Daily Kos: Markos Moulitsas's website changed politics

Netroots Nation comes to Minneapolis

In the wake of the book release, Moulitsas deputized another class of featured diarists to take over regular posting duties on Daily Kos, including Susan Gardner.

YearlyKos also arrived for the first time that year after two years of planning. It was in large part thanks to the efforts of Gina Cooper, a Tennessee high school science teacher who'd joined Daily Kos under the simple name "gina." A casual suggestion that the diarists get together for beers had exploded into the notion of a full-blown conference, and the so-called Kossacks came out in force. Cooper became the de facto spokesperson.

"I'm really kind of a shy person. I had managed my entire life to never be on a video camera," says Cooper. "I just thought, 'Okay, well, this is the job I'm doing. So the job I'm doing requires I be on CSPAN.'"

Markos Moulitsas, founder of Dailykos.com
courtesy of Kos Media
Markos Moulitsas, founder of Dailykos.com
Howard Dean was the darling of Daily Kos before his ill-advised scream
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Howard Dean was the darling of Daily Kos before his ill-advised scream

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner threw an infamously lush party at a rooftop lounge overlooking the strip, where Elvis and Blues Brothers impersonators mingled with guests sipping "Kos-mopolitans." Warner was toying with a presidential run, but his effort to please the netroots had seemingly gone too far. The bloggers who initially piled into the skyward elevators in giddy anticipation recoiled at the vodka-chilling sculptures and chocolate fondue fountain.

"We were all looking at each other, like, 'What exactly is going on? Are they trying to co-opt us?'" remembers David Dayen, a FireDogLake reporter who once blogged under "dday." "Now you have these politicians just treating you like you're an interest group."

But when Moulitsas took the stage for his keynote, the tone was decidedly triumphant.

"The political elite—from both parties—failed us," Moulitsas told the packed ballroom. "Republicans because they can't govern, and Democrats because they can't get elected.

"So now it's our turn."

  

BEFORE ELECTION NIGHT IN 2008, Moulitsas went out and bought several bottles of expensive Dom Pérignon.

"I don't like champagne and I thought maybe it was because I always drink the crappy stuff," Moulitsas explains sheepishly.

He put the bottles on ice, set up several monitors throughout his home, and poured himself a glass of bubbly as friends and family began arriving to watch the returns.

"It was a big celebration," Moulitsas says.

The next day, as the liberal blogosphere awakened with a throbbing hangover, something else was happening that they hadn't anticipated. Their in-boxes, after the initial congratulatory emails and thank-yous from the Obama campaign, went dark. There was an eerie sense of silence.

By this time, Daily Kos had received its one-billionth page view and Moulitsas had a paid staff running the site. He was also writing columns for Newsweek and the Hill, and making semi-regular appearances on network news as a political commentator. Several other prominent site members had spun off their own blogs from Daily Kos, or been hired by mainstream news sites. The power of the blog had become accepted wisdom, and the Obama campaign had used the relationship fruitfully, raising money and organizing young people all over the country on Facebook and Twitter. Obama had finished, many observers said, what Dean had started.

But in their frenzied support for Obama, the rest of the netroots' goals had atrophied. Once their presidential candidate was in office, the community was left with idle hands.

"I got a few emails about buying a Barack Obama hat or scarf," Cooper says of the election aftermath. "We had a chance to come together, and people wanted to come together. That was a missed opportunity."

They were on their own again as they faced a daunting new task: to switch gears from electing to legislating—an infinitely murkier process.

One of Moulitsas's personal goals was to push through health care reform—particularly the public option and a lowering of the Medicare admittance age. But as the Obama administration set to work, the concessions to the right piled up. The Democratic majority caved to threats of filibustering. Chunks of the reform fell by the wayside—first the public option, then the Medicare age. Moulitsas entered a deep funk.

"It was like, 'Fuck it. Why the hell did we waste all this time and money fighting for these assholes?'" Moulitsas recalls. "Psychologically, I was beaten."

As the 2010 elections arrived, the Tea Party managed to do what the netroots had always strived to do: elect harder line politicians and cast out the centrists. The netroots have been reeling ever since.

"The biggest change was, of course, coming out of the opposition," says Joan McCarter, Daily Kos's senior policy editor. "We are working for more progressive Democrats. I think that's still evolving. It probably always will be."

McCarter frets that at some point she'll have to move to D.C.—she currently lives in Idaho to be close to family. It would be the ultimate step inside the Beltway.

"I would rather not necessarily be socializing with all these people that I'm writing about," she muses. "I think being an outsider is really valuable."

  

THE WIND WHIPS AROUND Moulitsas as he stands outside of the first official offices of Daily Kos in Berkeley and mulls what he sees as the final defeat of Joe Lieberman, five years in the making. Though Liberman had managed to defeat Lamont in the '06 race, the netroots had made the victory hard-fought and very expensive.

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