The cover story of The New Republic's current issue is headlined: "The Left's New Machine: Inside the Most Important Movement Since the Christian Right." I may be too close to the subject to be truly objective, but I think it's a very good read on how interactive Internet communities have changed politics and helped Democrats win last year. The comments generated by the article are well worth reading, too.
One criticism of "the movement" - in both the article and some of the online comments - is that the netroots are nothing but a propaganda machine. Well, as Chait writes, "The Democratic leadership and the liberal intelligensia seemed pathetic and exhausted, wedded to musty ideals of bipartisanship and decorousness." The early netroots, Chait says, saw a ruthless Republican machine built up over decades. "This, they decided, is what the Democratic Party needed. And, when they saw that the party leadership was incapable of creating it, they decided to do it themselves." Hallelujah for that. Three years ago, people were laughing at Deanocrats. Now, increasingly, we're running the party.
Then there's the criticism that users of the top Dem blogs are monolithic in their thought and eager to stifle debate. I just haven't found this to be true. Daily Kos is such a great marketplace for ideas precisely because there are so many users. It is the go-to site for progressive discussion of just about every public policy idea under the sun. (Check out this diary on food safety from last week by Alabama ag commissioner Ron Sparks, who's mulling a Senate run against Jeff Sessions next year.)
Chait wrote that, like the Christian wing of the Republican Party, the netroots are committed to working within our party, and that's been part of our success. In a strong two-party nation such as ours, there's not much sense in trying to subvert the dominant paradigm when what we really need is for Democrats to be Democrats, and provide a strong alternative to Republicans. That doesn't mean we'll agree on all issues, but we can agree on most.
The other hallmark of our movement is this: We are people of action. Chait writes that we believe that political discourse "ought to be judged solely by its real-world effects," and I'd say that's basically true. I'd agree that what bloggers are doing is largely propaganda rather than intellectual inquiry (though there are certainly bloggers who put thoughtfulness above partisanship). But we truly are modeling what the other side has done for years in terms of framing the issues and refusing to let others define us. The difference is, we have facts and rational thought on our sides, so we are appealing to a much larger spectrum of the population. (Or as Stephen Colbert famously said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias.")
I've been reading TNR for close to two decades, often with great sorrow in recent years as the magazine supported the war in Iraq - a position they've since rescinded. I have to say I've never read anything as thrilling as this current piece. Is it fun to be part of making history? You bet. If you're reading this, you are, too.