Gary Gross reminds me that today is the seventh birthday of Let Freedom Ring. Gary’s built LFR into one of the essential sources for following Minnesota politics over the past seven years.
Happy Happy, Gary, and many more for you and LFR!
Gary Gross reminds me that today is the seventh birthday of Let Freedom Ring. Gary’s built LFR into one of the essential sources for following Minnesota politics over the past seven years.
Happy Happy, Gary, and many more for you and LFR!
Why, yes – I did spend a bit of time talking redistricting over the weekend, now that you mention it.
On the NARN, it was my pleasure to interview MNGOP Chair Tony Sutton and his deputy, Michael Brodkorb (punctuated by a surprise appearance by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker; I’ll be posting the podcast link as soon as I find it) about the redistricting process and all the outside money the left is pouring into Minnesota to try to skew the process in their favor.
And then, last night, I drove out to Ramsey to appear on “The Late Debate” with Jack Tomczak and Ben Kruse. I was on a panel with Gary Gross of Let Freedom Ring, Mike Dean of “Common Cause Minnesota”, and Kent Kaiser, who is part of Draw The Line Minnesota’s (DTL-MN) “Citizens’ Commission”. In the interest of accuracy, I’ll note that in my piece last week, I lumped Kaiser in with the Commission’s liberal hypermajority, because I personally didn’t know any better; Kaiser is of course well-known in GOP circles as one of the good guys; I regret the error…
…especially since he was the unquestionable star of last night’s debate.
I’m not going to try to reconstruct the whole thing from memory – you can check out their podcast at their site, and Gary Gross did an excellent rundown of the proceedings over atLFR.
I’ll recap this bit, though; I walked in there with two main points: I walked out with four:
Who’s Politicized?: As Kaiser noted, the GOP legislative majority’s proposal follows the letter of the law, and the spirit of the last several judicial decisions, pretty closely. The DFL’s map was…well, nonexistant. They never drew one up.
It was Governor Dayton’s veto that was, as Kaiser noted, exceptionally politically capricious.
And this entire process recaps a pattern we started seeing during the 2008 election, and rose to a crescendo in last year’s gubernatorial race; the DFL isn’t so much a political party as it is a political holding company, outsourcing its actual policy and boots-on-the-ground work to its “strategic partners” – the unions, and the array of astroturf pressure groups like “Alliance For A Better Minnesota”, “Take Action Minnesota”, MPIRG, and “Draw The Line”.
Outside Money: Behind all of Draw The Line and Common Cause’s noble chatter about getting people involved – nay, getting them interested – in the redistricting process, the fact remains that a raft of “progressive” organizations are doing their level best to try to jimmy the redistricting in their favor, in a census period in which GOP-leaning districts exploded and DFL-districts continued withering. The demographics aren’t a state phenomenon – and either is the left’s effort; “Draw The Line” is a regional, not state, entity, focusing on trying to attenuate (at least) the gains the GOP should get from pure demographics. More below.
Competition: One of DTL-MN’s priorities – because it’s one of the priorities of its supporting groups (Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, the MN Council of Non-Profits and Take Action MN), is “competitive elections”. On a policy level, this goal – making sure that politicians are accountable to electoral pressure from their voters – is laudable enough.
It’s at the implementation level that it either breaks down or shows its ideological stripes, depending on your point of view. Minnesota is a divided state – but not evenly or consistently divided.
Let’s look at the example of a hypothetical state of about five million people, which is closely divided on a statewide basis – but where the division stacks up as follows:
Of course it’s not hypothetical at all. Minnesota is exactly that; a couple of big blue boils, the Twin Cities and Duluth, two Congressional and 20 legislative districts that routinely deliver 70+% to the DFL, surrounded by an exurban ring that, in a blowout year, might go 55-45 GOP (only two GOP-owned legislative districts topped 70% GOP, as opposed to 20 for the DFL), and an outstate that tips a little bit GOP, but is close enough to send Tim Walz and Collin Peterson to Congress.
So to make Minnesota “competitive” across the board, the legislative map would have to look like a couple of bicycle wheels, with spokes radiating out from the Marshall-Lake Bridge (and Canal Park in Duluth) all the way out to the state’s borders; the Congressional map would look like a big Key Lime (mmm, Key Lime) pie.
That is, of course, not acceptable practice. New boundaries must, as much as possible, preserve existing community boundaries.
The answer, of course, is that Common Cause want the Republican parts of Minnesota to be competitive, and to leave the DFL-dominated Twin Cities and Duluth, and their 20 districts, pretty much alone.
“When did you stop beating your minorities?”: As Gary noted at LFR last week, there is a noxious little bon mot tucked away in the DTL-MN’s site: “Historically, redistricting has been done out of the public eye, without meaningful public input, and used to dilute the voting power of communities of color“.
The next sentence helpfully adds “Minnesota has a reputation for fair and clean government, but we believe we can do better“.
So if Minnesota has a “reputation for fair and clean government”, why mention trait that was a part of redistricting in Mississippi and Illinois and Alabama? Because any thinking person knows that it’s immaterial to Minnesota’s history, right?
Of course; but the quote wasn’t included for the benefit of the thinking and literate audience; it was included to provide an inflammatory, polarizing soundbite for the ignorant – TV reporters and Strib columnists, for example – to latch onto. Otherwise, if it has nothing to do with Minnesota’s history, why include it at all?
That said, it was a fun time, and a generally good debate. Up to the end, anyway.
I have been duking it out with Mike Dean of Common Cause for quite some time, mostly on Twitter. I have been inviting him on the Northern Alliance to discuss Common Cause’s agenda and funding for a little over a year now; like many Twitter arguments, it’s been curt and acerbic.
