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Magazines > Searcher > October 2006
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Vol. 14 No. 9 — Oct. 2006
Politics and Tech Tools
Blogs, Aggregators, and Tracking Tools

by Laura Gordon-Murnane

Are you a political news junkie? Do you follow the political campaigns, both national and local? Do you want to know what the right thinks about news events? Do you monitor what the left thinks about the latest revelations from The New York Times about the Bush administration?

If you do, then you are in luck. Ways to track, monitor, and participate in political campaigns have exploded. Dynamic, exciting, and wide open political blogging is playing an active role and has an aggressive voice in shaping political discourse.

Political blogging has definitely entered the mainstream. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., has hired Peter Daou to act as a blog consultant to help her campaign connect directly to bloggers and the netroots that may replace (or augment) grass-roots campaigning. Daou is a well-known blogger and political consultant who runs the Daou Report on and who “directed online rapid response and blog outreach for the Kerry-Edwards campaign.” [1] The Heritage Foundation’s Tim Chapman, in a commentary entitled “And People Say Blogs Don’t Matter,” wrote, “Conservative political blogs this week scored a major victory by pushing Congress to introduce a resolution condemning The New York Times for outing a secret anti-terrorist financial tracking program.” [2] Congress later passed a nonbinding resolution that condemned TheNew York Times as well as other newspapers for publishing the article on the financial tracking story.

Political bloggers have even begun holding conventions and conferences — most notably, Yearly Kos in June 2006. Yearly Kos, named after Markos Moulitsas, the founder of one of the most widely read political blogs — Daily Kos — held a 4-day convention in Las Vegas where political bloggers and Democratic politicians shared ideas and workshops and learned more about the intersection between politics and technology. [3] Local political conferences have also sprung up — The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership held its second annual Summit on Blogging and Democracy in the Commonwealth in Charlottesville, Va., at the University of Virginia. [4] Here, too, the conference addressed the interplay between technology and politics and held sessions on Enhancing and Promoting Your Blog and Campaign Finance & You.

Though the upcoming election in November is not a presidential election, it will serve to solidify the role, influence, and growing importance of blogging in the political arena. More importantly, it will showcase how technology and politics can be melded together to discuss (hopefully) the issues of the day, to create awareness and activism, and to see whether and/or how well all the words and money generated in this off-year election can inspire the American public to engage in one of the most precious and important civic responsibilities given to us by the Constitution — the vote.

When I decided to write and research political blogs, I thought that I would only cover those blogs that discuss national politics. However, I have discovered that political blogs are not only confined to those bloggers who make it into Technorati, Inc.’s or The Truth Laid Bear (TTLB)’s top blogs or most-popular blog lists. No, indeed. Passionate voices are writing about issues and using blogs and other tech tools to reach out in support of ideas, candidates, and issues that matter to them and to their communities now and in the future.

Blog Typology

Political blogs fall into five different categories:

• National political blogs

• National committee blogs (Republican/Democrat)

• Incumbent blogs

• Candidate/challenger blogs

• Local political blogs

Both community blogs and individual blogs engage in different types of blogging. Some provide a watchdog and fact-checking role, making sure that facts cited are correct and quotations accurate. Others engage in heated and passionate commentary/analysis/opinion about issues, events, and news. Yet others provide a current awareness function by linking to other blogs and news sources on political topics covered by both mainstream media and citizen journalists. Many local political blogs build grass-roots awareness and inspire local activism on issues relevant to a specific community by focusing on issues and candidates at the local, state, and national levels. These local political blogs can build a voice for candidates running for state and national office.

An increasingly important area of political blogging involves fundraising for candidates — both incumbents and challengers. Politics and money are joined at the hip; the Internet in general and blogs in particular have become major tools in the fundraising arsenal. We saw the marriage of the Internet and fundraising with Howard Dean’s presidential campaign in 2004.

Still another type of blogging involves raising questions and discussions on issues and topics that do not receive detailed examination by mainstream media. Political bloggers do just that and, by doing so, raise the temperature on certain issues to the point that the mainstream media sits up and takes notice.

Some politicians have taken to blogging directly. Political activism, in all its messy glory, has come to the Web and bloggers are among its leading champions.

