A Tale of Two Blogospheres: The Red and the Blue
posted by Daniel Solove
I’ve been quite surprised that the vast majority of the larger blogs linking to us at Concurring Opinions have been conservative blogs rather than liberal ones. After all, many (though not all) of us at Concurring Opinions consider ourselves to be liberals. Despite criticisms of the conservative blogosphere as an echo chamber, I’ve been impressed that conservative bloggers are linking to us. Many of us have tried our best to be balanced rather than partisan, and perhaps this is why we’ve received many links from the conservative blogosphere. What continues to strike me as a bit odd, however, is the great disparity in links from the prominent conservative blogs versus the prominent liberal ones.
This phenomenon got me thinking more broadly about the liberal blogosphere versus the conservative blogosphere. With the caveat that this is just my personal impression, I think that the conservative blogosphere is much better integrated in its intellectual and activist dimensions. For example, the conservative political blogosphere seems much more deeply connected to the legal blogosphere, where political bloggers seem to more routinely tap into the expertise of law professors about various legal issues. Indeed, many of the prominent political bloggers in the conservative blogosphere are academics; fewer of the liberals are.
This strikes me as representative of a larger difference between the Left and Right. The Left must better connect its intellectual and activist sides. Indeed, an article about Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the founder of Daily Kos (one of the largest and most influential liberal political blogs) states:
Moulitsas is just basically uninterested in the intellectual and philosophical debates that lie behind the daily political trench warfare. By his own admission, he just doesn’t care about policy.
Duncan Black at the popular liberal political blog Atrios agrees:
If our team actually had some power we could be debating the merits of various universal health care proposals, or considering just how large a minimum wage increase might be appropriate, or various other wonky things. It would be good fun. But we live in an unserious age where the people running the government have no interest in policy and the people not running government have no ability to get anything passed without having anything good about it destroyed by the Republicans.
Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly is not so sanguine about this state of affairs:
All political movements have both tacticians and theoreticians, so there’s nothing odd that Kos is all about tactics and prefers to leave the ideology to others. But there’s more to it than that. To a large extent, I think Kos is symbolic of nearly the entire political blogosphere, which tends to be far more a partisan wrecking crew than a genuine force for either progressive or conservative thought.
Drum is partially right. It is true that both the liberal and conservative blogosphere are filled with partisan hacks in echo chambers, but from my limited experience, I’ve noticed more integration between the “tacticians and theoreticians” from the conservative blogosphere than from the liberal blogosphere.
Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber thoughtfully writes:
A politically savvy wonkishness is an essential part of the long campaign to claw back some of this lost ground. You can make a pretty good case that the Democratic party, and the left more generally, has done a lousy job in connecting wonkish proposals together into a coherent political agenda for change. . . .
At the end of the day, ideas move people to action. The liberal blogosphere may think it’s all about power because they believe that the conservative ideas are bankrupt. But any political movement needs an integration of big ideas and people who spread and motivate others about those ideas. The conservative blogosphere and the Right seem to get this.
The liberal blogosphere has its fair share of intellectuals and ideas; and it has a number of blogs that are forums for political debate and communities for grass-roots organization and action. But I often think that the different parts of the liberal blogosphere could be better integrated, with more linking and communication between the political liberal blogosphere and the academics.