by Andy Schmookler
I’ve sometimes wondered whether, if there were a contest for the best one-state political blog, Blue Virginia might win. Admittedly I don’t know much about the possible other contenders, but Blue Virginia impresses me. Which means, I think the job Lowell Feld does here is impressive.
And, although impact and influence are always difficult to gauge, I expect Blue Virginia performs a useful service in advancing the cause of progressive values and the Democratic Party in Virginia.
But I don’t think that this site is reaching its full potential. And I want to propose two things the readership can do to strengthen the site as a community, and from there as a force to have an impact on the course of politics in Virginia.
The site is visited frequently (tens of thousands of visits per month), but those visitors leave almost no sign of their existence. Readership is largely silent and passive. As a result, if there is, in any meaningful sense, a Blue Virginia “community” simply as a result of absorbing the same set of news and ideas, that community is mostly unaware of its connectedness. Which also means that it is weak.
Something stronger could be built if readers took advantage of the opportunity to comment and discuss the issues raised by the various postings. So many knowledgeable and intelligent people who come here, thousands of visits, all generating maybe a handful of comments a week.
I know from my own experience of writing and hosting a blog for years that real substantive discussions can be generated, unfolding over even years from one posting to another, and real human relationships can be developed. (I still have some regular communication with friends whom I encountered in those discussions, but whom I’ve never met in the flesh.)
Political power is not just about quantity but also about organization. Not just about numbers of people, but also about coherence among those people. If a culture of comment-and-discussion were to develop here, that coherence could develop and the community would be stronger.
A second lost opportunity has to do with appreciation. We know from the culture of live performance that between performer and audience there is an exchange: the performer puts out his/her best, and the audience responds with some expression of appreciation. The situation of writers is different in that way from that of singers or instrumental soloists or actors on a stage. But the human situation is the same.
By applauding, or some equivalent thereof, the audience not only gives the performer something that feels good, it also helps bring out the best that the performer has to offer.
The idea of “encouragement” is derived from the word for “courage” which, in turn, connects with “coeur” – French for “heart.” Encouragement strengthens the heart, and there is good reason why an English king who led his countrymen into battle was called the Lionhearted.
A strong heart is part of what we need for waging the battles we need to fight. In a time when much of what we see in our political world is profoundly discouraging, we who are seeking to fight those battles can use all the encouragement we can get.
Lowell Feld does an exceptional job here on Blue Virginia. How often does anyone step forward here — publicly — to express appreciation for that great service, that fine performance? Hardly ever.
As for my own experience here, if it weren’t for what I’ve heard from people I just chance to meet at one political event or another, and who tell me that they appreciate my contributions to Blue Virginia, I would have just about no idea how my offerings were being received.
No one gives their best performance before an empty house.
This is not just about meeting people’s emotional needs, or of creating relationships, as ends in themselves. It’s also about working in those ways that will make us stronger as a community, and thence as a political force at a time when we can use all the strength we can muster.
What do you say, Blue Virginia readers?