Are Bloggers Having an Influence Inside the Beltway?

blogger2.jpgFrom the National Journal’s Beltway Blogroll Blog, Daniel Glover takes a skeptical look at the influence of blogs:

This year, bloggers are the figurative freshmen of larger Washington. They have won enough respect in certain pockets of America to claim occasional seats at the policymaking table — but they are definitely back seats.

That reality has been abundantly evident the past couple of weeks, as conservative bloggers have been showered with ever more attention from the Republican powers that be — yet have nothing substantive to show for it.

The battle over Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers illustrates the point well. Many bloggers oppose her nomination — a poll at The Truth Laid Bear puts the opposition-to-support ratio at more than 4-to-1 — but President Bush seems determined to stand loyally by his lawyer.

Although the opposition from bloggers spurred the Republican National Committee to hold its first-ever exclusive conference call with bloggers, the event was more about wooing bloggers than inviting them into a conversation, which is what bloggers want. The same was true of a second call about a week later. . . .

Bloggers are not powerless in policy circles and actually are gaining influence. Otherwise, official Washington would pay them no mind whatsoever. . . . But bloggers today are not as persuasive or as intimidating as they might like to believe.

I don’t agree. As I blogged earlier, I believe that the blogosphere has been playing an extremely important role in the Miers appointment process. While the true power of the blogosphere has yet to fully be manifested, it has been a large part of the pushback against the nomination.

The fact that Bush still stands behind Miers is not an indication of the blogosphere’s failure. The blogospheric reaction certainly has the Administration reeling. The blogosphere has registered the dislike for the nomination in a much more potent and articulate way than a mere poll.

I also believe that bloggers have helped shape the debate on the issue. The blogosphere has led to many experts, who might just get a soundbite in the print and TV news, having a much larger influence in shaping the debate. The mainstream media has picked up on this and turned it into a lead story for the Miers nomination. The eyes of the media and those inside the Beltway are looking at the blogosphere to guage the way the debate is progressing.

There do not seem to be many sure votes in the Senate for Miers, and it is becoming difficult for Senators to support Miers without believing that they’ll take a big political hit. In essence, a set of virtual confirmation hearings are being held in cyberspace, and the fate of the nomination may well be decided before the actual hearings in the Senate even begin.

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25 Responses

  1. Are Bloggers Influencing the Miers Debate?:

    Dan Solove takes a look. My sense is that Dan is basically right, but I’m hardly in a position to offer an unbiased view.

  2. Mike says:

    Influence is an odd thing. Mr. Glover argues that because someone fails to persuade, he lacks influence. But shaping the debate and framing the issues is a form of influence. Indeed, showing what a noisy lot of people bloggers are might itself be influential. I suspect that public officials will begin considering the blogosphereic reaction to various policies. Becoming part of the political calculus is one measure of influence.

  3. Danny says:

    Mike is right that shaping a debate and framing issues is a form of influence, and the whole point of Beltway Blogroll is to show just how blogs are starting to do that in Washington. That was the central message of my very first column, The Power of the Blog (, back in June.

    In today’s column, I don’t mean to suggest that bloggers have no influence in the capital city. (Why would I have a column dedicated to their impact if I thought that?) I just argue that right now the depth of their influence is akin to that of freshmen in Congress, which is to say that it is very limited.

  4. Matthew Dowd says:

    Part of the issue is that there are so many bloggers that many posts are read by few people. The results are only influenced by blogs if the blogs are read by people, especially by the folks who make the decisions, either directly or indirectly.

    If a tree or in this case a thousand trees fall in the forest but no one is around to hear them, do they make a sound? It might be of some comfort to the fallen trees that they have company, but that doesn’t mean anyone (particularly anyone of importance) noticed them.

  5. Matthew Dowd says:

    And just to clarify. My comment above wasn’t intended to imply that the blogs don’t have an effect. I agree with Prof. Solove. My point goes more to how much of an effect the blogs have. More blogs do not necessarily mean more influence.

