I just finished reading Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics by Jerome Armstrong (who used blogs and Meetups for Howard Dean’s campaign) and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (founder of DailyKos.com).
Like the authors of this book (who have clearly learned from conservatives), I’m always interested in learning from the other side (even if it means enduring some liberal rhetoric, in the process).
But if your purpose for reading this book is to learn how to be a more effective activist, this book is not for you.
Sadly, the authors (who are very successful bloggers) chose not to share any trade secrets (now that would have been interesting). Nor do they (with the exception of recounting the Dean campaign’s rise and fall) spend much time on the subject of using the Internet to become a better political activist.
Rather than writing a book that would play to their strengths and expertise, the authors have chosen instead to act as political strategists. They are clearly more focused on the message than the medium.
This is a bit disappointing because there is no dearth of books by Democrat strategists (like James Carville, Paul Begala, and Dick Morris), who have much more experience in actually winning campaigns. Of course, the authors would argue that their vision for the Democrat Party is 180 degrees different from “consultants,” like Carville, Begala, and Morris.
By the way, if you’re looking for a book to actually teach you how to be a “netroots activist,” Joe Trippi’s book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a better pick.
But while Crashing the Gate does not offer many tips for how one might become a more effective activist, there is still plenty to be learned from reading the book.
For example, the authors do a good job of recounting recent political history, including the rise of the conservative movement. (This is done in order to draw a comparison between the way conservatives seized control of the Republican Party — and their recommendations for how “progressives” should seize control of the Democrat Party).
The authors criticize the insider establishment of the Democrat Party for following the advice of the “consultant class” (even though these Democrat consultants continue to lose election after election.) They also lament that the liberal movement is composed of interest groups who are more focused on their single issue than on the good of the liberal cause.
While I don’t agree with all their prescriptions for revitalizing the Democrat Party, they do make one very good point: The New Deal Democrat coalition is gone. Democrats who are hoping to go back to pre-1994 days are fighting a losing battle.
In this sense, the authors would argue that the choice they are offering the Democrat Party isn’t a “progressive” versus moderate choice, but a new versus old approach.