The Growing Role of Bloggers

Jim Geraghty engages in a bit of blogger triumphalism in a Washington Times op-ed crowing over the withdrawal of Harriet Miers and subsequent confirmation of the more base-friendly Samuel Alito.

When Miss Miers was nominated, the right half of the blogosphere wasn’t quite united in opposition — radio show host and blogger Hugh Hewitt fought a relentless battle to boost Miss Miers until the day of her withdrawal. But by and large, Miss Miers’ critics operated on the Web. Each time the White House came up with an argument to support her nomination, her doubters assessed it and picked it apart, usually within hours. The blogs of the Miers skeptics — David Frum, Ramesh Ponnuru, and many other contributors to National Review Online’s “Bench Memos,” ConfirmThem.com, RedState.com and others set the pace, generating compelling counterarguments a lot faster than the White House could generate arguments. Other prominent conservatives, like former nominee Robert Bork and columnists Charles Krauthammer and George Will, gave her the thumbs-down, and their skeptical comments rocketed around the Web to a mobilized, energized, disappointed GOP grass-roots.

Conservative Republican senators on Capitol Hill read these blogs. They picked up on the grumbling, and echoed it to the White House. Soon it became clear that Harriet Miers was a disappointing choice to a significant chunk of Mr. Bush’s base, and that no Democrat was willing to lift a finger to help her chances.

These things are hard to quantify but there’s little doubt the Right Blogosphere played a significant role.

Regardless, though, Geraghty is almost certainly right about the pressures the Left and Right Blogosphere are exerting on their parties.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, these bloggers are pushing them relentlessly to take a more combative stance, even when the odds are not in their favor, and failure has serious consequences. The Kossacks believe it’s better to lose fighting for principle than compromising to avoid defeat.

[…]

From the lefty bloggers, one would never know that polls showed Samuel Alito was supported by about 53 percent to 55 percent of Americans, and opposed by only 27 percent to 30 percent. Democrats in Bush-supporting red states couldn’t dare support a filibuster of a popular nominee, and every Republican senator except Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island knew the political wind was at their backs — and even Chafee couldn’t bring himself to support a filibuster of a qualified, well-liked nominee.

In the Miers case, it could be argued that bloggers on the right saved the president from making a critical mistake, and nudged him onto the path that ultimately led to a enormously significant part of his presidential legacy. But bloggers on the left are pushing their party into a difficult wilderness. The angry “net-roots” denounce any Democrat for deviating from their agenda, without a moment’s thought of trying to run for re-election with a liberal record in West Virginia, North Dakota or Nebraska.

Republicans can find strength and success by listening to their like-minded bloggers; Democrats can find strength and success by ignoring theirs.

The early evidence is that both parties are listening to their bloggers, at least to some extent.

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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 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.