  6. They Still Don’t Care About You

    Daniel Solove at Concurring Opinions responds to criticism that blog activism is failing.

  7. Are bloggers on the back of the bus inside the Beltway?

    Danny Glover of National Journal’s excellent blog, Beltway Blogroll, has an interesting post today on the impact of bloggers on the political process in Washington DC.

    Interesting question especially coming on the heals of last week’s Blo…

  8. Bush: Ever the optimist

    There is a lot hanging on this nomination, and a lot of feathers have been ruffled. Quite a few Republicans and Libertarians are opposed to this, and I warn that if nomination goes through, the political ramifications could be devastating. All I can …

  9. Bush: Ever the optimist

    There is a lot hanging on this nomination, and a lot of feathers have been ruffled. Quite a few Republicans and Libertarians are opposed to this, and I warn that if nomination goes through, the political ramifications could be devastating. All I can …

  10. On Harriet Miers: We Are Neutral

    All life is politics.

    How do we stand on the Miers’ nomination? Neutral.

    (See N.Z. Bear)

    Do we think she is the best nominee? Let’s put it this way: Any candidate that can splinter our party so terribly as we’ve seen cannot be supp…

  11. Ed Poinsett says:

    Mr. Bush prides himself on not reading the newspapers that are so biased against him, why should he read blogs? This entire brouhaha of convicting a women before she has a chance to speak for herself at the hearings is unpatriotic, unseemly and unnecessary.Dissent is one thing, but Clinton style character assassination is another.I hope he digs in his heals and lets the hearings proceed.

  12. Blogger Influence

    As the Miers nomination continues to get negative reviews, this is the topic on the minds of both policymakers and (of course) bloggers themselves. How much influence do we have on the actual going-ons of the world?

    Daniel Glover started the discu…

  13. Bill Quick says:

    I think Dan misses the point. Bloggers may not have enormous direct influence in Congress and the White House, but we have major influence with the media who do have bigfoot influence inside Washington.

  14. Danny says:

    I’m not sure I agree with your point that bloggers have major influence with the media, Bill. They certainly have more influence with the media than they do within official Washington, but if bloggers had “major” influence with the media, wouldn’t the MSM be covering the world exactly the way bloggers want? And wouldn’t all of the sniping between we MSMers and bloggers stop immediately.

  15. Danny Glover — Just because the MSM doesn’t do what the blogosphere wants doesn’t mean that the blogosphere isn’t having an impact. The blogosphere pushed the MSM to cover the Trent Lott remark as well as the CBS fake Bush docs. There’s so much sniping between the MSM and the bloggers precisely because the bloggers are not to be ignored. Having no influence means being ignored, not being disagreed with.

    With regard to Washington, I know for a fact many Hill staffers as well as individuals in various agencies and in the White House are reading blogs. You can check this by checking the Sitemeter stats for the major legal and policy blogs. You’ll see that we here at Concurring Opinions also have many readers from the government too.

    Washington is listening to the blogosphere — and it is listening quite intently.

  16. Danny says:

    Dan — Never once have I said the blogosphere “isn’t having an impact” or have “no influence.” In my column and in comments here and at other blogs, I have said quite clearly that they have an impact and are influential. In response to Bill’s point, I clearly stated that blogs even have more influence on the media than within official Washington.

    But pointing to the few instances where bloggers have impacted media coverage significantly (i.e., the Trent Lott remark, CBS being duped by fake documents) or noting that people in Washington read blogs is quite different than providing hard evidence that blogs have major influence, on a recurring basis, on either the media or the government. And by hard evidence, just look at the end result of the two examples you touted: Trent Lott and Dan Rather lost their positions of influence directly because of the blogosphere.

    That is MAJOR influence. Blogs don’t have it consistently, at least not yet. But they are gaining ground every day in both the media and government spheres.

    I stand by my comparison of bloggers to the Gang of Seven, which is actually a fairly complimentary comparison in my mind. Those reform-minded lawmakers had an impact, even though they didn’t get their way on the major issues of the day.

