Las Vegas, as the ad campaign likes to remind us, is a place people go to untether themselves from reality — to become, if only for a weekend, anonymous and uncensored. It’s odd, then, that Vegas is about to play host to a gathering of ordinary Americans whose objective is precisely the reverse. Next week, 1,000 devotees of the liberal blogging universe — people who know one another only as pseudonyms on a screen, connected by only their running commentaries — will descend on the Riviera Hotel in hopes of affixing names and faces to their online personas. The event has been dubbed the YearlyKos convention, and it is the first-ever corporeal assemblage of the bloggers at the Web site Dailykos.com. These are the people who are said to be changing the very nature of American politics, transforming the old smoke-filled room of insiders into an expansive chat room for anyone who wants in. And so it’s not surprising that Democratic luminaries like the party’s chairman, Howard Dean, and its leaders in Congress, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, have arranged their schedules to address the convention, along with at least a few 2008 presidential contenders. No small contingent of political professionals and journalists will show up as well.
It’s amazing, really, what one person and a keyboard can accomplish. Who knows why Zuniga’s weblog has taken off the way it has while mine reminds an obscure little Internet backwater. If Daily Kos is the equivalent of New York CIty, TPRS is East Bumfuck, ND. Nonetheless, while Daily Kos reaches a daily audience roughly 600 times larger than TPRS, both sites have a role to play in making our democracy more accessible and user-friendly…and that can only be a good thing.
What I find fascinating is how weblogs, and the Internet in general, have changed American politics, particularly on the Democratic side of the fence. By the time the 2008 presidential campaign rolls around, it’s very likely that the Internet will play a key, if not a deciding, role in the ultimate outcome of the Presidential election.
The Internet is the one area is in which Democrats have managed to take the initiative away from Republicans. Democratic politicians have shown a much greater willingness to embrace technology and use it to their advantage. Howard Dean became a force during the 2004 Democratc primary season primarily because his campaign discovered the tremendous and immediate potential of Internet fundraising. Over time, it’s likely that more and more Republicans will follow suit, but for now Democrats still seem to have a decided edge.
This is no longer Johnson vs. Goldwater, and the smoke-filled back rooms of generations past have been replaced by chat rooms, weblogs, and webcasts. Information travels faster, and campaigns can rise and fall with breathtaking speed. Candidates who learn how to harness the new technologies and use them to their advantage will win elections. Those who don’t won’t. It’s as simple as that. So while some folks may ridicule Dean, Reid, and Pelosi for speaking at a convention centered around a weblog, they are actually the smart ones. Bloggers and those who read weblogs tend to be politically astute, socially conscious, and far more likely to vote than other Americans. This technologically adept, politically active segment of the American populace will only continue to grow as 2008 approaches. Those who doubt this reality would do well to keep this in mind:
With some 600,000 visitors a day, Daily Kos reaches more Americans — albeit like-minded Americans — than all but a handful of the largest daily newspapers. The Chicago Reader, an alternative weekly, recently profiled a 23-year-old law student who writes on Daily Kos’s front page under the pseudonym Georgia10, positing that she may well be the most-read political writer in the city, even though few people know her real name. (For the record, it’s Georgia Logothetis, and she lives with her parents.) In this way, Daily Kos and other blogs resemble a political version of those escapist online games where anyone with a modem can disappear into an alternate society, reinventing himself among neighbors and colleagues who exist only in a virtual realm.
On the Internet, everyone can hear you scream…if you can manage to attract attention. We no longer have to depend on the mainstream media for our information, and politicians can now bypass the mainstream media and go directly to the people if they so choose. Things are different now, and the pace of change will only increase with the passage of time. It’s a great time to be a Liberal Democrat, eh? The Worst President EVER currently inhabits the White House, and we have it within our means to seize power and restore a degree of sanity and common sense to the national political dialogue.
Now, if we can just do something about Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter….