Monday, June 12, 2006

Political Bloggers Are Pandered to Like Fat Cats

Blogging has seriously come of age. DailyKos, a leading progressive blog, hosts a convention of bloggers--I think this is the third year. The article below is ample evidence that what once was considered self-serving emotional claptrap has now tipped to the point of significant influence. In fact, some say the power of progressive bloggers is equal to that of right-wing radio. And to think, we knew it when . . . . Thanks to Suburban Guerilla.

Warner was not the only potential presidential hopeful to glad-hand at YearlyKos. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a 2004 White House contender, threw an after-hours party Thursday night in a packed bar at the Hard Rock Hotel, though the open bar only included a limited supply of bottled beer and cheap red wine. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson showed up Friday morning with breakfast pastries, along with praise for the blogging community and his endorsement of Democrats becoming “the party of [outer] space.” Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack appeared for an education panel before meeting privately with a small pre-selected group of bloggers, without offering so much as a stick of gum.

But no one could compete with Warner, who chose to treat the emerging and ill-defined world of liberal blogging like a major union or corporate trade group. He brought nearly a dozen staffers, including his political action committee’s five-person “Internet team,” and a camera crew to follow his movements throughout the Riviera Hotel, for later online broadcast. When conventioneers checked in, they were given a goodie bag with a laminated invitation to the Warner party conspicuously swinging from the handle. At Saturday’s lunch, where Warner showed his standard slick biographical video and delivered his entrepreneur-turned-Virginia-governor stump speech, each attendee got a black T-shirt, emblazoned with Warner’s digitally enhanced mug and the words “YearlyKos,” as if he had sponsored the event.

“You know when I look around this room I have rarely seen such energy, such optimism, such hope in one place,” Warner told the crowd. “And I am not just talking about those of you I saw at the Blackjack table at the Stratosphere.” His stump speech was light on specific proposals, and heavy with applause lines about the divisiveness of the Bush administration and the need for Democrats to take back the country.

When he was done, about two-thirds of the audience gave him a standing ovation, many of them clearly impressed with his biography as a red state Democrat and high-tech executive. But dissension was also not far under the surface. Minutes after Warner stepped outside of the convention hall to answer questions from reporters and bloggers, Edward Anderson, a Connecticut blogger whose screen name is DeanFan84, confronted him with a broad-based concern. “Do you understand that a lot of us in the grass roots feel that the money could have been spent better?” Anderson asked the former governor, referring to the Friday night Warner party at the Stratosphere. “We don’t want to join the consultant class. I don’t want our guys getting used to shrimp and martinis.”