With the rise of political blogging, useful tech tools have emerged that make it easier to identify political blogs and the topics and issues that generate passionate, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes nasty conversations between political groups (Republicans and Democrats). [5] I have divided these tech tools into two categories — aggregator tools and tracking tools. The aggregator tools gather the thoughts and controversies of political blogs and make it available in one place. For political news junkies, these tools are most helpful in learning the current gossip, debate, and outrage in the political blogosphere. Tracking tools, on the other hand, show which political blog is up and which is down, which is most popular, and which is most current. You can also see which blogs link to other blogs.

This article will examine the five different types of political blogs and the tech tools that can help political news junkies keep on top of the ever-changing political landscape.

National Political Blogs

What do I mean when I say national political blogs? These blogs have a national audience and are frequently identified in the Technorati, Inc., BlogPulse, and TTLB lists of the most-popular political blogs.

Many of these blogs offer news, analysis, commentary, and opinion; links to news stories and blog posts; comments; e-mail alerts; RSS feeds; and podcasts. Many of the blogs have extensive blogrolls where you can see which blogs the authors read and share similar insights. Not surprisingly, most of the blogs link to like-minded blogs and carry few or no links to blogs on the other side of the aisle. Lada Adamic and Natalie Glance recently published a study on the linking relationships between political blogs. In their study, “The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election: Divided They Blog,” the authors found a “divided blogosphere: liberals and conservatives linking primarily within their separate communities, with far fewer cross-links exchanged between them. This division extended into their discussions, with liberal and conservative blogs focusing on different news articles, topics, and political figures.” [6]

Incumbent/Challenger Blogs

Political campaigns using Internet technology have matured since Howard Dean’s innovative use of the Internet during the 2004 presidential election. Most politicians have set up official and campaign Web sites and some have turned to blogging to reach constituents and voters in their districts. In the 2004 election, according to a report published by The Bivings Group in May 2006, only 55 percent of Senate campaigns had a Web site. Current statistics reveal that the Internet has since been firmly embraced by Washington politicians where 97 percent of Senate candidates have a Web site. [7] However, this same enthusiasm for Internet Web sites has not migrated to blogs. Not yet, at least.

Incumbent Senate politicians have not dramatically embraced blogging — only a handful of Senate incumbents have launched blogs. More House members have begun to use blogs as a part of their campaign strategy. However, at least 10 Senate challengers have started to include blogging in their campaign strategies and 40 House challengers have included blogging in their mix of campaign tools.

The Washington publication, The Hill, has put together a very helpful, though incomplete, list of incumbent and challenger Web sites (official site, campaign site, and blogsite). If you want a complete list, it’s best to check back often and to read the political blogs of your choice. Also, the Republican and Democratic Congressional Committees now link to both incumbent and challenger candidates who blog. This is another good way to find out who is running for office and using blog technologies to reach a wider audience.

National Committee Blogs (Republican/Democrat)

Big surprise! Both the Republican and Democratic committees have blogs.

Republican National Blogs

Republican National Committee

National Republican Congressional Committee

House Republican Conference
Deborah Pryce — Chairman

Democratic National Blogs

Democratic National Party — Kicking Ass

Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

The National Committees blogs include news, links to mainstream media articles and political polls, comments by like-minded bloggers, extensive blogrolls, RSS feeds, Flickr links, e-mail alerts, party donation forms, and even podcasts. The national congressional committees link to challengers/incumbent blogs and news about local candidates from blogs and mainstream media sources. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accepts comments.

Local Political Blogs: The Greening of Netroots

With the increase in blogging politicians, there has also been an increase in grassroots or netroots activism. What is netroots activism? Wikipedia defines “netroots” as a “recent term describing a particular form of grassroots activist organized primarily over the Internet, especially on blogs.” [8] Local political blogs are run by those who want to participate in the political debate and share a like or dislike for their local political leaders, office holders, candidates, other bloggers, and the local media. They want to have a voice in the political discussions in their communities and share their insights, ideas, values, and passions about candidates, political issues, legislation, and how it will impact their local communities. Many examples of this type of blogging activism abound, and I expect more and more local political blogs will make their way into the blogosphere.

You can find local political blogs at the Soapbox Network [], as well as the blogroll for any of the local political blogs you view. Many local political blogs have extensive blogrolls that can help you identify local blogs that might interest you.

