Liberal blogs vs. the Obama administration

Tensions are rising in liberaldom, with bloggers on one side and big progressive organizations and the White House on the other.


Alex Koppelman
April 9, 2009 2:15AM (UTC)

The ascendancy of the Democratic Party poses something of a quandary for liberal bloggers. The left side of the blogosphere was founded when Republicans had a firm grip on power, and in some ways it rose as a response to that.

Now, with President Obama in the White House and big majorities in both houses of Congress, it's natural that there'd be some pressure on those bloggers to fall in line and join the overall message machine, the way bloggers on the right often did during the Bush administration. So far, though, this has produced more tension than harmony.

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Wednesday brought a couple interesting bits of news on this front. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reported that some big liberal bloggers -- like FiredogLake's Jane Hamsher, DailyKos' Markos Moulitsas, Crooks and Liars' John Amato and AMERICAblog's John Aravosis -- are upset that progressive organizations expect free publicity, but won't spend ad dollars on the blogs. Their complaint (and it's a valid one) is that this stance isn't exactly forward-looking: The bloggers need the ad money in order to keep at it, and without that cash, there'll be nowhere for liberal groups like MoveOn.org to get the pro bono PR they're after.

And Politico's Ben Smith wrote about the Common Purpose Project, a meeting of groups like MoveOn and Change to Win who've been backing the Obama administration's agenda. It's just one of several efforts by these kinds of organizations to form a united front in support of the White House. Message discipline efforts like this one might be the reason for the lack of pressure put on the administration over issues like the escalation in Afghanistan and the pace of troop withdrawal in Iraq.

In a post responding to Smith's story, FiredogLake's Hamsher sounded pretty upset about the coordination that's been going on. She wrote:

When the banks told the White House they wouldn't cooperate with the PPIP plan unless they got their bonuses, and the administration made the decision to "ratchet down their rhetoric," the call went out to the liberal interest groups to stay silent too... and silent they remain.

Unions are getting their contracts slashed, bank execs are pulling in billions, and how many of the usual suspects are running campaigns about the $1 billion in AIG bonuses to be paid out in June and September? Go ahead, count 'em. I'll be here, I can wait. . . .

Back already? Now add 'em up. Here's a pencil. Carry the one, add the three. . . that would be. . . zero...

There's a big problem right now with the traditional liberal interest groups sitting on the sidelines around major issues because they don't want to buck the White House for fear of getting cut out of the dialogue, or having their funding slashed. Someone picks up a phone, calls a big donor, and the next thing you know...the money is gone. It's already happened. Because that's the way Rahm plays.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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