And I’ll cop to the fact that I’ve had a bad attitude about Common Cause. While they are disingenuous about being “non-partisan”, that’s fine; it’s a free country, you can say anything you want. Hell, I can call myself “non-partisan” – but, of course, I don’t. More importantly, most of my impressions of Common Cause were formed in the early-mid 2000’s, when they agitated for a lot of really noxious policies, especially
campaign finance reform speech rationing.
In person, Dean’s a heckuvva nice guy. And he held his own pretty well, and stayed on his point, for the first 118 minutes of the show,. One of the points on which he stayed was an idea on which we all agreed at the beginning of the show; that we all wanted people to get more literate about and involved in the redistricting process, across the political board.
And so with that in mind, I reiterated my invitation to Dean to appear on the Northern Alliance one of these next weekends.
He turned it down – and then kept going. “What do we gain from it?” he asked, noting that in my blog’s coverage of Common Cause I (paraphrasing him closely ) published “fairy tales” and “made things up”.
Nope. Never. In almost ten years, this blog has published things I don’t reasonably believe to be true only when I’m pretty clearly writing satire. No exceptions.
Oh, I may err at times, and on a point or two I was in fact wrong; as Dean noted, the Joyce Foundation doesn’t get money from George Soros. But I can concede that point, without changing the conclusion that actually matters; while Joyce (and Common Cause MN, which is supported by Joyce) may not get money from Soros or his various shell groups, its’ goals nationwide are indistinguishable from those of the Open Society Foundation, Media Matters, the Center for Independent Media or any of the other Soros joints; to slap a phony “non-partisan” sheen on a partisan pressure industry.
So at the end of the day – literally, at two minutes to midnight – it became clear what the real mission is. It’s not to reach out to people of all political stripes. It’s to reach out to those who don’t know what their stripes are, but who can be inveigled into exerting themselves to fight against a vague, sorta-racist boogeyman.
And so the battle will continue.
Thank to Ben Kruse and Jack Tomczak for the invite – and to AM1280 for letting me appear off of Salem turf for an evening.
Let’s take a trip back to early 2007.
While Minnesota’s conservative blog scene had been been dominating the local alternative media scene since the “Blog” became a household word, it was a series of scattershot phenomena – you had a bunch of huge megabloggers like Powerline and Ed Morrissey, and on the other hand a whoooole lot of people who tried blogging for a few weeks or months, maybe drew a little attention,and then got frustrated at the difficulty involved in actually getting read.
In the meantime, the Big Left blogs had two big advantages; a hive-like reader community that pretty much read what they were told to read, and liberals with deep pockets who were willing to pay bloggers to write the stuff.
We wondereed – what was the way forward?
It was in the summer of ’07 that Andy Aplikowski hatched the idea of a center-right conservative group blog, aggregating material from the full range of center-right bloggers in Minnesota. He and Derek Brigham and Nancy LaRoche ran with the idea, along with Brian Mason, Matt Abe, Kevin Ecker, the Lady Logician and, eventually, me.
That idea became True North.
The idea? Give regional center-right bloggers an outlet, and a soapbox, and if all went well, a megaphone – a way for they, their blogs, and especially their writing and reporting,to be seen by a wider audence than they could get all by themselves, an outlet that would be greater than the sum of all our individual parts.
And so it was four years ago today that True North launched. Then as now, we were based on one simple set of principles – and the mission to get writers who supported those principles out and in front of the public.
Some leftybloggers didn’t know what to make of us. But we’ve had a blast.
Nobody’s ever made a dime from True North – I don’t think we’ve ever accepted advertising – but we’ve had an effect far beyond anything anyone could have expected. Litlte birds tell me we’re daily reading at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. Beyond that? One of our former contribs is in the Legislature (King Banaian, 15B); another, Michele Bachmann, is a presidential candidate.
It’s been a great four years – and the best is yet to come!
So thanks, Andy and Derek and Nancy, and Brian, Cindy, Kevin and Matt, and especially everyone that’s written for True North over the past four years!
Chris Cilizza has released his annual list of “Best State-Based Political Blogs” for 2011. It’s a list for all fifty states. Cilizza hastens to note that…:
The best political blogs list is entirely driven by Fix readers and commenters. Many of the blogs below are partisan and may use language and/or images that neither The Fix nor the Washington Post condones. To be clear, we are not endorsing the view of the blogs on the list. Instead we intend to serve as a gateway for interested political junkies to pick and choose your favorites.
So here are the lists for…:
So True North got on the list, against the MPR, Strib and Humphrey Institute house blogs, a Soros joint, The Dump (hey, give ’em their due; they’ve always known how to get the media to pay disproportionate attention to them) and “Bluestem”, which gets points for being one of about three Minnesota leftyblogs that’s neither obviously clinically deranged, nor employed by the DFL/Soros/some “progressive” institution nor seemingly written by a press-release bot.
Hey, at least a conservative blog got on the list this year – in a state that’s spawned two of the most powerful blogs anywhere in the business, Powerline and Captain’s Quarters (which got assimilated into Hot Air) and where the organic conservative blog scene True North digests every day is the biggest, most vibrant in the country.
Hm. Makes sense now.
Anyway, congrats to all.
After ten days of being vilified by left wing media reporters, those same reporters were tripping all over their underwear trying to ask him questions about the story they had doubted until today. Not only that, but at the behest of the same reporters who trashed him personally and his stories, Breitbart stood where Weiner was about to stand and demanded an apology from the slanderers in the press, and from Congressman Weiner himself.
Breitbart, like all of us in the center-right alt-media, knows that the gesture is just for show.
