Friday, June 27, 2008

The State of Maryland Blogdom, Part Five

Remember our landmark interview with Senate President Mike Miller last January? I described a weird scene as nine liberal bloggers, some with pony tails, others with earrings and several in T-shirts were summoned to a rare audience with the most powerful man to never serve as Governor in the history of the state. It was a heady time for the blogosphere. The special session had driven Maryland political blog readership, both on the left and the right, to record levels and the Annapolis leaders had finally recognized our reach.

As far as I know, of the bloggers who participated in that meeting, I am the only one who still posts on a near-daily basis. Almost all of the rest are gone.

The fundamental building blocks of a political movement are not money, slogans, literature pieces or hired consultants. They are IDEAS and the people who generate them. Maryland is not a blue state because of Mike Miller’s personal power or Martin O’Malley’s campaign war chest. It is blue because residents want a stronger economy, quality education, widely available and excellent health care, a clean environment and, above all, social justice. They want to know how we will get there. And that takes creativity, willpower and risk.

We cannot leave these tasks to our politicians. They are ill-suited for them. The vast majority of the state and local politicians I have met are intelligent, possess superior people skills and are individuals of good will. But they are often cautious by nature and tend to balance their beliefs against their electoral needs. They function within a system that encourages incrementalism and seniority and punishes provocateurs. Many of them can and do implement good ideas but few create lots of them. Those people who do are seldom viable candidates for office.

Red Maryland, possibly the most-read political blog in the state, is a seething lava-pit of ideas, criticism, debate and above all hunger. Its contributors are outsiders. They have little access to money, influential officeholders, mainstream media or any of the conventional tools of political power. All they have left are ideas – lots of them. And thousands of their readers share them with their friends and spread their message. This is exactly what William F. Buckley, Paul Weyrich, Milton Friedman and many other conservatives did before the Reagan presidency. This is how to build a movement.

What about the left? We control every political resource in the state and assume that the right will never be competitive. There are many people on our side who would be excellent bloggers. But they are mostly current officeholders, staffers, lobbyists, activists who work within the system or national players. We hear from them by press release, newspaper soundbite, fundraiser speech or often not at all.

In its prime, Maryland’s liberal blogosphere provided an intellectual vigor that kept the Democratic Party in fighting form. With the decline of many liberal blogs, the ideological field of battle has been nearly abandoned to the right. This is complacency at its worst. It is very dangerous for the Maryland Democratic Party and the state’s political left in general. It must be reversed.

So if you are a progressive and have an idea for something better, write it up. Put it on Free State Politics, start your own blog or email it to us at Don’t assume that someone else will come up with it. They probably will not. Maryland’s blogosphere is wide open and thousands of liberals across the state are waiting to hear what your idea is. Ladies and gentlemen, now is an excellent time to blog.