NDN GETS BACK TO ITS ROOTS. So the annual NDN Conference gets under way at noon today, and guess who's on the speaker line-up? New Democrats. People who have ties to the Democratic Leadership Council. People accused on blogs of centrism. The main political speakers at the conference are: Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; former Virginia Governor Mark Warner; Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, chair of the DLC; and Senator Hillary Clinton. There's Bernard Schwartz, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Loral Space & Communications -- a defense contractor and major Democratic funder -- and also... Markos Moulitsas Zuniga , described on the conference schedule as an "internet pioneer."
Last time I saw Markos speak, at the Yearly Kos conference, I turned to my seat-mate and said: That man is going to run for office one day. Between his media trainer's styling advice (which included such tips as wearing hair-gel) and his now extensive public speaking experience, he is one of the very few bloggers who has really shown a capacity for personal growth and evolution in his relationship to the political and media mainstream, even while he has remained as hot-headed in his writing as he ever was. And where once it looked like NDN was getting sucked into the most noxious corners of what Jane Hamsher calls "greater Blogistan," today it looks like it's actually the bloggers who are getting sucked into NDN's mainstream, which seamlessly made room for those few capable of learning how to play the Washington power game. Some of them, like Markos, will be able to make a life in politics for themselves and perhaps be major players twenty years hence, if they chose to be, while others appear even now to be on the verge of losing it because of the stress of newly increased media scrutiny. And so the great story of the evolution of the Democratic Party that started in early 2003 with the linkages Joe Trippi built between the Howard Dean campaign and the blogs is continuing, and has entered a fascinating new phase.
It's not just that Markos is now an insider at a forum that includes only anti-Iraq withdrawal deadline presidential contenders affiliated with the DLC. It's that Joe Rospars, who just three years ago was writing for a blog called Not Geniuses, is today running Internet strategy for the entire Democratic National Committee, and that when I see him around town now he's got the harried, somewhat stolid look of a Washington operative who spends all the time he doesn't spend at the office with one eye on his BlackBerry. There's a whole generation of Dean people like him who moved to Washington in late 2004 and have since become this city's technocratic elite and successful political consultants. It's not co-optation, to use the favored insult of political activists, but rather a natural part of the dynamic of American democracy, in which whatever is marginal and active eventually becomes established and central, and is moderated by the process of responding to public scrutiny as it gains power.