Remember the way Howard Dean talked about affirmative action? This was a part of his regular stump speech for much of the campaign:
America is the most diverse country on the face of the Earth. And American public schools are far from perfect. We can do better. But the truth is American public schools are where people learn about each other. The education that goes on in schools is not just about what goes on in the classroom. It's about how we get along with each other, what we know about each other. You know diversity's not something that comes naturally to people.
When I was governor, my chief of staff was a woman. And chiefs of staff do the hiring, not governors. So about two or three years into my governorship, I noticed that my office was a matriarchy. [laughter]. It's true. [applause]. You needn't applaud quite so loudly. And so one day the chief of staff came in and said, well governor, one of the policy analysts left; I'll be hiring somebody else; just wanted to let you know. And I said, well now, you know it's none of my business, I don't do the hiring around here, but I've noticed there's kind of a gender imbalance in the office. I wondered if we could find a man. [laughter]. And she looked at me, she wasn't kidding around, and she said, governor, you're absolutely right. There is a gender imbalance in the office, and we really should hire a man, but it's really hard to find a qualified man. [laughter, applause].
Now there's a reason I tell this story. We all tend to hire people like ourselves. It ain't just 50 year old WASPs like me that do it; everybody does it, right? We're all more comfortable with the people we grew up with; the people we have things in common with, people we're comfortable with. Diversity is not something that comes normally to human beings. That's why you need affirmative action.
What we're talking about here is affirmative action, in the way we link blogs. We're more likely to link to the blogs we know - the people we know, the people who write like us, the people who participated on the same blogs we participate in. The result is a kind of cliquishness, where different social groups form different internally networked clumps. The DailyKos "clique" is ethnically diverse, and mostly male.
What we should be doing, is making an active effort to break down the clique barriers. Seek out other clumps, participate in their blogs, post links to our blogs in theirs, and through that, bring them over to participate in ours.
Although the lefty political blog cliques are mostly male, blogs as a whole are mostly female. There are probably more than twice as many female bloggers on the net as there are male. We can do this.
I think the "light hand" the FEC is indicating, was always their intention. I don't think it shows our pressure had any success (nor does it show lack of success, of course). It was counterintuitive to think that the FEC had much appetite for regularing anything about political blogs other than 1) paid advertising, and b) disclosure of financial relationships. Statements from various FEC commissioners suggested the intuitive view was the accurate one, and they never meant to go very far in regulating blogs, other than in those two aspects.
I'm glad the blogs found something to cooperate on, across the ideological spectrum, and I certainly don't think it hurts to show the government that we care, and have support. But I think the initial worries were extremely overhyped, right from the start.
Of course there are literally hundreds of thousands of female bloggers, but they did not fit the paramters of what I discussed.
Exactly. Which is why I found it odd that you suggested "computer culture" is one of the problems. As I pointed out in a comment below, other than some specific spheres (like the narrow one you brought up - highly trafficked political blogs), blogging as a whole is overwhelmingly female, not male. So the problems we need to discuss here aren't computer culture problems, or even blogging problems, but very specifically political blogging problems.
Although political blogs are overwhelmingly male, nonpolitical blogs tend to be overwhelmingly female. That's most evident in the personal blogs: For example, LiveJournal and diaryland (representing several million active blogs, and probably over 10 million if you count the much larger number of not very active blogs), both I think have 2-to-1 female to male ratios. Actually, LJ publishes their stats, and they say 67% female. the Internet's other independent online magazine, the one that's not about politics, Nerve, has featured more female bloggers than male, starting with Lisa Carver, their first major blogger.
So, I don't think computer culture is inherently a barrier to women blogging. It's something about political blogging, specifically, that involves a gender barrier, not blogging as a whole.
I think your comment about Hillary Clinton is misplaced. As several people have pointed out in earlier comments, some of the most prominent women in American politics are blogosphere heroes and regularly praised, particularly Barbara Boxer (who has a blog on dailykos).
Out in the face-to-face world, I observe the same reaction to Hillary as here on the blogosphere. Some people, mostly loyal Democrats, love her. Many more people can't stand her. This sentiment seems evenly distributed among men or women in the more liberal leaning social groups I know, and it doesn't feel sexist at all.
One of the biggest issues people have with her is that they see her as a "party hack", someone who has connections in the inner political clique and seeks to take her "turn" at the top job. Much like Kerry, in fact, except that Kerry wasn't nearly so prominent until he ran for president. And given that example, I think that if Hillary does become the Democratic nominee for president, many people on the Democratic-partisan blogs will make their peace with her or even start liking her, much as happened with Kerry.
Also note that the levels of Hillary-hatred on these blogs don't even come close to bloggers' sentiments about Joe Lieberman.
I think it's very clear that people's feelings about prominent pols like Hillary and Joe are inspired by those two individuals, and not sexism. And people's feelings about other prominent pols like Boxer and Dean, are again about those individuals, and not their gender. And I see these feelings shared equally by men and women.
The public mostly doesn't know or follow technical issues like redistricting unless their district and congressman are threatened. So as long as the Democratic party doesn't really fight it, the public at large won't notice.
However, "Democracy" is a powerful strategic initiative, in Lakoff terms. If the Democratic Party puts forward a consistent vision of fair elections and better Democracy, and talks about it often and at all levels, I am convinced it will stick.
All else being equal, partisan redistricting is no less of an issue for people to notice and care about than a lot of the things Republicans have been successfully pushing since the Contract. The Republicans know that they can't go after this issue by issue. They need broad strategic objectives they can sell to the public, and then they can get their way on the individual pieces. We need to be doing the same thing, and the Republicans have spent the past several years handing us the advantage on one of the best: Democracy and fair elections. We just haven't taken up the mantle yet. If we do, we can win big.
I would brook one exception: We could threaten Dennis Hastert (D-IL) with editing him out of his own district. He's a member of the house leadership, he has influence over what Georgia does or does not do, and if we made it a clear enough tit-for-tat the public would probably forgive it.
It is also time that we fight fire with fire and redistrict in Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico in response to Republican actions in Georgia and Texas.
I disagree. I think the Democratic Party needs to solidly position itself in the public mind as the party of fair elections and democracy, consistently and across the board.
We need to loudly decry the Republicans' partisan redistricting in the states they've done it, and equally loudly point out the states we could do it in but are not. We then use that to push for nonpartisan redistricting rules in all stats that don't have it yet.
We have only a small number of seats to gain from partisan redistricting in the states you list. We have much more to gain from a solid, clear position in favor of fair elections and a better democracy - using that, we can gain seats all over the country.