Translation: Progressives are better at the Web because the Web is all about hangin' loose, letting your freak flag fly and stickin' it to the Man, and that's what freedom-loving liberals are all about. "Web 2.0," we are told, is ushering in a "new politics" of participatory democracy and a new Progressive age.
Feh. "Web 2.0" is a nothing but a buzz phrase designed to make money for people who use phrases like "Web 2.0." There's no disputing that liberals have taken the lead on the Web in recent years. Sites such as Daily Kos and Moveon.org have become formidable clearinghouses for activism and fundraising. As a result, every Democratic presidential candidate kowtows to the netroots crowd. It's also true that the Republican National Committee and conservative activists are playing catch-up.
But enough with the metaphysical mumbo jumbo about how the Web and liberalism were made for each other. The real story is much simpler: Liberalism is having a nice moment - largely because the Republican president and the Iraq war are very unpopular.
The energy is on liberalism's side - and that translates into success in the digital world. Conservative media and FreeRepublic-style activists prospered in the Clinton 1990s because that's when they were on offense. And it's always more exciting - and easier - to be on offense. In the Bush years, it's the other way around.
In 2000, John McCain was hailed as a genius for raising a lot of money on the Web. Four years later, Howard Dean was a revolutionary for the same reason (before spectacularly losing the Democratic nomination). Today, Barack Obama is dazzling the pundits by raising huge amounts on the Web.
What do these campaigns have in common? Brilliant Web gurus and shiny Web 2.0 warp drives? No. The secret ingredient is exciting, popular candidates. Ask yourself: if Sen. Christopher Dodd appropriated Obama's or Hillary Clinton's Web operation, would we now be talking of the Dodd juggernaut?
Lastly, the netrooters claim that the Web is hostile to established power. They also claim that we're on the cusp of some grand progressive era in which the differences between the U.S. and Canada will be some spellings and the use of "eh." Well, if that turns out to be true (I doubt it), you can be sure that soon enough we'll be talking about the right's dominance of the Web. Again.
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