Announcing Project Bridge the Gap
My Direct Democracy
December 18, 2006
Back in June, a contingent of reformers got their first shot at taking over the Texas Democratic Party. Made up largely of former Dean, Clark, and Edwards supporters, the movement nearly succeeded. We forced a rare runoff, and fell only 3% short in the second round of voting. Although the reform contingent constituted a majority of present delegates, we were outvoted by delegates who held proxy power (ie, multiple votes) for non-present delegates. The loss was heartbreaking for many of us. There were two candidates - Glen Maxey and Charlie Urbina-Jones - who understood that people powered politics is the way of the future. But we were defeated by the old-schoolers who clearly knew how to work the proxy system. Lesson learned.
After the convention, we went home defeated but determined to work for and support our Democratic candidates. The convention was over - it was time to STFU and get to work. Or as Bill Clinton put it, "Fall in love, then fall in line." We were good soldiers, and we expected that our party would support the Democratic slate from top to bottom. Needless to say, the convention loss wasn't our last disappointment of this campaign season.
Now rather than rehash the flame wars that have sprouted up in the Tex-o-sphere post-election, I'm going to indulge myself for a moment and share my theory on why I think these arguments are springing up right now and how I hope we can fix it.
Start the Revolution Without Him
He runs Daily Kos, the wildly influential liberal blog. But Markos Moulitsas says he's no political leader. Now he wants you to argue about another great American pastime: baseball.
By Ana Marie Cox
"I AM WISE TO YOUR SNARKY WAYS." Superstar blogger Markos Moulitsas won't let me near his house. Instead, he meets me at a Berkeley coffee shop. "When the Newsweek guy was there, he saw some workmen putting in my new plasma television and said something about it in the article." He has other examples: the Nightline crew who mocked him for wanting to buy a new piano, the writer for Time – OK, that was me – who called him "bug-eyed." As the founder and proprietor of Daily Kos, the nation's most prominent political blog, Moulitsas has been the subject of intense media scrutiny for the past two years, and it's made him touchy.
Like in Washington, DC, last June. At the annual meeting of the New Democrat Network – a group of moderate, tech-savvy progressives – Moulitsas had a bit of a meltdown. "It's been an interesting week," he said when it was his turn to speak. "Now I'm not being attacked for what I've said and done, but people are inventing things."
Wha-huh? He seemed to be talking about a minor blogosphere scandal involving him and Jerome Armstrong, with whom he wrote the book Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics. And then he launched into the theys.
"There are people who don't want to see things change, because they're not used to things changing," he warns. "They can take me down. They can take Jerome Armstrong down. They can take down any of the so-called leaders of the movement. Because everyone who's a part of the movement is a leader."
Later, I tell Moulitsas that he sounded sort of noble, but also sort of like Ross Perot dropping out of a presidential race because of "threats." "They're the ones attacking me. I'm just minding my own business," he says, then cackles. "Oh, that's a lie. But Ross Perot was whining about it. I'm not."
He doesn't have much to whine about. With 3.5 million unique visitors every week, his blog has become the preeminent site for liberals on the Web. It's also a virtual political action committee. Daily Kos raised more than $1 million for Democratic candidates in 2004. Senate minority leader Harry Reid was a keynote speaker for the Yearly Kos convention in Las Vegas last June, and potential 2008 presidential candidate Mark Warner feted attendees with a $50,000 gala at the Stratosphere Casino. When John Kerry and Barack Obama wanted a line to the blogosphere's most reliable partisans, they posted on Kos.
Daily Kos works because it's not a one-way broadcast of Moulitsas' views. Close to 99 percent of the site is user-generated – it hosts 14,000 comments a day and 2,000 miniblogs called diaries. Moulitsas has figured out how to turn readers into writers, to transform discontent into content.
An activist who has succeeded in mobilizing so many passionate users might next head for a career inside the political machine. Run for office. Start a PAC. Become a consultant. But no. At what's arguably the top of his game, Moulitsas says he's "going offline" next year, taking his obvious knack for building online communities and applying it to that other great American pastime: sports. And once he gets his network of sports blogs ramped up, he'll turn to building communities in the real world, a chain of giant meeting places "replicating megachurches for the left" – complete with cafés and child care. Moulitsas has shown he can harness people's enthusiasm, but he says he doesn't want a leadership role in these "democracy centers."
BORN IN CHICAGO and raised in El Salvador, Moulitsas is compact and combative – a smallish smart-ass. His three years in the US Army as a fire direction specialist filled his language with blood and guts, all "throwing bombs" and "laying waste."
Like so many others, Moulitsas went to the Bay Area in 1999 "to make dotcom millions." His timing was off; he missed the heady days of free-flowing VC funding and instant IPOs. The Latino Web portal he had gone to work for closed after seven months. So, a lifelong politics junkie, he started Daily Kos to fill what he saw as a void. "Every other political Web site I'd been a part of eventually imploded because the comments got out of hand," he says. "I wanted to create the premier online progressive hangout."