    I actually think you and I agree more than you realize.

  17. Danny Glover — I think we agree that blogs have an influence. Our disagreement is over the impact of that influence. Your measuring of the strength of an impact seems to focus on the immediate policy decision’s being revoked or shot down. It remains to be seen what happens to Miers. There are a lot of rumors that the Administration is looking for a way out. And it is very hard for the Bush Administration to find an easy way out of the Miers debacle anyway, so I wonder whether anything could get the Administration to change course any sooner.

    On the impact of influence, getting your way on the major issues is a long-term project. The Bush Administration has been quite battered, and this affects its ability to carry out its agenda in all respects, not just the Miers appointment. And certainly the blogospheric reaction to Miers will be remembered by administrations of both Democrats and Republicans alike for years to come.

    True, the kind influence I’m speaking about is indirect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t major. Sometimes indirect influence can be the most major and most lasting influence of all.

  18. Danny Glover — P.S. You’re certainly right that the blogosphere is in its early days, and its full power has yet to be unleashed.

  19. Danny says:

    Dan — OK, I think we’ve found common ground here. I absolutely agree that indirect influence can be the most major and lasting kind, and bloggers certainly have indirect influence.

    Unfortunately, that is a pretty subjective measurement, one that is largely impossible to quantify. My column was mostly about the kind of direct influence that can be quantified, like whether Bush picked a nominee bloggers wanted or how the Senate voted on pork. On that score, bloggers don’t have as much influence yet as they would like.

    Will they some day? I hope so. Then maybe I can get to bed rather than staying up all night blogging. I haven’t even had time to change into my pajamas yet. That’s probably why I’m not making as much sense while I blog. :)))

  20. The problem occurs when bloggers act like Deaniacs. They were “a poweful force” too.

  21. Paul Deignan says:

    Interesting blog and a good question.

    The Miers nomination was a sudden and sharp input to a system that was stable beforehand. Unlike the Gonzales nomination, that was successfully tested in the blogs (and would have produced a similar response), the Miers nomination came without a test.

    This really shows, as much as anything, how insulated the WH is informationally. We saw this with Katrina as well. While I would never advise the government to kowtow to a bunch of teenagers spewing nonsense on a blog, what we are seeing here is a different matter and the WH and all Senators who want to win reelection should pay closer attention. The WH is the informationally defficient entity here, not the blog community.

    As far as political activism goes, there is some of that in the blogs–didn’t get Kos anywhere to speak of (and he is about as big as it gets in directing the “stupid” vote). Its the intelligent vote and the power of ideas where the blogs have impact–not all blogs, but some. Patterico and Professor Bainbridge come out as big winners as well as the Confirm Them crew in this latest incident. They did not attempt to direct opinion, they responded to events with insight and analysis that reflected, focused, and amplified the latent discontent into a force with enough memory to put folks like DeWine and Graham out of a job.

    The blogs are also a source of developing information and arguments that the MSM has neither the time nor ability to produce. While I don’t think the blogs are organized sufficiently at tis time to allow them to seriously challenge much less supplant the MSM, I could envision a time where this is possible (the technology has a way to go yet but it is on its way. Already we see a fusion in the works from both ends–see WaPo articles).

    TTLB has done a fairly good job at beginning to organize the blogs toward a higher degree of informational effectiveness through a crude filter, but we will need much more. So, I would recommend to anyone out there with a spare $2-4 million that if you want to transform this democracy, please don’t hesitate to send along an e-mail. It would be a very nice legacy–far better than an addition to a ward or campus facility.

  22. Next Time, Ask Us, Mr. President

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  23. SCOTUSblog says:

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  25. The Bull Moose’s Reality Check For Bloggers

    I caught some heat in the blogosphere a few weeks ago when I argued that bloggers do not have as much influence as they might think on major policy issues. Now Bull Moose Marshall Wittmann is asking the question, “Are…