Enhanced Online Voice
With Blog Postings
To Boost Message
July 3, 2007; Page A5
Political activism on the Internet -- and in the so-called blogosphere, in particular -- has long been considered a liberal stronghold. But conservative bloggers show increasing signs of their own coming of age.
They took a major leap forward by playing a central role in scuttling the Senate immigration bill. Meanwhile, many of the most popular talk-radio hosts are now posting on blogs, and the frequent collaboration of the two
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One example: Fred Thompson, the actor and former Tennessee senator, was posting his ABC Radio commentaries and other opinion pieces on popular conservative opinion sites for several months before he took the first steps toward a White House run.
But the immigration bill marked the first time conservative Web logs could claim to have targeted and derailed a major piece of legislation. The triumph underscored their increasing influence and signaled that the balance of online power may be evening out in the political arena.
The confluence of blogs and conservatives' dominance on radio is an especially potent mix. Talk-radio and conservative bloggers don't always work hand in hand, but they have been effective when they do.
The Bush administration was forced to withdraw former White House Counsel Harriet Miers's nomination to the Supreme Court after conservatives on talk radio and on blogs complained about the choice. Currently, the two are railing against talk by some Democrats about bringing back the "Fairness Doctrine," which required broadcasters to balance coverage on controversial topics.
Liberals have long used blogs to press their views. They successfully put pressure on congressional Democrats to focus on ending the Iraq war. During the 2006 election cycle, they were instrumental in ousting longtime Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman -- a fervent backer of the war -- from the Democratic primary, though he won as an independent in the general election. More recently, progressive bloggers in March persuaded Democratic leaders to pull out of a Fox News-sponsored debate in Nevada.
Historically, Republican bloggers haven't generated the same kind of Internet traffic as liberal writers, even though conservatives have dominated talk radio. The defeat of the immigration bill suggests that may be changing and illustrates the tactics that bloggers could use to influence the 2008 campaign.
By endlessly picking through the evolving immigration legislation, bloggers kept up a steady stream of material for each other and their readers. Talk-radio-show hosts relied on the bloggers for material, but so did voters, who swamped Senate offices with calls and faxes at the urging of conservative Web sites.
The public mood against an immigration bill seems to have developed swiftly after that. The Senate last summer passed a bill that was seen as more generous to illegal immigrants, but "talk radio was nowhere" then, said Roy Beck of NumbersUSA, a Washington group that opposes increased immigration.
But with Democrats in charge in Congress, opponents of the bill feared a better chance of final passage this time around, and talk-radio hosts began jumping in, says Mr. Beck.
Mary Katherine Ham of conservative Internet talk-radio site Townhall.com, a division of Salem Communications Corp., said bloggers were further offended when the White House attacked them for not supporting the bill.
Then came reports by the Congressional Budget Office and others that the bill would cost billions of dollars in federal spending and allow in millions more immigrants. Immigration supporters challenged those conclusions, but the reports "kept the activists confident" by supplying them with data to use when they contacted Senate offices, says Mr. Beck.