The Washington Post has a story this morning worth a read, "Blogs Attack From Left as Democrats Reach for Center."
I found particularly interesting the references to Senator (and presumably Presdential-aspirant) Kerry's efforts to reach out to bloggers, such as his post this week on Daily Kos announcing his decision to try to filibuster the Alito nomination (and before that his comments on Iraq). My initial thought is that it is quite a savvy way by him of trying to establish his bona fides with the Democratic grass-roots base so as to try to peel away some of this constituency that otherwise seems naturally inclined Senator Clinton. The use of blogs in this manner, it seems to me, may be important in two ways. First, it allows for unusually well-targeted messaging to particular audiences at low cost, with minimal spillover to other audiences. Second, at least for the current moment in time, it provides a useful symbolic shorthand for politicians to define themselves with a particular "team"--i.e., simply by acknowledging and talking to these guys it provides a symbolic reaching out beyond traditional party establishments, in the same way that conservative politicians have used talk radio to cultivate a similar image.
Which prompts a final speculation--given the apparent inability of liberal talk radio (e.g., Air America) to get traction, I wonder if this has anything to do with the way that liberal and conservative blogs have evolved into having different structures. Think of it this way--if John Kerry were a conservative, he would have probably phoned-in a filibuster to Rush Limbaugh rather than blogging on Daily Kos. This leads me to wonder whether one explanation for the apparent difference between conservative and liberal blogs is that in some sense conservative blogs and talk radio work in tandem with each other, whereas liberal blogs essentially have to perform simultaneously both of the functions served by two distinct outlets by conservative media (talk radio and blogs). My impression is that liberal blogs tend to be in some sense larger and more centralized (such as Daily Kos), whereas conservative blogs tend to be more plentiful, smaller, and more decentralized in structure.
I'm raising the question of whether perhaps this is because because whereas blogs and talk radio essentially function as complementary technologies for conservatives, liberal blogs are essentially forced by the market into performing both the narrowcasting functions of, say, Powerline as well as the broadcasting functions of Limbaugh. Perhaps others have made this observation previously, or perhaps I'm just all wet, but Senator Kerry's blogging appearances on Daily Kos framed the question in a new way for me, so I thought I'd throw it out there. Most commentary I have seen tends to lump conservative talk radio and blogs together as essentially redundant "new" forms of new political technology, but its not obvious to me that is necessarily true.
If this is true, then it would predict that more liberal politicians might follow Sen. Kerry into the blogosphere, whereas we wouldn't necessarily expect to see conservative politicians reach out in exactly the same way.