Moulitsas speaks in violent rushes, whole paragraphs at a time that often turn in on themselves as he backtracks, revises, catches up with a new thought, or interrupts himself. He's a nightmare to interview, editing himself constantly, word-processing rather than talking. But that's cool – the key to Daily Kos' success lies not with him but with the mix of passion, conspiracy theories, and humor sold under the Daily Kos brand. "I'd be a middling blogger if I focused on my writing," he admits.
Instead, he focuses on being a host – sometimes a cruise director, sometimes a bouncer. "I'm ruthless," Moulitsas says. At first, that meant going through the comments himself, deleting pointless threads and banishing flame warriors. Now Daily Kos runs on Scoop software, which automates that process – "trusted users" rate comments before they're seen by the community as a whole. Moulitsas doesn't try to ignite passions that do not exist. Rather, he provides an outlet for those who are already passionate. "People want to be heard," he says. "People really think they have something to say."
Of course, sometimes people are wrong. In the blog world, he's known more for being outrageous than incisive. He once commented that he felt "nothing" for military contractors killed in Iraq, driving the point home with a terse "screw them." Moulitsas claims such explosive rhetoric is all part of the plan, since it brands the site with a certain attitude and generates media coverage. "I see Daily Kos as a product, not my soapbox."
And the product is selling well. A survey on the site found that Daily Kos readers were well educated and affluent, older than you might think, and immensely loyal. The average visitor spends only a few seconds reading the front page, but spikes of more than 1.1 million visitors in a single day aren't unusual. To have access to those eyeballs, advertisers pay up to $14,000 a month. Moulitsas says he's on track to make $600,000 in revenue this year, and his expenses don't go much beyond programming and $7,000 a month for servers and bandwidth.
"It works," says Glenn Reynolds, the law professor behind competing A-list blog Instapundit.com, "because the secret to getting ahead in the 21st century is capitalizing on people doing what they want to do, rather than trying to get them to do what you want to do."
IN 2004, MOULITSAS toyed with the idea of starting another political site under a different name. "I wanted to see if I could re-create the success without people knowing it was me," he says. He felt like he'd found the playbook for making an online community work, but he wasn't sure. "Was I a historical accident, or did I have some kind of formula?"
That got him thinking about the formula itself. One element was partisanship, certainly, but another ingredient, he suspected, was loneliness – like what he felt when he started Kos. It reminded him of how homesick he felt as a Chicago Cubs fan in the Bay Area.
Hmmm. Moulitsas recruited a friend, Tyler Bleszinski, to start a blog about the Oakland A's with the same blazing passion as Daily Kos. "Tyler was my proxy," he says. Athletics Nation took off, and soon Moulitsas and his pal were launching sites for other teams – the Cubs, the Yankees, even fantasy league teams – under the banner SportsBlogs Nation. Today, the homepage averages 3 million visitors a month, about 20 percent as much traffic as Daily Kos.
Reader comments comprise the bulk of the content, just as they do at Kos, but the forums aren't nearly as raucous. No one calls for the abolition of Israel or the impeachment of George W. Bush; politics is the only prohibited topic. Another difference: human interaction. Fans gather for games, and in the Bay Area the A's treat them like VIPs. Not only does legendary general manager Billy Beane actually post to Athletics Nation, he has given fellow bloggers credit for helping to shape his thoughts.
Moulitsas says his goal for Daily Kos is to reenergize the progressive movement, but the mission of SportsBlogs Nation is to make lots and lots of money. Someday. Last year, Moulitsas and Bleszinski considered looking for venture funding. They talked to multimedia mogul Mark Cuban and San Diego Padres executive Paul DePodesta, but nothing came of it. No problem, says Bleszinski. The site now gets enough traffic that it'll soon support itself with advertising. "That doesn't mean we won't take VC funding at some point, but we're not aggressively seeking it," Bleszinski says.
MOULITSAS MIGHT HAVE made a quiet segue to sports blogs and secular megachurches. But in August, something remarkable happened: Ned Lamont, a former town selectman from Greenwich, Connecticut, defeated US senator Joe Lieberman in that state's Democratic primary. Lamont had been nearly unknown until liberal bloggers, led by Moulitsas, extolled Lamont for opposing the war in Iraq. Daily Kos made Lamont the conduit of antiwar, anti-Bush rage. Whether or not Lamont ever becomes a senator, his victory sealed the perception that Moulitsas is a leader of the new generation of "netroots" political operatives.
He's conflicted about the job. "I'm kind of at the top of my game right now," he says. "But I have no desire to be the face of the Democratic party. I think there are better spokespeople out there."