Andrew shouldn’t hold his breath waiting for their apology (and he knows that). You see, the progressive agenda-driven mainstream media looks at Andrew Breitbart and sees the devil himself.
Breitbart and his team of editors and contributors (of which I am one) are everything that the press hates. We find the facts that either they don’t find or they choose to ignore, and we reveal them to the public. As the guy whose name is on all the sites, along with being the content director and a reporter, Breitbart’s job is to publicly take the body slams directed at all the writers including himself.
Breitbart and his organizaation actually are what a lot of us in the center-right alt-media have been dreaming about for nigh on a decade now; a well-funded, motivated, conservative alt-media powerhouse that eats the bigs’ lunches consistently enough to cause the Big Media Machine serious problems.
Let’s face it, Breitbart’s “Big” sites not only shoot down the progressive media’s political idols, but they make the press seem incompetent for not reporting those stories themselves.
I’m already having fun with the 2012 cycle.
Kudos to Katie Kieffer, who just got her first article published in Townhall today.
I’d like to take a moment to talk a little more about the Senate Media Credentialing rules discussion from yesterday.
First – thanks to the working group, who did the vast majority of the work. The group included (as noted elsewhere) David Brauer of the MinnPost, Michael Brodkorb (the Executive Assistant to the Majority Caucus, Rules Committee Executive Director Cullen Sheehan, Minority caucus communications director Beau Berentson and Senate Sergeant-At-Arms Sven Lindquist.
Now, here’s the important take-away; if the full Senate passes the change (it’s supposed to come up on the floor on Thursday), the Minnesota Senate will have the most transparent, open and non-partisan media process of any state government body in the United States. Literally – there are a few legislatures that are in the same ballpark (Montana springs to mind) but there are none better.
And for that, I have to give my kudos to Michael Brodkorb – who in addition to being a mover and shaker in the MNGOP and the Majority caucus is a former blogging powerhouse, my former Northern Alliance colleague, and my friend. He was the driving force behind the working group, which in effect makes him the prime mover behind the reforms. The reforms themselves do nothing to benefit the MNGOP majority for which he works; as such, they could be fairly termed “statesmanlike” of the governing majority (and yes, it is a fact that the DFL members of the Rules committee supported the changes as well). A good idea is a good idea, no partisan label needed.
Which made it interesting to flip through the comments in David Brauer’s original post on the proposal and the working group. Brodkorb derangement syndrome is a real, serious issue among Minnesota’s comment-section keyboard warriors.
Brodkorb isn’t the only target, naturally; Mark Gisleson, who to my knowledge has ever had a positive affect on anything, ever, wrote:
Don’t do it. If you do, you’re acknowledging that you are the equivalent of Mitch Berg, and that’s a libelous assertion because Mitch is a partisan blogger and radio host who will never cut a liberal an even break, whereas your work is objective, and not driven by liberal politics.
Gisleson is, to be tactful, raving and utterly un-based in fact; I was there to make sure the entire alternative media, left, right and utterly unaligned, could get access and be treated as “journalists” and reporters, with the same rights (and responsibilities) as the “real” ones. I was there every bit as much to represent the likes of left-wing media like “The Uptake” and Minnesota “Progressive” Project as I was for True North and Minnesota Democrats Exposed and, for that matter, Shot In The Dark.
Not to push a “conservative” agenda. Period. And Brauer, although he was added as “the token lefty”, was equally party-blind in his approach to the proceedings.
(And lefties should be a lot more careful about terms like “libel”; if being associated with me defames David Brauer, it would only be among people who are so deranged with partisan paranoia that the other key part of a libel charge, “damage to the victim’s reputation”, is pretty much a moot, if not negated, point. Just my opinion, of course).
But enough of that. The real message is that, if the Senate passes the bill (and from what I hear, even the DFLers who’ve been asked have approved), then the mission, to provide a better, more open, non-partisan means of access to our lawmakers to the New, Alternative media – left, right or none of the above – and eliminate the old system that subjected the new media to the partisan whims of the sitting majority – is accomplished.
And that’s all that really matters.
It was April 28, 2003. I sat in the public gallery of the Minnesota State Senate, with a legal pad (this back when WiFi was kinda rare, much less Air Cards), scrawling madly on a legal pad, writing down the salient points of the debate going on below – the final debate on the (intial) passing of the Minnesota Personal Protection Act.
As I sat there, I knew three things as clearly as I could see Ellen Anderson theatrically donning a flak jacket:
The media landscape has changed since 2003 – a lot. And Minnesota has led the way; bloggers, especially conservatives, have blazed the trail for the rest of the alternative media, knocking down walls that had stood for generations between “media” and democracy.
But not in the Minnesota state capitol.
As of the beginning of this session, there were two ways to get media credentials to the Minnesota State Senate:
It was both an anachronism – there is no mention of new media anywhere in the Senate rules – and a political football. Things came to a head in the 2009-2010 session, as the DFL caucus gave credentials to “The Uptake” – a very liberal group videoblog – but denied them to Saint Cloud conservative talk show host Dan Ochsner for being “partisan”.
The worm looked like it was turning this session; early on, the the Senate, now controlled by the MNGOP, denied credentials to all partisan news outlets, including the Uptake.
This was the road to madness – and, likely, litigation.
About this time a month ago, Senate GOP Caucus Communications director Michael Brodkorb – who is also the deputy chair of the MNGOP, a former blog star from his days running Minnesota Democrats Exposed, and incidentally my former “Northern Alliance Radio Network” colleague – asked MinnPost’s David Brauer and I to participate in a working group to revamp the rules. The goals were pretty simple; to…:
Brauer was there in his rather unique capacity as both a vet of the mainstream media and a reporter for a site that is a little bit old and a little bit new-media. Me? Although I’ve worked in the MSM, I was there mostly to represent new and, I suspect, explicitly partisan media.