Aggregator Political Blogs and Tools

Let’s say you are just getting started in wandering through the political blogosphere. Where do you start? How can you find the national and local blogs that support your point of view, but also learn what the other side is saying, doing, arguing, and reporting? You surely don’t/can’t read every blog out there with a political point of view. As David Sifry of Technorati has reported in the “State of the Blogosphere,” the blogosphere doubles in size every 6 months; “on average a new weblog is created every second of every day.” [9]

Don’t panic. Don’t abandon hope. Recently, Web 2.0 has entered the political arena with the launch of mashup sites that include memeorandum, Tailrank, and Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire. These tools search the blogosphere and make posts available arranged by category — in this case — politics. At these sites you can see and learn what the blogosphere is talking about relative to politics, politicians, and the political news of the day. The entries link to mainstream media articles as well as the discussions and commentary of blogs and bloggers.

memeorandum does a nice job of displaying mainstream media news articles (headlines and first paragraph of story), along with links to blogs that have linked or commented on the story. It also provides related stories and news (mainstream media) and the blogs that comment on these related stories. Taegan Goddard’s Breaking News, Southpaws, and Wingers provide great ways to learn about different blogs, the reactions to political news, and how it plays out in the blogosphere from the left and the right. These sites are updated every hour of the news day, so you can feast on political news 24/7/365.

Human-Generated Aggregator

In addition to the computer-generated political news aggregators, several useful human generated aggregators filter the political news and deliver it to your desktop or news reader.

National Journal has created two useful blogs that monitor and track political blogs. K. Daniel Glover, the managing editor for National Journal’s Technology Daily, is responsible for Beltway Blogroll [], a “bi-weekly look at the growing number of policy blogs shaping Washington debates.” I also like National Journal’s Hotline’s Blogometer []. The Blogometer “is a daily report from The Hotline taking the temperature of the political blogosphere.” Both sites have extensive blogrolls that can help you identify other blogs, bloggers, candidates, and useful political sites of interest.

Another aggregator site, as mentioned earlier, is the Daou Report on The Daou report “tracks leading blogs, message boards, news outlets, and independent Web sites from across the political spectrum — providing a snapshot of the latest news, views, and online buzz.” [10] The site divides into two categories — Blogging from the Left and Blogging from the Right. The Daou Report is also RSS-enabled, so you can subscribe to its feed.

Other useful aggregator tools include RealClearPolitics, WatchBlog, and PoliticsOnline, Inc. [], founded in 2000 by John McIntyre and Tom Bevan, “culls the best columns, magazine articles, and Web write ups to deliver readers news from all points of the political compass and covering all the important issues of the day.” [11] The site is arranged by Real Clear Politics — Today, Editorials, Politics and Election News, RCP Resource Center, Opinion BuzzTracker, and ReaderArticles. I especially like the first section — it provides a tidy list of the mainstream media articles on politics for that day. Watchblog [] is a multieditor site that aggregates political news into three categories — Democrats & Liberals, Republicans & Conservatives, and Third Party & Independents. The site links to all the contributors and resources (liberal, conservative, and third-party blogs; national political blogs; and media sites). PoliticsOnline, Inc. [], founded by Phil Noble, is one of the oldest companies to provide news, “tools and strategies for using the Internet in politics and public affairs.” [12] The site reports about U.S. and international political news, an events calendar, hot sites, and online studies. The site is RSS-enabled and offers a free e-mail newsletter.

So if you are looking to get into the messy, chaotic, enlightening, nasty world of politics, these aggregator tools can help you get started as well as help you refine your political tastes and passions.

Tracking/Monitoring Tools for the Political Blogosphere

Several useful tracking tools can help you monitor and measure impact in the political blogosphere. One of the most useful and important tools is The Truth Laid Bear (TTLB) []. Run by NZ Bear, the site carries an impressive collection of tools that can help you track which political blogs are on top. His TTLB Ecosystem is “an application which scans weblogs and generates a list of weblogs ranked by the number of incoming links they receive from other weblogs on the list.” He has arranged the TTLB Ecosystem into categories — Higher Beings, Mortal Humans, all the way down to Insignificant Microbes. The TTLB Ecosystem can also be viewed by Ranking by Traffic — that is, “the Ecotraffic page ranks weblogs based on tracking data captured by the SiteMeter [] hit counter. Where the main Ecosystem pages show who is getting the most links from other bloggers, the Ecotraffic pages show which blogs are actually receiving the most readers.” So you can study impact from different perspectives. The site also provides metrics, posts, and inbound and outbound links about each site in the Ecosystem list. I think the graphical picture of inbound and outbound links is a very interesting and cool way to present who links to whom.

