Progressives on the Move Within Democratic Party

Grassroots campaigns, bloggers and activists gearing up for New York are all positive signs

| July 2004

BOSTON -- Amidst the rah-rah speeches and the made-for-primetime-television format that have come to define the Democratic National Convention, new and exciting sounds were seeping from inside and outside the Fleet Center this week. For the first time, ever, 35 web 'bloggers' were granted access to the DNC and provided with a wireless Internet zone up in the nosebleed seats on the seventh floor.

By Tuesday any glitches in the wireless networking system had been all-but fixed, and bloggers like Dave Weinberger of and Dave Sifty of were sitting, 'laptops ablaze,' churning out the kind of online journals that, while unapologetically opinionated, are hailed by thousands as quick and effective tools that encourage interest in American politics. More and more, blogs are springing up as a prime medium for grassroots campaigns.

'The idea is that you have to give up some control to let grassroots campaigns catch fire, which is what the Howard Dean camp discovered,' says Weinberger, who is also the Senior Internet Advisor to the Dean campaign. Ironically, says Weinberger, the message that Rod O'Connor, CEO of the DNC, conveyed to the bloggers when he addressed them at a breakfast before the gala began on Monday was what a wonderful extravaganza this 'live television show' is because it is totally controlled.

Dean, the upstart Vermont governor who scared the dickens out of the Democratic Party's old guard early on in the dogfight for the nomination called it 'about time' that the bloggers were given some love. He went on to suggest that the success of his campaign had more than a little to do with the party's decision to hand out press passes to roughly 35 bloggers.

Eric Schnure, the official blogger for the Democratic National Convention website, added that if the Republicans follow suit and invite as many as 20 bloggers to their convention in New York in a month from now, it will be only because their rivals did so. Clearly, a new movement is building here, and the starry-eyed bloggers were very surprised to find themselves in the presence of Dean, O'Connor, and soon-to-be Illinois senator Barack Obama at their kickoff breakfast on Monday.

While strategically positioning their checkers in the center of the board, Democratic politicians are clearly taking the time to reach out to these new grassroots media, and that's important if the once disgruntled progressive wing of the party is to help get John Kerry elected in November and then remain empowered enough to pull him back to the left in 2005.

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