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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Saturday, August 12, 2006

why Howie Klein is a netroots hero

One thing that folks who took a close look at the links in a challenge to the netroots may have noticed is that one blog popped up with informative articles about vulnerable GOP Congressional incumbents time after time.  That result was no accident.

Now, that blog is Down with Tyranny.  Down with Tyranny is a blogspot group blog based in Southern California led by a blogger who goes by the handle Down with Tyranny (his co-blogger is keninny). In real life, Down with Tyranny's name is Howie Klein and, as many of you well know, he's also been running an excellent series about progressive candidates on firedoglake that goes under the header Blue America and features a powerful ACTBlue page.

This essay will explain not simply why Howie is a netroots hero, but also what we in the netroots can learn from how he blogs.


When Howie writes about a race, he gets involved.

Take this August 11th entry on Democratic candidate John Hall's efforts to unseat GOP Congresswoman Sue Kelly in New York's 19th Congressional district (NY-19).  Howie brings us into the race by introducing us to a local blogger...Helen...who recently attended a candidate meeting in the district.  He's got a picture of Helen with John Hall right there. Typical of Howie, the piece is chock full of links:
  • to a previous piece on John Hall's campaign
  • to an ACTBlue page where you can contribute
  • to a previous piece about Helen and (NY-19)
  • and a link to an organization called Do More than Vote

  • That's a lot of useful links. Those links significantly strengthen Howie's case. Further, Howie's blog post also explicity mentions concrete reasons to support John Hall and oppose Sue Kelly:

  • John Hall is anti-war
  • John Hall supports Murtha's withdrawal plan
  • John Hall is for universal health care and reproductive rights
  • John Hall is an environmentalist
  • John Hall was just endorsed by the Teacher's Union
  • Sue Kelly supports Bush's Iraq war across the board
  • Sue Kelly supported the GOP bankruptcy bill
  • Sue Kelly tabled the Abramoff investigation
  • Sue Kelly has accepted tons of PAC money from corporate interests.

  • If you needed reasons to get excited about the race in NY-19, Howie and Helen gave them to you.  If you had questions about specifics, you got them.  If you wanted more links...specifically links that showed you how to get involved or give money...those links were there.  Typical for Howie, this blog post answers the who, what, where, when and why so thoroughly...and so effortlessly...that, in my view, Howie Klein is a role model for what it means to be an effective blogger.

    Howie gets local. Howie gets specific. And in the process, he makes sure that politics is not a chore. Even the use of that picture gets you involved. When you read one of Howie's blog posts, he's given you the tools and motivation to do something.  

    In my view, that's why he's a netroots hero.  (For more examples of Howie in action try these links here and here.)

    Now, let me step back from that encomium and apply it for a second. I mean Howie's well-known. He's on firedoglake.  He's a former record producer who uses music to support his cause. He's tireless. How does his example relate to the vast majority of us in the netroots?

    Well, it does.


    Constructive criticism

    Allow me to offer some constructive criticism for one second. We in the netroots are often just way too generic. We talk about DC Dems.  We talk about the mainstream media.  We gripe about the GOP Congress.  We rail on the press.  (Hell, we rail about each other.)  When we do get specific, it's about the latest outrage and not about what we can DO to take out country's political system back.

    In all this, so often, we don't answer the questions of who, what, why, when and where. We don't provide the critical information and links.  Oftentimes, we are so focused on complaining about the effects of the GOP stranglehold on Congress, the Presidency, our Courts and our Statehouses that we don't write about the specific elections and races where we can win them back.

    The time for that kind of generic writing is over. It's election time. There's three months to go. It's time to get specific and local.

    When we talk about Congressional races, we need to mention specifics.  It's not enough to say. "Let's support Patricia Madrid."  Though that's to the well and good. We need to say let's support Democrat Patricia Madrid in NM-01 in her fight to defeat Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson.

    I'm not saying that we need to write like robots, far from it.  But, let me be clear, there are some guidelines we can follow to make our writing more effective:

  • provide useful links
  • write clear descriptions of the candidate you support or oppose including name and party affilliation
  • use the formula (MN-01) or (OH-11) to describe Congressional disctricts
  • include compelling reasons to support your candidate
  • include compelling reasons to oppose your GOP incumbent
  • give reasons why you are excited about this race
  • provide a link to someplace where a reader can volunteer for your candidate
  • provide a link to someplace where they can donate money
  • if you can cover local meetings with photos, do so!!

  • Let me say this, when you provide a link when you criticize a politician, that politician's staffers follow that link back to what you wrote. When I write about a Republican Congressperson on my blog, I see the hits coming from DC and their district the next day. That's what getting specific and local does. People pay attention to specificity in a way that they just don't to generics.  Further, people in the districts where we are running against vulnerable GOP incumbents use google and technorati too. The local press loves the low-hanging fruit of already gathered information and links, and as this election season heats up, they will be reading your blog.

    Now, I've come out strong for locally-focused blogging.  Many of you may be sick of me alrealy. However, I am going out on a limb with this effort because there's a difference between blogging that's foggy and generic, and blogging that is specific, focused and empowering.

    I firmly believe that blogging can make a difference on election day. And I am convinced that there's still ample time for our blogging to make a difference in this election. It is not too late to increase our impact.

    Howie Klein's example proves that you can do all this and still be relevant and fun. In my view, he's not the only netroots hero.  The second any of us gets local and starts attacking a GOP incumbent where it counts, we're netroots heroes too.


    Interested in doing some targetted local blogging, or pitching in to help some local blogs? Please try this Netroots Resource list of Vulnerable GOP Incumbents.



    • Thanks k/o. That was very kind of you.


      By Blogger DownWithTyranny, at 8:13 PM  

    • Found your post as I support John Hall's run to unseat Sue Kelly. It was a great read, and I only have one complaint about your post. Where were a few links of your own leading people to John Hall?

      Porgie Tirebiter
      Learn About John Hall Here, and stay abreast of his campaign.

      Make a DONATION to John Hall's Campaign here.

      Find out just how much distain I hold Sue Kelly in.

      By Anonymous PorgieTirebiter, at 8:15 PM  

    • No, Howie, thank you.

      Anyone following articles about the key races this fall has seen your work.


      By Blogger kid oakland, at 10:24 PM  

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