When I walked into the Hilton Crystal City for the Webb victory party on Tuesday evening the first people I ran into were Leslie and Larry Byrne. They were confident. As the returns started filtering in, Larry kept saying "it's over." Of course, that's what Larry always tells me about the Yankees winning the World Series too. Every year at the beginning of baseball season, he assures me it''s over. We've got it in the bag. Sometimes he's even right.
I'm more of a nervous Nellie. The gnashing of teeth continued until about 10 o'clock, when even I was ready to concede that it was indeed over and I could not only relax but really party. I hugged everybody I could. This was a sweet victory.
It's a cliche,but I think Virginia was the big winner. We got a strong candidate who can beat George Allen. Even more important, the Democratic Party got what I've been hoping for. Somebody who stands for something and can articulate it. In Jim Webb, we nominated a war hero who courageously served his country as a Marine and who will stand on principle.
I think the blogosphere also won.
There will be a lot of talk about the netroots succeeded in getting their choice nominated. I think we are an influence on elections. And our influence will continue to grow with each election cycle. But let's not blow it out of proportion.
The blogs and the Net are one component of a successful campaign. They are a communication tool just as printed media, phone banking, knocking on doors, talking to people, television ads, radio talk shows, debates, and editorials are.
The blogs have proven their ability to raise funds and excite activists. That funnels needed resources into campaigns. Bloggers also can help a campaign get out its message to people who don't rely on traditional news sources.
Many voters know that a 30 second sound byte and a political ad don't provide enough information on which to form an opinion or cast a ballot. They've also grown distrustful of mainstream media, such as television newscasts and newspaper articles, because they've seen how the press has rolled over for Bush. They've caught the media elites with their pants down and their biases exposed. So they seek alternate media in addition to the the traditional news source. Bloggers aren't going to replace newspapers. But they are a valuable supplement.
Bloggers also aren't going to replace the rest of the campaign fundamentals. And what is striking to me is that every blogger I've met is not just a netroots activist but also an old fashioned grassroots activist. Lowell Feld, Josh Chernila, Ben Tribett, Teddy Goodson, James Martin, and so many others out there don't just sit in an ivory tower and pontificate through their blogs. Every one of them is also a foot soldier who has been out there passing out campaign literature at fairs, staffing the phone banks, knocking on doors, working the polls and doing the thousand other very traditional things that activists always do in elections. In fact, if you want to meet your favorite blogger, just show up at campaign headquarters and chance are that person will also be volunteering there.
Political scientists tell us that phone banks and knocking on doors are the most effective ways to convince voters to come out for a candidate. Nothing replaces the personal touch. But blogs help to get the activists revved up to do that work. And blogs also communicate to voters. I think they are seen as more trustworthy than t.v. ads or even newscasts by the professionals. People know we are passionate advocates. However, the best written blogs also do their research and post their links so others can see the original sources upon which we base our arguments.
For all these reasons I think the blogs will grow in influence and respect. But just as it takes a village, it also takes a bunch of different techniques to run a successful campaign. Blogging is one component. A necessary one. But so are all the other activities that go into a campaign.
But the most important element to a successful campaign is a great candidate. For all the hard work that was done, and every bit of it was important, the victory and the congratulations go to Jim Webb for being a superb candidate who will do us proud come November.
Savor the victory. We've got work to do. He came through for us. It's our turn to once again come through for him.