On both the left and the right.
Last week, the working group – Brodkorb, Brauer, Majority Caucus staffer Cullen Sheehan, minority-caucus staffer Beau Berentson, Sergeant-at-Arms Sven Lindquist and me – had its last meeting, and handed off our final recommendations. The recommendations went through the (non-partisan) lawyers, past us for one more round of making sure the lawyers were saying what we thought we were saying, and, today, to the Senate Rules Committee where, if all goes according to plan, Brauer and I will be testifying later this afternoon.
Here’s what would happen if Senators approve our recommendations:
The Sergeant-at-Arms — a nonpartisan staffer — would administer the credentialing process. Senators and partisan staff are expressly prohibited from intervening unless a journalist appeals his or her rejection. (More on that in a bit.)
Believe me, nobody — not the politicians, not the Capitol press corps — wants to define who is a journalist. However, because Senate space is limited, we decided on a fairly low bar: Applicants for a session-long credential must include three pieces in any format in the past year on “matters before the legislature.” That can include blog posts, video, etc.
The proposed rules state “any opinion in such pieces is immaterial” for credentialing. Does this mean more “ideological” journalists will get credentials? Almost certainly yes.
Count on it. I’m going to make a note to file next year.
But the Minnesota and U.S. Constitutions don’t limit freedom of the press to perceived non-ideologues.
However, publications “owned or controlled” by lobbyists, political parties and party organizations “shall not be granted credentials.” Lobbyists are currently barred from the Senate floor.
Credentialing, by the way, means…:
The most important part of these changes? There is no partisan input into who is a “journalist”, or who is granted credentials. The entire process is run by non-partisan staff, working to standards that leave the process open to pretty much anyone who wants to cover the Senate and who can make a fairly minimal commitment – writing three articles, not being a lobbyist or a party employee, following the decorum rules – to just about the lowest-possible barrier of entry to the term “journalist”. You’ll need to apply for your session pass thirty days before the session kicks off.
And unlike the current system, there is recourse if you’re denied. Brauer notes:
The Sergeant’s office has 14 days to review an application. That means if you want to cover opening day, get your application in by mid-December. It also means you can’t just drop in on the Capitol and declare yourself a journalist. (There’s a separate provision for day passes.)
If the Sergeant’s office rejects an application, the reasons must be spelled out in writing. One legal advisor strongly suggested having an appeals process. Therefore, the matter would go to the Senate Rules committee, which must issue a decision within 14 days.
This does bring politicians into the mix. The concept is that the Senate is the final arbiter of its rules (short of the courts, where applicants can always turn). Could Senators bum-rush an applicant they didn’t like? It’s possible. But unlike the current process, the debate would occur in public and be governed by their rules, which again, forbid consideration of opinion.
The upshot: bloggers, talk-radio hosts, videobloggers, and traditional news media will be considered journalists, for purposes of getting credentials, if the Rules Committee and then the Senate passes the proposal. Partisanship will not be either a disqualifier or a factor in apportioning access.
Having a good alarm clock, however, will.
I think it’s a fair trade.
The ongoing squabble over access to the floor for media – partsian alternative media as well as the traditional kind – has been an ongoing battle at the State Capitol for a few years now.
The rhubarb flared up again as the session started earlier month, as left-leaning group-blog “The Uptake” was denied “floor credentials”.
Now, “floor credentials” aren’t the beginning and end of capitol journalism. David Brauer notes:
While credentials aren’t needed for Capitol press conferences, floor passes are about access. Conversations are only permitted before or after a day’s session, but the immediacy of interviews before lawmakers scatter is as valuable, as is the candor that occasionally results before marching orders are received.
It’s not the be-all of reportage: Senate Sgt-at-Arms Sven Lindquist says press seats on the cramped floor are frequently unoccupied, except during big votes. Still, it’s a tool for the journalistic toolbox.
And it’s a tool that pretty much everyone wants – just in case. Including The Uptake.
Now, the power to grant credentials, as Brauer notes, used to be a non-partisan activity:
Sgt-at-arms Lindquist says the power to review and grant credentials used to be handled by himself and Senate Secretary Patrick Flahaven. But in recent years, Lindquist says the power moved “elsewhere” — to the majority leader’s office, which is, by definition, partisan.
It’s obviously an issue needing some resolution. Which is where this piece starts.
Earlier this month, a source close to the GOP’s caucus leadership told me that, while (as Brauer notes) the rules don’t bar “partisan” media, the decision was made to deny credentials to all partisan media, pending the development of a policy.
A few weeks ago, Michael Brodkorb – who handles communications for the majority GOP caucus in the Minnesota Senate, in addition to being the deputy chair of the Minnesota GOP – called me to ask if I’d be interested in working with a group of DFL and GOP staffers, as well as MinnPost writer David Brauer, on coming up with a more or less comprehensive policy on granting floor credentials.
Every state has a different solution to the issue – ranging from free access to the floor to credentialed media in Rhode Island and Montana (and credentials are pretty much given for the asking) to Illinois, which requires a vote of the applicable chamber to allow the media to take pictures, much less get on the floor.
The goal – near as I can tell so far – is to come up with a transparent policy that’ll give fair access to the Senate floor to media organizations, while coming up with some sort of balance between the establishment media’s vocational need for access and the alt-media’s right to a place at the proverbial table.
I’m honored to have been asked. My goal is to try to help this group come up with a policy that fairly and transparently gives all media a fair, clear means to cover our Senate, for the good of the entire electorate.
