19 February 2010

Bloggers to WH: We're Not Gunga Din

OK, so kudos to the White House for inviting a small handful of progressive political bloggers to meet with Jared Bernstein, Chief Economist and Economic Policy Adviser to Vice President Biden. It's not every day that bloggers get to do that - actually, it's not everyday that ANYONE gets to do that - so it's good to see that the Administration has a basic understanding of the important role bloggers play in politics.

But I was more than a bit surprised at the message some of the bloggers came away with from Bernstein - apparently liberal bloggers aren't carrying the Administration's water enough when it comes to talking about the stimulus package they signed into law last year.

I wasn't there - but here's what Erin Kotecki Vest at BlogHer had to say about it:
...I also walked away feeling the message we were supposed to leave with was this: It's our duty as bloggers to help sell YOU on the stimulus. Bernstein wanted to know where the positive blog posts were on the great things the Recovery Act was doing.

This is where I let out a heavy sigh and curse the DC machine that seems to have sucked the souls of many.

How am I supposed to blog these awesome stats (and there really are some good ones) on how we're on the road to recovery when all I have are "seed" projects that don't kick in for years and years and things that haven't, necessarily, trickled down to my family, your family, our lives?

And Americablog's John Aravosis, a longtime friend who supported candidate Obama fairly early in the primaries, had this to say:
...The only reason we're facing a budget constraint is because we gave in on the political constraint. We permitted Republicans to spin the first stimulus as an abysmal failure, when in fact it created or saved up to 2m jobs. Since Democrats didn't adequately defend the stimulus, and didn't sufficiently paint the deficit as the Republicans' doing, we now are not "politically" permitted to have a larger stimulus because the fiscal constraint has become more important than economic recovery.

And whose fault is that?

Apparently ours.

Bernstein said that the progressive blogs (perhaps he said progressive media in general) haven't done enough over the past year to tell the positive side of the stimulus.
Well. Where to start.

First of all, if the Administration isn't happy with the way the stimulus bill has been "sold" to the public, they should probably look in the mirror. But let's just say dressing down a blogger for not cheering hard enough isn't my idea of an effective outreach strategy.

See, John Aravosis isn't just an influential and passionate blogger. John gets invited to appear on television a lot, because he's smart and pithy and aggressive. John has dozens of contacts on Capitol Hill. And John has raised more than $40,000 for the Obama campaign, and thousands upon thousands more for Congressional candidates nationwide. There's simply no way Jared Bernstein would walk up to someone who ISN'T a blogger but has raised tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democrats and scold him for not being a big enough cheerleader. Bernstein would instead thank the fundraiser for the support and explain, in specific terms, how his boss was going to follow up on the promises he made.

This is the difference people miss about social media, particularly in Democratic politics. Bloggers aren't simply "media," unbiased or otherwise. They're activists. They're fundraisers. They're the base. Remember the "contributions cloud" I put together for Senator Hagan last week?

See that ridiculously big "ActBlue" right there? That's how Democrats finance campaigns today. Through the Internet. It's bloggers like John who direct readers to send big gobs of money to candidates, through ActBlue. All those little dots represent the small amounts of money raised from more "traditional" sources when compared to ActBlue.

I don't know how (or if) Erin Kotecki Vest raised money for candidates, but I know dozens if not hundreds of top-tier commercial brands are constantly knocking on her virtual door, asking her to review products, mention particular names, and so on. She's enormously influential among online moms. She's also part of the Democratic base. And let's be clear: a big chunk of the Democratic base is very disappointed in the Obama Administration right now.

Jared Bernstein needs to understand something. Meetings at the White House are nice, and it's good that he's doing them. But as politics is practiced these days, bloggers don't work for him.

He works for them.

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