Monday, August 06, 2007

Just How Much Do Local Blogs Matter?

After seeing Gila's latest story on The Liberal OC, I've been thinking. I know, I know. That's a REALLY scary thought. But trust me, it's not scary.

All too often when we think of the netroots, we think of those big, glitzy, glamorous national blogs with all those hundreds of thousands of User IDs. We think of that huge convention in Chicago that just ended. We think big, and we think national. But when you really look at the big picture, the national scene is only a small part of it.

The SF Chronicle just caught onto this, and I'm glad to see them noticing. There's a giant segment of the netroots that hasn't been noticed much, but is nonetheless making a huge difference throughout California, and throughout the nation. Follow me down below for more...

(Cross-posted at JOMO Blog and Calitics)

Some people who blog think the blogosphere has a tremendous impact on elections. I am not one of them. In general, I believe the impact of blogs today on who gets elected is miniscule. Their influence will likely increase as time goes on, but at the moment I think their effect on elections amounts to little more than an asterisk.

That's part of what Gila has to say today at The Liberal OC. And you know what? She's right. Whether we like it or not, the national blogosphere only has so much of an impact on elections and campaigns right now. Perhaps that will change some time in the future, but I don't see it happening now.

Yes, the netroots is a big asset in terms of raising money and exciting the base. However, it can NOT be substiuted for institutional donors on fundraising matters. And no, the netroots isn't a proven vehicle to win votes. So on this matter, Gila is correct.

However, I make a conditional exception for local blogs.

And once again, Gila is spot on in her observation. While everyone is focusing on the big national blogs, they are all missing the one area of the blogosphere that's having the most impact on politics, which is THE LOCAL BLOGOSPHERE.

The SF Chronicle takes a look at what happened with Say No to Pombo in CA-11 last year, and at what happened in a recent special election for State Senate in New York. In both cases, the local blogs brought to attention stories that the mainstream media ignored, and they ignited local readers to become local activists. I guess The Albany Project makes a huge difference in New York State, and all of us know in California just how instrumental the local netroots was in taking down Richard Pombo.

But of course, these aren't the only examples of the local netroots making the real difference. After all, everyone here in Orange County knows that without the stellar coverage of local blogs like The Liberal OC, the Tan Nguyen psychodrama would have never become such a huge story. And of course, stories like Claudio's "Ignorance to Enlightenment" series at Orange Juice have jumpstarted countywide discussions on the intersection of faith and politics. Oh, and if you need another good example of what happens to a politician who ignites the fury of the blogosphere, see what's been happening to Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen.

So what does this all say? It says that local blogs can be quite instrumental in influencing the political dialogue online AND offline. It says that local blogs can be key in making or breaking a local politician's career. It says that just as all politics is local, all local politics can be strongly affected by what's happening on the local blogosphere.

So what does this mean for us? This means that we should not be afraid to tackle local issues, and discuss local politics. Local affairs may not be "sexy" enough for the big national sites, but it's the local politics where the local netroots can have the biggest impact.

Don't believe me? Ask the New York State Democratic Party, or ask Richard Pombo, or ask Janet Nguyen (or Tan Nguyen for that matter!). They can tell you all about it. : )

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