A number of people have asked me what I think of Jon Chait’s TNR article, "The Left’s New Machine." Here are my thoughts. I just finished reading Kos and Armstrong’s Barbarians at the Gates this morning. So I may merge some thoughts together.
First of all, this has tended to be discussed in the context of the "netroots", as a technological phenomenon. This is wrong. This new phenomenon is about changing and activating constituencies.
Second, the netroots activated people who were not part of some activist class. The labor movement has plenty activism outlets. The black and hispanic communities have them too. The netroots identify with the Democratic party before they identify with an interest group. They are Democrats because they are progressives. And progressives haven’t had an outlet. The netroots gave it to them. (In some sense, the internet is the 2000s version of the 1970s direct mail)
Third, because they are more interested in the Democratic Party than some interest, they can focus their energy on elections and the big defining issues, like the war, rather than petty infighting.
I do believe that there are lessons here for the right. One of them may be that Republicans have taken the character of interest group factionalization. There was a day when being pro-choice was the main test for moderation. Now there are taxes, abortion, marriage, the environment, campaign finance, Iraq, Iran, and so many more issues. Each of them is associated with an interest group, a donor base, etc. Do Republicans have to shift from infighting to winning elections?
Another question is: Is the Republican Party ready to change its coalition at all?
Another question is going to be, from whom does the energy come? One option would be activating the elderly. Another would be college students.
And, of course, what tools do we use to reach them?