share-threatening trends is generally a two-way street. So the invasion of the blogosphere by the Establishment is a tribute to the medium’s influence.But secondly, whatever advantages Establishment bloggers have, everybody else remains just a click or a google-search away, and the quality and value-added of non-Establishment blogs continue to bubble up. I’m forever discovering that some blog I read now and then is being written by somebody living in America rather than Washington–someone with a day job who is light years away from getting a hand on the greasy pole of print or electronic journalism, or from a gig with a major political outfit or think-tank. Like most low-mid-major bloggers, I get a constant stream of email from people wanting me to link to their blogs, and the backlog of requests is a constant source of anxious guilt.But they are there, in far greater numbers than the people lining up for interviews with Establishment outlets, and boasting qualifications–like the ability to write, and an actual knowledge of actual conditions around the country–that their Ivy-educated peers often don’t have.Yeah, many bloggers are people who’d be doing faily well in the punditocracy if the internet did not exist, and yeah, the internet has created opportunities for intelligent commentary and advocacy by a whole lot of folks who didn’t go to Harvard and thus can’t get in the door at The New Republic. Let’s hope the supply and demand curves ultimately begin to converge. In the mean time, there’s space for us all.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
The federal government is going to shut down this weekend, barring some miracle. And Democrats really need to make sure Americans know exactly who insisted on this avoidable crisis. It’s the House GOP, as I explained at New York.
If you are bewildered by the inability of Congress to head off a government shutdown beginning this weekend, don’t feel poorly informed: Some of the Capitol’s top wizards are throwing up their hands as well, as the Washington Post reports:
“’We are truly heading for the first-ever shutdown about nothing,’ said Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank. Strain has started referring to the current GOP House-led impasse as “the ‘Seinfeld’ shutdown,” a reference to the popular sitcom widely known as ‘a show about nothing.’ ‘The weirdest thing about it is that the Republicans don’t have any demands. What do they want? What is it that they’re going to shut the government down for? We simply don’t know.’”
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Many House Republicans, led by a band of right-wing hard-liners, want to impose their fiscal and policy views on the nation despite the GOP’s narrow majority in the House. Their chief asset, beyond fanaticism, is that the federal government can’t remain open past the end of the fiscal year without the concurrence of the House, and they don’t really mind an extended government shutdown, if only to preen and posture. They are being encouraged in this wildly irresponsible position by their leader and likely 2024 presidential nominee Donald Trump.
But the hard-liners’ real motive, it seems, is to use the dysfunction they’ve caused in the House to get rid of Speaker Kevin McCarthy for being dysfunctional. The not-so-hidden plan hatched by Florida congressman Matt Gaetz is to thwart every effort by McCarthy to move forward with spending plans for the next fiscal year and then defenestrate him via a motion to vacate the chair, which just five Republicans can pass any time they wish (with the complicity of Democrats). Indeed, the Post reports the rebels are casting about for a replacement Speaker right now:
“A contingent of far-right House Republicans is plotting an attempt to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker as early as next week, a move that would throw the chamber into further disarray in the middle of a potential government shutdown, according to four people familiar with the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.”
McCarthy’s tormenters would like to have a successor lined up who will presumably be even less inclined to compromise with Democrats than the current Speaker. And that’s saying a lot, since McCarthy has already bowed to the Gaetz demand that House Republicans reject even the idea of a continuing resolution — the stopgap spending measures used to forestall or end government shutdowns in the past — and instead plod through individual appropriations bills loaded with provisions no Democrat would ever accept (e.g., deep domestic spending cuts, draconian border policies, anti-Ukraine measures, and abortion restrictions). It’s a recipe for a long shutdown, but it’s clear if McCarthy moves a muscle toward negotiating with Democrats (who have already passed a CR in the Senate), then kaboom! Here comes the motion to vacate.
Some observers think getting rid of McCarthy is an end in itself for the hard-liners — particularly Gaetz, who has a long-standing grudge against the Californian and opposed his original selection as Speaker to the bitter end — no matter what he does or doesn’t do. In theory, House Democrats could save McCarthy by lending a few “no” votes to him if the motion to vacate hits the floor, but they’ve made it clear the price for saving him would be high, including abandonment of the GOP’s Biden impeachment inquiry.
So strictly speaking, the impending shutdown isn’t “about nothing”; it’s about internal far-right factional politics that very few of the people about to be affected by the shutdown care about at all. Understandably, most Democrats from President Biden on down are focusing their efforts on making sure the public knows this isn’t about “big government” or “politicians” or “partisan polarization,” but about one party’s extremism and cannibalistic infighting. For now, there’s little anyone outside the GOP fever swamps can do about it other than watch the carnage.