Blogger Power in Politics
posted by Deven Desai
Many readers know about Talking Points Memo or Huffington Post. A New York Times article shows that in state races smaller, local blogs may have greater impact on a race. The Franken-Coleman race in Minnesota provides the backdrop to the story. Apparently an independent blogger who has previously worked for the Republican Party has found some anomalies in the management of Franken’s finances. A Democrat-leaning blog in the state has noted that similar issues have arisen in the Republican Party’s management of its finances. In both cases the power of young (one blogger is 34; the other is 24) writers having an impact on the race is striking.
As general point whether this extra information on either side will matter or should matter may be the larger question. The reputation smearing or questioning possible with the Internet can mean that we have more information about candidates. Yet, as many notes the quality of such information can be and often is suspect. Should every candidate have a spotless record? Indeed, could every candidate have a spotless record? What are the right metrics or proxies for character? Do people have the skills to discern what is learning moment, a problem borne of bureaucracy and tax systems, or a tough choice that had no perfect solution? Do people even want these skills or to engage with such nuances?
In political races at least such questions and paths of reflection are likely unwelcome. We seem to prefer some sort of resonance with a candidate and then allow that to color how we judge whatever information comes our way. Perhaps politics has always been that way. Still it seems that the ability to distract and further confuse whatever critical reflection one does has increased. It is a sort of noise pollution. So one can either exert the energy to sort the information or one can flee to a noise cancelling headset with one station that tells one what one wants to hear. Hopefully, the same power that fuels the noise pollution will fuel noise neutralization. Those who offer more nuanced or honest presentations of the good, the bad, and the what was that for both parties may rise and gain acceptance as excellent news sources. Given the way news and politics has proceeded in the recent decade that shift would surprise me. Nonetheless, as long as the Internet stays open enough it seems to keep such a possibility open and that is a good thing.