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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Blogosphere as Populist Revolution? Not true. Not yet.

Is the blogosphere really going to usher in an era of open dialogue, truly grassroots politics, and representative democracy, overturning the age of elites in party politics? Thomas Frank Thinks So. But his argument is disturbingly dishonest.

Thomas Frank's article of September 1, Rendezvous with Oblivion, argues that the Democrats have abandoned their base by emphasizinbg plutocracy, knowledge workers, and their administrative correlate: free trade. 

Writes Frank, Democrats aren't progressives -- they aren't concerned with representing the people, they aren't concerned with access to public goods or equality; they're nineteenth-century liberals writ large, protecting the economy at any expense. 
When you view the world from the satisfied environs of Washington - a place where lawyers outnumber machinists 27 to 1 and where five suburban counties rank among the seven wealthiest in the nation - the fantasies of postindustrial liberalism make perfect sense. The reign of the "knowledge workers" seems noble.

Seen from almost anywhere else, however, these are lousy times. The latest data confirms that as the productivity of workers has increased, the ones reaping the benefits are stockholders. Census data tells us that the only reason family income is keeping up with inflation is that more family members are working.

The thriving American economy of knowledge-workers and aggressive liberalism boils down to the exploitation of families: particularly families of immigrants and racial minorities. 

Right on, Thomas Frank.

But then he takes a little detour.

The essay takes a little turn of exhultation in favor of the bloggers.  What the Dems need, if they're going to be real progressives, if they're really going to open their hearts, is to listen to the bloggers.

This is a strange and significant jump.  From "knowledge workers aren't machinists; machinists need representation" to "bloggers represent grassroots, yay bloggers."  

Certainly Kos and the would-be-radical-left would love to posit themselves as the more legitimate representatives of the people.  Indeed their ideas may be, from time to time, more radical, more populist, and more progressive.  As a rhetorical strategy, they're welcome to it, and I honestly wish it will help them wage a legitimate campaign for reform.
But there's something dangerous, even dishonest, about claiming that the blogosphere is more representative of grassroots politics. 

I mean far be it from me to diss the blogosphere, and yay it *is* more geographically and educationally diverse than the DNC by a long shot, but I'm gonna feel uncomfortable with the idea that bloggers represent the unemployed and the mechanic, at least until we start putting laptops in every inner city school and black pentacostalist church.

Now *there's* a project I want the church to get behind.  :)

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Blogger CM Edwards said...

I agree with you for the most part. What you say is especially true for the region of the U.S. where I come from.

But to some extent I can see Frank's point also. Blogs are pretty open and alot of them are free; so it does open up a kind of non-scripted form of discussion and, if you will, media.

9:57 PM  

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