I’ll keep you all posted. Because even if I didn’t, Brauer certainly would.
Hasn’t the Twin Cities media – especially the “alternative”, liberal version – been barbering for years about how Rep. Michele Bachmann just doesn’t do “mainstream” media?
Why, yes – they have!
But – did I hear Michele Bachmann doing an extended interview with Cathy Wurzer on MPR’s Morning Edition this morning?
Why, yes I did!
Someone tell Andy Birkey!
No, don’t. Rather, tell Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, all of whom I’ve invited onto the Northern Alliance Radio Network in the past two years, none of whom have so much as responded. (In the interest of completeness, note that Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak appeared, as did “Growth and Justice” majordomo Dane Smith. We had a great time talking with both of ’em, because – shibboleths about conservative talk radio aside – Ed Morrissey and I will put our cross-aisle interviews up against anything in the commercial or public media today in terms of civility and fairness (while allowing that we are, in fact, conservative).
So whatdya say, Reps Ellison and McCollum? How about it, Senators Franken and Klobuchar?
For that matter, we’ve had an invite out to Common Cause Minnesota for six weeks now – submitted on this blog, via email, via a voice mail message, and on Twitter. Not a word.
How about Denise Cardinal of “Alliance for a Better Minnesota”? Perhaps she could come on the show and discuss the Dayton-family-finance slime campaign she orchestrated?
For that matter, howzabout we get an invite to Mark Dayton? I’ve heard Tom Emmer do a center-left show; d’ya suppose Dayton’s got the gumption to go across the aisle…
…like Representative Bachmann did?
If you’re a conservative who’s interested in this election, and hasn’t quite gotten the full grasp of the media’s perfidy in this election, I’m going to direct you to Sheila Kihne’s ‘The Activist Next Door” blog, which has turned into a daily must-read this past few weeks.
More new blogs like this, please.
I participated in a conference call with Chip Cravaack and his campaign yesterday; it was where he officially released the news that his internal polling shows him in a statistical tie with 17-term representative Jim Oberstar.
And Cravaack quipped that while he’s trying to run a local campaign with local activists, he noted that all of the bloggers on the call – Ed Morrissey (CD2), Derek Brigham (CD3), Gary Gross (CD6) and I (CD4) were from outside the district.
And I thought – wow. Could it be there are no conservative bloggers in the Eighth District?
If so, that needs to change.
If you are a conservative blogger up in the Eighth District, and you’ve been covering the Oberstar/Cravaack race, drop me a line, either in the comments or on my email address.
And if you’ ve ever wanted to start a conservative blog up there in Duluth or Two Harbors or Virginia, there’s no time like the present. Go to Blogger.com, and take two minutes to set up your blog, and devote twenty minutes a day to writing something about politics in the Eighth District, and when you’ve got a week or two and half a dozen articles in, let me know; the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers and True North will set you off in style.
Perhaps you can become that alt-media elite. (There are more than a few leftybloggers up there. You should do juuuust fine).
Blogging hits the ballot in California.
On Tuesday, voters in the Golden State will chose nominees for the state’s U.S. Senate general election. And while most of the media oxygen for the race (already fighting for air against the uber-expensive GOP gubernatorial primary) has been sucked up by the Republican electoral 3-way, Democrats must thin their herd as well. Only two Democrats are saying “no ma’am” to another term for incumbent Barbara Boxer: a disheveled, quixotic blogger and a vainglorious Hollywood “producer” whose campaign seems to be an excuse to post pictures of him with famous people.
Guess which of the three scored a profile by the New York Times:
No, this is not your typical Senate campaign command center; but then again, [Mickey] Kaus is not your typical Senate hopeful. His lair speaks more to his career of the last 10 years — prolific blogger and professional curmudgeon — than the one he’s currently aspiring to. As the one-man show behind Kausfiles on Slate, Mr. Kaus was one of the first political bloggers, after a print career that included stops at publications like Newsweek and Harper’s…
“If you’d asked me is he ever going to run for Senate, I’d say, ‘Are you crazy?’ ” says Michael Kinsley, editor at large of The Atlantic Wire and a longtime friend. “He seems like a classic blogger — someone who is happier in front of his computer than he is out kissing babies.”
But Mr. Kaus has thrown himself into his quixotic campaign with surprising earnestness, undeterred by his prospects (grim) and general diagnosis (insane). He is the first person to admit that he has absolutely no chance of becoming California’s next Senator, but contends that this is not really the point. He says he is running as a protest candidate in order to draw attention to his pet issues.
California has often been viewed as political laboratory – from recall elections and an ever-expanding list of constitutional propositions – even if most of their creations have taken on a Frankensteinesque quality in recent decades. So it might as well be that the strengthes and limitations of the first fully blog-based candidate be demonstrated on a West Coast ballot.
Much like the blog, Kaus Files, that launched him into prominence within the punditry, Mickey Kaus’ candidacy has been rife with political paradoxes. Instead of focusing on areas where he agrees with the Democratic base, Kaus is solidly running to Boxer’s right on unions and immigration. Attacked as a closet Republican, Kaus invokes Paul Wellstone is his campaign’s sole TV advertisement. Treating his campaign as a Dave Barry/Gore Vidal joke candidacy one minute, the next Kaus is writing serious political manifestos.
Yet it’s hard to escape the feeling that had Kaus taken himself – or his campaign – more seriously, his spoiler candidacy might have done more than simply garner a few memorable press clippings for his scrapebook.