Indeed, for someone as written-about as Moulitsas, he's a lousy frontman. There's the paranoia and the ranting, of course. And he can seem uninterested in the details. The day after Lamont's win, Moulitsas came to lunch in a Lamont T-shirt. But he fumbled when a woman walked over to our table, pointed at his shirt, and said, "Can you tell me anything about that guy other than he's antiwar?" He couldn't.
At that meeting of the New Democrat Network in DC, Moulitsas freely introduced his "media trainer," Joel Silberman. Now, the first rule of media training is: Nobody talks about media training. But the second rule of media training is: Once you are trained, talk to the media. During that critical Connecticut primary, Moulitsas announced a news blackout. To be fair, he insists that his cavalier attitude toward the press is a sign that he is, well, cavalier about the press. "Do you know how many interviews I turned down today?" Moulitsas asks. "ABC, NBC, Charlie Rose, McLaughlin Group, not to mention a bunch of radio. If I were into self-promotion, I would have said yes to all of them. I never resort to self-promotion. If you have a good product, people will come back."
Moulitsas certainly has the freedom to spout off wonkishly when he feels like it. But honestly, he'd rather run comment boards than pontificate. "It's scary to me that I could be the guy who gives advice, and someone takes it and flops," he says.
Yet the world does seem ready for someone like Moulitsas. Lamont won. President Bush's poll numbers are in the toilet. The Republican National Committee has started issuing talking points attacking him, calling him a "nutroot" who lets liberals "promote their own extreme messages and ideologies." If you can judge a man by his enemies, that's a sure sign that Moulitsas has arrived.
And yet he's leaving. While working on the mechanics of the sports blogs, he plans to embark next year on building real-world destinations for progressives and liberals throughout the Midwest, "cultural outposts" designed to attract thousands of like-minded liberals. "Each one of these would have a vast left-wing conspiracy component," he says, like leadership training or discussions on progressive issues. It's big talk, even for a guy with an uncanny talent for bringing lonely, passionate people together online. The real world will be more challenging.
Is Kos Really the Kingmaker?
by Ana Marie Cox
August 7, 2006
He says no. But if Joe Lieberman loses his Senate primary and jeopardizes a Democratic seat, the leading liberal blogger knows that he and his colleagues on the left will be blamed
On the eve of the Connecticut primary, the man the media has deemed kingmaker would rather be home, playing piano. "I just got a new one," says Markos Moulitsas, founder of the website Daily Kos and one of the most prominent voices of the online left. On a beautiful Bay Area afternoon, the heat waves of the Northeast and the heated debate of the Ned Lamont-Joe Lieberman Senate primary are far away — and Moulitsas would like to keep it that way. He says he's only talked to one other reporter and isn't planning on talking to any more: "I'm going media dark. People are getting the story wrong and I don't want to fuel that."
He's talking about the kingmaker line, and he rolls his eyes when I even refer to that narrative. Almost all the national coverage of the race has focused on how the liberal blogosphere has propelled Lamont — a skinny billionaire whose talking points consist of being anti- war and not Joe Lieberman — to his lead over Joe Lieberman. "Do you know how insulting it is, to the people that are working hard out there to win the election, to come in and say, some guy in Berkeley is the reason why Joe Lieberman's going to lose?"
So Lieberman's going to lose? Moulitsas backpedals. In recent days, Moulitsas has spent whatever time he has left over from denying that bloggers are responsible for Lamont's victory to denying that there will necessarily be a victory at all. "My mind says it's going to be a 4-6 point night either way," he says. "My heart says Lamont is going to win pretty solidly." Later, he scales down his prediction even further: "I'm not completely convinced Lamont's going to win tomorrow."
I tell him that in politics, this is known as "playing the expectations game." It's an especially savvy spin to make right now, considering how the Lamont campaign has recently had to contend with an over-enthusiastic blogger's controversial photoshop comment on the race. In the wake of that flare-up, Lamont insisted that "I don't know anything about the blogs." Some found that disingenuous. But Moulitsas backs him up. "He doesn't read the blogs. I know that for a fact. In fact, I'm always distrustful of candidates who do read blogs, because if they're reading blogs, they're not doing what it they need to do to win the election." He pauses. "Their staff, they should be reading blogs."
Moulitsas has said that if Lieberman does prevail, he will support him as the party's nominee. But for many liberals watching the race, a primary victory by Lieberman is not the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that bloggers' zeal to promote an anti-war Democrat has put the entire state of Connecticut at risk. What if Lieberman — who has not exactly shown himself to be a selfless promoter of party values — loses the primary but wins the general election as an independent? It's not difficult to imagine Joementum taking him even further to the right — after all, that's where his primary support has come from. Sure, Bill Clinton campaigned for him, but Lieberman's also been endorsed by Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity.
