Fear and Laptops on the Campaign Trail

You might have seen or heard about The New York Times Magazine's recent look at liberal bloggers and their growing influence on politics. If you haven't read it, I think you'll find it really interesting, especially if you read blogs like daily kos, Talking Points Memo, and Wonkette. Overall, I found the article entertaining, mostly because I found it interesting to read about the personalities behind the words I read every day. From the standpoint of how blogs were depicted, though, I think the article could have been a little better. Klam likens the influence of liberal blogs to the influence of AM talk radio for the right. While this is probably an apt comparison from the standpoint that both embolden political support, it is not true on a very important point--backing up allegations. Rush Limbaugh can say whatever he wants on the radio and his listeners have no way of verifying the veracity of his statements. Bloggers, on the other hand, usually link to the story they are commenting on. In many cases, I have read commentary about an article in a blog only to disagree with it after actually reading the article. I think this is an important feature of blogs as a tool for proliferating news that is sorely lacking in AM radio. The other thing I haven't agreed with in the recent spate of mainstream coverage on blogs is the emphasis placed on their "gossipy" nature. Sure, Wonkette is fun to read, but it is mostly entertainment. It is certainly an element of the political blogosphere, but it is far from the most important development of political blogs, in my opinion. The most important development, I believe, is the way that blogs like kos and atrios have raised large amounts of money for underfunded candidates across the country. People may not realize that a small Congressional election in Ohio makes a difference nationally, but it does. It might dictate who controls the House or Senate, which is a major part of this election cycle. By drawing attention to these types of races, blogs have allowed underfunded opponents to be competitive. Blogs have also helped with federal elections. For example, Howard Dean owes the fact that he is a national figure to blogs, and Atrios has raised over $250, 000 for the Kerry campaign! For me, this is the way blogs are revolutionizing politics. As more and more money gets poured into the blogosphere, enabling people like Josh Marshall, Markos, and Duncan Black to blog professionally, I think we will continue to see blogs increase their influence in the political process. With more legitimacy, blogs will be able to be a more effective check on the mainstream media, as well as a source of attention for important issues. I think that we'll continue to see an increase in political donations from the blogosphere, as well. Some people believe that blogs are at the height of their popularity and influence, but I tend to disagree. I think that the blogosphere still has a lot of room to evolve, and the only question is how fast and in which direction will develop.