"Today the Massachusetts race for US Senator has the attention of the nation," headlines local WCVB-TV news anchor Bianca Delgarsa, and "The good news is the roads are mostly clear today, with a few showers and a dusting of snow outside Rte 128." It's time for Massachusetts citizens to vote and to get out the vote for Scott Brown, US Senator! Click here to find your polling location and make GOTV calls from home. For all the latest from the grassroots up, check in early and often with Prof. William Jacobson, who will be live-blogging the election today.
"For a brief shining moment, late in the 2008 campaign, Democrats thought that they might own the Internet," writes NYT columnist Russ Douthat (via Instapundit), but a funny thing happened on the way to the January 19 special election to fill the people's seat here in Massachusetts. Presumably a liberal, Douthat gives a first-rate report of the facts on the ground, but blinded by his own ideology, he misses the bigger picture. First a few excerpts from his "Internet Politics From Both Sides Now" and then our own critique below:
Republican politicians have taken over Twitter. Sarah Palin has 1.2 million followers on Facebook. And in liberal Massachusetts, Scott Brown, the Republican Senate candidate, has used Internet fund-raising to put the fear of God into the Bay State’s establishment.
Last Monday, Brown raised $1.3 million from an online “money bomb,” and his campaign reportedly went on to raise a million dollars a day throughout the week. The race’s online landscape looks like last November’s in reverse: from YouTube views to Facebook fans to Twitter followers, Brown enjoys an Obama-esque edge over his Democratic rival, Martha Coakley …
But win or lose, he’s demonstrated there’s no necessary connection between online organizing and liberal politics. The Web is just like every pre-Internet political arena: ideology matters less than the level of anger at the incumbent party, and the level of enthusiasm an insurgent candidate can generate.
It isn't the "level of anger at the incumbent party" per se but disgust with the old-boy networks of both parties that got under the Tea Partiers' skin. As we wrote in a letter to the editor of the Harvard Crimson last April:
Perhaps had you been on the scene and talked to some of us "hysterics" in person [at the Boston Common tea party in front of the State House] last Wednesday — rather than rely on biased media screeds — you might have gotten a clue.
For many of us Tea Partiers it wasn't about taxes per se. Instead, it's the Rahm Emanuel thing about "taking advantage of a serious crisis" by ramming through big-government initiatives that citizens would never approve were they not distracted.
Douthat writes wistfully about the internet's "capacity to disappoint idealists":
Indeed, it may be crueler to dreamers, because it offers an artificial sense of intimacy with politicians, without delivering any practical results …This is the bitter lesson many net-roots types have drawn from Obama’s first year in office. The promises of transparency have given way to the reality of backroom deal-cutting.
And there's the difference between liberals and conservatives.* Clandestinely funded top down by shady anti-American Soros money, the nutroots were the unwitting astroturfers the left kept accusing us of being. Their "brief shining moment," as Douthat calls it, may have turned out to be a flash in the pan, but the Tea Partiers had their eyes on a loftier goal, the Shining City Upon a Hill of American exceptionalism.
"This is not the crowd that plans to stay home on election day," writes fellow Tea Partier Tom Bowler of Libertarian Leanings, who notes that "Tea Party fever in the form of active support for Scott Brown has spread north of the border into the Granite State," quoting one of his commenters to make the point:
This weekend I was amazed to see a couple folks waving at passing motorists while sporting "NH Conservatives for Brown" placards along the "strip" (Commercial avenue that NOW looks like ANY well developed Mass. retail strip — complete with vacant stores and buildings) of our resort community that caters heavily to folks from, well, Mass. folk with "extra" cash to spend on affordable recreation and tax-free retail shopping.
I wonder if our southbound guests made the connection, as they returned to their home state from the weekend?
The usual local suspects. No "imported" astroturf folks.
Yup. Grassroots from the ground up. Not to mention disintermediating the old-boy networks via the Internet. If you're a like-minded Bay Stater, be sure to vote for Scott Brown in the special election today.
*Dan Riehl gets the difference between liberals and conservatives down to 140 characters or less on Twitter: "Lib win=light candles, join hands, sing "we shall overcome"/ Cons get drunk, laid & fire guns'n chit. I think that's why I'm a conservative."