a challenge to the netroots
I went. I drank. I was liberal. And, in the process, I met Matt.
Matt and I rapped a bit and, as things go in the East Bay, subsequently hung out some more and had some interesting discussions about blogging and local politics. I told Matt about how I had recently worked with this interesting guy, Joshua Grossman, who had some really vital ideas about local blogs and targeting for the 2006 Congressional races.
Matt and I, inspired by some of Joshua's thinking, discussed the incredibly underused power of local blogs, we talked about how blogging might impact the 2006 Congressional races. Par for the course, eh? Well, then something really interesting happened...
Matt went and did something about it.
Matt just didn't found a blog. That would have been simple enough. People do that every .0005 seconds it seems.
Matt started a blog with the sole purpose of defeating Congressman Richard Pombo in California's 11th Congressional District. More than that, Matt got others involved, as well: folks like babaloo, VPO and Delta who volunteered to write and to attend events. The blog these activist bloggers collaborated on, SayNotoPombo, has become, in my mind, a model for the interaction between netroots and grassroots activism on the local scale.
The folks behind SayNotoPombo went to political meetings...and then wrote about those meetings online. That's sunshine. The folks behind SayNotoPombo got to know the writers in the local press, and then covered their coverage of the race in CA-11. That's accountability. Matt and his colleagues created a website that became a "must visit" for everyone who cares about the outcome of one of the most important Congressional races facing our nation. SayNotoPombo raises money and awareness about Democrat Jerry McNerney's run to defeat Congressman Richard Pombo in an innovative way that just didn't happen in 2004.
And that's my challenge to the netroots today.
You see, CA-11 is just one of many, many local races that deserve this kind of coverage...this level of netroots involvement. SayNotoPombo has shown that one can have a big impact in a very short period of time. It's not too late to do the same thing with a Congressional or local race near you.
In fact, there's never been a better time to start or join a local political blog.
Now, you may ask, what's the ulterior motive here? What's the catch? What's the downside?
Let me be honest and straight up.
When I left the Front Page of dailyKos and took the proverbial step of "doing my own thing"...I learned some hard lessons about blogging.
It's not the same out there on the wild, wild internet. The number of readers you get on your little blogspot blog (or wordpress, or drupal, or typepad)...pales in comparison to the attention you can get here or the other big community blogs. If you are looking for splash and the "thrill" of instant comments and recognition, if you're looking for an "ego boost" or a hot discussion about what we all just saw on national TV...well, don't get involved with local blogging.
On the other hand, if you are looking to make an impact, if you are looking to build something that has a cumulative effect on your community, if you want to write where the netroots rubber hits the road: then I would argue building or contributing to a local blog like SayNotoPombo is the most significant thing you can do.
In fact, I would go further. I would say that if you believe that the time frame between this election cycle and November 2008 represents the moment when the netroots will play a crucial role in "Taking our Country Back" and "Crashing the Gates" then it behooves you to, in addition to participating here and your other favorite national blogs, get involved in local blogging. If you can't found a blog...then help with one that already exists. (And there are so many exciting blogs out there begging for input.)
If you don't live in a district with a contested race where a progressive is fighting to take our country back, then find one close to you and pitch in. This is our chance to up our leverage; to make netroots mean something more than the outrage of the day.
Let me make this clear. I'm a writer, not a politico. I'm best at expressing ideas in a way that get's people exited and energized. My forte is getting people to see things in a way they might not have seen things before. But all that being said...in the course of working on my own small blog, in the course of working and discussing the 2006 elections with folks like Joshua Grossman and Matt, and in the course of doing a recent project on Progressive Electoral Politics on Booman Tribune one thing has become crystal clear to me:
We need to increase the leverage of local blogs. We need to make it so that when folks in the press say the "netroots" they mean local bloggers just as much as they mean the national blogs that get most of the attention.
There are so many good candidates who aren't getting the focus they deserve. There are so many GOP villains out there who are getting away with a easy road to reelection simply because the netroots are so busy hyping the national outrage of the day that we simply cannot give Deborah Pryce or Elton Gallegly or Robin Hayes the attention they deserve.
If you ask me, that's a crying shame. And that's where local blogs come in. When neighbors criticize a candidate, when we talk to each other and organize...that's when the powers that be get nervous.
I'm going to ask each of you to do me a favor tonight. Pick a GOP incumbent or a progressive candidate from your region on the list below (selected for their "B-list" yet winnable status) and click on the "google blog search" that I've hotlinked to.
Make this race and the local blogs covering it "yours". Adopt it. Take it on. Follow the stories and issues that surround your race or candidate or blog. Put the local blogs that cover it in your favorites bar. Write about them on dKos or Calitics or MyDD or BooMan Tribune. You get the point. Or, if you think you can do better, then by all means, start a local blog of your own. Better yet, get some activist friends to join you like Matt did. (And if you have a blog or race or candidate who's more important...by all means...list it in the comments below.)
I know this sounds goofy, but I'm convinced that it's only when the online energy of the netroots links up with the offline activism expressed in local blogs that we will truly start to turn the tide. 2006 is when netroots must link up with grassroots. The Lamont campaign was a great example of that. As SteveinMI pointed out last night, there's so much more work to do.
It's not too late. All I'm asking you to do is click...and then get involved at the level you can.
That's forty names in four regions. I know there are easily forty more races that bear watching and giving our best efforts to.
What I'm asking is simply that you pick one and dig in. Make it your own, just like Matt did with SayNotoPombo. Better yet, team up with some activist friends and "blur the line" between netroots and grassroots and found your own blog. Working on a local blog will pay off as the local press pays attention to you; and, I can guarantee you, you will get google hits from Washington D.C. as GOP Congresscritters read up on what you've exposed them for.
That's a great feeling.
It is not too late, and this race for the heart and soul of our government will not go to the swift but to the persistent.
Friends, that's us!
Update: For those serious about starting a local blog from scratch please read this essential, but unfortunately-titled, essay by Chris Bowers. Very worthwhile tips and a must read for local bloggers to be.
Local blogs mentioned in the comments below: