Danny Glover of National Journal’s excellent blog, Beltway Blogroll, has an interesting post today on the impact of bloggers on the political process in Washington DC.
Interesting question especially coming on the heals of last week’s Blog Summit on Capitol Hill.
The bottom line is that on the big issues, bloggers are batting zero. Their only significant policy claim to fame this year occurred at the Federal Election Commission. The blog swarm against that agency arguably forced it to draft a less sweeping plan for applying campaign finance law to bloggers — but even that war is not over yet because the FEC has not finalized the rules.
Bloggers are not powerless in policy circles and actually are gaining influence. Otherwise, official Washington would pay them no mind whatsoever — no conference calls with political chieftains, no question-and-answer sessions with lawmakers, and no other forms of outreach. But bloggers today are not as persuasive or as intimidating as they might like to believe.
For now, they are a lot like an unruly, reform-minded pack of zealots who won election to the House a decade-and-a-half ago and became known as the Gang of Seven. As Republicans in a Democratic-dominated Congress, that rabble-rousing minority within a minority, including one lawmaker who once wore a bag of shame over his head on the floor, had little impact on policy. But they did make enough noise to expose scandals and force change at the House bank, restaurant and post office, and they prepared the way for a GOP takeover four years later.
The as-yet-unanswered question about bloggers is whether they also are sowing seeds of change today that will yield fruit tomorrow.
I wish I could say, “No your wrong, look at this, that or the other thing.” The impact, in DC at least, has been muted. I do think blogs have had a substantial impact on other areas such as grass roots activism, fundraising and on the media. We discussed this very issue with Danny on his recent visit on Pundit Review Radio.
Dealing with politicians who are hostage to spe$ial intere$t$ is another question. It will take time. How many reformer politicians have gone into DC and then just been enveloped by the inside beltway infrastructure? Hundreds? Thousands?
The way for blogs to break through on Capitol Hill is to pick off a congressional candidate or two, then they will be able to move up a few rows in the bus. I think the Thune Senate candidacy in 2004 was the first where blogers had a significant impact. We need to see more of that, whether it is coming from the left or the right. A couple of high profile defeats, brought about in large part by activist bloggers, will go a long way in getting the attention of the entrenched elites on Capitol Hill.
We are in the first inning of this blog/citizen journalist/new media phenomenon, so as Danny mentioned, there is room for improvement and hope for the future.
What do you think?
UPDATE: Daniel Solove of Concurring Opinions has a different, more positive take,
I donâ??t agree. As I blogged earlier, I believe that the blogosphere has been playing an extremely important role in the Miers appointment process. While the true power of the blogosphere has yet to fully be manifested, it has been a large part of the pushback against the nomination.
I also believe that bloggers have helped shape the debate on the issue. The blogosphere has led to many experts, who might just get a soundbite in the print and TV news, having a much larger influence in shaping the debate. The mainstream media has picked up on this and turned it into a lead story for the Miers nomination. The eyes of the media and those inside the Beltway are looking at the blogosphere to guage the way the debate is progressing.
There do not seem to be many sure votes in the Senate for Miers, and it is becoming difficult for Senators to support Miers without believing that theyâ??ll take a big political hit. In essence, a set of virtual confirmation hearings are being held in cyberspace, and the fate of the nomination may well be decided before the actual hearings in the Senate even begin.