Moulitsas grimaces. The idea that a progressive should vote for Lieberman in order to prevent his abandonment of the party "suggests that Lieberman can hold the people of Connecticut hostage by being a petty a------." Lieberman "didn't have to run as a Democrat. He chose to run in this primary... And the rules are that if you run in the primary and you lose, you lose." He acknowledges that no matter what happens, the "gasbags" in DC will figure out a way to denigrate bloggers. "If Lamont wins, we're extremist radicals dooming the Democratic Party by pushing it to the left. If Lamont loses, then we're ineffectual, irrelevant and stupid."
Of course, he keeps insisting that the real story here isn't bloggers or even Ned Lamont. "If Lamont wins tomorrow and Lieberman is out of the race," he says, "I'll celebrate for about 15 minutes, but it's just another battle in the war." And the war is about reigniting the progressive movement — a goal he says would be best achieved with local liberal radio talk shows, not blogs.
"I can't let people believe that all we need to move the progressive movement forward is a strong liberal blogosphere — if people believe that, we're doomed."
Inside the Cult of Kos
What makes the political blogger so mesmerizing to his followers?
By Ana Marie Cox
Monday, Jun. 05, 2006
"If I cared what commenters said, I'd kill myself." In the high-octane non-stop flame war that is the political blogosphere, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga knows how to get attention. He's kidding, of course. We're talking about the rhetorical excesses that can spill out of the impassioned debate that takes place on his creation, DailyKos.com, the world's most popular political blog.
Compact and wiry, Moulitsas, 34, exudes quivering intensity. He speaks in staccato paragraphs, punctuated by intense stares and a raised eyebrow. His eyes bulge slightly outward, as if reacting to the pressure of all the ideas inside his head. Many of those ideas find a home on Daily Kos. A clearinghouse for liberal screeds and progressive perspective on the news, the site claims to get more than 500,000 unique visitors daily and more than 10,000 members maintain their own sub-blogs (called "diaries") within its reaches. On Thursday, almost a thousand of these loyal readers and contributors — along with Wesley Clark, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and former Virginia governor and potential '08 contender Mark Warner — will gather in Las Vegas for a pep rally-cum-political conference, "Yearly Kos."
And those comments that push Moulitsas into suicidal hyperbole? They tumble in at the rate of about 12,000 a day. You don't generate that kind of following by responding to rhetorical excess with equanimity and reason. You get that kind of following by responding to rhetorical excess with more rhetorical excess. Or, as Moulitsas puts it later, "You can't take pen into a battle with someone who's wielding a machine gun."
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Can Bloggers Get Real?
The New York Times Magazine
By Matt Bai
May 28, 2006
Las Vegas, as the ad campaign likes to remind us, is a place people go to untether themselves from reality — to become, if only for a weekend, anonymous and uncensored. It's odd, then, that Vegas is about to play host to a gathering of ordinary Americans whose objective is precisely the reverse. Next week, 1,000 devotees of the liberal blogging universe — people who know one another only as pseudonyms on a screen, connected by only their running commentaries — will descend on the Riviera Hotel in hopes of affixing names and faces to their online personas. The event has been dubbed the YearlyKos convention, and it is the first-ever corporeal assemblage of the bloggers at the Web site Dailykos.com. These are the people who are said to be changing the very nature of American politics, transforming the old smoke-filled room of insiders into an expansive chat room for anyone who wants in. And so it's not surprising that Democratic luminaries like the party's chairman, Howard Dean, and its leaders in Congress, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, have arranged their schedules to address the convention, along with at least a few 2008 presidential contenders. No small contingent of political professionals and journalists will show up as well. (I myself will sit on a panel about political journalism, which is kind of like being the Dunkin' Donuts spokesman at a cardiologists' convention.)
Barely four years after Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, a former American soldier who grew up in El Salvador and Chicago, started Daily Kos from his home in Berkeley, Calif., the site is now less a blog than a civic phenomenon. With some 600,000 visitors a day, Daily Kos reaches more Americans — albeit like-minded Americans — than all but a handful of the largest daily newspapers. The Chicago Reader, an alternative weekly, recently profiled a 23-year-old law student who writes on Daily Kos's front page under the pseudonym Georgia10, positing that she may well be the most-read political writer in the city, even though few people know her real name. (For the record, it's Georgia Logothetis, and she lives with her parents.) In this way, Daily Kos and other blogs resemble a political version of those escapist online games where anyone with a modem can disappear into an alternate society, reinventing himself among neighbors and colleagues who exist only in a virtual realm. It is not so much a blog as a travel destination, a place where what you have to say can be more important — at least for a few hours each day — than who you are or what you do.
