Whither the blogosphere?

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David Frum has an article in the new National Interest about the blogs and the foreign policy community.


Michael O’Hanlon, as readers of The National Interest will know, is the editor of the Iraq Index, a source relied upon by people of almost all points of view. He served in the Congressional Budget Office during the last Democratic majority and has strongly criticized the Bush Administration almost from Inauguration Day. What makes him such a detested target?

To find the answer, revert for a minute to a key point in Gideon Rose’s above-quoted paragraphs: The bloggers’ attacks are generally aimed at the think-tank world. Which is to say: at members of the FPC who are currently out of power. Which is to say: at Democrats. Especially at moderate Democrats, internationalist-minded Democrats, Democrats who in 2002–2003 expressed support for the Iraq War. The bloggers hurling the invective are Democrats too, usually more liberal Democrats.

The blogosphere of 2007 is a predominantly liberal and Democratic place. This was not always the case: As recently as 2005, former Vice President Al Gore castigated “digital brownshirts” who bullied and intimidated critics of George Bush. He would have no such complaint today. Today, it is the critics of George Bush who do the brown-shirting.

This has some bearing on a question that I have been discussing a lot recently: what will happen to the blog world after the election?

Assume, for the nonce, that come January 2009, there will be a Democrat taking the oath of office. What will the blogosphere look like?

Compared to the netroots, right now, the rest of the political blogosphere is a demoralized and listless place. Libertarians are abandoning their mild preference in favor of Republicans, not for the Democrats, but for despair. On the conservative side, even ardent supporters of the president have tired of him. Everyone is out of plausible policy proposals. What is there to be in favor of? More tax cuts? An even more aggressive foreign policy?

Meanwhile, the netroots is ascendant. They feel their hands closing around the reins of power, and they like the way it feels. The war in Iraq may be a bad idea, but they're preparing to kick some ass in the political battles to come.

But what happens when power shifts over? The netroots is fundamentally an opposition movement. They argue among themselves, to be sure, but they have solidarity built on their common hatred of George Bush. The move from never-never policy proposals to actually having to talk about things that might get done will be somewhat disconcerting. And as executing policy starts to require compromise and not a little hypocrisy, the pure ideological fervor that animates the netroots will start to dissipate, as it has among the disillusioned conservative blogs.

Meanwhile, I expect the handover will actually be good for the rest of the blog world. We may not agree on much, but we can probably unite around hatred of our new presiden'ts policies. I would wager a fair amount that the libertarian flirtation with the Democratic party doesn't last much beyond March 1st, 2009. As libertarians know too well, being in the opposition can be fun. Having full range of motion on one's opinion muscles feels surprisingly good, especially if you've spent years assuming contorted positions in order to support the last administration.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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