The nation's top Democrats are suddenly rushing to appear on the Fox News Channel, which they once had shunned as enemy territory as the nemesis of liberal bloggers.Two things. First, I never really understood the Fox boycott. Objecting to Fox hosting a Democratic debate is one thing: it really doesn't make sense to have a Democratic event hosted by an obvious arm of the Republican Party. But not even giving interviews? That doesn't do anything to spoil Fox's credibility. It just reduces Democrats' exposure and makes them look like they're afraid to confront their opponents.
The detente with Fox has provoked a backlash from progressive bloggers, who contend the party's leaders are turning their backs on the base — and lending credibility and legitimacy to the network liberals love to hate — in a quest for a few swing votes.
....Markos Moulitsas, founder of the leading liberal site Daily Kos, told Politico's Michael Calderone: "Democrats are being idiotic by going on that network."
....The Democratic leaders' new openness to Fox reflects the liberal left's diminishing power, at least at this point in the political cycle. Once feared by the Democratic candidates, these activists are now viewed at least in part as an impediment to winning the broad swatch of support needed to clinch the nomination.
But it's that line about the "liberal left's diminishing power" that really intrigues me. I think it's wrong. It conflates "liberal left" with "netroots," and the real lesson of the 2008 primaries is to raise some serious doubts about the power of the blogosphere in particular and the netroots more generally. On the Republican side, I'd venture that John McCain was the least favorite of the major candidates by a pretty fair margin. But he won anyway. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton was the least favorite of the majors but she's one of the last two standing. And although Barack Obama is a netroots darling now, it's worth remembering that his initial foray on Daily Kos didn't endear him to the blogosphere in the beginning. His message of bipartisan reconciliation was about the farthest thing imaginable from the "fighting Dem" spirit of the blogosphere and he took plenty of hits for it. He's only popular in the blogosphere now by default: virtually the entire netroots loathes Hillary Clinton, which means Obama is the only choice they have left.
If the respective left and right blogospheres had any real say in things, would we be looking at a McCain vs. Obama contest in November? Or McCain vs. Hillary? We would not. It would be Giuliani vs. Edwards, or maybe Romney vs. Dodd. The blogosphere is good at raising modest sums of money, and it likewise plays a modest role at the congressional level, but its influence on the national stage appears to be pretty close to nil. That was true in 2004, when Kerry won the Democratic nomination, and it appears to still be true four years later.