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Markos Speaks: Berkeley Blogger’s Daily Kos Makes National Waves
Berkeley Daily Planet
By Richard Brenneman
May 19, 2006
For political cognoscenti, a day just isn’t complete without a Daily Kos fix.
That’s good news for new South Berkeley resident Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the creator of what has become one of the world’s most popular blogs.
Even better news for local activists, he’ll be starting up a new Berkeley- or Oakland-based training program for political activists, politicians and others.
A soft-spoken activist with intense eyes, Moulitsas has emerged as perhaps the country’s—and the world’s—preeminent political blogger.
Blogs—short for web log—have become the new medium for political activism, and Moulitsas, a soft-spoken army vet, has created a phenomenon that draws up to a million visitors day to dailykos.com.
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Can these crashers save this party?
San Francisco Magazine
By Tim Dickinson
The Democrats haven’t been so powerless and lost since before FDR. But now a band of Bay Area digi-populists have tunneled under the walls, gambling that they can remake the party on the Web and from the left. Are they mired in blue-state delusion or recharging democracy itself?
After a second scotch, it’s easy to imagine yourself back at the height of the boom—before the jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers, before George Bush collided with Al Gore, before the Nasdaq crashed into reality.
It’s a Wednesday night at the Mission’s newest hot spot, a sushi/whiskey bar perched in a two-story loft. As the bartender bruises mint for mojitos and decants jigger after jigger of peaty single malts, Nihon pulses with Japanese electronica and the buzz of ambition. On the polished pebble-tile floor, natty 20- and 30-somethings strike up cocksure conversations about their business plans. But they’re not hyping would-be IPOs. These entrepreneurs are hoping to entice investors by promising returns of a different sort: a Democratic Party that turns back the GOP tide, not with measured, poll-tested centrism but by siding with its grassroots supporters as faithfully as the GOP caters to its right-wing base.
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Reinventing the party
Can Kos, liberal blogosphere reshape Democrats' image?
Working for Change
by Geov Parrish
April 17, 2006
The Daily Kos is a phenomenon.
Three years ago, the personal blog of Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (Army nickname: "Kos") of Berkeley, Calif. had, by his estimation, about 50 readers. Today, it has over a million visitors a day and is by far the most prominent among dozens of burgeoning national liberal blogs. The readership for Kos and his other front-page contributors exceeds that of almost every daily newspaper in the country. The front page is a gateway to a vast network of blogs, threads, diaries, and links, making Daily Kos a community and a participatory phenomenon. Zuniga has managed to do something the Democratic National Committee has almost always failed to do: tap the energy, enthusiasm, ideas, and anger toward the Bush administration of the Democratic Party's activist base.
And so when Markos and co-author Jerome Armstrong (founder of one of the earliest national liberal blogs, MyDD, and architect of Howard Dean's pioneering 2004 use of the Internet) write a book suggesting how the Democratic Party might get its shit together, people are going to notice. And they have; Crashing the Gate has garnered widespread attention, glowing reviews, and brisk sales. Recently I talked with them, before a Seattle appearance and again with Markos as they wandered around downtown Olympia the next afternoon.
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Crash Campaign for Crashing the Gate
April 6, 2006
The first campaign of the pivotal election year of 2006 is underway and includes more than 100 events in 21 states. It's a maverick grassroots effort using old and new media and led by an experienced political campaign manager and several politically savvy young turks. Its message is about change and electing progressives in November and using the tools and opportunities of the Internet age to spread a populist message. Already it's getting good press, both in print and online, and tonight its leading spokespeople appear on the Colbert Report.
The focus isn't a candidate. Rather it's a book, Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (Chelsea Green, $25, 1931498997).
"It's been an unusual book from the beginning," Chelsea Green publisher Margo Baldwin told Shelf Awareness. "Hopefully it will help take the House back for the Democrats, energize people at the local level and bring the grassroots into the political process. It was only logical that we should run this like a real democratic campaign. We're trying to put into action what the book talks about."
The authors are best known for their popular political blogs. Armstrong set up one of the first political blogs, MyDD.com, in 2001 and was an architect of the netroots strategy that used blogs and meetups for Howard Dean's 2004 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Through his company, Netroots.com, he works as an Internet strategist for advocacy organizations and political campaigns.
An army veteran with a law degree and tech industry experience, Zuniga started the highly regarded DailyKos.com in 2002.
"They had no idea of what they were getting into writing a book," Baldwin said. "We thought it would be easy because of their blogging experience. But it turned out not to be." Chelsea Green provided a "great editor who worked hand in glove with them all the way through." Because everyone involved wanted to get the book out as early in the political season as possible, Crashing the Gate was crash published. "We had the final manuscript at the end of December and got it out by the end of February," Baldwin said.
For the tour, Chelsea Green hired "a real political campaign manager" from Texas. "He had never done a book tour," Baldwin continued. "We had never done a political campaign. We are all figuring it out as we go along."
