Campaign '08: The Blogs & Talk Radio
A whole lot of bark, but where's that bite?
Where are they? The self-described voices of the Republican & Democratic base seem rather impotent in this presidential election. Liberal blogs and conservative talk radio have been unable to direct, much less dramatically affect, the choice for Democratic & Republican nominees over the last year. McCain has become the Republicans' all but certain choice. Clinton, often more strongly attacked than W himself in the lefty blogosphere, now faces the post-partisan Obama for the Democratic nomination. "Post partisan"!?! That's almost as bad as being a conservative for many liberal blog leaders. No Howard Dean remains for these folks to rally around.
Far be it, though, for the absolutists to give up. On the AM dial, note the Washington Times last week, "Conservative talk radio is ganging up on presidential candidate John McCain, attacking him for joining Democrats to push liberal legislation." Rush Limbaugh is still going crazy even today and even with Romney's withdrawal. Limbaugh is furious that "true" conservatives should accept McCain and that Republicans should blame talk radio hosts for trying to rain on the Arizona senator's coronation.
The king of talk radio has spent years tagging John McCain as the ultimate traitor to the cause for his backing of campaign fnance reform, for leading a compromise on Democratic Senate filibusters of Bush's judicial nominees, on (at first) voting against Bush's 2001 tax cuts for the wealthy, and for being an overall sour puss by not towing the party line. But now he's left to whining that the Republican Party is treating him like a child and has threatened to vote against McCain in the fall.
Flip now to those who call themselves the "progressive creative class" -- the leading voices of the liberal blogs who saw their power peak in 2006 by contributing to (though not causing) Joe Lieberman's Democratic Senate primary loss in 2006.
Though the Internet has played an even larger role this election cycle than last, the subset that is the blogosphere has not played any larger role than Rush and his brethren in picking a nominee.
Many in the lefty blogs spent more energy in 2007 hating Hillary than trying to beat Bush. And Obama is no picnic for the pajama mafia either. That post-partisan, come together stuff is for wimpy compromisers who want to attract enough voters to actually win an election. It ain't a political potato salad that the bloggers want at their picnic.
So where does that leave right-wing radio and true blue bloggers? They are where they have been for a while -- major constituencies in the Republicans' and Democrats' base that absolutely cannot and should not be ignored. Doing so ignores the power of the blogs and radio to communicate to key activists -- activists that help expand the force needed to fight a protracted media and grassroots presidential campaign.
This presidential election has, though, proven that these constituencies are not the kingmakers they want to be. They're not even fully able to move their own audiences toward or away from candidates that fit their own views.