WHAT WILL THE NETROOTS WANT? I'm both fascinated and unconvinced by Scott Winship's essay on the netroots' ideology. Scott argues -- convincingly -- that whether or not the netroots are ideological in nature, they are liberals. No argument there. The problem comes in the next step of the analysis, the effort to decide whether or not this personal liberalism is incidental or fundamental to their actions, which is to say are the netroots actively seeking to create a liberal party or a merely robust one? Scott fears the two are inseparable -- in their inability to recognize that their progressivism is a localized, unpopular perspective, the netroots will throw their considerable force behind candidates and campaigns that, in a national sense, are dead on arrival.
There are a couple of problems with this. The first is a mistaken belief in the monolithic nature of this community. There's a belief that "the netroots" -- a singular force -- will "do" something. But that's scarcely the case. Markos, for instance, is far more conservative than his readership, but his affection for Mark Warner has hardly created a viable base for the long faced Virginian -- Feingold continues to rule the DailyKos polls. But assuming that continues, the online demimonde's activism will be necessarily fractured and the netroots, in their role as a united electoral force, will cease to exist. You saw this in 2004 during the great Dean v. Clark wars, and you'll see it in 2008. So in that sense, the netroots have no clear conception of what sort of party they want to build, which candidates they want to support, or which tactics they seek to propagate. The diffuse structure, which lends them their power in the rare moments they can organize as one, disperses it when they can't.