Anyway, not to get overly serious about this, but there’s a lesson here: it’s a mistake to mindlessly copy the other side’s successes. We haven’t been able to copy Rush Limbaugh, and they haven’t been able to copy Kos or Jon Stewart. Sometimes it’s best to understand that and move on. ~Kevin Drum
Quite. Hugh Hewitt and Joel Surnow, meet Al Franken. Isn’t Hewitt from Colorado? Maybe he can run for Senate, too. There’s an open seat in ‘08, and he can’t possibly make more of a fool of himself campaigning than he has on his blog for the last month and a half.
Why have the big lefty blogs evolved into online “communities” that sponsor political activism that actually has a remote chance of influencing elections? Because the people on the left are very big into a) political activism and b) collective expressions of that political activism. They also tend to be generally outraged about the state of the world, which lends itself to blogging, while there is nothing more uninteresting than Hewittian, “Gee, I sure do support the President a lot” posts and the old chestnuts of “why aren’t they reporting the good news from Iraq?”
Republican bloggers, even those who are technically political activists, are very much party men who exist to reproduce the party line, but in a way designed to limit and reduce the electoral reach of the GOP. That does not mean that they will always reflexively support everything any Republican pol does, but that they take their lead from some part of the party leadership, usually the President, and then act as enforcers. There really has not been that much of a strong online Republican presence before the Bush Era (that Hewitt now tries to imitate MoveOn is as sad as it is telling about how far behind the GOP is in competing in this arena), so we don’t quite know whether they could adjust and become a more effective force for mobilising grassroots conservatives–most signs point to no. Conservative talk radio is rather different, since many of these hosts actually will challenge the GOP on immigration and other failures, but there are some litmus test questions (such as Iraq) that will brook little dissent here as well.
Consider that the big example of Hewittian activism today is an attempt to enforce party discipline against wayward backbenchers over a…non-binding resolution. This is not really grassroots activism, but the use of a megaphone to try to whip the Republican caucus in the media. It is furthermore the ego trip of some big name bloggers and pundits who want to display their servile attachment to the President. What is different between Kos and Hewitt? Kos actually wants to win elections and the Kossacks spend a fair amount of time thinking, however poorly, about how to do that. They haven’t had that many successes, obviously, but they actually want to expand the reach of the Democratic Party rather than retreat into the bunker with the last five true believers. Will the Kossacks become a pathetic White House-defending gang should the Dems win in ‘08? You better believe it. Nonetheless, the model of their blogs will continue to make them politically relevant in a way that the celebrity-blogging on the right never can be.