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Sic Semper Tyrannis

Friday, December 21, 2007

What's next for the political blogosphere?

A lot of it depends on what happens in November 2008, but I think Megan McArdle hits the nail squarely on the head.

Assume, for the nonce, that come January 2009, there will be a Democrat taking the oath of office. What will the blogosphere look like?

Compared to the netroots, right now, the rest of the political blogosphere is a demoralized and listless place. Libertarians are abandoning their mild preference in favor of Republicans, not for the Democrats, but for despair. On the conservative side, even ardent supporters of the president have tired of him. Everyone is out of plausible policy proposals. What is there to be in favor of? More tax cuts? An even more aggressive foreign policy?

Meanwhile, the netroots is ascendant. They feel their hands closing around the reins of power, and they like the way it feels. The war in Iraq may be a bad idea, but they're preparing to kick some ass in the political battles to come.

But what happens when power shifts over? The netroots is fundamentally an opposition movement. They argue among themselves, to be sure, but they have solidarity built on their common hatred of George Bush. The move from never-never policy proposals to actually having to talk about things that might get done will be somewhat disconcerting. And as executing policy starts to require compromise and not a little hypocrisy, the pure ideological fervor that animates the netroots will start to dissipate, as it has among the disillusioned conservative blogs.

Meanwhile, I expect the handover will actually be good for the rest of the blog world. We may not agree on much, but we can probably unite around hatred of our new presiden'ts policies. I would wager a fair amount that the libertarian flirtation with the Democratic party doesn't last much beyond March 1st, 2009. As libertarians know too well, being in the opposition can be fun. Having full range of motion on one's opinion muscles feels surprisingly good, especially if you've spent years assuming contorted positions in order to support the last administration.

It is kind of ironic that George Bush is a unifier for the left, but that's what he is. We've already seen the fault lines in the netroots when Democrats don't do what they want. If a Democrat wins the presidency in 2008, expect a short honeymoon with the netroots and then holy hell to break loose. The question in my mind is can the right side of the blogosphere quickly organize to be as efficient an opposition force as the netroots? Each side of the blogosphere is constructed very differently, and while I have no doubts that the right can be very much a forceful voice, I do wonder if we can be as effective as the netroots have been.

Of course, that is all predicated on a Democratic win. A Republican win might actually weaken the right side of the blogosphere even more as the various components of the right splinter over whether their views are being sufficiently reflected in the President.