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Fighting Back--Democrats are harnessing the power of the blogosphere
Newsweek
WEB-EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY
By Eleanor Clift
Updated: 4:56 p.m. ET Aug. 5, 2005

Aug. 5, 2005 - No fewer than three esteemed political reporters from The Washington Post were in the audience taking notes on a steamy Thursday afternoon at a forum called "Reflections of a Blogger,' sponsored by the New Politics Institute, a progressive think tank. There were plenty of other news stories to pursue, notably increased violence in Iraq that claimed 21 Marines in two days and a wave of new polls showing declining confidence in President Bush's leadership. In one survey, taken by Public Agenda before the latest spasm of violence, 82 percent of Americans said they worry "a lot" or "somewhat" that the Iraq war is taking too many lives.

Two days earlier, an antiwar Democrat had come close to winning a special election in Ohio for a congressional seat assumed to be safe for Republicans. Former Marine reservist Paul Hackett, who returned from Iraq to run for Congress, had gotten a huge boost from bloggers around the country. Leading the charge was Markos Moulitsas, founder of the progressive Daily Kos, which attracts hundreds of thousands of daily visits and is considered one of the most popular political blogs on the Internet. For Democrats desperate to find their way back to a winning coalition, Moulitsas, 33, has emerged as one of the most creative thinkers and activists in the progressive ranks. The Post team, along with reporters from other national publications and scores of political operatives, had come to get a glimpse of the future.

Moulitsas is opposed to the Iraq war but says that isn't what drew him to Hackett. "It's not about ideology, pro-war, antiwar, it makes no difference," he insisted. "In the online world, we need Democrats to stand up, not be afraid of Republicans, not be afraid of the right-wing noise machine … We don't care about ideology. We care that you stand up for the party and don't run scared."  He pointed out that bloggers backed Democrat Stephanie Herseth in South Dakota, who, he says, ran a Republican Lite campaign. "We're pragmatic," he says. If  candidates aren't 100 percent on the environment or they're kind of iffy on choice, progressives should overlook these differences for what Moulitsas terms "the greater good," which is restoring the Democrats to a governing majority.

The national Democratic Party had written off the Ohio seat because the district is the second-most Republican in the state, but Moulitsas and like-minded bloggers saw it as a chance to put everything they'd been saying to the test. They didn't expect to win, though there was always that hope, but if they could turn a foregone Republican conclusion into a close race where the GOP had to spend money and sweat the outcome, that would be victory enough. The Republicans didn't build their majorities overnight, and it was time for progressives to take a stand. Hackett had zero name recognition at the outset, but he quickly became known in the blogosphere, which raised $400,000 for his race. Every time the other side tried to "Swiftboat" him--using the tactics employed against John Kerry's Vietnam record in the 2004 race--the bloggers struck back.

Hackett won 48 percent of the vote, losing by fewer than 4,000 ballots in a district where one year ago, the Republican won 70 percent of the tally. "What if a few more of us had done something?" mused Joe Trippi, who pioneered innovative ways to use the Internet in the Howard Dean campaign and who shared the stage with Moulitsas. A revolutionary by Washington standards, Trippi seemed in awe of what Moulitsas has accomplished in creating Daily Kos, the most-read progressive blog. "What were you thinking?" Trippi asked. "Was it just your little diary at the time?"

The boyishly slight Moulitsas responded with an engaging smile, saying  that he wished he could claim he was a grand visionary and that his blog was part of a master plan to take over the world. He had no idea it would take off the way it has. It was his way of dealing with the angst he felt as an Army veteran who opposed the Iraq war at a time when any disagreement with President Bush was thought to be almost treasonous. Moulitsas is no stranger to war. He had spent part of his youth in El Salvador, his mother's native land, during that country's brutal civil war. Back home in Chicago, he enlisted in the Army at age 17 and spent two and a half years with an artillery unit in Germany. After college and law school, he ended up designing Web pages in San Francisco. He supported the bombing in Afghanistan but was so viscerally opposed to the invasion of Iraq that he was driving his wife and boss and cubicle mate crazy, he recalls. "It was either start a blog and just vent or lose my entire social circle," he said.  Pretty soon he had 100 online visitors, more than he could accommodate in his house, he remembers thinking. When he hit 1,000, he thought to himself, "I'm done," but he kept going--and now he's Moses leading Democrats to the promised land.

© 2005 Newsweek, In

Commentary:
The irony is that blogs and anti Bush websites attack the media endlessly but we also depend on good reporters, commentators and blogs to give us the truth.

A few of my favorites are




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