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Saturday, August 19, 2006

meet Ollie Ox: why local blogs matter

Anyone who's been reading my stuff on dailykos and MyDD or here on k/o, knows that I've  dedicated the home stretch of the 2006 election cycle to local blogs and to local races.

It's not that I don't want to write the kind of pieces that I usually write online, it's that I can't: not with Congress on the line, not with so much work to do and so much great work being done under-the-radar by grassroots local activists.

I have to admit that I've been searching for the words to persuade and energize folks to see how important and vital local blogs and races are right now.

What an idiot I've been.

Local bloggers make the case better than I ever could...


Meet Ollie Ox.  Olllie Ox runs an excellent blog called A Bluestem Prairie.

She covers the race in MN-01 between Democrat Tim Walz and GOP incumbent Congressman Gil Gutknecht. That's her focus. Today, in a post titled Is Gil Gutknecht rattled? Ollie laid out the case not simply for the power and importance of local blogs, but for how everyday citizens across this country are creating a wave of grassroots activism that is changing politics as we know it.

This is crashing the gates in action, and I hope Ollie can forgive me for quoting so much of her piece, it's that good:

In reading newspapers around MN-01, it's obvious that Gutknecht is running a very traditional incumbency campaign. He shows up at a ground breaking for a project that was funded by USDA Rural Development funds, travels around with an Undersecretary of Ag, attends local dinners, and sits down for friendly chats with small town newspaper reporters and editors.

Increasingly, though, it's clear that the local reporters are asking questions based on the national feed. And, as in the case of the Pipestone Star and New Ulm Journal articles, Gil Gutknecht's responses appear to be predicated on the notion that the small town readership won't read beyond the pages of the local paper, nor will his remarks be picked up beyond the county line.  It's not unlike the White House strategy of granting regional editors access to the president during his flyarounds while shutting out the national media.

Is this the wisest strategy? My Twin City friends can be forgiven--I suppose--for assuming that rural Minnesota still labors in the digital dark ages. Those of us who live out here know that's not the case for much of Greater Minnesota. While some still use dial-up connections, broadband and satellite internet access are sweeping across the prairie. 

What is said in Pipestone or New Ulm can be read in Rochester or Washington D.C. or Mankato. Minnesota Central was the first blog after BSP to pick up on Gutknecht's comparison of Iraq and Vietnam (a comparison that the Republican party has scorned in Democrats).  We're thinking that his remarks about the Wikipedia editing will travel far beyond New Ulm.

And today's debate at the Steele County Fair will not be kept behind the subscription firewall of the Owatonna People's Press, for at least two bloggers will be in the audience. We, for one, hope to post photos.

Yesterday, our advance material about the debate drew our second highest number of unique visitors in the short history of this site, with folks coming in from the Citizens League to ordinary MN-01 citizens. What might have been an attraction for Steele County residents now may well draw a larger audience.

Okay, not only is that great blogging and great journalism...the links and analysis are spot on... I don't think anyone could make a better case than Ollie just did above for the significance of grassroots local blogs.

Grassroots activists and local bloggers are working together to change the way elections are covered. They are literally changing the political landscape by changing how local citizens interact with politics. That campaign event last night? It's being blogged about here. And whether it's George Allen making an ethnic slur or Gil Gutknecht's staff revising his Wikipedia page...incumbents have to realize that the era of zero accountability and an easily distracted local press is over. Bloggers are covering the local press and campaigns. People are showing up and blogging about it, and that changes everything.

In exactly the same way that Media Matters and Crooks and Liars transformed the media playing field with instant coverage of the latest radio and TV clips, local bloggers have the power to impact every single race in this nation. And where a Media Matters piece might impact someone like Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh, local bloggers like Ollie Ox are impacting vulnerable GOP incumbents across the United States.

Ollie Ox is not alone. Minnesota Central and Vox Verax are just two of the Minnesota grassroots local blogs working alongside Ollie to change the Minnesota political landscape in MN-01.  In fact, across the country, local bloggers are making a difference in the races that matter, just under the radar:

  • Washblog and Evergreen Politics are Washington blogs dedicated to grassroots support of Democrats Darcy Burner WA-08 and Peter Goldmark WA-05.

  • Dump Mike and Blue Jersey are two New Jersey blogs doing everything in their power to send Democrat Linda Stender to Congress to replace GOP Congressman Mike Ferguson in NJ-07

  • VB Dems and Raising Kaine are two Virginia Blogs that are keeping the pressure on Senator George Allen and vulnerable GOP incumbent Thelma Drake in VA-02.

  • And dailykos's own keener is doing exactly the kind of local energized reporting on NH-02 that Ollie Ox is doing in MN-01, in this case covering Democrat Paul Hodes run to overtake Republican incumbent Congressman Charlie Bass. (On top of that, keener is organizing fellow New Hampshire grassroots activists on dailyKos itself.)

  • All this points to a simple message to the netroots: the focal point for grassroots citizens making a difference in 2006 is the local blog. Of course, large community blogs will raise the most money and garner the most attention. However no national blog can match the power and effectiveness of the local blog in the districts themselves. When local citizens begin to talk to each other about local races, things start happening. That's the kind of democracy this nation is premised on.

    It's not too late to start or join a blog and make a difference in 2006. Blogs, large and small, that have emerged in just the last two weeks like Governor Phil here in California or Louisiana kossack Sunday Highway's one-week-old blog called Louisiana Fourth are already getting citizens in California and Louisiana involved and informed.

    Further, it's not that hard to start a blog. With Blogger you can literally have one up and running in minutes. Or, if you'd like to think about the process...especially how to frame your blog...you could follow the discussion started here by Chris Bowers. Wikihow has a nice intro to blogging and there's plenty of other guides out there that give practical tips and refer to other blogging platforms.

    Even if you're not able or ready to start your own blog, I can't emphasize how powerful it is to frequent a local blog near you. Blogs like Calitics and SquareState and Blue Jersey run on a familiar community platform and turn local citizens into local informed activists..and provide a way to meet your neighbors too.

    I've turned my own blog k/o over to the coverage of local blogs and races for the rest of this election season. Please continue to stop on by any time for a taste of what's going on blogs around the country in the races where Democrats are making a difference.

    However, if you want to know where it's really happening you have to go no further than to visit Ollie Ox at A Bluestem Pairie and the other local bloggers working to change this nation, one district at a time, many of whom are listed in the blogroll on the right..

    In 2006 bloggers like Ollie Ox are proving that local blogging matters.


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