Other tracking tools include BlogPulse and Technorati, Inc. BlogPulse is a blog search engine and tracking tool that can identify top blog posts, top blogs, top new stories, top news sources, top links, key people, and key phrases — all deliverable via an RSS feed. And we have already seen Technorati at work. This blog search engine posts top blogs in the blogosphere and can slice and dice the blogosphere into large or small niches. It is a great place to find out which blogs are on top and keep you in the know.

Junkies to the Keyboards!

The aggregators Real Clear Politics, Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire, Southpaws, Wingers, memeorandum, and lately, digg [ and], provide a useful way to track what the other side is saying. These tools enable political junkies to find out who is saying what, what the big stories and issues are from the different political perspectives, and where you stand inside or outside of the debate. The political blogosphere can be a very nasty place, but it doesn’t have to be. These aggregator tools can help us achieve balance, seek and share thoughtful commentary and insights, and provide a real mechanism to shape the political debate and to offer solutions to problems that everyone can live with. Naïve? Maybe. But what is the alternative?

So are you a political junkie? I am. I read a wide variety of political blogs; some I agree with, and others I honestly have a hard time reading, but I think it is important to read both kinds. Political discourse is a part of the cultural and political DNA of what it means to be an American citizen. We need to read, listen, discuss, and hopefully understand as we work together to improve life in our communities, states, and nation. Blogs and other Internet tools can help us widen the political discourse that we so passionately support. But we must listen to each other and share our visions of the future if we mean to achieve them. Hopefully, the technology tools will help us do that.

The Big Ten

URL Sampler for Top Blogs
(The Truth Laid Bear, TTLB)

Top Liberal Blogs

Daily Kos []

Talking Points Memo []

Eschaton []

The Washington Monthly []

Crooks and Liars []

The Huffington Post []

Wonkette []

Crooked Timber []

Informed Consent []

America blog []

Top Conservative Blogs []

Michelle Malkin []

Power Line []

Little Green Footballs []

Captain’s Quarters []

Hugh Hewitt []

Mudville Gazette []

Wizbang []

Volokh Conspiracy []

Stop The ACLU []

Top 10 Political Blogs in Technorati, Inc.,
BlogPulse and The Truth Laid Bear
(July 2, 2006)
Technorati BlogPulse TTLB
Daily Kos SCOTUSblog
Thought Mechanics Daily Kos Michelle Malkin
Michelle Malkin Michelle Malkin Daily Kos
Crooks and Liars Think Progress Power Line
Blog di Beppe Grillo Unclaimed Territory Little Green Footballs Crooks and Liars Captain’s Quarters
Think Progress Little Green Footballs Talking Points Memo
Wonkette Hugh Hewitt
Dr Dave Captain’s Quarters Mudville Gazette
Talking Points Memo The Volokh Conspiracy Wizbang

Top Ten Liberal/Democratic Blogs (July 3, 2006)
Technorati BlogPulse (only seven in the top 40 blogs) TTLB
Daily Kos Daily Kos Daily Kos
Thought Mechanics Crooks and Liars Talking Points Memo
Crooks and Liars Unclaimed Territory Eschaton
Think Progress Althouse The Washington Monthly
Wonkette Political Animal Crooks and Liars
Talking Points Memo Whiskey Bar The Huffington Post
AMERICAblog Eschaton Wonkette
Eschaton N/A Crooked Timber
Informed Consent N/A Informed Consent
Onegoodmove N/A AMERICAblog

Top 10 Conservative/Republican Blogs (July 3, 2006)
Technorati BlogPulse TTLB
Michelle Malkin Michelle Malkin Power Line Michelle Malkin
Little Green Footballs Little Green Footballs Power Line
Power Line Little Green Footballs
The Corner on National Review Online Captain’s Quarters Captain’s Quarters
Hugh Hewitt The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler Hugh Hewitt
Hot Air Volokh Conspiracy Mudville Gazette
Right Wing News Wizbang Wizbang Outside The Beltway Volokh Conspiracy
La Shawn Barber’s Corner N/A Stop The ACLU

Congress and the Blogosphere

Senate Challengers Blogs

Pete Ashdown, D-Utah

Matt Brown, D-R.I.

