The Sad State Of The Conservative Blogosphere

This blog post was a long time coming. With the disastrous election behind us, the conservative blogosphere has an opportunity to play a role in delivering the Republican Party out of the wilderness… if we’re up to the challenge. Right now, however, I don’t think we are.

2004 was a good year for us, but it has been downhill ever since. The conservative blogosphere has become a series of self-serving cliques rather than a movement-serving community.

Back in 2004, we were all united because we had the same goal, and we worked together to achieve it. But now conservative bloggers, unable to duplicate the fundraising prowess of the left-wing blogosphere, have made their objective to try to recreate the party in their own image from the top down rather than by true grassroots buildng from the bottom up..

Conservative blogging used to be about building community. But it has become something that is elitist, DC-centric, and contrary to grassroots empowerment.

Look at some of the top blogs we have on the right… they’re run by people who are in the business of politics… I know and like many of them, but so far I haven’t seen huge successes from their work. I do applaud their efforts to help the party, and admire their dedication… I am just not convinced the current approach will help the cause. For instance, there are weekly “Conservative Blogger Briefings” and conference calls that I and many other bloggers are invited to, but if you live outside of the Washington DC area or have a full time job, you can’t take part in them. Even if you could, I have failed to see how they’ve helped the movement.

As the founder of Blogs For Bush, one of the most successful blogs during the 2004 presidential campaign, I have been effectively shutout because I don’t live in Washington DC and don’t blog full time for a living. Other successful blogs and bloggers have moved down the path of conglomeration… not so much to serve the movement but to serve their own ambitions and egos. Blogging for them is a business venture.

We were destined as a community to fail our party’s nominee when we made the primary season the quest to find the next Ronald Reagan. While the Democrats were pretty much united around one of two candidates, we were divided amongst all all of ours. And look at the result. Turnout this year was virtually the same as 2004 despite the huge operation Obama had. This means that given the huge deficit McCain had in the popular vote compared to Bush in 2004, too many decided that since McCain didn’t score high enough on the “Ronald Reagan Scale” that they weren’t going to help him win. There is more unity in the conservative blogosphere when we want to punish Republicans for not being conservative enough.

Whether it was blog posts about protest votes for a third party candidate or not wanting to make calls for GOTV, the conservative blogosphere just kept demonstrating that the impossibly high standard they set for McCain was enough reason to use their power to prop themselves up as arbiters of conservatism, rather than to encourage their audience to vote for the one man who could stop the Orwellian nightmare that Obama has promised to create.

And from the look of things they still don’t get it.

Perhaps my clout in the conservative blogosphere isn’t what it used to be, and none of the people who should read this will take my critique seriously because I am not a former campaign worker or some other blogger never bought me out to write for their own blog, but I did create something that worked back in the day, and while blogging has changed over the years, the formula for success has not changed so much.

Here is what I think the conservative blogosphere needs to do to get back on track:

Get Local

This is an example of what the right should be doing more of, and this is an example of what the right should be doing less of. All politics is local and it doesn’t matter what I, a blogger in New York, says about about a congressional race in California or a gubernatorial race in Washington…

I run two local politics blogs, Hub Politics for Massachusetts (though my brother really runs it now), and The Buffalo Bean for Western New York, and I can tell you that it is much easier and more effective to engage your own community and cover races that impact you than it is to proselytize from a nationally oriented blog about a race with local issues that you can’t fully grasp since you don’t live there. By getting local you can establish connections with your local party leaders and even local media. We got to get our heads out of Washington and back into our states and congressional districts. The bloggers/activists trying to reorganize the party now have things upside down because they think they can rally a movement around a single site with a top-down approach.

High-traffic nationally oriented blogs can’t keep on assuming they will have the same impact as a local citizen journalist who builds up a following in their district, region, or state. They have a role to play, tey just got to understand what it is.

Promote Candidates, Not Your Own Agenda

Again, more of this and less of this. I am sick and tired of conservative bloggers wasting time and effort on the wrong things. Trying to influence who is chosen for leadership positions in the Senate or who becomes chairman of the party are the wrong battles. We can be far more effective uniting behind good conservative candidates than we can in pretending that leaders already in Washington give a damn that a few bloggers with big egos signed a statement telling them what they should do. We don’t need to waste time telling them they need to better harness the internet, either. No one cares about what is on (or their sad excuse for a blog) and the party isn’t going to revolutionize itself by using Twitter. How many of you have done your part to make one of the NRSC’s YouTube videos go viral, or visited and linked to one of the NRCC’s microsites?  The party will either figure out how to do things rght or thoy won’t… but we are on the frontlines of iternet based campaigns… so let’s get our act together before we tell them how they should do things.

As, bloggers, we’re not even using the internet as effectively, so we shouldn’t pretend like we have the magical answer for the party. Recent attempts to create conservative alternatives to ActBlue have been failures. died (rightfully so) and Slate Card raises only a fraction of what left-wing counterparts do. If we can’t beat them by copying them, we need to try a different approach.

Focus On Rebranding and Redefining Our Image

Our ideas haven’t been rejected, we just allowed ourselves to be falsely defined by the Democrats. During this presidential campaign, Obama hid a radical agenda behind empty rhetoric and slogans. So, we need to realize that Obama’s presidential campaign didn’t win, his marketing campaign did. If we can’t effectively communicate our message then it doesn’t matter that our ideas are better. We need to redefine our image and bring back those voters who have been duped into thinking that Democrats actually give a damn about helping them. We need to be creative in our presentation and realize we are a selling a product. And for a product to outsell the competition it first needs a good marketing campaign. Superior products that don’t get exposure eventually don’t get off the ground… We, as conservatives have the superior product, we just aren’t marketing it right. So, let’s put our egos aside and help rebrand the party instead of wasting our time remaking it with pointless lists and mission statements.

Unite Ourselves

The conservative blogosphere is not united. We’re motivated more by self-promotion than by advancing conservatism. Get over it. Let’s help each other win back this country. No one blog is the answer. A bottom-up grassroots network is what we need. We can do it if we are committed to the cause.


There, I have said my piece. I don’t know what other conservative bloggers will say. They may not notice or acknowledge what I’ve said. They may think I am totally wrong. Maybe I am. But I don’t think so. Maybe I will be welcomed into the dialogue, maybe I will be blacklisted. Who knows?  I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

UPDATE: Future assessments of conservative blogging to be posted here.