Thursday, May 04, 2006

Jason Zengerle, blogging at The New Republic:

I think McCain's candidacy will serve as a test ... of the bloggers' ... thesis that they now have the power to be political kingmakers--because if they do, then McCain is dead meat.

Let me explain. Because of the polarized nature of the blogosphere, McCain doesn't have many boosters there. The big-time conservative bloggers, such as Hugh Hewitt and Power Line, distrust him; so do the heavyweight liberal bloggers, like Kos and Atrios ... the only people writing about the campaign who actually seem to like McCain are (shock!) the establishment media....

Which means that McCain's candidacy should serve as an excellent test of whether the mainstream media still has the upperhand over bloggers when it comes to making or breaking a presidential candidate. McCain's failure won't necessarily mean that bloggers have arrived. But if McCain wins, I think that will be another blow to blogger triumphalism.

Zengerle's half right: If McCain wins, it's largely because the press has spent years building up his myth. If he loses, it will be because the right-wing ideologues who've (perhaps bafflingly) taken against him were able to deny him the nomination. (If he gets the nomination, he'll win the election. It's that simple.)

But why the focus on bloggers? Why the suggestion that blogs are the wellspring of all ideological purity in America?

The political press in America has had nearly twenty years to notice the existence of Limbaugh-era talk radio, but our pundits still look at talk radio as if it's the scary spot on the map marked "HERE BE DEMONS"; they don't listen and they don't make any effort to find out what's going on there.

Beyond that, the pundits still don't recognize the skill with which the GOP right spreads talking points among the faithful. Some of these talking points are generated from the top, while others bubble up from radio, the Internet, the religious right community, and single-issue groups like the NRA. Blogs are an important part of this process, but they're just one part. If the righties manage to crush the McCain campaign effort in 2008, most if not all of these groups will be involved.

Goldwater didn't win the Republican nomination in '64 because of the tireless efforts of the snarling dogs at (He did get a little help from this book.) Fire-breathing political zealotry wasn't invented by bloggers.

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