As the Congressional campaign season starts in earnest, some Washington eyes are turning to the blogosphere for a preview of the usual Democratic squabble - the leftists vs the centrists. As in 2004, the questions are how much fund-raising power to bloggers and online advocacy groups have - and can mainstream Democrats build a winning coalition around the center if they leave the base unexcited?But, this article in the Washington Post notes, the impact of the Web on this age-old tension is a wild card. There's some justification is taking the base, especially the blogging base, for granted.
These activists -- spearheaded by battle-ready bloggers and making their influence felt through relentless e-mail campaigns -- have denounced what they regard as a flaccid Democratic response to the Supreme Court fight, President Bush's upcoming State of the Union address and the Iraq war. In every case, they have portrayed party leaders as gutless sellouts.
... "The bloggers and online donors represent an important resource for the party, but they are not representative of the majority you need to win elections," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who advised Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. "The trick will be to harness their energy and their money without looking like you are a captive of the activist left."
But there's some evidence that the online left is a potent force. The Post likens the blog phenom to conservative talk radio in the 1980s - a grass-roots media revolution that drove the Republican party rightward and established a new political equation. The danger for politicians in ignoring the bloggers is no one really knows to what degree they represent an untapped angry audience that can punish candidates that don't pass muster.
Unlike the past, the "pressure is conveyed through a faster, better organized, more insistent medium," said Jim Jordan, a Democratic strategist. ...
Even if they disagree with their positions, Democratic candidates recognize from the Dean experience the power of the activists to raise money and infuse a campaign with their energy. On the flip side, the Alito and Kaine episodes serve as a cautionary tales of what can happen to politicians when they spurn the blogs.
"John Kerry is beginning to bring the traditional Democratic leadership in Washington together with the untraditional netroots activists of the country," James Boyce wrote on the Huffington Post. "A man often accused of being the ultimate Washington insider looked outside of the beltway and saw the concern, in fact, the distress among literally millions of online Democrats."