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
After watching Donald Trump’s wildly applauded address to this year’s CPAC conference, I wrote an assessment at New York:
In his rapturously received 88-minute address to the 2021 CPAC conference on Sunday, former president Donald Trump didn’t give his listeners what so many of them wanted: a pledge to run for president again in 2024 (though he teased the crowd with his obvious availability). But he vented his outsized spleen fully, and left no doubt that the future of Trumpism will be its past, revived and vindicated.
Much of the speech was rehashed from the brag sessions of the 2020 campaign, treating his administration as one long parade of unprecedented triumphs on every single front. Accordingly, Joe Biden’s extremely brief presidency was condemned as the worst in history already thanks to the 46th president’s reversal of the policies of the 45th (especially on immigration policy), which were one long parade of unprecedented triumphs on every single front. Viewers were left with the distinct impression that a near-utopian future for the country would be as simple as the replacement of Biden with — well, if not Trump — then someone with exactly the same policies and sterling leadership qualities.In tune with the reactionary atmosphere of this and every other Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump suggested that resistance to the plans of the hated opposition was enough of an agenda. Twice he asserted that Democratic governance would put the country on a short road to full-fledged communism. But it was remarkable how little he bothered to outline any ideas for the future other than the restoration of the recent past.
The one exception was his bloody-shirt demands for “election integrity” legislation in every state, which included a universal revocation of no-excuse absentee balloting (and all in-person early voting, since he called for a “single election day”) and universal voter ID requirements. It’s an audacious proposal, considering that 13 states (including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin) carried by Biden already have voter ID requirements, and fully 34 (including 12 states carried by Trump) had no-excuse voting by mail before the COVID-19 pandemic and the marginal liberalization of deadlines and procedures that Trump blames for his defeat.
Apparently Trump’s “landslide” victory required tighter voting rules than the country has had for many years. It’s unlikely a return to the spirit of the days of poll taxes and literacy tests is going to pass muster with federal and state courts (Trump, of course, blasted the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court that included three of his nominees, for lacking the “courage” to overturn Biden’s victory). But Republican subscription to this terrible assault on voting rights is another way that GOP elected officials can bend the knee to Trump.
Other than voter suppression, the future of Trumpism as outlined by its founder seemed to revolve around vengeance against RINOs, the ancient conservative epithet that now seems to be defined strictly by a lack of loyalty to Donald Trump. To feral roars from the crowd, he named every single congressional Republican who voted for his impeachment or conviction, suggesting that all must go before the GOP would be able to match the communist-bent Democrats in viciousness and self-discipline.
It appears, then, that Trump has determined to ensure that Republicans go into 2022 and 2024 as a political force dedicated to the restoration of his legacy with or without his personal leadership. For the most part, the dominant ideological movement in the party and the hallowed conservative movement is his. Indeed, one of the more unmistakeable phenomena of CPAC 2021 is the extent to which Republican activists now treat the conservative and MAGA movements as identical. And if he chooses to keep control of both movements, who can challenge him? The obvious successor to Trumpism is ever more Trumpism, and the obvious successor to Trump is still Trump.