New York Times Magazine to Consider Netroots Effect on Democrats

Editor & Publisher Staff preview a NYT Sunday Magazine article by Matt Bai, Will Liberal Bloggers Sabotage Democrats?, on the post-election potential for liberal bloggers to undermine the newly elected majority to govern.

The party’s leaders have vowed to put together an agenda and work with the president and other Republicans to implement it. But Bai declares that there will be “significant obstacles to doing that” and only partly because the new Democratic caucus, as we’ve already seen, is fairly disparate.

His explanation: The party used to be controlled by narrow interest groups, such as “big labor.” They still hold influence but they are in decline, only to have given way “to a new array of powerful actors:, liberal philathropists, crusading bloggers. These new forces don’t care so much about litmus-test policies, but they are adamant about confronting the president. The influence of the netroots, as the growing Web-based Democrats have come to be called, is likely to stifle an inclination toward compromise or creativity, making it difficult for Democrats to transition from an opposition party to a governing one. Thoughtful and dynamic leadership, after all, requires a willingness to negotiate and a tolerance for dissent.”

Sounds like the discussion will be worth reading. Another observation:

Bai’s article mainly focuses on the likely change from ideological to “generational” politics in the future and the need for the aging leaders of both parties to find “the wisdom to step out of the way.”

I’m not sure age has as much to do with stepping out of the way, as not being able to work in the new reality that the wind has shifted and Democrats can be more assertive. It would be a smart move if someone in the Dem leadership could take the time to explain some of the realities of how bills are created, modified, debated and compromised, with a post on some of the blogs. Most netroots activists are willing to understand this is a process that needs to be followed – as long as it is transparent and not based on bartering votes for other bills. The focus needs to be on the merits of the legislation in question, not trying to drag multiple items in for negotiation.

The other side of this is to listen to the netroots and acknowledge the concerns we have. If there are reasons those concerns cannot be addressed, it would not be difficult or fruitless to explain the finer points of the issue that make it difficult or unreasonable to fight.

The obvious concern this week in the netroots has been putting old timers with less than sterling ethical records in leadership positions. A lot of the discussions and issues in this election had to do with GOP ethics, scandals and whether the Democrats would be just as bad as the GOP, or at least still on the minus side. Personally, Hoyer was a good example of this and Murtha would not have been significantly better. Tradition and power ruled the day and the netroots will be the first to hold the members accountable if this leads us into another debacle. We were out there in the trenches this election telling the skeptical the Democrats have learned their lessons.

We will not, pardon the cliche, suffer fools gladly.

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