But what really makes conservatives effective is their pre-existing media infrastructure, composed of local and national talk-radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, the Fox News Channel and sensationalist say-anything outlets like the Drudge Report - all of which are quick to pass on the latest tidbit from the blogosphere. "One blogger on the Republican side can have a real impact on a race because he can just plug right into the right-wing infrastructure that the Republicans have built," Stoller says.
But why? The infrastructure Matt Stoller talks about in the Times article makes conservative is what, but the why has to do with the differences in world view described by George Lakoff. Conservative minds seek a "stern father," according to Lakoff's Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Liberals, by contrast, seek a "nurturing mother" arrangement of society. The former, seeking authority to back up their ideas, freely and efficiently repeat messages within the conservative blogosphere. I've seen this as I work on the Persuadio influence research I've been working on: Conservative messages are repeated more accurately, even in cases where they are modified or criticized by conservatives, because there is a distinct tendency to resort to authority on which to build an argument. Liberals mangle the messages they talk about, freely modifying, adding and subtracting to ideas as part of the dialogue they ("we," as a matter of disclosure: for the most part, I have a liberal world view) love to engage in.
Another way to put it is that liberals love an argument, because it lets them engage in finding a shared solution while conservatives love winning arguments. When I was a young activist, I met Sen. Henry Jackson, who loved winning an argument and wars, regardless of the casualties, and he told me so—we need some more Jackson in the Democratic party, though with less of his Cold War paranoiac willingness to kill.
Dialogue is messy. Metalogue, which takes place in networked discussions, is really messy. Since conservative media is much more clearly defined and more unapologetic in its stands, it provides an easily accessed source of authority. When a rumor, like the ones about John Corzine that were supposed to break just before the election, but never did, the conservative media and blogosphere accurately echo the messages they want ringing in voters' ears.
Think about another key image from the political world, the idea of the "big tent." The conservative tent has walls that separate those inside from the outside, the non-conservative. Sure, there is some argument about where those tent walls exist, but that's pretty concrete discussion. The liberal big tent has no walls and it is harder, unless there is a significant crisis such as the Great Depression, World War or the abject failure of the right (Cold War, post-Watergate, post-Gulf War recession and, hopefully, post-Bush II in 2008) that people assemble under the roof of the tent to cooperate in spite of their differing agendas. I prefer the big disaggregated world, but it is hard to build a winning simple majority in election years when people are arguing over their separate issues.
Doc Searls points out in A wide five from across the divide:
My own take is that moderates, moderation, and neither-extreme blogs have a major influence too; though not necessarily in elections. In any case, nobody will ever look into that.
Absolutely, this is the case.
However, because they are moderates, the center tends to address the extremes and that is still to the advantage of the conservatives that more accurately repeat messages, as those messages are addressed by the center. The liberals have organized since the election of 2000 to make more consistent efforts to speak in sound bites, but like liberals do, they march out of line. As a result, the moderates still repeat conservative messages more accurately. It's actually during the election years when moderates can have the greatest impact, bringing coalitions together in a third tent, which is where the candidates have to go to win when the world is not so polarized. It's just hard to remember that most elections—especially non-presidential elections—happen in the moderate center.