When They Don't Call
Today the Tracy Press ran an article called “Political Notes: The power of the blog” that included a little bit about yours truly. The article itself ought not to seem too revolutionary for any of my readers, whom I assume understand the potential political efficacy of the blogosphere. But I mention it here because we have a number of campaigns all vying to beat Richard Pombo, but only a few of them seem to have any interest in reaching out to the blogosphere. In the Democratic primary we have supposedly serious contenders whom I’ve introduced myself to and who on some level either know or ought to know who I am and what I’m up to. And yet they’ve studiously avoided doing any sort of outreach to me or my fellow bloggers. I think we ought to examine this a bit more.
Now before we get into this, let me just say that I’m not overly impressed with my own importance. I know that the blogosphere’s influence on this race is rather more potential than actual at this point. Furthermore, when I talk about doing outreach to me I don’t mean the same thing as kissing up to me. I don’t need affirmation from the candidates, and this isn’t an entry about how their actions make me feel. So to be clear, I think that the blogosphere has an important, albeit not all-important, strategic role in political campaigns. Although it is just one tool, it is a tool that ought not to be overlooked. And this is especially true for races in and near the Bay Area, where there are plenty of potential donors and volunteers, and lots and lots of tech savvy Democrats. So the failure to do appropriate outreach to the blogosphere is a substantive strategic failure. I’m sure there are worse sins in political campaigning, but this one is the most immediate to me.
I figure that this site has had something like 800-1,000 unique visitors (the Tracy Press article puts the number at 350, but that resulted from a miscommunication between me and the author). I have also raised over $500 already, and if the donors who’ve scheduled monthly donations through ActBlue actually make those payments, this site will raise nearly $1,400 even if nobody else makes a donation. Needless to say, I both hope for and expect more donations. Furthermore, this site shows up on the first page when you Google many of the candidates’ names. Lastly, this site has allowed me to get in contact with a huge number of anti-Pombo activists, both in California and across the country.
I think many of these stats show why this site ought to merit some sort of outreach effort on the part of the candidates. And yet, despite a personal invitation to all of the candidates, the only one who has made any sort of concerted effort is Jerry McNerney. It is no coincidence that he is the only candidate with a blog, although to be fair I expect Margee Ensign will have a blog too whenever she gets her website up and running.
Regardless of what people might think about my own biases in this race, a weblog lives or dies based on content. I cannot say anything new about a candidate unless I know something new. One article a week in the Tracy Press is not sufficient to get at the meat and bones of this race. I need information to produce content. Even if people think I’m unfair, which I studiously try not to be, they at least have the opportunity to correct the record on anything I say through comments or through e-mail. How different would it be if in response to my comment that I know maybe one person who supports Filson, three readers posted comments about why they supported him? I see he has gotten some endorsements, why wouldn’t he shoot me an e-mail pointing it out to me? Ensign could have written a guest post for this blog and introduced herself. But she didn’t. I just can’t understand why not.
There are a lot of people who don’t, at least in my estimation, “get” blogs. This includes many people who read them. I’m not sure I am as articulate as I need to be about the potential of the political blogosphere. In some ways this blog is itself my argument for the importance of blogs—it is the concrete instantiation of my theoretical understanding of blogs. But you do not need to fully get blogs to understand that they can be effective politically. (Heck, even the DCCC has a blog, as much good as it does them.) And you do not have to understand my blog theory, or even my political leanings, to know that it might benefit a candidate to keep me in the loop. Without being egotistical I can say that when it comes to information online about the Democratic primary in the race to unseat Richard Pombo, this blog is where it’s at. You would think the campaigns would try harder to be part of the conversation that is forming here.