Four years ago, I warned about The Power of Kos. Most people who pay attention to politics know who Kos is. Kos (pronounced “Kohs”) is a nickname for Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, the original creator of the phenomenally successful political blog site, Daily Kos. While many were responsible for the rise of the political blogosphere, arguably Kos is its chief spokesman and ringmaster. In fact, I expect that on November 5th, the Washington establishment will wake up to realize that Markos Moulitsas Zúniga is the new Karl Rove. President Obama will be one of a host of politicians that will be anxious to stay in Kos’s favor.
Election Day is still three days away but from all the early voting going on it doesn’t take a political scientist to figure out which way this election is going to go. Democrats are going to win and win big. It will resemble the 1974 election, in which Democrats benefited disproportionately by voters in a sour mood over Watergate. In that election, Democrats picked up 49 house seats and 3 senate seats. This time Democrats are unlikely to pick up 49 seats. Most political experts expect a 20-25 seat gain. My intuition tells me it will be thirty or more House and 8-9 Senate seats. On the other hand, in the 1972 election, Democrats lost 13 House seats, while in the 2006 election Democrats picked up 31 House seats. The impact of the 2006 and 2008 elections combined is likely to be much larger than the impact of the 1972 and 1974 elections combined.
There is a difference though between winning and winning big. Winning big reflects two factors. The first factor is a generally high disgruntlement with the ruling party. While Democrats currently control the House, in effect no one controls the Senate, which has had the predictable effect of gridlock. The second factor is focus and organization. While certainly the Democratic congressional and senatorial campaign committees have had more money than usual this cycle, the progressive blogosphere, overseen by ringmaster Kos, will in hindsight be seen as instrumental in the upcoming Democratic surge.
Kos is one of the founding members of ActBlue, a grassroots Internet-driven fundraising organization that focuses on progressive candidates. ActBlue is proof that the Netroots have real power. Since 2004, ActBlue has raised over $81 million dollars for progressive candidates. More recently, Kos created Orange to Blue, which allows the Daily Kos community to give directly to candidates that Kos recommends. Currently Kos’s Orange to Blue initiative has raised $2.3 million dollars from about 24,000 individual donors.
What Kos and his community do is help tip the balance in close races. They pay special attention to lowly House races that rarely get the attention they should from the DCCC. Orange to Blue acts like a shot of adrenaline to a lackluster progressive campaign that nonetheless has a compelling candidate. The funds that it provides allow the candidate to get its message out in a larger way. In 2006, the blogosphere was arguably instrumental in the election of Senators Webb and Tester to the Senate. Arguably, without its support the Senate would not have turned blue in 2006.
2006 was just a warm up for 2008. It is hard to say exactly which candidates will win this time around because of fundraising through the progressive blogosphere. If Al Franken wins the Minnesota Senate seat, Orange to Blue can take at least partial credit for the victory. If you want to see how much power Kos actually leverages Tuesday night, check out whether Ronnie Musgrove wins the Senate race in deep red Mississippi. Also, check the results in House races where Republican incumbents are favored but their Democratic challengers are within the realm of possibly defeating them. These include Bob Lord, running against John Shadegg in AZ-03, Gary Trauner who is trying to win Dick Cheney’s old house seat in very conservative Wyoming, and Darcy Burner in WA-08. If these seats flip to the Democrats, the extra fundraising push from ActBlue and Orange to Blue are probably responsible.
Kos is of course an unusually politically savvy individual. What makes him especially valuable is that he is ruthlessly pragmatic. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, for example, is hardly the sort of liberal senator that many progressives would have preferred. Nevertheless, he was right on enough issues and more importantly electable to the voters of Virginia for the blogosphere to help fund his campaign. Kos is also a very high energy individual, fast on his feet, focused and relentless. He knows how to get his readers to open their wallets.
The liberal blogosphere wants to donate to worthwhile candidates. Most of us though do not have time to independently examine all the potential candidates and their positions. However, we do trust Kos’s judgment, particularly since he demonstrated his instincts were sound in the 2006 election. This makes giving to Kos’s preferred candidates a good bet.
I think it is interesting that Karl Rove and Kos have dueling columns in Newsweek. The choices are quite appropriate. For many years, Rove has been the Republican’s ringmaster. Kos (whom many in the Democratic Party still look down on as a lowly blogger) is now arguably the Democrats’ ringmaster. Both are the brains behind their party’s successes. Rove’s star is fading and is likely to diminish altogether after this election. As for Kos, his star is likely to soar into the stratosphere.
I have been known to be unduly optimistic, yet I expect the Republican Party is going to wake up on November 5th and realize they have been run over by a truck. The size of the early voting going on in so many states indicates unusual interest in this election. The only question is which way the election will tip. On the House and Senate side, unquestionably it will tip toward the Democrats. On the presidential side, barring some last minute news event that is hard to fathom, I do not see how Obama can possibly lose. I expect he will get at least 350 electoral votes and a majority of the popular vote.
Voters are screwed and angry. An extraordinary vengeance against those whose monumental misjudgments caused so many calamities these last eight years is about to be unleashed. Whipped up in part by ringmasters like Kos, my feeling is that this election will be a blowout for progressives. It will leave the bean counters wondering how they missed the size of this surge. If it happens as I expect, I will give most of the credit to the brilliant Markos Moulitsas Zúniga.