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S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How bloggers can help Congress

Blog Power -
Democrats in Congress are split over what to do to register their opposition to the "new" war plan of Our Current President (OCP). To quote from the NYT story,
The White House sought Sunday to head off building pressure in Congress to cut off or limit financing for sending more troops to Iraq.
But even as President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made it clear that they would proceed with their plan to increase the United States military presence in Iraq in the face of opposition from the House and Senate, Democrats exhibited splits within their ranks over how aggressively to oppose the plan.
Congress responds to what they hear. Our U.S. legislators listen from many directions, three in particular. In addition to voting with their consciences, they respond to pressure. They feel pressure from the mainstream media, from the blogosphere - the "Netroots," and from the direct phone, letter and e-mail communications of their constituents. First, explore the netroots idea with Matt Stoller.

"What is this new movement? Matt Stoller of MyDD is visiting TPMCafe this week to discuss the Netroots and generational politics." His very thoughtful essay is generating good dialogue. To quote his opening and closing paragraphs:
Over the past nine years, a series of shocks to the country have radically changed the contours of our political debates. In the 2000 election, the Presidential debate involved sweater hues and snowmobiles, ‘lock boxes’ and ‘fuzzy math’. Virtually nothing in that election prepared any but the most cynical political observers for the massive security failures, electoral fraud, the creation of the beginnings of a police state, the loss of two wars one of which was sold under false pretenses, and the destruction of a major American city – all tragic events which have not only occurred on the watch of some very bad people without adverse consequence, but have all increased the power and wealth of those same people. America is a very different place in 2007 than it was in 1999.
. . . Is there something about this moment in history, and the medium dominating it, that suggests that progressive organizing can genuinely take power? I think so. The incentives are there, as we're being threatened directly by a set of elites and our interests are now aligned with those of other disempowered groups. The tools are there. The internet, unlike the direct action organizing of the 1960s and the mass medium of the time, allows for civic engagement to be a sustainable part of one's life, as well as clear communication among small and large progressive groups and individuals. And the culture is there. When Stephen Colbert performed before the White House correspondents dinner, the right-wing and the elite pundits decried him as offensive. The millions on youtube, ie. a significant slice of the public, thought otherwise of their own accord. We're at least part of the silent majority this time, only we're no longer silent.

A different view - more centrist that Stoller, "Big Tent Democrat," posting at TalkLeft asks, "What is the Netroots?" by quoting his earlier post at DailyKos:
(credits Ruy Texeira & John Halpin). . . the key component that has been the glue of the Netroots - the very real rejection of the Establishment Media and Democratic Party by the Netroots.
The five postulates for the politics of definition -- the guideposts, questions, and "lines in the sand," so to speak, that need to be drawn out in order to craft better politics -- are as follows:
(1) The starting point for all political organizing and campaigns should be: "What are my core beliefs and principles and how do I best explain them to supporters and skeptics alike?"
(2) Every political battle, both proactive and defensive, should represent a basic statement of progressive character and present a clear, concise contrast with conservatives. Do not blur lines.
(3) All issue campaigns and agenda items are not equal. Progressives should focus their efforts on issues that can simultaneously strengthen the base and appeal to centrist voters. Progressives must be willing to make sacrifices and tradeoffs -- in terms of coalition building and budgetary concerns -- to achieve their most important agenda items.
(4) Escalate battles that expose the extremism of the right or splinter their coalition. [Follow-up: When confronted with the right's social, cultural, or national security agenda, the absolute worst response is to fail to combat these caricatures or to explain one's position directly to voters, regardless of the popularity of the position.]
(5) Every political action should highlight three essential progressive attributes: a clear stand on the side of those who lack power, wealth or influence; a deep commitment to the common good; and a strong belief in fairness and opportunity for all.
If we can follow these guidelines in 2008 I am confident we can win another smashing victory in 2008. To me, that is the "ideology" of the Netroots.

