Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Betting on the Blogs"

From Eli Sanders in The Stranger on YK:
The first question on everyone's mind was simply: Who are these people? Even Dean seemed confused on this point, expecting, like many, a younger crowd of bloggers than showed up at the Riviera. In his speech he made a joke about retirement security ("Maybe not so important to a lot of your readers, but very important to my generation") and it fell completely flat, given the large proportion of gray-hairs in the audience. In truth, Dean, at 57, is a lot more like the average YearlyKos attendee than he, or most people, would think.

Popular imagination has cast online networking as the province of the under-30 MySpace generation, but the median age of a Daily Kos reader is 45. Lefty online political organizing is in fact a middle-aged game, and the conference reflected this, with those who came to Vegas being about as far from the stereotypical twentysomething WTO protester as one can get while still being in the "Democratic wing of the Democratic party," as Dean famously described his constituency. The median income of a "Kossack," determined in March through a survey by an online advertising group, is $85,000. And while their favored moniker compares them to a Russian warrior tribe, the Cossacks, these are strictly laptop warriors, not a physically intimidating bunch. More than 40 percent of them have postgraduate degrees and their "warrior" bodies spend a lot of time sitting in front of computers, reading a median of five blogs a day.

A conservative infiltrator, who came to YearlyKos expecting to blog about a "freak show," found himself having to report instead that "people here are largely, disappointingly, golf-shirted, short-haired, and white-bread," and that "grooming and hygiene are up to Western business standards." Moulitsas later told me that Dean, for all his talk of having a department at the DNC dedicated to watching the blogs, seemed badly prepped on blogosphere demographics. "He came off as if he didn't understand who he was talking to," said Moulitsas, 34, a former army artilleryman with bulging eyes, a quick mind, and a penchant for not mincing words. Having run Daily Kos for four years, Moulitsas knows better than anyone else that if one throws a blogger Woodstock, one is going to have a lot of attendees old enough to have been at both the original 1969 Woodstock and its modern high-tech facsimile.

If YearlyKos is really going to be the beginning of something big, and if the liberal blogosphere is really the transformative movement within the Democratic Party that its most ardent fans think it is, then the netroots will need to pass a major test: They will need to have more Dean-like successes in the future and ultimately, the movement will need to produce an internet-made candidate who, unlike Dean, can actually win a presidential nomination. Even people like Moulitsas admit that that kind of power is still years out. So far, the blogosphere has demonstrated that it can bring 1,000 people to Las Vegas, create media buzz, and raise significant amounts of money—like the half-million dollars raised last year by online contributors to Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett's run for Congress in Ohio. But aside from Dean's ascent to the helm of the DNC, the netroots still can't point to many candidates that they have successfully put over the top; Hackett, who made an impressive showing in a traditionally conservative district, nevertheless lost by just under 4,000 votes.

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