The Online Curse Of Incumbency

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Bloggers of all political persuasions hate “the establishment.” If that wasn’t clear before last Tuesday’s primaries, it certainly is now. Voters in Connecticut, Georgia and Michigan handed electoral pink slips to three members of Congress, and blogs were a factor in all three upsets.

The Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut, where netroots hero Ned Lamont defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman 52 percent to 48 percent, generated the most attention. If blogs were published in newsprint instead of online, the Internet activists who fret about global warming would have consumed enough paper in writing about the Connecticut battle to destroy a rain forest.

But the role of blogs in defeating Lieberman went far beyond just ranting against him for his support of the Iraq war and other initiatives of President Bush. Bloggers were involved in the race from start to finish, as detailed by writer Ari Melber at The Huffington Post and the The Nation.

Lamont met with at least one key blogger (Matt Stoller of MyDD) early in his campaign, later hired another (Tim Tagaris) away from the Democratic National Committee, and used a third (Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake) as a volunteer production editor for his first video blog. Bloggers helped raise more than $300,000 for him online. They also followed his campaign across Connecticut and swarmed his headquarters on Election Night.

Before the votes were counted, some top bloggers tried to downplay their role in aiding Lamont. And when Hamsher embarrassed the campaign by painting Lieberman in blackface, Lamont unconvincingly claimed, “I don’t know anything about the blogs.” Now that Lamont has won, though, bloggers are beginning to boast of their newfound power within the Democratic structure.

“[B]logs are now vital parts of the party, displacing the lobbyist-lawyers-operatives whose organs were the New Republic and the Washington Post editorial page, and whose power flowed through their alliances with insular state machines and bigwig journalists,” Stoller wrote Wednesday.

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