It's one week out and there's two things that are clear to me:
First, the 2005/2006 period represented a test run for any number of projects and concepts that we will be seeing a great deal more of in the years to come.
The Bloggers' Convention (Yearlykos), campaigns like Use it or Lose It, ACTBlue pages, the rise of Local Blogging, Netroots participation in cultivating and supporting progressive Primary candidates, citizen-created political Media and Video (YouTube), Wide-field targeting a la the 50 State strategy, and online cooperative projects like we've seen here on MyDD and elsewhere...to name just a few.
Second, looking at all these trends, it becomes more and more clear that many of these projects will not go dormant after the election.
Far from it.
I would argue that we are now engaged in a two year battle for governance in the United States, of which the 2006 mid-terms are just the opening bell, and in which, the netroots will play an increasingly important role on the national and local levels.
As exciting as this election is, it is just the trial run for the emerging progressive netroots movement. We are entering the era of Blogging 2.0.
I wrote an essay here a couple months ago called building a netroots wave. I wrote it in August when there was still time for a blogger to start a blog and impact a race near them.
Since that time I've spent a healthy chunk of my energy building an online group by and for local bloggers called Blogs United. (You can read more about Blogs United, and find out how to join, here.) That group, with 150 participants, is still in its infancy, but, like all the 2005/2006 projects I mentioned above...this election, far from being an end point, is simply a galvanizing moment to push forward into the next era.
It's clear to me as I interact with local and regional bloggers and hear their stories and issues, that we are about to enter an era in which blogging will move from competing simply with national cable and news media....an era we might call Blogging 1.0 (and an era which is far from over)...and into an era where blogs also begin to merge the functions of the town hall and the local paper on the local level, a moment where local citizen journalism and local grassroots activism merge in this new media environment: Blogging 2.0.
If there is one word that defines Blogging 2.0 it would be infrastructure. One need only look at Yearlykos to realize that we in the netroots are building structures and networks for keeps. If there is one concept that motivates Blogging 2.0 and links the new projects I listed above, it would be this: Blogging 2.0 is about innovating participation. You can see that in a national blogger who is working and empowering local blogs like Howie Klein, you can see that in a local blogger like Ollie Ox whose blog, A BlueStem Prairie nurtures and links to a state-wide network of local blogs in Minnesota. Bloggers are emerging, everywhere, and playing multiple roles. Traditional political roles and modes of operation are being blown wide open.
In that essay on the netroots wave I talked about how local netroots activists were building, slowly but surely, infrastructure that was impacting all aspects of the local political environment. I emphasized how candidates can serve as galvanizing and inspiring forces for the netroots. In some ways, however, I had that upside down; we've seen in the last months how the netroots have emerged as a significant force on our own. You can see that in GOTV this fall.
When people come through the door to work for Jerry McNerney's campaign in CA-11, oftentimes it's the internet that was the critical draw factor that brought them there. The internet organized them, motivated them, informed them and plugged them in to the fight to unseat Richard Pombo in CA-11. In doing so, the netroots movement transformed these activists from passive media consumers into netroots/grassroots citizens who are one step closer to transforming how they interact with their local political environment and party. We are on the cusp of a wholesale change in how the Democratic Party and progressives operate.
More and more the role of local blogger is merging with the role of local Democratic activist and leader. More and more local bloggers are interacting with local journalists and party organizers as well. Some local blogs have had the effect of tilting the playing field in favor a progressive candidate that the DCCC opposed.
Further, elements of the offline grassroots are learning to use the tools of the netroots. Campaign websites have gone from a place with "smiley pictures" to detailed webs of action options and information sharing. Longstanding Democratic organizations are learning a thing or two from Drinking Liberally and innovating ways to bring people together and support the concept of local grassroots activism. Traditional advocacy groups are beginning to understand the role and fuction of blogs and bloggers. Prospective '08 candidates built some incredibly powerful online networks in 2006. That was Blogging 2.0 too.
All of these projects are in their infancy. This election season was a trial run for so many innovations.
The critical point here is to understand that reality and how much work there is left to do. I wrote a light-hearted essay on dKos entitled: You're on the Ground Floor. I sincerely believe that is true for all of us. We are on the ground floor, much, perhaps to folks like Ellen Tauscher's ire. We in the netroots aren't going anywhere but up.
The people we meet and work with this fall are people we should make every effort to stay in touch with. We are building something together. This election is but one step in the larger process of building a netroots wave in American political life.
Our job going forward is to roll out the innovations and infrastructure that will make Blogging 2.0 a reality in all 50 states. In the process we will change the face of netroots and grassroots acitivism.
That is no small task.
While the outcome of November's election is still unknown, there is little doubt about the netroots and the grassroots: we've only just begun.