by John Hawkins | January 28, 2008 10:30 am
Here’s an email that I received this week-end,
Like a lot of conservatives, I’m shaking my head in disbelief at the way this primary season is going. Believe me, I’m not asking this question to gloat; in fact it is just the opposite.
Why has the conservative blogosphere been so ineffective in the primaries?
A year ago most bloggers were expressing great interest if not a preference for Duncan Hunter. He never made it out of low single digits. Then it was Fred Thompson, overwhelmingly the choice of the conservative blogosphere. He went nowhere and dropped out of the race. Underlying much of this has been staunch opposition to John McCain — who is now leading the race.
Is the blogosphere out of touch with the base of the party? It seems that it is leading the parade, except that if you turn around nobody is following.
How can the blogosphere become more influential? I think this is the heart of the problem. There is a great deal of good conservative thought and opinion but apparently little or no actual impact. How can that be changed?
Is the blogosphere too negative? Too ready to ‘eat our own’? Dissent is a good thing. However I believe some bloggers and responders absolutely wallow in it. In particular, when Thompson entered the race there was a great deal of nose up sniffing and second guessing and belabored criticism of Fred right out of the gate. I’m not blaming blogs for Thompson’s showing, but I don’t think they helped much. Our beloved Michelle Malkin was particularly critical for example. It was almost as if most bloggers were playing hard to get. This does nothing to build excitement for a candidate and casual readers are simply left to assume nobody is really a good pick. If this is true, then the blogs had an influence but it was a negative one.
Professional rivalries? I have no idea. I read a lot of blogs, and rivalry is going to be inevitable. But I wonder if there is a lot going on behind the scenes we readers don’t know about. Maybe it is best left there. But wouldn’t it be nice to see some bare hint of infrastructure allowing joint projects across the geographically dispersed blogosphere. For example candidate recruitment for congressional races.
Sugar Daddies? My guess is that money is a big part of the issue. It may not take much money to start a blog, but it probably takes a lot to make one a national focus, and even more to coordinate actions across many blogs. Has anyone done a business plan or concept paper to coordinate conservative blogs on specific projects that can be shopped to wealthy (not me) supporters? Or turned into a project that little guys (me) can contribute to?
John I read your blog regularly, try to click on the ads occasionally, and hope that you can at some point lay out a response to the issues I’ve raised here. I have no hidden agenda here, just want to see conservatism be more effective in the future.” — DaMav
First of all, it is correct to say that the blogosphere’s two favorite candidates have been Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson, both of whom, obviously, are out of the race. Also, it’s worth noting that on the left side of the blogosphere, they backed John Edwards and only started gravitating towards Barack Obama when it became obvious that Edwards wasn’t going anywhere.
So, that begs the question: why wasn’t the blogosphere able to provide more help to its favorite sons? Well, to be blunt: we’re just not big enough.
Getting into more detail, as I’ve said before, when it comes to the blogosphere, “it’s the who, not the how many.” Bloggers generally make a difference by finding stories that have been missed, angles that haven’t been worked, or by breaking stories and getting bigger outlets to pay attention to them.
However, in a presidential race, the bigger outlets are already paying attention and trying to come up with new angles. Moreover, if there is a story broken, it’ll probably be because an opposition researcher with one of the campaigns finds something on an opponent and forwards it to a MSM outlet. In other words, in a presidential race, there are too many other large forces at play for bloggers to have a big impact.
Can we have a big impact in other races? Yes, but there are limits there as well.
In a primary race for the House or Senate, bloggers can and have made differences. Think about Ned Lamont beating Joe Lieberman, for example.
What about in the general elections? There, again, bloggers have a chance to make an impact — at least in the House elections — because, especially in the less hotly contested ones, $20,000 – $30,000, which is a sum bloggers can help raise, can swing a general election. Moreover, there are so many House races going on that the mainstream media has trouble keeping up with them all. So again, that’s right down the blogosphere’s alley.
In a Senate race, from what I have seen, the blogosphere just doesn’t have the strength to make much of a difference. Even $100,000, which bloggers have difficulty raising for a candidate, is a drop in the bucket in a hotly contested race and since there aren’t as many close Senate races, the MSM/big conservative media is already all over them.
Then, when you get to the presidential race, where there is constant coverage and the money gets really big, bloggers are just guppies in a shark tank. So, is it a case where bloggers are leading the parade, but no one is following? No, people are following, but the parade is just too small…
PS: For more on the conservative media and the presidential race, also see,
Has Conservative Talk Radio Been Defanged?
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