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Daily Digest: Netroots Grapples with Obama's Ideology

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, July 11 2008

The Web on the Candidates

  • Over the last several days we've focused attention on the Get FISA Right effort to push Barack Obama to oppose the federal surveillance law that George Bush signed into law yesterday. Now, on the morning after, comes post-vote reflection. And the focus seems to be on one question: where does Obama fit into the political spectrum? While the Washington Post's Dan Balz reflected upon Obama's "ability to confound both left and right" and New York Times' Gail Collins suggested that his ideology might simply be "antidumb," those roughly aligned with the online left tried to make sense of where they fit in a world where Obama is poised to become the Democratic nominee. Author and blogger David Sirota sounded a note of hope that "getting rolled by Obama" will push the institutions of the left, both online and off, to finally grow strong and independent enough not to be coopted. Open Left's Matt Stoller argued for the critical need for the netroots to let voters know that Obama's ideas are not progressive, but centrist, ones. Change Congress's Larry Lessig wrote a tell-us-how-you-really-feel post instructing liberal activists to calm their immunity hysteria; Lessig: "you should actually be upset with yourself that you have been so careless in understanding the politics of this candidate." And finally, Mike Stark, one of the lead organizers of the Get FISA Right effort, took to Daily Kos to suggest that pushing Obama from the left was necessary to finally teach the Democratic Party the lessons of Ralph Nader's candidacy -- a sentiment not overly warmly received at DKos.

  • Speaking of the robust online organizing around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act over the last two weeks, Berkman Center fellow danah boyd, worries that the movement was a demonstration of "more mobilization than information."

The Candidates on the Web

  • Team McCain seems to be learning how useful online video can be. After John McCain's economic advisor Phil Gramm referred to the U.S. as "a nation of whiners" suffering from "a mental recession," the campaign got busy sending around a YouTube clip of the candidate condemning the former senator's remarks.

  • MyDD's Todd Beeton offers praise for Listening to America: Democratic Platform for Change, the Obama teams suite of tools for collaboratively crafting a party platform -- and heartily mocks Rush Limbaugh's plan to have the writing parties "infiltrated" by Dittoheads.

  • When I said down to read the New York Times (in print -- I still kick it old school like that) over coffee yesterday morning, the story about Jesse Jackson's "vulgar" hot mic comments about Obama caught my eye. But the reporting on the incident was vague, and I found myself wondering, but what exactly did Jackson say? There are certain phrases, it seems, that the Gray Lady will simply just not utter. But Wired's Sarah Lai Stirland reports that the web has no such scruples, and the video of Jackson's description of what he'd like to do to Obama is taking off online.

TechCongress and Beyond

  • The Twitter Dome Scandal -- the controversy over the House of Representatives' rules and practices regarding Twitter, Qik, and other web tools -- is constantly evolving, but Venture Beat's Eric Eldon has a good recap of the situation. The latest news is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has responded to Minority Leader John Boehner's warnings about the Democratic leadership's intentions, saying: "dissemination of this false information does a disservice to the vital dialogue on using technology to increase citizen involvement." In a post titled "Republican = Open, Democrat = Closed," The Next Right's Patrick Ruffini chided those on the left who are warm to Pelosi's approach to updating the House's operating rules. Meanwhile, the Sunlight Foundation's Let Our Congress Tweet became the first real demonstration of Twitter-based activism. While I'm working on getting some numbers on the success, the buzz around the campaign in some Twittering circles was quite remarkable. One nifty trick made use of by Sunlight: a link that pre-populates the Twitter box with their call to action.

In Case You Missed It...

PdF's Dave Witzel offer his take on our Twittering Congress. Also check out Dave's great interview with the Open House Project's John Wonderlich, as well as his report on how GovTrack's Joshua Tauberer has released the site's source code under a GNU AGPL license.

An email from United Airlines came in to Zephyr Teachout's inbox, calling for support for a Stop Oil Speculation Now campaign backed by that airlines as well as American, Southwest, and more. Zephyr has a great post up about how this might mark the dawn of giant corporations using their many million-member email lists to lobby Congress, a la MoveOn. Are we witnessing, Zephyr asks, the winning of the social-tool arms race by big business?