As soon as the preliminary schedule was publicized, "we got a huge response from people around the country, volunteering to do things," Baldwin said. Event organizers include Democratic Party officials, college students, individuals and representatives of various grass roots and national liberal groups. The more than 100 events scheduled so far include fundraisers and political meetings. Independent booksellers have provided "a lot of support," Baldwin added. Armstrong and Zuniga are appearing at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., and Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., for example. In some cases, bookstores are selling the book at political events.
The authors will likely do a second tour in fall "right before the elections" with a focus on college campus appearances.
Calling the book tour/campaign "definitely a work in progress," Baldwin said that if successful, it might be a template for how "the blogosphere and progressive groups can play a role in promoting progressive writers."
Befitting its message, Crashing the Gate has already won both traditional and nontraditional media victories, ranging from a March 26 New York Times Book Review review to the appearance of the authors tonight on the Colbert Report, a kind of fake news show supplying at least some real news that, like political blogs and meetups, no one could have imagined as recently as the 2000 election.
Internet Injects Sweeping Change into US Politics
The New York Times
by Adam Nagourney
April 2, 2006
An excerpt from "Internet Injects Sweeping Change into US Politics"
"All these consultants are still trying to make sense of what blogs are, and I think by 2008 they are going to have a pretty good idea: They are going to be like, 'We're hot and we're hip and we're bloggin',' '' said Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the Daily Kos. ''But by 2008, the blogs are going to be so institutionalized, it's not going to be funny.''
Bloggers, for all the benefits they may bring to both parties, have proved to be a complicating political influence for Democrats. They have tugged the party consistently to the left, particularly on issues like the war, and have been openly critical of such moderate Democrats as Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut.
Still, Democrats have been enthusiastic about the potential of this technology to get the party back on track, with many Democratic leaders arguing that the Internet is today for Democrats what talk radio was for Republicans 10 years ago.
''This new media becomes much more important to us because conservatives have been more dominant in traditional media,'' said Simon Rosenberg, the president of the centrist New Democratic Network. ''This stuff becomes really critical for us.
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Five Minutes With: Markos Moulitsas
By Bryan Collinsworth
March 30, 2006
The mere mention of the name makes youthful lefty web activists and aging ex-hippies swoon while catapulting their right-wing counterparts into fits of rage.
Markos 'kos' Moulitsas ZunigaAs the founder and lead writer of Daily Kos, the most popular political weblog in the United States (if not the world), Markos "Kos" Moulitsas Zuniga has become an almost mythic figure in the blog world. Kos sits atop the Pantheon of online commentators, casting blogposts as Zeus once cast thunderbolts.
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Berkeley blogger finds his voice and fends off success
San Francisco Chronicle
by Joe Garofoli
April 5, 2006
Three years ago, 50 friends and family members were the only ones reading Markos Moulitsas Zuniga's liberal blog www.dailykos.com. Now that 600,000 politics junkies are alighting daily on what's become the nation's most popular political blog, the inevitable is happening.
The Berkeley resident says he's "getting flacked to death" -- solicited by political consultants who know that a blessing on Daily Kos can bring their candidate as much as $50,000 in online donations within days, plus street credibility among its opinionated activists. Moulitsas can expect more suitors in the next few weeks as the book he has co-authored, "Crashing the Gate," introduces the boyish, fast-talking 34-year-old to mainstream audiences.
This summer, the kid who regularly got beat up in high school for being a 110-pound nerd with a Spanish accent will host the first Yearly Kos convention in Las Vegas. The headliner addressing this in-person gathering of the blog's faithful: Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
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Politics for Pragmatists
By Jan Frel
March 30, 2006
AlterNet caught up with Armstrong and Moulitsas to discuss their book and the pragmatic approach to politics that upholds it.
Jan Frel: I think a lot of folks were surprised at the heavy tactical focus of your book. Is that a product of the role and expertise you guys see yourselves as having in progressive and online politics -- tactics rather than ideology?
Markos Moulitsas: There are plenty of people in our party who can handle policy and wonk out with the best of them. But clearly we don't have many people who can win. Rather than let our wonks go to waste, we'd like to get Democrats elected so we can set them free. Thanks to the current Republican regime, modern politics is a zero-sum game. If you're in power you run the show, if you're out of power, you get nothing.
Jerome Armstrong: We looked at the problem of branding and messaging in the beginning of the process of writing this book, but the closer we looked and the more people we talked to, the more we realized that there were huge structural problems that had to first be addressed, to even get to the point where we can go further.
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National Democrats v. the Blogoshere
Crooks and Liars
March 12, 2006
"The New York Times this morning published an extremely favorable review of the new book by DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and Mydd.com founder Jerome Armstrong, entitled Crashing the Gate. One of the principal themes of the book raises a topic which I truly believe is of unparalleled importance -- the role of the blogosphere in influencing the nation's political debates as well as shaping the strategies adopted by the Democratic Party."
