Friday, March 23, 2007

Bloggers At The Gate

Bloggers Storm the Senatorial Gates

In the latest sign of the growing strength of the liberal "net roots" community, Senate Democrats have invited a trio of prominent bloggers into one of their formal, inside-the-Capitol luncheons for the first time.
On Thursday, John Aravosis of AMERICAblog, David Waldman, a contributing editor at Daily Kos, and Duncan Black of Eschaton are slated to brief the Senate Democratic Policy Committee luncheon.
That's a weekly gathering of the Democratic caucus, led by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), and held inside the stately Lyndon Baines Johnson room just off the Senate floor. This particular meeting is always a bit less formal than the Tuesday caucus luncheons, where group policy decisions are hashed out. Instead, the Dorgan meetings are meant to stir discussion and long-term thinking about issues.
In an interview with Capitol Briefing today, Dorgan acknowledged this was a big step for the group, actually inviting the progressive supporters (and sometimes agitators) into their meetings. "It's a new world out there," Dorgan said. "The Internet is changing everything."
Dorgan declined to elaborate on what he expected from Aravosis, Waldman and Black, whether they would be specifically asked to stick to talking about technology or whether they would also be advising the caucus on tactics. But he said he's particularly interested in learning more about what the Internet has done to transform public discourse on issues and politics.
"How are these [technological] changes affecting the public dialogue?" he asked.
Normal attendees to Dorgan's luncheon are establishment liberal-to-moderate activists, authors and former officials. In recent years that's included figures such as New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman, Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. A few years back, when Dorgan really wanted to stir the pot, he invited Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp. and the head of FOX News, into the Democratic lion's den.
Senate Democrats have grown closer to the net roots crowd in the last two years, including moves by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), to hire a staffer more than two years ago whose sole job was to work with progressive bloggers.
But the blogosphere has never before been invited into the Capitol to address the Democratic caucus, according to Dorgan. The closest it has come was two years ago at an informal policy retreat the caucus held across the street in a meeting room of the Library of Congress.
Considering the distinguished tenures and ages of some members of the caucus -- Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.), 89; Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), 75, just to name two -- how much will they be able to follow along with the high-tech dialogue on Thursday?
"Every member of our caucus is sharp as a tack, up to date and Internet savvy," Dorgan said, pausing for effect. "That's our position and we're sticking to it."


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