Jack Carter, D-Nev.

Tom Kean, R-N.J.

Allan Lichtman, D-Md.

Ned Lamont, D-Conn.

Mike Protack, R-Del.

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, D-Texas

Rich Tarrant, R-Vt.

Jon Tester, D-Mont.

Jim Webb, D-Va.

Senate Incumbent Blogs

Joe Biden, D-Del.

Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Rick Santorum, R-Pa.

Jim Talent, R-Mo.

House Incumbent Blogs

Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark.

Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif. (via the Flashreport)

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas

Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich.

Rep. Phil Gringrey, R-Ga.

Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla.

Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga.

Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

Rep. John Linder, R-Ga.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.

Rep. George Radanovich, R-Calif.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.

House Challengers Blogs*

Peter Beilenson, D-Md., 3rd

Oz Bengur, D-Md., 3rd

Gary Binderim, D-Texas, 2nd

Rick Bolanos, D-Texas, 23rd

Jim Brandt, D-Calif., 46th

Darcy Burner, D-Wash., 8th

Francine Busby, D-Calif., 50th

Chuck Butcher, D-Ore., 2nd

Michael Calderin, D-Fla., 18th

Kim Clark, D-Mich., 6th

Eric Crosley, D-Mich., 8th

Jeeni Criscenzo, D-Calif., 49th

John Doll, D-Kan., 1st

Judy Feder, D-Va., 10th

Steve Filson-Calif., 11th

Larry Grant, D-Idaho, 1st

Peter Hankwitz, R-Calif., 27th

James Henley, D-Texas, 7th

Andrew Hurst, D-Va., 11th

Brian Kennedy, R-Iowa, 1st

Michael LaFevers, D-Fla., 13th

Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., 11th

James Moore, D-Ky., 3rd

Chris Murphy, D-Conn., 5th

Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., 8th

Robert Neeld, D-Fla., 14th

Karen Otter, D-Calif., 52nd

Rick Penberthy, D-Fla., 5th

Les Roberts, D-N.Y., 24th

Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.,

Samm Simpson, D-Fla, 10th

Jeff Sinnard, D-Ohio, 2nd

Linda Stender, D-N.J.

Kenneth Stepp, D-Ky., 5th

Tony Trupiano, D-Mich., 11th

Bruce Tytler, D-N.Y., 24th

Joe Vas, D-N.J., 13th

Jamie Wall, D-Wis., 8th

Andy Warren, D-Pa.

Bill Whitman, D-Tenn., 9th

John Yarmuth, D-Ky., 3rd

The Hill’s Congress Blog [] (accessed July 3, 2006) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, The Bivings Report, and Jack Kingston.

* Numbers indicate the district within the state, i.e., 3rd District, for which the challenger is running.

Aggregator Political Blogs and Computer-Generated Tools



Taegan Goddard’s PoliticalWire

Breaking News

Local Political Blogs Sampler

Liberal Local Political Blogs Conservative Local Political Blogs
Fired Up! Missouri
The Source
Local Missouri Politics
Kentucky Progress
Iowa True Blue
Krusty Konservative
Taking Down Words
Frugal Hoosiers
Raising Kaine
Hampton Roads Politics

All Politics Is Local? The Rise of National Political Communities

“All politics is local,” or so the saying goes. But in the 21st century, does this so-often-repeated truth still hold? We saw the move to nationalize local politics in 1994 when Newt Gingrich released the Contract with America, a 10-point program endorsed by all but two Republican members of the House that aimed to decentralize federal authority through tax cuts, balance the federal budget, and increase the power of the states. The move to nationalize the congressional elections of 1994 worked — the Republican Party demolished the Democratic Party and took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 4 decades. [13]

The Contract with America predates the rise of the Internet but the idea to nationalize congressional politics is alive and well. Democratic/progressive/liberal bloggers and commentators are urging the Democratic Party leadership to use the lessons of Gingrich’s revolutionary Contract with America to issue their own national plan to define the party, showcase the party’s vision for the future, and to lay out its legislative agenda. It is not clear if the Democratic Party will embrace this tactic, nor is it clear if this tactic will capture the hearts and minds of the voting public. A much more interesting and potentially more influential tactic to regain or keep control of the House and/or Senate involves the use of the Internet and technology tools to raise money for local candidates and thereby broaden the awareness of the voting public about local candidates seeking national office, even those far outside constituency districts.

