A Netroots History Lesson

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 17 2010 9:08 AM

A Netroots History Lesson

In an otherwise solid take on what Tea Party activists can learn from the Bush-era netroots boom on the left, Marc Ambinder repeats a common misconception about 2006.

At the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the brain trust latched on to candidates like James Webb from Virginia, a brilliant, temperamental former Republican Secretary of the Navy, and Jon Tester from Montana, an actual organic farmer.

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Eventually the brain trust latched on to Webb and Tester. But both men were first supported by the netroots. Webb was drafted by liberals who were impressed by his bio and his essays against the Iraq War. Tester was the choice of activists on sites like Daily Kos over the establishment's choice, state auditor John Morrison. Yes, the DSCC came around to both candidates, but the liberals were there first.

Why is this important? Because the netroots were never as ideological as the Tea Party. They wanted to win, and they believed that the candidates who could win would have 1) compelling biographies and 2) anti-war politics. They wanted boldness. They didn't care as much about other issues. Contrast that with the Tea Party bill of particulars. You are unacceptable if you voted for TARP, or energy legislation, or fail to support a balanced budget, or doubt that entitlements need to be broken down, or have any normal political biography at all.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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