Futility of the Liberal Blogosphere?

Jason Zengerle of the New Republic‘s blog The Plank has sparked some controversy at prominent liberal blogs by arguing that the “ideology of winnerism” championed by DailyKos and others is not only unprincipled but, ironically, does not actually yield winners, either.

His case in point is the triumphalism over the primary defeat of Democratic Congressman Ciro Rodriguez of Texas. Zengerle claims that, “If [Rodriguez] hadn’t hugged Bush at the State of the Union, the liberal blogosphere never would have gone after him” and that “It was only after the blogosphere declared war against Cuellar that it realized that, in addition to committing the cardinal sin of hugging Bush, he was a bad Democrat on substantive grounds.”

Kevin Drum, Chris Bowers, and Laura Turner all make some cogent points as to why going after Rodriguez was both good politics and good ideology. That may well be (as one who generally votes Republican, I’m agnostic on the subject) but does not really address Zengerle’s fundamental argument.

For reasons Bowers has outlined numerous times, the most prominent blogs of the Left are incredibly networked in ways that those on the Right are not. (Drum’s site and Josh Marshall’s main site are exceptions to this rule, focusing on analysis rather than activism, although even Marshall has launched a Borglike collective.) The tendency of these blogs has been toward a self-reinforcing mob mentality.

The most popular Righty blogs, by contrast, are those which speak with the voice of its authors, not its readers. (Again, there are exceptions, notably Little Green Footballs.) While there is plenty of triumphalism on this side of the aisle, there is no counterpart to the notion of “netroots.” While there have been “causes,” they have tended to be intellectual rather than activist. Bloggers on the right still think of ourselves as amateur pundits rather than amateur campaign managers.

Zengerle closes,

I don’t dispute that, on the merits, Rodriguez wasn’t a better candidate than Cuellar. I just think that the blogosphere’s involvement in the race was indicative of the scattershot, emotional, sometimes almost counterproductive approach it takes to politics. Drum, while acknowledging the liberal bloggers’ terrible batting average, notes that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” True enough. But, Kos et al’s grand pronouncements to the contrary, I don’t think that they’re building Rome.

Nor do I. I hasten to add that I don’t think the Righty blogs are building Rome, either. Then again, we don’t claim to be.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. RA says:

    Kos and company are not building Rome, they are building the gulag.