It’s taken me a few days to collect my thoughts on this next story.
For those of you who aren’t obsessed with politics, the progressive blog “Raising Kaine”, later shortened to “RK,” has been an institution in Virginia for the past four years. It has been the first, and often last, line of defense for voices on the Democratic side as local, state and national issues have been debated.
Despite its left-sided orientation, RK has been an open and hospitable community for people from all viewpoints: Republican, Democrat or Other. Whether or not I agree with the cause du jour on its front page, RK is always worth reading when having the morning joe. It is our virtual coffee house in Virginia.
RK is the brainchild of Lowell Feld, who has become a great friend over the past three years. I first met Lowell in fall 2005, when I was personally stepping back in politics but still making the occasional odd appearance for Dem candidates. Early on, we collaborated on some signature moments in modern Virginia history. Actually, Lowell was at the forefront and I was there to witness.
It was a dreary day in December 2005 when Lowell called me and asked if I’d heard of “the author James Webb.” Of course, I said hell yeah having been in USMC Reserves in the Eighties. Lowell asked if I’d be interested in meeting with Webb at his apartment in Arlington to talk about a possible U.S. Senate run. I did and the rest of the story — with some twists and turns along the way — is now one of the most familiar episodes in Virginia politics.
No need to document it all again here. Lowell wrote about those early days in his great book “Netroots Rising,” which talks in detail about the use of the Internet to promote Webb, even while the regular media ignored him. One of my favorite memories from 2006 is driving down to Wakefield with Lowell, Scott Surovell and Ben Tribbett in April 2006 to drink beers and lead cheers for Webb at the rural Shad Planking. The rally in the Virginia backwoods and Webb’s unexpected strength in a Republican stronghold become real to thousands of Virginians, because Lowell put it all on RK.
By covering events and then writing about it on RK, Lowell and the other front pagers created a virtual community of support for Webb who had no natural link to the Virginia Democratic party. They carried him through a stunning victory in the primary and later the general, a victory which gave Democrats the majority in the U.S. Congress.
A couple months later, it was my turn on a much smaller scale. In my run for State Senate, RK gave me a venue to promote my ideas, my events and my story to thousands of interested Virginians. With RK and other blogs backing me, I had a means to match a my opponent’s seven-figure war chest and Congressional operation which had locked down every major endorsement. By contrast, the Net was live and we had plenty to say. The standard purveyors of political information in the D.C. area were caught flat-footed because blogs like RK had bypassed them in communicating with voters. With their support, we took back the State Senate.
The dust hadn’t settled from the 2007 legislative races before RK launched full scale into the 08 presidential. The Obama phenomenom, in Virginia and everywhere else, was far bigger than one liberal blog. However, RK’s endorsement and enthusiastic support of Obama presaged a major rout in Virginia which signaled the definitive shift of momentum in the Democratic nomination. Again, RK was the tripwire. When it lit up in February 2008 with Obama enthusiasm, it predicted a national movement which only culminated a few weeks ago.
It’s fair to say that Obama’s victory represents the end of one era and the beginning of a new one in which Democrats hold the power nationally and, for the most part, in Virginia. The future battles may not be so clearcut and often pit one region against another. Those we elect don’t always do what we wish. Outrage at the D.C. or Richmond establishment does not necessarily favor the Democrats anymore.
So Lowell is closing down RK after a successful run. The left blogosphere will be disoriented for a while but there are other writers to fill the gap (Anonymous is a Woman, Vivian Paige, etc) to match posts with the top right-wing blogs like Too Conservative, Mason Conservative and Bearing Drift. Meanwhile, the always entertaining Not Larry Sabato can skewer both sides.
Either way, it won’t be the same!