If the mood of the electorate is hostile across the country, California voters appear ready to find the nearest Bastille. Every single major party candidate has their approval/disapproval numbers upside-down, including Boxer at 37/46 – and that’s relatively healthy compared to most of the other statewide candidates. And whether California Democrats wish to acknowledge it or not, Kaus’ pet issues of unions and immigration are two big parts of the mosaic of problems that have painted the state forever in the red.
When even the LA Times refuses to endorse the incumbent, you know the political climate has turned stormy. But the limitations of Kaus’ own personality precluded him turning the non-endorsement to his advantage. Or as the paper put it: “But we can’t endorse him, because he gives no indication that he would step up to the job and away from his Democratic-gadfly persona.”
Blogging has certainly give Kaus an leg-up otherwise undeserved by his campaign. What other forum would allow a candidate with a $36,000 budget, no visible support and with such blunt honesty about his chances that he was deined a speaking slot at the Democratic convention, as much media fanfare as Kaus has enjoyed?
But persuading an electorate is world’s away from simply unleasing opinions into the ether of the internet. Even recognized as one of the Founding Fathers of internet journalism and blogging, the height of Kaus’ popularity was 40,000 unique visitors each day – a tremendous audience in blog terms but a pittance in political value.
“The Kaus blog speaks to a very smart and important influential niche, but it’s still just a niche,” says the conservative blogger Jonah Goldberg, who has supported Mr. Kaus’s campaign in the National Review Online. “The universe of bloggers is a hell of a lot smaller than a lot of bloggers like to think.”
UPDATE: So much for the New York Times. Kaus was demolished, as expected, but surprisingly finished in 3rd – 55,000 votes behind Hollywoodd hanger-on Brian Quintana for 5.2%.
Salem Communications – which owns both Townhall.com, America’s leading online conservative clearinghouse and Salem Radio, which in turns owns the radio station on which my radio program airs – has apparently purchased leading conservative site Hot Air, owned by Michelle Malkin and which employs my radio colleague Ed Morrissey, and its million daily pageviews.
Someone notify the media! The barbarians are at the gates!
Democrats Diane Feinstein and Dick “Turban” Durbin – who have long been the Dems’ official trial-balloon-floaters for assaults on free speech like the “Fairness Doctrine” – are proposing an amendment to a Senate bill (S.448) clarifying the press shield law.
And it’s aimed squarely at citizen journalists like you and I. Via RWN, here’s the amendment text, with some emphases added:
AMENDMENTS intended to be proposed by Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself and Mr. DURBIN )
In section 10(2)(A), strike clause (iii) and insert the following:
[a “journalist” is shielded if he/she] (iii) obtains the information sought while working as a salaried employee of, or independent contractor for, an entity—
(I) that disseminates information by print, broadcast, cable, satellite, mechanical, photographic, electronic, 1or other means; and
(aa) publishes a newspaper, book, magazine, or other periodical;
(bb) operates a radio or television broadcast station, network, cable system, or satellite carrier, or a channel or programming service for any such station, network, system, or carrier;
(cc) operates a programming service; or
(dd) operates a news agency or wire service;
In other words, you need to be an employee of a news business. All of us hobby hacks in our pajamas in our basements are out in the cold.
In section 10(2)(B), strike ‘‘and’’ at the end.
In section 10(2)(C), strike the period at the end and insert ‘‘; and’’.
In section 10(2), add at the end the following:
(D) does not include an individual who gathers or disseminates the protected information sought to be compelled anonymously or under a pseudonym.
This would seem to be aimed at the likes of James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles – provided they’re not employed by a Major News Outlet, of course.
Leaving aside the obvious indication that this is the Democrats’ way of circling their wagons around ACORN – this is a fascinating look into the authoritarianism of the Democrat party at work.
The conservative blogosphere is dominated by independents who cover their fields of expertise, whatever they are (this blog: music, financial planning, wine, tomatos and Minnesota politics) for the pure, unadulterated love of the game. From Power Line (which covers all they survey) to Speed Gibson (who patrols the ramparts of northwest-suburban education), we mostly do it because we want to, money be damned.
The left, on the other hand, has built up a network of “business” entities and non-profits, from the pseudo-newspaper-y “MNPost” to the not-very-covert propagandists at the “Center for Independent Media” (parent of the Minnesoros “Indepdendent”), at exquisite cost; one might now presume that this money was spent to get ahead of the legislative curve that the Feinstein/Durbin proposal represents, as a further attempt to shut down independent, non-government-vetted thought in this country.
This is Obama’s America.
Something for all you conservatives (and people who care about free markets and being able to get decent health care in this country) on Twitter:
I’ve been @ messaging folks but hopefully you can give this some
traction: Suppose you tweet the following:
Please RT — select any number of pages from health care bill
http://is.gd/4rxIr, read them, & post results at #crowdread
Nobody said it would be easy, of course:
I already have a (half-a**ed — I can’t read that s**t!) entry…
This would be one of those areas where conservatives’ domination of Twitter could be a very good thing.
I may do it on the blog, here, too. Presuming I can make heads or tails of any of it.
I’ll be joining a few thousand of our closest friends at the Minnesota Tea Party in a few hours.
It’ll be at the Minnesota Capitol Grounds, starting around 5PM. I’ll be joining a list of other speakers – Constitutional lawyer Marjorie Holsten, Doug Dahl, KLTK personality Sue Jeffers, Free market majordomo and AM1280 host David Strom, Healthcare reform powerhouse Twilia Brase, Dennis Madden, Doug Malsom, and KTLK-FM host Chris Baker, along with Bradlee Dean from “You Can Run International” and AM1280’s “Sons of Liberty”. KKMS’ Lee Michaels hosts.
Me? I’ll be speaking bright and early; just like when I was playing guitar in the bars, I’m the opening act.