Mainstream media reform was the subject of a big conference this past weekend. It is an understatement to say that bloggers stay very upset with the mainstream media, to whom we look for most of our original news. The media has not done what the public has a right to expect in terms of investigative journalism and helping to responsibly help shape opinion. Robert Greenwald, at The Huffington Post, authored this "Dispatch from the National Conference for Media Reform." To quote,
Amazing sight to see 3,000 plus people passionate over media reform, media legislation, media content! The number of activists, experts, media creators who realize the critical importance of telling our story has reached critical mass. The folks at Free Press who have toiled on these issues for years are seeing the results of their hard work paying off.
Blow by blow by Dancewater - "Inside Media Reform Conference, Day Three" was posted by Dancewater at DailyKos. Read an excellent summary of the conference content here and in posts about the other two days.
Bloggers truly make a difference. Members of congress get a great deal of information, support and criticism, and courage to take unpopular positions from bloggers. Bloggers can even be mobilized to make direct contact with legislators, as the author chronicles in Top Ten #2 below. "Danny " at BeltwayBlogroll posted "Blog Power: The Top 10 Blog Stories Of 2006," from which I quote,
10) YearlyKos; 9) Supreme Court confirmation hearings; 8) Congressional Leadership elections; 7) Bloggers hired by campaigns; 6) Blogs officially recognized as media; 5) Network neutrality; 4) Telephone privacy; 3) Primary defeats; 2) The "secret hold"; 1) Election Day. . .
#2: The "secret hold." August was a good month for bloggers on the policy front, too. They became aggravated when a couple of senators used procedural tactics to anonymously hold a popular bill for bringing Internet transparency to federal spending, and they worked collectively to out the senators by calling every one of their offices.
From the right, an Internet coalition dubbed Porkbusters led the charge. Bloggers who are part of the coalition asked readers to call their senators and put them on the spot with a simple question: Are you responsible for the secret hold?
The liberal blog TPMMuckraker soon joined the effort, focusing on Democratic senators, and the moderate Republican blog GOP Progress also participated.
The tactic worked. Sens. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, and Alaska Republican Ted Stevens reluctantly admitted to their secret holds and eventually lifted their objections. Congress cleared the bill soon after, and Bush invited bloggers to the White House ceremony when he signed it.
The campaign added to the clout of the Porkbusters. Their laser focus against pork-barrel spending already had embarrassed Stevens over his "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska and GOP Sen. Trent Lott over his "railroad to nowhere" in Mississippi.
The presence of the Porkbusters clearly has been felt on Capitol Hill. If you go to Sen. Tom Coburn's Web site, you'll see the Porkbusters logo because he counts the group as an ally in his fight against earmarks. And if you go to the Porkbusters site, you'll find a quote from Lott proclaiming his disgust with the bloggers because "they have been nothing but trouble ever since [Hurricane] Katrina."
Bloggers can help Democrats in Congress to unite regarding the war in Iraq. Following are a number of links to use for contacting your Senators and Representative. In addition to letting them know your position, do not forget to also give them an occasional pat on the back. Here goes:
  • Contacting the Congress is Juan E. Cabanela's excellent all purpose website, and very up to date. Cabanels is an assistant professor for Physics and Astronomy at Minnesota State University Moorhead in Moorhead, Minnesota (USA). In business for a very long time, the site has had "5567183 visitors since March 12, 1995." Amazing. What a labor of love to maintain a website that long!
  • Write your legislator via Congress.org.
Here are the main direct government portals:
Save the Internet.com - on "net neutrality."
My previous posts on citizen involvement:
Finding information on the Web
Virtual Community
About Factfinders
Living Green
About Impeachment
On domestic spying
On religion and the state
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4 comments:

betmo said...

this is excellent. i am going to highlight you at my place and on the peace train (thepeacetrain.org)

Glenda said...

Dang, this IS good.

SXSW a reference to Austin by any chance???

Very good ideas, practical and easy to use and great compilation!!

Chuck said...

Nice- great information. And thank you. I'm here by way of betmo, so thanks to her too.

Donnie McDaniel said...

Great post and info. Thanks for all the work and also to Betmo for the lead. Gonna have to link to you at my place.