It is amusing to read the stories coming out of YearlyKos. You have Chris Bowers’ "Why the Progressive Movement has stalled." And you have Townhall’s Amanda Carpenter’s "Laptop Liberals Plan Takeover at YearlyKos." Both are realizations that the online left isn’t quite what they thought it was.
The left thought that it was a broad-based movement that covered the entire Democratic coalition. Nope. It really was just a bunch of recent college grads and late boomers. The statistics were right. Mid-forties, kids, $90k, white, etc. Somehow a project created by these guys didn’t have broadbased appeal. Who woulda thunk? Bowers is particularly worried about the issue of diversity:
This is something we have seen repeatedly discussed on Open Left and in other places. No matter what other forms of diversity we have in the progressive blogosphere and netroots, we still generally lack racial and ethnic diversity. Also, this statement is applicable just as much to the “leadership” of the blogosphere and netroots as it is to the audience of the blogosphere and netroots.
Now, this is unsurprising to anyone who actually is engaged in politics. Democratic campaigns are very coalition and silo-oriented. In Markos’s and Armstrong’s book about what is wrong with the Democratic coalition and the liberal groups, they talk about the pro-choice groups, the women’s groups, the gay groups, etc. They never talk about the Hispanic groups, the African American groups, etc. They are playing in the liberal white part of the coalition, and it doesn’t expand beyond that. Maybe, it can, but there is probably something else going on.
This reminds me of something Jerome Armstrong said about the Barack Obama’s fundraising:
Obama "raised at least $32.5 million including at least $31 million that we can spend on the battle for the Democratic nomination."
Impressive; I wonder how much came from the internet.
It expressed, as did many other lefty blogosphere posts at the time, that while Obama was succeeding, it wasn’t online, so it only sort-of counted. They are simply fetishizing their own vision of their own movment. What is really happening is: (1) African-Americans sometimes respond to email more than blogs and (2) Obama is bringing new money to the process, including, probably, substantial upper-middle class African-American money, and (3) his post-partisanship is hated by a blogosphere built around Bush-hating and partisanship.
Now, Amanda is typical of the right. What?? This isn’t a bunch of hippies with laptops? No, again, as the surveys have indicated, these are upper-middle class white people with real jobs. And they care about changing the world. And they have found a way to be engaged.
They have created a genuine movement that is mobilizing a new class (in both sociological and Marxist senses) of people. It has been focused on Bush-hating, but it is self-conscious enough to know that it has to evolve.
All of this needs to be a lesson for both the right and the left. For the right, the lesson is that this isn’t just about technology. It is also about actual constituencies and voters and activists. The power of the (second generation, as opposed to the FreeRepublic generation, of the) online right won’t really come together until we find either a new set of people we can activate either financially or on the ground. (the netroots has done both) This will probably take an idea. (the netroots had partisanship and Bush-hating, which are not long-term, but effective in the short-term, and they might yet come out with policy ideas attached to the New Democratic Network)
For the left, they need to realize that they really are socio-economically located.
Either side can break out of their mold if they figure that out. But neither side has.