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February 11, 2006
Thinking About Things

I read, well, we all read, a lot these days pondering "what can blogs do best?"

How can blogs and bloggers best help recreate the Left out ashes that currently nourish only cowardly "centrist" politicians and platforms?

I think individual blogs are good for dealing with individual issues. Like Americablog's recent support of the soldier billed for the disappearance of his destroyed body armor. The story "got legs" because of the world o'blog. Without the "activist" angle, the MSM wouldn't have found it worthy of prominent coverage. Every such story is another grain in the scale of public opinion.

And issues can spread across multiple blogs, creating the same kind of media interest in covering stories. Call me cynical, but without the thousands of words of protest written by blogs on the prisoner torture story, I just don't believe it would have gotten the same headlines. (I note that when most of the world o'blog moved on to new topics, most of the headlines disappeared.... And yet, there are still "secret" prisons, prisoners being held without charges, and people in power who authorized torture. And we have no proof that "extraordinary" renditions have ceased.)

Would the media's complacency toward its own pre-war reporting have survived the Downing Street Memos, so prominently covered in the world o'blog? Would they have ignored the growing body of concrete evidence that many of us were right and the Bush Administration was determined to invade Iraq at all costs? Would we have seen apologies from the NYTimes about their own unquestioning obedience to the Administration's version of events? I don't think so. Not without the bloggers demanding answers.

But what does this all lead to? Moments. Moments of outrage. Moments of frustration. Moments of disillusionment. Just moments. The general public experiences moments of shock, and then it moves back to its own concerns.

I've read, here and there, that blogs can bring attention to local situations, candidates and races that deserve support. Bring national attention to them and win support for the "right" candidates. I think that's true. If the Democratic Party isn't interested in liberal/Lefty candidates, we can tap into a network of people who are interested and who can offer large-scale support. I like this approach because it starts with the candidates, with the issues. And it trusts that, for the right people, the money will appear. (Which it will.)

A liberal mayor here, a progressive city councilman there.... It doesn't sound like much, but eventually we'll have a lot of these people, doing good locally, then state-wide, then nationally.

So, this is a good thing blogs can do. It's useful, worthwhile, and can produce both short-term and long-term rewards.

This is a long-term plan. The Democratic Party didn't fall apart overnight. It spent decades decaying while those of us solidly on the Left wrinkled our noses and drew our skirts aside, too good to soil ourselves with the muck of politics. (We still are. Too good, I mean. Personally, rather than jumping down into the pigsty with the Right, I'd rather clean up the sewage. But that's a different rant.) It won't be rebuilt overnight, either. Not by this coming fall. Not even by '08. To rebuild, solidly, will take time.

I'm not saying we can't or won't take back Congress this fall or that we can't or won't take the White House in '08. But I am saying that it's going to be a stopgap measure while we continue to rebuild the Left.

American Liberalism still exists. In fact, as I've argued before, many of their signature issues have moved from the Left to the Center, proving their popularity and universal appeal. Others, like labor rights, have simply dropped off the radar in our increasingly mechanized society. As far as that goes, our "laboring class" isn't what it was seventy-five years ago. (Different rant.)

So, what else can we do?

Well, I've been thinking about that for the last hour. Ever since I read A Letter to the American Left. Also since I read this article.

We do need thinkers. We need writers. We need people who can articulate what we believe, what we want, and what we'll fight for, in clear and unambiguous language. We know what we want. We just need a common language to express it.

We need those times when "great writers enunciated what was right and good and true." We need new voices, today.

I might be mistaken, but it seems to me that a large part of the country is waiting for this.

He is not mistaken. But I (and some others) have been. We've been bemoaning the lack of insightful leadership, the dearth of visionaries in the highest echelons of the Democratic Party, without stopping to realize that that isn't where such people will be found.

I suggest that the world o'blog is also the place to identify and publicize those voices and their words. There are people blogging with (and blogging about others with) the passion, clarity, and conviction we need. Maybe it's time to stop linking to our friends and suchlike to "give 'em a boost in the rankings" and to use the power of linking for something worthwhile. Blogging shouldn't be an end in itself, it should be a means to an end, and that end is to recover and rebuild our democracy.

Let's spread the words that need to be spread, showcase the voices that deserve to be heard because they are saying what needs to be said.

I honestly believe that this is a place where the power of blogging, where the combined weight of a hundred or a thousand links can do some lasting good. Let's support the people who spend less time linking to headlines they've seen and more time pondering the issues and potential solutions.

We know what we want. We don't completely know how to get it.

We know we have to elect lots of people who share our values. We know we need to formulate plans, to come up with solutions for the problems, old and new, the country faces.

We know that how you talk about an issue determines how people react to it. We need the people who can put these things into words for us.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:14 AM