The Netroots Grow Up

AUSTIN– In an interview with Barack Obama last week, PBS’s Gwen Ifill pointedout that Obama’s decision to reverse himself on public financing has”raised hackles in the press.” Obama corrected her: “Well, raised hacklesamongst some in the blogosphere .”


Maybe that’s why the CW going into the third-annual NetrootsNation conference was about Obama-blogger tensions. Last year, all three majorDemocratic candidates showed up. This year, Obama was too busy. So I expect thequestion on every tongue to be, Why does he think the Brandenburg Gate is moreimportant than his bloggy base?

But I have to agree with skeptics that the “tension” between the netroots—I’m writing that withoutscare quotes to save server space—and Obama seems a little overblown. No oneI’ve spoken with has suggested they’re not voting for Obama. No one even seemsparticularly peeved by positions on constitutionalissues like gun bans, faith-based initiatives, and the death penalty.   In the outside world, “FISA” is shorthand foronline disenchantment with Obama. Here, it’s shorthand for the silly notionthat the liberal blogosphere has abandoned him.

Instead, I get the impression this conference is about thenetroots going legit. They’ve dropped the “YearlyKos” label. The panels andevents are largely about organization—”Get Ready to Volunteer,” “Canvassing andPhonebanking,” “From Online Engagement to Offline Activism.” And as if to allayconcerns about the Democratic nominee, the Obama campaign has sent a wholedelegation of surrogates. Andy Borowitz brilliantly mocked liberal bloggers for “Accus[ing] Obama of Trying to Win Election.” But intruth, they’re trying to help him win, too.

Maybe forehead vessels will burst during the ‘Roots-DLCsmackdown between Markos Moulitsas and Harold Ford Jr. Maybe Nancy Pelosi will getslammed for appeasing Republicans during tomorrow’s Q&A. Or maybe everyone hasrealized that this year, the stakes are too high not to be on the same team.