The Daily Kos is a big blog, even in terms of the US, where there are more than a few of them. But its model is substantially different to the one used by others in the ‘super blog’ class. It has used its commenting facility to garner a readership and commentariat that unapologetically sings from the same hymnsheet. Now, on the verge of the Connecticut Senate Primary, according to Chris Caldwell in the FT, it may find itself (with others) exerting substantial insider influence with a ‘new’ US Democrat party, if their man, Ned Lamont, wins.
The Connecticut primary is exciting Democrats across the country. A lot of people call it “a struggle for the soul of the Democratic party”. But to look at the blogs and the rallies is to realise that the struggle is over. It has been won by Mr Lamont. Or rather, by Howard Dean, whose 2004 anti-war presidential campaign Mr Lamont’s much resembles. In the 17 months since he took over the Democratic National Committee, Dr Dean has been remaking the party in his own image, a mix of populist and patrician. Democrats continue to recruit super-wealthy candidates more reminiscent of the Roman than the US Senate. Their designated saviours are either new-economy tycoons (such as Mark Warner, Virginia Senator, or John Corzine, New Jersey governor) or scions of the 19th-century Wasp, that is, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, ascendancy (Dr Dean). Mr Lamont is both. His personal wealth is $90m-$300m (£50m-£160m) and his great-grandfather was chairman of JPMorgan. His campaign is funded by contributions from Paul Newman, Norman Lear, Barbra Streisand, George Soros and Jackson Browne, and by $2.5m (thus far) of his own money.
Mr Lamont also has a disciplined army of internet users. Veterans of Dr Dean’s “netroots” (internet + grassroots) campaign failed in 2004, nor did they get an anti-Iraq war veteran nominated against party warhorse Sherrod Brown this spring. But the success of Mr Lamont shows they are raising their game. That does not mean that anyone yet has a clear idea of what the netroots want. Technologically, bloggers are a cutting-edge movement; ideologically, they are people for whom 9/11 might as well never have happened. Strategically, they are peace activists; tactically, they believe nothing motivates voters like anger and contumely. Notice the hedging of bets by even the most seasoned Democratic politicians. Mr Clinton has simultaneously backed Mr Lieberman (he will campaign for him in Connecticut next week) and snubbed him (he will endorse Mr Lamont if he wins).
A Lamont victory would show that the mainstream Democratic ideology that Mr Lieberman represents has had its day. A Lamont loss would convince the most energetic members of the left that the party is not a vehicle that will carry them to power. Either way it means a bumpy ride for Democrats. Over time, Dr Dean’s shift in resources will effect a change in party personnel. In will come the bloggers, anti-globalists and peace activists. Out will go the feminists, civil rights activists, unionised labourers and the whole coalition Mr Lieberman represents – whose electoral failings are proving as hard for some Democrats to forgive as the failings of Mr Bush.