The 2004 presidential election introduced the Internet to politics through the use of new and innovative technology tools that created awareness, increased grass-roots support, and directed millions of dollars to the coffers of congressional and presidential candidates. Bloggers helped propel political issues and candidates forward but we also saw the growth of 527 groups — named after a section of the U.S. tax code. These groups have emerged to “influence the nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates for public office.” [14] The 527 groups that played an important and significant role in the 2004 presidential election include the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth [], [], The Media Fund, America Coming Together, and Progress for America, Inc. []., America Votes [], and Progress for America are grass-roots organizations that use the Internet to reach out to local political races and bring awareness, interest, passion, and — most importantly — money to assist political candidates. In this political cycle, has already raised $14 million for political candidates and used $2 million in TV ads for candidates in targeted districts. [15]

Political fundraising, advertising, and endorsements have been embraced by the Internet, bloggers, and the 527 groups in a big and growing way. Political blogs such as Daily Kos [] and Power Line [] accept political advertising and make political endorsements for and against congressional candidates and incumbents running for office. Daily Kos has been particularly vocal in the Connecticut senate race by supporting Ned Lamont, the Democratic challenger to Joe Lieberman. Lieberman is in the fight of his political life and Daily Kos has made his bid for reelection significantly harder. Lieberman may be running as an independent by the time you read this, assuming he did not win the Democratic primary in August. Eschaton, one of the most popular and influential blogs, run by economist Duncan Black [16] [], has a list of local candidates that he has endorsed on his Web site. If you feel so inclined, you can contribute to his list of candidate’s at the fundraising site, ActBlue []. ActBlue, [], a federal PAC, is an interesting Web site that “enables anyone — individuals, local groups, and national organizations — to fundraise for the Democratic candidates of their choice.” [17] Furthermore, “since ActBlue’s inception about two years ago, the site has raised more than $6 million dollars for Dem candidates. The Web site’s interface is so simple and user friendly, major PACs and congressional campaigns (about 60 of them) are using it to process ALL of their donations. Users can create their own pages, from Netroots candidates (2,861 donors giving $221,851 to 12 hand-picked candidates) to Bloggers for Pete Ashdown(five donors giving $157)” [18] [].

Another very important federal PAC playing a key role in fundraising and grass-roots support is Emily’s List [], founded in 1985 by Ellen R. Malcolm. Emily’s List’s goal is to “form a network to raise money for pro-choice Democratic women candidates. The network was designed to provide its members with information about candidates and encourage them to write checks directly to the candidates.” [19] Since the launch of Emily’s List, the network has “helped elect 61 Democratic pro-choice members of Congress, 11 senators, and eight governors.” [20] A list of approved candidates is available on their Web site and if these candidates inspire you, you can easily contribute to its political campaigns. [21]

How does this challenge the saying, “All politics is local”? Bloggers who accept political advertisements, provide links to candidates Web sites, offer endorsements for specific political candidates, and help raise money for candidates (as well as sites like ActBlue and Emily’s List), extend the support for a candidate well beyond that candidate’s local geographical community. Politically aware individuals who want to be involved in more than their own local congressional races can become active in local campaigns across the country. The community of supporters has widened dramatically to include those who are not a member of the candidate’s district, county, or state. More than creating a Contract with America, political blogs, bloggers, and the 527 groups are using the Internet, e-mail, text messaging, and Internet-based fundraising tools to challenge the lesson learned by Tip O’Neill so long ago.

Gerrymandering Express

In June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in the League of United Latin American Citizens et al. v. Perry, Governor of Texas, et al. [] that Texas’ mid-decade redistricting, a bitter and nasty political fight between the Republicans and Democrats, is not — so far — unconstitutional. Based on this decision, it is entirely possible that political redistricting will become one of the political trophies for Democrats or Republicans who gain control of their state legislature. Once in control, the political majority can rewrite the political map to suit their political agendas and make it easier to elect candidates who share the political philosophy of the party in power. As soon as the state legislature changes to the different political party, voters can expect to see a new push to rewrite the political landscape; redistricting could become a commonplace event throughout the decade. If this does happen, it could make it difficult for incumbents, challengers, and constituents to work together to build understanding, trust, and support for each other and for the entire political process.

