Building a Rightroots Movement

Patrick Ruffini takes up where Jon Henke and John Hawkins leave off, offering a lament that conservative bloggers don’t engage in activism to the extent that their lefty counterparts do, thus leading to the demise of Western Civilization as we know it.

Righty Pundits vs. Lefty Activists

Ruffini thinks the rightosphere is mired in 2003 and are too shy or aloof to use their blogs to raise money for Republicans, content instead to be mere pundits.

Almost without exception, conservative bloggers are hobbyists, and those that aren’t are usually employed by old line conservative media. A lack of politically sophisticated full-time bloggers, as well as dependence on existing center-right institutions, is holding the rightroots back from becoming a full-fledged counterpart to the netroots — one that is not beholden to the Republican Party or the offline conservative movement.

Speaking only for myself — and thus becoming part of the problem! — I’m not in this to raise money for political candidates, let alone rally the base.  Blogging is an outlet for conversation.  Regular readers know my partisan inclinations but drive-by readers often guess wrong.

Constitutionally, I’m just not geared for flackery or hackery.  Hewing to the party line in order to advance The Cause comes at too high a price, I’m afraid.

A Soros for the Right

He’s intrigued by Hawkins’ idea of finding a conservative sugar daddy to finance would-be activist hacks.

On the other hand, you could have one conservative donor with deep pockets who could hand out, let’s say, twenty $25,000 grants, for two years in a row, and they could double the size the blogosphere.

How?

Well, there are a number of bloggers who could go full time if they could add $25,000 a year to the money they’re making off of advertising. There are other bloggers who could use that money to advertise their blogs. Some other people could use the money to recruit talent and do reporting. Given that the traffic in the blogosphere tends to be heavily concentrated in the top blogs, of which there are a relatively small number, you could see the size of those blogs dramatically increase with these grants.

This strikes me as rather problematic.  For one thing, without conducting a formal census, I’m pretty sure there are more than twenty existing blogs.  So, adding another twenty would not “double the size the blogosphere.”  Even if the $25k was only a one-time deal, adding another forty wouldn’t do it, either.

More importantly, what is it that we’d be getting for this money?  A gang of people who couldn’t attract enough of an audience with their blogs to make a go of it before getting an infusion are suddenly going to be the next Daily Kos?  For $12 an hour, no less?

Oddly, the actual Daily Kos — a Lefty Democrat with no ideological qualms about subsidies  — managed to make a go of it through sheer entrepreneurial zeal.  Something doesn’t smell right here.

Do We Really Need a Rightroots?

Beyond that, I simply reject the premise of this Movement to Create a Movement (not to be confused with Hank Williams Jr.’s failed effort to create a Coalition to Ban Coalitions).

First, I would submit that there are a plethora of activist blogs on the starboard side of the blogosphere.  Red State, TownHall, The Next Right, Right Wing News, and others already banging the drum and rattling the can.

Second, it’s far from clear to me that it much matters.  Yes, the Netroots are way ahead of us in organizing.  They got first mover advantage because 1) they were galvanized by coming out on the wrong end of the 2000 election brouhaha and then the Iraq War and 2) they’re younger and thus more attuned to the latest technology.  But Republicans are quickly catching up, simply copying what’s worked for their opponents and innovating on their own.

Sure, it looks like our side’s down at the moment.  The 2006 midterms were a bloodbath and it’s looking like we’ll go back-to-back come Tuesday.    Might I suggest that this has nothing whatever to do with the comparative organization of the two sides online but rather the poor job Republican politicians did when given the chance?

Yes, Barack Obama raised a truckload of money, partly through superb organization online.  Then again, so did Ron Paul.  Frankly, John McCain would have, too, had he heeded my advice and opted out of federal funds for the general election campaign.   In any case, it’s the candidates, not their blogging entourage, that mostly matters.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dantheman says:

    “A Soros for the Right

    He’s intrigued by Hawkins’ idea of finding a conservative sugar daddy to finance would-be activist hacks.”

    So a movement largely financed by sugar daddies (Coors, Scaife, etc.) is complaining that the other side has one?

  2. sam says:

    Sure, it looks like our side’s down at the moment. The 2006 midterms were a bloodbath and it’s looking like we’ll go back-to-back come Tuesday. Might I suggest that this has nothing whatever to do with the comparative organization of the two sides but rather the poor job Republican politicians did when given the chance?

    Ya think? To use an automobile analogy, during the last eight years, the Republicans have designed and rolled out, for the political public’s consumption, an Edsel. Now, in the Grand Prix, that Edsel is blowing black smoke, leaking oil, and trailing parts all over the track. Your side needs a new design.

  3. Derrick says:

    A Soros for the Right

    Isn’t it always interesting how the preservers of the market economy over on the Right are always looking for a welfare check? While the Socialist bloggers on the Left pull themselves up “from their bootstraps”, the Right is looking for a “handout”.

  4. Jay C. says:

    “Regular readers know my partisan inclinations but drive-by readers often guess wrong.”

    Dr J, the reason I’ve been reading you for years is that you have perfected the required art of subtly balancing between non-hackery and apostasy.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Individualists for collective action?

    I don’t think it’s an accident that the social conservatives have taken over the power structures within the Republican Party (to the party’s detriment). They are temperamentally more inclined towards organization and group action than libertarians are.

    Who, precisely, will be organizing? Liberal Republicans have mostly become Democrats (or independents). Paleocons and libertarians are by principle and temperament unlikely to build an organization. And the social conservatives and neocons have gotten the GOP in the fix in which they find themselves now.

  6. Jay C. says:

    Derrick: it’s not a welfare check, there’s a tradition of artistic patronage that exists through history. If the Rightrooters want to think that that’s the way to go, they can always give it a try, but unlike artistic patronage, these folks giving out the money… They might call themselves investors, and ultimately they become editors. I doubt that’s how I want my Rightroots to be like.

  7. fester says:

    I don’t want to concern troll here as my politics are obvious — but James, you could fit into a ‘right’ roots paradigm in the same manner as a Brad Delong fits into the netroots paradigm — an aligned and interest policy wonk —

    I think the biggest issue for the lack of a ‘right’ roots is the internal conflicts in the GOP have not been ripped open with acid poured into the wounds (yet) in the same manner that the progressive bloggers were marginalized in 2002 over Iraq… you need a lot of mutually aggrieved people who think that they have a leverage point of power to correct their pereceievd effective powerlessness (or at least that is the netroots story)

  8. Rick DeMent says:

    This will end up a lot like the Lefts attempt to launch a left wing counterpart to talk radio. It ignores the inherent characteristics of the media that lend itself to the specific natures of the liberal \ conservative divide.

  9. Bandit says:

    Exactly right Rick – the same goes for the inclinations of individuals who have worldviews that are labeled as left or right

  10. Rick DeMent says:

    Exactly right Rick – the same goes for the inclinations of individuals who have worldviews that are labeled as left or right

    Sadly in a very short for comments section one must resort to shorthand descriptions of complex phenomena in order to avoid writing a book to make a fairly simple point.

  11. al bee says:

    I am looking for someone to lead a reformation of the American Way of Life. The feely goody nut cases have taken charge. Institute a draft and the Democrats Will head for Canada, leaving an empty battle ground. I would lead, but the macular degeneration is so bad I would lead the troops astray.

    Any volunteers?