INFORMATION! RUN! HIDE! I was kind of skeptical of the whole concept underlying The Democratic Strategist when it first launched, but Scott Winship's blog posts are rapidly becoming a vital -- and all-too-unbloggish -- source of actual empirical information. For example, during various recent blog wars it had occurred to me to hypothesize that both the Netroots and its enemies on the center-left were dramatically overstating the former's potential to influence things in the real world, as opposed to its salience in the media. But according to the data Winship posts here, I'm pretty much wrong. First, he "defined 'the Democratic netroots' as those adults who 'regularly' get 'news or information' from 'Online columns or blogs such as Talking Points Memo, the Daily Kos, or Instapundit' and who are either self-identified Democrats or liberals." This turns out to be about 2.24 million according to survey data from late 2004. A subset of those people -- 1.6 million of them -- "either attended a campaign rally, donated money to a campaign, knocked on doors, or worked a phone bank" during the campaign.
These numbers are way smaller than the number of union members (15.7 million) but were close to the combined membership of NOW (500,000) and NARAL (900,000) or of the Sierra Club (750,000) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (1 million+) and larger than the membership of the ACLU or the Human Rights Campaign. These aren't really apples-to-apples comparisons and, obviously, some people are going to be NARAL members and read blogs so it's not a zero-sum competition either. Nevertheless, that gives you a rough sense of the scale of what we're talking about -- there are clearly enough Netroots activists to make a real difference -- and there's every reason to assume the blog audience will be bigger in 2008 than it was in 2004. It's always worth noting, though, that whichever way you try to slice it, labor unions are absolutely central to progressive politics and that even in their current state of decline nothing comes even close to their scale and significance.