Well, I've found that conservatives are willing to pony up the money, but it's extremely difficult to get people in the new media to ask their readers/listeners for money. Why that is, I don't know, but I find that as a general rule, if bloggers and talk radio hosts on the Right have a choice between seeing their favorite candidates lose and asking their readers to donate money, they'd rather see those candidates lose.
I'm unsure whether that's a cultural thing that will change over time or just some characteristic of conservatives, but it makes it extremely difficult to organize any sort of fundraising effort. As a general rule, it's like pulling teeth to get the bloggers who explicitly agree to help to actually ask their readers for money and most of the rest of them bend over backwards not to link a fundraising effort.
Put more succinctly, I've had people tell me conservative bloggers feel "dirty" asking for money. This sense of modesty and restraint is not felt by the likes of Daily Kos, MyDD, and Open Left. Note the huge blue fundraising graphics that are the first thing you see when you visit their sites. And I'm sure you're probably thinking: "Well, we don't want to be like Kos." Well, if not being like Kos means not winning, then I certainly can appreciate the intellectual rectitude at play here. But for those of you who want to move the Republican Party in a different direction, you might want to try something else.
Ace encapsulates the right's reluctance to engage electorally, and what I suspect is going to be the rude awakening that comes as a result of that approach:
I never was all that big into this idea. I think it's now necessary if we're ever going to start winning like we used to.
The GOP needs to do its part, too. It shouldn't be up to John Hawkins to compile a list of House GOP challengers. The GOP needs a permanent online liaison, not just charged with sending out press releases and that sort of thing, but with providing information about candidates -- who's vulnerable, who's a solid challenger, etc.
What will it take to turn this around? If you're a conservative blogger, the question you need to ask yourself is this. Is the main purpose of your blog to express your personal opinion? Or is its primary purpose to build political power for a cause? If you cannot answer yes to the latter, you're probably not going to be comfortable with making the changes necessary to make online conservatism a political force to be reckoned with.
This is not a criticism, but an observation. Most conservative blogs are still stuck in 2003 -- both in terms of the overwhelming focus on media criticism and punditry, and the tendency to outsource electoral politics to the Republican Party. This was in some ways legitimate response to what was happening in 2003-4, when media surrender-monkeys were undermining the War on Terror, Republicans had a kick-butt political operation, and Kos was going 0 for 16.
I don't fault bloggers for holding on to this point of view in 2003 and 2004. What is unfortunate is that they clinged to it in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 and failed to pivot to the new reality, leaving the Republican Party without a powerful enough force to rein in the self-destructive tendencies of its elite.
Sadly, it's human nature to cling to the frame in which you came up -- traditional media people will never fully reconcile themselves to the blogosphere, talk radio people will always tend to view it as the center of the universe, and even denizens of the "new media" can become easily set in their ways. This is not unlike people who got rich on the housing bubble thinking it could never end. When things first start going wrong, it's always just a momentary blip, not a sign of an impending crash. Only a catastrophic collapse is usually enough to make people rethink matters.
Building critical mass behind an independent online movement on the right will probably require new people. The old blogs that have been with us since 2003 will not go away. But they'll need to be joined by people who care more about Indiana's 8th district than Islamofascism, and MN-SEN more than the MSM.
Building this infrastructure is largely human resources issue. The three founders of this blog all have permanent day jobs, and this time of year, more like the equivalent of 2 or 3. For my part, I wouldn't have it any other way, because part of that job is putting into practice some of the ideas I discuss on the blog. But stealing time for a post can be hard, and I'm cognizant of the fact that more good posts always equals more traffic.
Almost without exception, conservative bloggers are hobbyists, and those that aren't are usually employed by old line conservative media. A lack of politically sophisticated full-time bloggers, as well as dependence on existing center-right institutions, is holding the rightroots back from becoming a full-fledged counterpart to the netroots -- one that is not beholden to the Republican Party or the offline conservative movement.
Hawkins suggests trying something different:
On the other hand, you could have one conservative donor with deep pockets who could hand out, let's say, twenty $25,000 grants, for two years in a row, and they could double the size the blogosphere.
Well, there are a number of bloggers who could go full time if they could add $25,000 a year to the money they're making off of advertising. There are other bloggers who could use that money to advertise their blogs. Some other people could use the money to recruit talent and do reporting. Given that the traffic in the blogosphere tends to be heavily concentrated in the top blogs, of which there are a relatively small number, you could see the size of those blogs dramatically increase with these grants.
There is merit to this idea. Unlike the right, virtually every influential left-wing blogger blogs full time. Between Kos, who can easily self-sustain on advertising and drop tons on polling, TPM (which uses with a self-sustaining ad model), Media Matters, and the Center for American Progress, you'd be hard-pressed to find a good lefty blogger who is not making a living at this. I can probably guarantee you that Nate Silver, the exception that proves the rule, will probably not need to be doing sabermetrics for much longer, though that sounds kind of fun, so who knows...
But here's the caveat to Hawkins's idea: the money would need to go to bloggers committed to making a difference in the political process, not someone who is going to provide the 256th (and wittiest!) insta-reaction to Sarah Palin's wardrobe on Memeorandum. These people would have to be willing to find races, travel to them, and self-consciously think of themselves as full-time political activists who happen to blog, not mere bloggers.