And it’s gonna be fun! See you there!
I’ve been blogging for seven and a half years; I was a couple of years ahead of the “fad” curve, for once in my life.
And when it comes to political blogs, I think the various blog cultures reflect their owners. Liberals, being primarily herd creatures, are very hierarchical in their blogging; if you follow a lot of leftyblogs (and I do), you can almost see the memes starting with Kos and Atrios and the Huffpo, and work their way down through the ranks (and I use the term “ranks” intentionally). Conservatives, being basically decentralized (one could almost say “rudderless”, at times in the past half-decade) have approach blogging in a much less organized way – but the underlying current among conservative blogs has been less to serve as a political engine than as a form of “samizdat” alternative media to outflank what conservatives perceive (correctly) to be the bias and in-the-bag nature of the mainstream media. That is, of course, a much more scattered approach.
And for people who make their living at this, it’s a distinction that matters.
Of course, the mainstream media is the last group of people that can really understand that, but when organizations like CNN try to write about the subject:
“While it is obvious the progressive blogosphere is superior, we are being out-organized on Twitter,” said Gina Cooper, a blogger who helped organize Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of online liberal activists that met last week in Pittsburgh. “There is some catching up to do on the progressive side.”
It took me a moment push my skull back into my head when I read that – but once I did, it made sense, in context (where “context” means “with the parameters of the discussion shoved into a nearly meaningless corner”). Liberal bloggins is superior, as a medium for delivering votes to Democrats. Until the likes of the Center for “Independent” Media and other “Progressive” groups started pouring money into leftyblogging, either directly or via providing cushy full-time blogging jobs for leading leftybloggers, the lefty blogosphere was a morass of banal, unfocused, Bush-deranged rage. With money and leadership, the leftysphere became a tightly focused array of banal, Bush-deranged rage aimed at raising money and turning out voters.
Of course, in the leftyphere focuses on opinion and organization, not on serious analysis or reporting. There is no leftyblog analog to, say, Powerline’s shredding of Dan Rather’s hit piece on President Bush’s Air National Guard record.
But viewed purely as organizing? The piece has a point. For conservatives, the blogosphere is largely a replacement for the morning newspaper. Most of us are not fundemantally politcal people – we want government out of our lives, not at the center. So keeping our “organizing” down to 140 characters or less makes perfectly good sense.
Of course, being CNN, there has to be a certain aspect of “they have now idea what they’re talking about” endemic in the piece:
“Twitter is a news funnel,” she said. “Conservatives are very tightly knit and getting their message out very well.”
“Conservatives are tightly knit?” That, of course, is madness. At this juncture in American history, “conservative” is about as meaningful as, say, “caucasian”; just as any descriptor that covers everything from Icelandic people to Berbers, from Slavs to Spaniards is basically so broad as to be meaningless, so “conservative” is today. Any label that covers the fiscal moderate but evangelical pro-life Mike Huckabee and the tax and immigration hawk Tom Tancredo, or the fiscal conservative but socially pragrmatic Tim Pawlenty, lacks a certain degree of focus.
But the piece has a point; whatever conservatives lack these days in terms of ideological congruency, we are (finally) making up, after two slack cycles, in paying attention and waking up and smelling the coffee and getting out and into politics again, not because of but in spite of the leadership we’ve had – or lacked – in the past six years or so.
And – hopefully – realizing that no matter what your key issue, having any conservative in office, even a conservative that is imperfect on your pet issue, is going to be a better bet than having even the “best ” (hypothetical) Democrat.
The conservative twittersphere is more than adequate – as the article notes – in saying “show up” and “send money”. As to the “why?”
Well, for that we still have the long-form blog. And at that, the CNN piece notwithstanding, the conservative blogosphere still excels alone.
I’ll be cross-posting at Hot Air’s “Green Room” when the occasion warrants. My maiden effort was yesterday.
A zillion thanks to my radio colleague Ed Morrissey for the opportunity to reach a whole new audience!
Starting about November 5, I figured that Obama, and especially the Congress’ Democrats, after being thwarted for almost thirty years, would not be able to resist overreach.
Hugh Hewitt, writing from the road on his “100 Days Tour”, writes:
The energy of the tea parties and which we see on our tour of the country may not be a majority movement yet, but it clearly indicates that the new president has blown off the idea of a new politics and a new bipartisanship, and that the signal has been received loud and clear. The unaligned voters of America thought they might be electing a post-partisan, post-ideological president but already know –and will learn again and again– that what they actually got was a hard left ideologue with a wonderful reading voice. Bait-and-switch has never gone over very well with Americans.
By the way – do try to make it to the “Obama’s First 100 Days” get-together at the Convention Center, a week from tonight. Go here for details. I hope to see you there.
I hope you can make it to the Tax Cut Rally tomorrow!
I will not be there – the NARN show falls smack in the middle of the rally’s time slot so it’d be dicey (and it’s pretty much a project of a competing radio station, not that I’d boycott it, per se; I just dance with the one that brung me, if you catch my drift).
Anyway, check here for the details. And feel free to call into the NARN between 1 and 3PM with updates; we’d love to hear how many Minnesotans have had enough.
Jason Lewis – the host I always wanted to be when I grew up, even if he works for a lesser station today – writes:
In fact, Minnesota Democrats have already proposed over $2 billion in new taxes, notwithstanding the state may receive billions in federal stimulus money. By the way, the stimulus money coming from Washington is part of the greatest spending binge in history. This has resulted in unprecedented federal borrowing as well as massive new tax increase proposals.
Because of this fiscal crisis, we are ratcheting-up our plans for this year’s TAX CUT RALLY. We have expanded the number of activities to include more booths, more points of interest, and even kid-friendly activities such as food, music, and refreshments. We might even have a prize or two for the best sign!