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Blog pioneer maps political strategy for 2008
Jerome Armstrong plans net mobilizing for presidential hopeful Warner
By Tom Curry
March 2, 2006
WASHINGTON - If Jerome Armstrong succeeds in refining the art of political warfare, Virginia’s ex-governor Mark Warner will be taking the presidential oath of office in front of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 2009.
Armstrong is an evangelist for Democratic Internet activism, the founder of the blog Mydd.com, an alumnus of the Howard Dean campaign, and the co-author of a new book called Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics.
He coined the word “netroots” to describe a 21st century version of the grassroots, door-to-door, union-local politics that used to work so well for the Democrats in the last century.
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Blog empire mixes sports, politics
By Daniel Terdiman
January 27, 2006
Most aficionados of political blogging know Markos Moulitsas is the man behind the liberal blog DailyKos.
But what's not so well known is that Moulitsas, a 34-year-old Berkeley, Calif., resident, is also the CEO of a network of sports blogs called, appropriately enough, SportsBlogs. The network created by the lifelong Chicago Cubs fan already has 43 different sites covering sports such as baseball, football, basketball and cycling.
Though he's an entrepreneur of the Internet age, Moulitsas has taken a cue from old-fashioned big city newspapers, where politics on the front page and sports on the back page were the keys to success. Though his first passion is politics, he thinks it makes sense that he'd also be involved in the world of sports--and blogs.
"It's that intense partisanship and team loyalty that are really, really similar," he said. "And blogs really appeal to partisans. It's a brilliant platform for people who are passionate about things."
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Kos: The Internet Is Not Enough
by Conor Clarke
January 18, 2006
"I hope you guys feel a lot of pressure." Thus spoke Markos Moulitsas, founder and editor of the mega-blog DailyKos.com, to a group of 165 college students—myself included—assembled in the ballroom of the National Education Association's DC headquarters.
The gathering was organized by Young People For (YP4), a project of the People For the American Way Foundation, and was part of a three-day national summit designed to instruct and inspire the next generation of progressive leaders, and give them the organizational tools they need to succeed. "Kos" was the night's keynote speaker, but his message was hardly optimistic: He made no bones about the challenges young progressives will encounter, and was forthright about the obstacles that already exist. "We face a ruthless enemy," he said, "and we've got a long way to go."
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The creator of the left’s favorite political blog, The Daily Kos, handicaps the 2006 elections and shares his advice for the Democratic Party.
By Susanna Schrobsdorff
December 29, 2005
With the 2006 election season nearly upon us, Democrats are hoping to win back majority control of at least one house of Congress. Meanwhile Republicans are revving up their legendary campaign machine in an effort to hold on to Capitol Hill.
With the stakes so high, both parties will be using every medium available—including the Internet—to raise funds and convey their message. In the thick of this fight is Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, creator of The Daily Kos, one of the most popular blogs on the Web, with about 2 million readers a week. His forthcoming book, “Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots and the Rise of People-Powered Politics” (Chelsea Green) is a manifesto for rebuilding the Democratic Party. Moulitsas recently spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Susanna Schrobsdorff about the political outlook for next year. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: What will be hottest political contest of 2006?
Markos Moulitsas Zúniga: The Pennsylvania Senate race between incumbent Rick Santorum and Bob Casey Jr. Santorum is an extremely conservative senator in a state that’s not as conservative as he is. And the Democrats have what may be the most popular politician in the entire state, who is the son of a man who was possibly the state’s most popular politician ever. Casey is trouncing Santorum in the polls. Santorum is raising a lot of money because the grass-roots religious right groups love him, but the Republican Party is more likely to write him off. He’s in serious peril.
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An Ohio special election result shows how Democrats are harnessing the power of the blogosphere.
By Eleanor Clift
August 5, 2005
No fewer than three esteemed political reporters from The Washington Post were in the audience taking notes on a steamy Thursday afternoon at a forum called “Reflections of a Blogger,” sponsored by the New Politics Institute, a progressive think tank. There were plenty of other news stories to pursue, notably increased violence in Iraq that claimed 21 Marines in two days and a wave of new polls showing declining confidence in President Bush’s leadership. In one survey, taken by Public Agenda before the latest spasm of violence, 82 percent of Americans said they worry “a lot” or “somewhat” that the Iraq war is taking too many lives.
