I’m just asking

Michael Barone has a terrific piece about how the blogosphere changed politics in 2004. He concludes that “the left blogosphere has moved the Democrats off to the left, and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans’ adversaries in Old Media. Both changes help Bush and the Republicans.”
Just for fun, however, let’s try a thought experiment. Suppose the blogosphere as it exists today had been around in 2000. Would conservative blogs like Power Line have backed George Bush and his compassionate (or tepid, some would say) conservatism? Considering that the alternative was John McCain, the answer, presumably, is yes (I’m assuming here that we would not have tried, or would not have succeeded, in elevating an obscure conservative into a contender, as the liberal blogosphere did with Howard Dean).
But now suppose that there had been a formidable conservative in the race. Most conservative blogs probably would have supported that candidate. Even assuming that Bush was able to capture the nomination in this scenario, he might well have been forced to run as a harder-edged, traditional conservative. And that would probably have cost him the election.
I think it’s true, nonetheless, that conservative bloggers tend to be more pragmatic than their liberal counterparts. For example, many such bloggers (including a majority of the Power Liner crew, as I recall) supported Arnold for governor of California over an excellent, but unelectable conservative Tom McClintock. But there still may come a time when the blogosphere is substantially less helpful to Republican electoral prospects than it is today.
HINDROCKET adds: Barone’s survey is excellent given its brevity, and he generously credits us for our role in the campaign. But he omits what I think was probably the internet’s most important impact on the 2004 election: the Swift Boat Vets’ campaign, which was organized around their web site, to which the conservative side of the blogosphere drove traffic. In that case, the internet facilitated a spontaneous grass-roots movement centered on a single issue, not just the critique of mainstream news reporting for which Barone credits the conservative bloggers.


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