I had a conversation last night with a friend about blogging, an enterprise she views with some skepticism. She views the proliferation of blogs as a bubble that will burst when people tumble to the fact that they're spending hundreds of hours and dollars creating free media content.
I disagreed. I told her that most of the bloggers I know put in the time and money typing away because they are passionate about what they're writing about, be it gardening, sex, shoes or politics. Those of us in that last category are not only passionate, but we hope through our efforts to change the culture and its governance as well. With respect to those of us on the liberal end of things, Matt Stoller explains our motivations quite well:
Basically, we're a group of people who feel very betrayed by the leadership of our country, our media, and our party. We care about ideas because bad ideas implemented tend to kill lots of innocent people, and we don't like that. We are liberal because we believe in liberal ideas, and by and large, we've been proven correct. The Iraq war was a terrible idea. Bush has been a horrible President. Running on Iraq in 2006 was a good idea. Stopping Social Security privatization was possible and necessary. A 50 state strategy made sense because a wave election was foreseeable. Don't trust the telecom companies with the internet. Let's figure out this global warming thing.
Having read Crashing the Gate recently, I was struck by its descriptions of how conservatives have plowed millions of dollars into think tanks that churn out position papers, nurture political candidates, and provide talking heads for the MSM. As the book points out, there is nothing like that in scope on the left. The liberal blogosphere, however, is in effect a distributed think tank that accomplishes the same goals in a radically different ways. As Stoller puts it:
We like to hash things out. And hashing things out tends to create a sense of community and natural discipline, since you kind of figure out where the obvious areas of agreement are and move in that direction.
To this, I would add that hashing things out focuses our vision, hones our ideas, and details the strategies and tactics that are most likely to make our vision and ideas a reality. This is what the big think tanks of the right do for conservatives; the distributed think tank of the liberal blogosphere can and should do the same thing for progressives.