Prominent writers for DailyKos, the country's top liberal blog, are launching a new site to scrutinize and pressure the Democratic Congress.
This week, as most politicos focus on appointments in the incoming Obama administration, DailyKos bloggers began a "soft launch" for Congress Matters, which promises a "community-based political watch party" for Democrats on Capitol Hill.
"It'll be a place where we'll try to explain Congressional rules and procedure so that the netroots community gets a better handle on it and can become more effective advocates for their priorities," said David Waldman, an attorney and former Congressional aide who blogs on the front page of DailyKos under the name Kagro X.
While netroots activists often call Congress, Waldman explained, "the reality is that by the time a bill gets to the floor, it's almost too late to have any real impact by calling." The new blog will tap DailyKos' audience and brand, he told The Nation, with the aim of "getting people involved earlier in the process, teaching them about committee markups and the amendment process to eventually put them in a position where they can intervene at the critical points in the process -- the way lobbyists have learned to do."
Another Hill staffer turned blogger, Joan McCarter, penned an open letter to the Democratic Congressional leadership after the election, and posted it on DailyKos' coveted front page real estate. Even after election fever subsided, the site remains the eighth most popular blog in the country. (It beats techie favorites like the Google blog, better-funded news sites including CNN ticker, and even the traffic powerhouse ICanHasCheezburger, which posts pictures of cats.) McCarter pressed for Iraq withdrawal, economic renewal, health care reform and dismantling the unitary executive. "We've been in election land for so long on the blog that the community needs to regroup and change gears," she told The Nation.
The new blog arrives at at time when the traditional media is questioning the netroots' influence after the Democratic Senate Caucus embraced Joe Lieberman, and as some bloggers worry that Obama's initial appointments look more like a third Clinton term than bottom-up change.
This venture rebuffs Washington's penchant for measuring clout and the (understandable) urge to assess a new president. Instead, the Kossacks are bearing down further on legislative activism. In the end, it might even be a good route to influence, too.