Two days earlier, an antiwar Democrat had come close to winning a special election in Ohio for a congressional seat assumed to be safe for Republicans. Former Marine reservist Paul Hackett, who returned from Iraq to run for Congress, had gotten a huge boost from bloggers around the country. Leading the charge was Markos Moulitsas, founder of the progressive Daily Kos, which attracts hundreds of thousands of daily visits and is considered one of the most popular political blogs on the Internet. For Democrats desperate to find their way back to a winning coalition, Moulitsas, 33, has emerged as one of the most creative thinkers and activists in the progressive ranks. The Post team, along with reporters from other national publications and scores of political operatives, had come to get a glimpse of the future.
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By Jan Frel
Posted June 16, 2005.
Jerome Armstrong of the political blog MyDD discusses how the Internet has changed -- and how it's changing Democratic politics.
If you had to name the two things the Internet has done to change Democratic Party politics the most, going with Howard Dean's campaign and the DailyKos blog would be pretty safe bets.
Dean's Net-based bid for his party's presidential nomination redefined political campaigning: it showed the way to a Democratic politics that wouldn't have to depend on big-money donors, it used a blog as a means of communicating to supporters without a media filter, and it resurrected grassroots organizing through social software hosted on the site.
DailyKos, run by Markos Moulistas Zuniga, has risen to become the most popular political blog out there. A single entry on the blog's main page in favor of a Democrat running for office can net as much money as a fundraiser for the candidate, and as much attention as a profile from a major newspaper. And DailyKos is slowly becoming the epicenter of all Democratic Party discourse -- members of Congress, leaders of progressive organizations, and hundreds of party activists post their own entries on the blog.
What the Dean campaign and DailyKos share is that neither of these two ventures would be what they are today if it weren't for the political activist Jerome Armstrong, who has played a big behind-the-scenes role in the innovation and successes of both. Jerome is the founder of a Democratic politics blog called MyDD, or My Due Diligence of Politics. Before he started his own blog, Kos was posting on MyDD. He credits Armstrong as his "blogfather," and now the two are business partners, currently working on a book together.
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Fear and Laptops on the Campaign Trail
by Matthew Klam
The New York Times Magazine
September 26, 2004
Nine blocks north of Madison Square Garden, next door to the Emerging Artists Theater, where posters advertised ''The Gay Naked Play'' (''Now With More Nudity''), the bloggers were up and running. It was Republican National Convention week in New York City, and they had taken over a performance space called the Tank. A homeless guy sat at the entrance with a bag of cans at his feet, a crocheted cap on his head and his chin in his hand. To reach the Tank, you had to cross a crummy little courtyard with white plastic patio furniture and half a motorcycle strung with lights and strewn with flowers, beneath a plywood sign that said, ''Ronald Reagan Memorial Fountain.''
The Tank was just one small room, with theater lights on the ceiling and picture windows that looked out on the parking garage across 42nd Street. Free raw carrots and radishes sat in a cardboard box on a table by the door, alongside a pile of glazed doughnuts and all the coffee you could drink. The place was crowded. Everyone was sitting, staring at their laptops, at bridge tables or completely sacked out on couches. Markos Moulitsas, who runs the blog Daily Kos, at dailykos.com, was slouched in the corner of one squashed-down couch in shorts and a T-shirt, his computer on his lap, one of the keys snapped off his keyboard. He's a small guy with short brown hair who could pass for 15. Duncan Black of the blog Eschaton, who goes by the name Atrios, sat at the other end of the couch, staring out the window. On the table set up behind them, Jerome Armstrong of MyDD worked sweatily. Jesse and Ezra, whose blog is called Pandagon, were lying with two cute women in tank tops -- Ezra's girlfriend Kate and Zoe of Gadflyer -- on futon beds that had been placed on the tiny stage of the performance space. Their computers and wireless mice and some carrots and radishes and paper plates with Chinese dumplings were scattered between them. A month ago, at the Democratic convention, Zoe had accidentally spilled a big cup of 7-Up on Jesse's computer, killing it. She and Jesse now looked as if they might be dating.
Moulitsas pulled a 149-word story off nytimes.com linking Robert Novak, the conservative columnist, to ''Unfit for Command,'' the book that attacked John Kerry's service in Vietnam; the article revealed that Novak's son is the marketing director for the book's publisher, Regnery. Moulitsas copied and pasted the story, wrote ''Novak blows another one'' at the top and clicked Submit. A couple of seconds later, the item appeared on Daily Kos, and his hundreds of thousands of readers began to take note, many of them posting their own fevered thoughts in response. Moulitsas read some e-mail messages and surfed around, trying to think of the next rotten thing to say about the right. Beside him, around the same time, Atrios was assembling a few words about Ed Schrock, a conservative Republican congressman vocal in his disavowal of the rights of gays, who had now been accused of soliciting gay love. A Web site dedicated to exposing closeted antigay politicians had posted an audio clip of what they said was Schrock's voice, and he had pulled out of the race. A pizza-stained paper plate sat between Moulitsas and Atrios. Together, they have more readers than The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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