Don’t forget to bring a food donation for metro-area food shelves, sponsored by Hope for the City.
So bring a radio and tune in the NARN while you’re there!
Here’s the one thing that would solve most of our government’s problems: We must stop hoping for change and start demanding it.
…what got us into the mess we’re in?
When you’re a conservative blogger, especially in Minnesota, you get used to being actively insulted and derided by the state’s dominant political/media class.
Bear in mind, Minnesota’s center-right blogging community is, if not the most active and vital political blogging community in the nation, easily among the very short list at the top of the heap. From the bigs like my friends at Powerline and Hot Air, to erudite generalists like TvM and FreedomDogs, to acerbic, focused niche-bloggers like Nihilist in Golf Pants, Speed Gibson and True North and many, many more (see the MOBroll, leave out the non-conservatives and you get the idea), Minnesota’s center-right blogging underground is big, passionate, and disporportionally influential.
So when Chris Cilizza at the WaPo started a list of the “Best State Political Blogs”, state-by-state, nationwide, it was reasonable to figure that while it’d probably overrepresent leftybloggers (packs of dogs will sniff each others’ butts, no doubt about it) – but you’d think they’d have some fodder with which to impart balance.
Trusting the MSM, of course, is always a long walk to a short splash. Behold, “Baghdad Chris” Cilizza’s “Best Minnesota Political Blogs”.
Polinaut is an institutional MPR production; it’s good and useful, to be sure, but not exactly an organic part of the local blog scene. Politics in Minnesota is a great aggregator of regional political thought; their daily run-downs of the “best of Minnesota blogs” has treated Shot In The Dark and True North very well; they also routinely run four leftyblog links for every overt conservative blog link. Que sera sera; it’s a game effort…
…compared to the rest of Chris Cilizza’s risible list.
MNPublius is OK; they’re a DFL flakblog; they’re like Minnesota Democrats Exposed, only without the regular game-changing scoops. Minnesota Campaign Report is earnest but comical.
MNBlue (Note, Mr. Cilizza; they’re called “Minnesota Progressive Project” these days)? Well, when they’re not letting Grace Kelly regurgitate her tingly-fingered Obama worship or her addledpated 9/11 conspiracy theories, they’re broadcasting risibly-obvious lies from anonymous hacks with curious axes to grind. In other words, they are the single dumbest blog in all of Minnesota. Bar none.
In the meantime, you’ll look in vain for Minnesota’s real influential political blogs; Powerline and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, homegrown productions that are among the most powerful blogs in the world; for MDE, which made headlines in the NYTimes and was perhaps more responsible than anyone for erasing Barack Obama’s coattails for Al Franken; for the scads of center-right bloggers that get better traffic and more credibility than at least two of Cilizza’s choices.
It’s a polling thing, of course; liberals read the WaPo, and if you read leftyblogs from Kos and Atrios on down to Minnesota Progressive Report, it’s pretty obvious the typical leftyblog commenter does nothing but sit in his mom’s basement and crank out dyspeptic screeds eighteen hours a day; stacking the votes in a poll like Cilizza’s is child’s play for that pack of loonies.
But otherwise-savvy commentators are passing Cilizza’s story on as if it’s a legitimate commentary on Minnesota’s blog scene.
Not half the story? Try “not a tenth”.
(By the way – Rachel Stassen-Berger? Why does “Political Animal” not take comments or post an email address?)
First things first; congrats to the MinnPost’s David Brauer on having his first ambulance ride end fairly benignly.
And yes – it is certainly a small world. Brauer called an ambulance after experiencing shortness of breath and chest pains:
The Minneapolis fire guys were there immediately; their quick read of my vitals didn’t scream heart attack. A minute or so later, the ambulance crew was on the scene. After being appraised of my non-demise, the crew’s paramedic asked me a question I wasn’t expecting:
“Hey David, do you recognize me?”
He did look vaguely familiar.
I laughed even though it hurt.
The saga, to an extent, did play out on Twitter over the weekend. Duke is a longtime friend of this blog, a former GOP representative from the Burnsville area who lost a heartbreaker of a race in 2006.
Burnsville’s loss is the first-responder profession’s gain, of course, as Brauer found:
Of course, politics doesn’t matter much when you’re strapped to a gurney and wheeled through the snow. But it was definitely reassuring to have a member of my social network be part of my survival network…Duke expertly threaded my IV (the nurses would later marvel at the precision), gave me the short course on nitroglycerin (a precaution; headaches approaching) and kept it light but not unprofessional. In short, his actions buttressed the trust we’d already established.
Brauer waxes just a tad philosophical:
Our politics are as different as can be (Duke was a conservative Republican legislator from Burnsville), but we’re both Coleman-Franken junkies. For some reason, Twitter has been a place where lefties and righties can actually talk to each other; perhaps it’s because the medium is young, or you pick who you follow.
There’s something to that – although Minnesota is blessed with many forums where people can talk across the aisle: the Northern Alliance Radio Network earned kudos from Mayor Rybak for our interview with him; the MDE/MNPublius Happy Hour last summer was a lot of fun. And this Saturday’s MOB party should be like all previous ones; a fun, utterly civil time for everyone involved.
Oh, yeah – there’s more good news; Duke’s finally blogging:
If you want to read Duke’s version, check out his new Ambulance Driver blog. I’m Patient #5 on Feb. 27. Don’t worry; Duke doesn’t violate patient confidentiality here — I’m the one outing myself.
Hope both Brauer and Powell can show up on Saturday, and re-enact the scene – substituting Guinness for the nitro, natch.