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6/6/6: RIP Netroots?

Jun
7
2006

Republican bloggers are gloating this morning after the election of Brian Billbray to Congress in California’s Fiftieth District. Depending on who’s counting the Daily Kos is 0-for-20 or 1-for-19 in his candidate endorsements. By any standards, that’s embarrassing…it it wasn’t just Kos who lost Tuesday. Netroots in general may be called into question as a viable political tactic.

Working together in late 2003 and early 2004, Markos Moulitisas of the Daily Kos and political consultant Joe Trippi made a name for themselves, and their candidate Howard Dean by generating enthusiasm around the internet for the screamer’s Presidential Campaign.

At one point all the ‘net hype had The Hotline’s political experts all picking Dean to be the next Democratic Nominee, and the media was making plans for the Vermont Governor’s 2005 inauguration.

But something funny happened on the way to the ball. The voters had their say and Dean was soundly defeated in Iowa and New Hampshire before pulling out altogether.

Moulitsas brought the Busby-Billbray contest into the national spotlight this year, while Trippi was brought on board by the Steve Westly for Governor campaign in California…and both achieved the same result.

But Netroots’ failures are not partisan. Campaigns to undermine Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger by ultraconservatives like blogger Steve Frank in California got a lot of attention from the media over the winter, but failed to amount to even a blip at the ballot box.

Equally radical right Jon Fleischman was a miserable failure in his jihad against moderation and support for any alternative to Brian Billbray in the GOP Prinary battle for November’s general election in California CD 50.

But 6/6/6 was not Armageddon for Netroots activism. In my local GOP County Central Committee race, two of the top three votegetters – Gary Aminoff and myself – are bloggers and were before entering the campaign. Over time, through our writing, we have established a reputation and a record and built familiarity with the politically engaged in our district. In a low-turnout election, those who read blogs or find them through googling the candidates because they care so much about politics are more likely to influence the outcome of an election.

At first glance, these election results seem to indicate that voters, as a whole, rejected extremism from both parties – that same extremism which is reflected in many of the blogosphere’s loudest voices. But to explain Westly’s defeat, you have to also consider that maybe, just maybe, the reach of Netroots is not quite what its boosters would have you believe. There’s a lesson there for Moulitsas, Frank and Fleischman. And maybe Joe Trippi will learn that posting campaign blogs and spamming anyone with an email just won’t work anymore.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 10:37 AM | Permalink

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