#dontgo is officially a movement. MoveOn is mobilizing against the House Republicans and the rightosphere this afternoon. I don't think they've ever done this in response to a grassroots conservative protest. Something has changed.
There has been nothing worthwhile to speak of in recent years that's emanated solely from the base like this has. It's worth our time to take a step back and understand what made this success possible.
First, while Reps. Mike Pence and Tom Price provided the spark by starting the House floor revolt, it was the rightosphere (and crucially, the Twitterverse) that poured the gasoline.
Elected officials cannot start movements on their own. They need a willing audience to activate. The audience was primed by John Culberson leading the revolt against the ridiculous House franking rules. (On the issue side, it was primed by Newt's "Drill Now" movement.) That solidified Culberson, and by extension minority Republicans, as the troublemakers storming the gates with technology, and Democrats as the lame defenders of an old order. That is the natural role of any political minority, but one House Republicans, accustomed to the majority, have been uncomfortable embracing. Until now.
I was around the blogosphere in 2002 and 2003. There were roughly equal numbers of conservative and liberal bloggers then. But liberals were using the blogosphere for the right things -- changing the political system rather than commenting on it. Because their project seemed more necessary and central to the Democratic coalition, they attraced most of the new growth in the blogosphere from 2003 to 2006.
Today, both Republicans and Democrats use Twitter and various social media tools. (The tech community, which skews heavily left, uses it a lot, but they are not as politically savvy.) But only Culberson was using it the right way. Back when he started, Democratic Rep. @TimRyan seemed to be using it effectively too, but his use has trailed off and he issued a lame defense of Pelosi on franking -- something no one can get excited about. Culberson now has 2,827 followers and Ryan has 521.
Could #dontgo usher in an era of Republican technological dominance in the post-blogging world? Should we cede the blogosphere to the left, and focus on leapfrogging them in the use of tools most necessary to real-time political action? The answer could be yes.
#dontgo is creating a perfect storm where the emergence of a new technology is married to a pressing need to do something. Republicans had the use of the tools down, but had no pressing to-dos in the early 2000s. As Matt Stoller reminded me in a joint radio appearance yesterday, Democrats had impeachment, the recount, and the Iraq War. We had to defend all these things. And online, it's a lot easier to be on offense than on defense.
Republicans are now on offense. They get that confrontation and at some level, theatrics, not Bob Michel-like accommodation, is how you run a minority caucus. It's also how you spawn a movement.