 One way to temper mid-decade political redistricting is through the nationalization of local politics by way of political blogs, political bloggers, local blogs, and nonlocal political supporters of congressional and state races. Under the spotlights of bloggers, local citizens, and nonlocal contributors, the push for redistricting every few years might lose some of its luster. Politicians might even get down to doing what they were elected to do — find solutions to problems and issues that impact us everyday. It is a long shot because political memories die hard, if ever, and blogging can surely contribute to this long-term memory, but by allowing mid-decade redistricting, the court has facilitated a free-for-all of partisan redistricting that could make it harder to shape a political agenda that benefits all.

Nonetheless …

With this increased national support comes a new responsibility on the part of candidates and elected representatives — to understand that they are no longer beholden only to their local constituency. They are also responsible to and need to listen to the concerns of both local constituents and supporters who live outside their district. The community of supporters has just gotten bigger. Is this a good thing? I’m not sure that anyone really has an answer for this question, but one aspect might provide food for thought: Political leaders might think twice about loading up bills with earmarks and pork-barrel spending (the bridge to nowhere) when they have bloggers and individual contributors watching not only their own local candidates, but those that they supported through Internet donations.

One thing seems sure: The scrutiny of political candidates and incumbents will grow with the use of the Internet and maybe we voters can better hold our political leaders accountable for the legislation they pass and the money they spend. And that, I believe, is a good thing.

Podcasting Politicians

Another new tech tool has recently caught the attention of some politicians: podcasting. The list is not long, but it is a sign that some politicians understand how technology and politics can be used together. The Bivings Report’s Todd Ziegler has put together a list of politicians who podcast. The list comes from iTunes “list of its 100 most popular politically-oriented podcasts”: [22]

(3) Senator Barack Obama, D-IIl.
(62) Congressman Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn.
(14) General Wes Clark, D
(82) Congressman John Dingall, D-Mich.
(30) Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wis.
(86) Dick DeVos, R-Mich.
(33) Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.
(87) Senator Jon Cornyn, R-Texas
(51) Mark Warner, D-Va.
(94) Senator Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
(59) Senator John Edwards, D-N.C.
(97) Senator Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

Other politicians stepping into the podcasting arena include Rep. Jack Kingston [] and former Sen. John Edwards with both a blog and a podcast []. In addition, Sen. Edwards has launched a video blog, a photo blog, and e-mail alerts to your mobile phone. Rick Santorum uses text messaging to reach a wider audience of constituents. Pete Ashdown, Democratic candidate for Senate in Utah, has a campaign Wiki []. I expect we will see more and more incumbents
and challengers embrace these new technologies and use them to reach supporters and voters.


1 - Daou Report — About [] (accessed on July 2, 2006) and “Closing the Triangle with Senator Hillary Clinton” [] (accessed July 2, 2006).

2 - Tim Chapman, “And people say blogs don’t matter,” June 30, 2006 — Heritage Foundation []. See also, Carl Hulse “House Assails Media Report on Tracking of Finances,” The New York Times, June 30, 2006 [].

3 - YearlyKos [] (accessed July 2, 2006).

4 - The Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership Summit on Blogging and Democracy in the Commonwealth June 16 – 17, 2006 [].

5 - Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, “Political Red Cards; If Life Were Like Futbol” (July 10, 2006) [ _b _24726.html] (accessed July 12, 2006).

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7 - The Internet’s Role in Political Campaigns: Utilization by 2006 United States Senatorial Candidates. The Bivings Group, May 23, 2006 []. The Bivings Group also has a blog where they post links to campaign news and candidate sites — [].

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11 - — About [] (accessed July 4, 2006).

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14 - Wikipedia, 527 Groups [] (accessed July 22, 2006).

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16 - BlogStreet, “Most Influential Blogs” [] (accessed July 23, 2006).

17 - ActBlue. About [http://www://] (accessed July 22, 2006).

18 - The Hotline. “The Weekender: ActBlue Gets Its Act Together,” July 30, 2006 [] (accessed July 22, 2006).

19 - Wikipedia, Emily’s List [] (accessed July 23, 2006).

20 - Emily’s List, About Emily’s List: Who We Are [] (accessed July 23, 2006).

21 - Emily’s List: Recommended Candidates [] (accessed, July 23, 2006).

22 - The Bivings Report, Politicians who Podcast, June 12, 2006 [].

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