Netroots Rising: Telling the Stories We Know

Two years ago I met Lowell Feld.

I was working with Jerome Armstrong at Mark Warner's Forward Together PAC, testing the national waters for a very successful Virginia Governor. Part of my job was reaching out to bloggers in key states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Naturally we needed to have the strong support of bloggers from Warner's home state of Virginia.

It didn't take long to figure out that getting Lowell Feld of RaisingKaine on board the Warner train was crucial.

Lowell had other things on his mind though. He was busy helping Jim Webb win a contentious U.S. Senate primary and didn't really want to discuss the 2008 Presidential campaign. As much as he liked Mark Warner, he had other things on his plate.

Over the remainder of 2006, as Mark Warner focused on helping elect Democrats, I stayed in close touch with Lowell. He had joined Webb as a full-time staffer, leaving behind a secure government job for the stormy seas of the campaign trail. When the poll numbers weren't what he wanted to see, he vented to me and I tried to use my decade's experience on the campaign trail to give him perspective.

When "Macaca" hit, we IM'd back and forth trying to figure out how to turn George Allen's blunder into a perfect storm for the Webb campaign.

After the nail-biter of an election we celebrated the victory and began talking about what was next for the two of us. In particular, we discussed possible ways in which we might be able to keep contributing to the netroots movement which had helped revitalize the Democratic Party -- and, more broadly, our democracy -- over the past few years.

We looked back with awe at the amazing campaign cycle we'd just been through, one which saw Democrats win majorities in both houses of Congress against long odds, and one which saw not at least half a dozen scrappy, underfunded candidates -- including Jim Webb -- beat BOTH the Democratic establishment in the primaries and the GOP in the general.

We knew something amazing had happened. And, because we had been behind the scenes working the internet for Democrats, we had a nuts-and-bolts perspective on what really made the big wins of 2006 possible. We were both pretty sure it wasn't Rahm Emmanuel's "move to the center." We were also both sure that wouldn't have happened without the explosion of citizen activism called the "netroots".

Somehow, the idea of writing a book to tell the story of the grassroots movement that made the difference for Democrats in 2006 came up. We'd both been involved since the beginning (2003) -- me as a Howard Dean activist in Texas, Lowell as a part of Wes Clark's netroots campaign and as founder of the Virginia political blog Raising Kaine (in January 2005).

Lowell hooked us up with a book deal and the next six months were a flurry of research, interviews, digging up old notes and emails and writing. We couldn't tell all the important stories -- honestly we couldn't even tell a small fraction of the important stories -- but we tried to tell the stories we knew the best and one or two others where we had access to great sources.

The book we wrote, Netroots Rising, is officially released tomorrow. As a supplement to the book, we'll be posting some of the many excellent interviews we did during our research for the book. We also plan to conduct new interviews and to write about some of the great stories that we didn't have room for in the book that will be posted on the Netroots Rising site.

SusanG at DailyKos was kind enough to give us a very good review on Daily Kos today. She neatly summarized a key part of the book, something that we worked very hard to pull off:

...Feld and Wilcox are able to objectively examine what goes right and what goes wrong when professional staff, grassroots volunteers and netroots enthusiasts come together. It's a new frontier, one fraught with possibilities for failure, jealousy and misunderstanding, but these two netroots veterans manage to keep a level-headed balance between realistic expectations and inspirational goals. While they consistently take pride in the success of their wired part of the movement, they recognize that in order to fulfill its full potential, an integration between institutionalized politics and people-powered movements must occur, and that blogs--in all their gradations of variety, activism and different shades of serving as media--are still in an exciting phase of evolution.

This project is just beginning. We've made huge leaps since 2002 -- when there was effectively no way for non-wealthy individuals with no inside connections to impact the political system -- to now, when many of us have found ways to come together online and off to make many small impacts that cumulatively can be very large. There is an enormous amount of work remaining, but we wanted to tell some of the stories of 2002-2006 while the memories were fresh.  

Tags: blogging, Jim Webb, Lowell Feld, Nate Wilcox, netroots, Richard Morrison, Tom DeLay (all tags)



Re: Netroots Rising: Telling the Stories We Know
Why is it guys like you and Lowell(among others) have a better sense of how to win a campaign according to Democratic ideals then the so called experts on TV(like the so called "Democratic strategists")?  They all talk about "moving to the center" and it has been proven that it doesn't work.
by Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle 2008-06-29 06:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Netroots Rising: Telling the Stories We Know

I wouldn't say that we have any special insight, but we aren't lost inside the Beltway bubble. Coming from Texas I am painfully aware that nobody respects a weasel.

by Texas Nate 2008-06-29 06:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Netroots Rising: Telling the Stories We Know

My involvement in Democratic politics has been almost exclusively at the grassroots/"netroots" level.  So that's my perspective, and I'm sticking with it! :)

by lowkell 2008-06-30 03:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Netroots Rising: Telling the Stories We Know

Nate. I'm totally stoked to read your book this summer.

by Jonathan Singer 2008-06-29 06:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Netroots Rising: Telling the Stories We Know

After Susan G's review, it seems gratuitous to say I'm looking forward to reading it, but ... I am. Have been since I first heard of it.

by BriVT 2008-06-29 06:48PM | 0 recs


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