I first got heavily involved in progressive political blogging in 2003, with the Draft Wesley Clark movement (I attended my first Clark “Meetup” at Stetsons in DC on July 7). I can’t believe it, but that’s nearly 11 (ELEVEN!) freakin’ years ago. Am I crazy to still be doing this? OK, don’t answer that – thanks! 🙂 Anyway, given that it’s just about the end of 2013, I thought it might be fun to rank my nearly 11 years of political blogging in order of “best” to “worst,” taking into account how much fun I had in a particular year, how successful that year was, and other intangibles. Of course, the list has to kick off with…
#1. 2006: In early January, we (Josh Chernila, Lee Diamond, Corey Hernandez, Mary Detwiler, myself and a few others) fired up the “Draft James Webb” website and movement, kicking off what was undoubtedly the most wild, crazy, exhilarating, fun year I’ve ever had in politics. In addition to being involved in a unique movement comprised of thousands of citizen activists, we also managed to a) persuade Jim Webb to run for U.S. Senate; b) get him on the ballot; c) help him win the Democratic primary against “establishment” pick Harris Miller, despite being outspent heavily; d) combine a “ragtag army” and the formal campaign (on which I served as netroots coordinator) to defeat the supposedly unbeatable (by the so-called “experts”) incumbent Senator George Allen; and e) in the process help Democrats win back a majority in the U.S. Senate. As if all that’s not good enough, Democrats also took back the U.S. House of Representatives that year (although, sadly, we had no pickups in Virginia, with Phil Kellam in the 2nd CD falling just short). I met a ton of people that year, made some great friends, and also left my federal government job (smart? crazy? both?). Wow, what a year!
#2. 2005: Starting the blog “Raising Kaine” was my first real attempt at my own political blog. It also was my first serious dive into the politics of Virginia, despite having lived here since the late 1980s. All in all, it was a fascinating experience, as a website I had no idea if anyone would read became a well-read group blog. I met and/or talked on the phone with a ton of people that year, including many of the Democratic candidates; attended my first state “JJ Dinner;” and made a bunch of new friends (e.g., folks like Brian Patton, who became the Raising Kaine PAC treasurer). And, as we all know, Tim Kaine defeated Jerry Kilgore to become Governor of Virginia. On the down side, Creigh Deeds barely lost to Bob McDonnell for Attorney General (and almost certainly would have won if there had been a real recount), and Leslie Byrne lost by just 1 percentage point to Bill Bolling for Lt. Governor. Imagine if those races had turned out differently? Still, it was a great year.
#3. 2008: I was running not one but three blogs that year — “RK” (formerly known as Raising Kaine) and “Farewell Frank” (Frank Wolf, that is) in Virginia; and Badlands Blue in South Dakota. The latter effort was the brainchild mostly of former Jim Webb senior strategist Steve Jarding, who in 2007-2008 was Sen. Tim Johnson’s campaign manager and who hired me to run a blog to defend Johnson against whatever attacks were launched against him. In the end, Johnson was reelected. As for Virginia, that was the year Barack Obama became the first Democrat since LBJ to carry Virginia. It was also the year we picked up 3 House of Representatives seats – Tom Perriello in the 5th CD, Glenn Nye in the 2nd CD, and Gerry Connolly in the 11th CD. As if all that wasn’t good enough, that was also the year we elected Mark Warner to the U.S. Senate. Among other highlights of 2008 for me were getting to go on the Warner campaign kickoff “fly-around”; seeing RK reach its highest readership ever (e.g., around 200,000 visits in October 2008); becoming friends with Tom Perriello and helping him win his long-shot election against incumbent Rep. Virgil Goode; helping reelect Tim Johnson and getting to travel to South Dakota; hosting Obama volunteers in our house; and lots more. Finally, the book I co-authored with Nate Wilcox, Netroots Rising, was published, and Nate and I got to talk about the book on the radio; at Stanford, Berkeley, Vanderbilt, and UVA; etc. Come to think of it, maybe I should have made 2008 my “best” year as a political blogger (also one of the best years of my life, actually)? One downside: Judy Feder lost badly to faux-“moderate” Frank Wolf. Sigh…
#4. 2003: I didn’t have my own blog that year, but I’m counting it because I posted a lot about politics on Daily Kos and other venues. The main topic? The Draft Wesley Clark movement, which was definitely one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in politics…for a few months, anyway. After the “draft” ended, it became super frustrating, as the “professionals” decided to pretty much ditch the grassroots. But prior to that, it was awesome, including lots of friendships made, some of which continue to this day.
#5. 2013: This wasn’t the most inspirational campaign, but the bottom line is that we swept the three statewide offices. I also had the privilege of consulting to Mark Herring, who won a tougher-than-expected primary over Justin Fairfax, and then went on to narrowly defeat Mark Obenshain for AG after a recount. Blue Virginia did very well this year in terms of traffic, as we approach 3 million visits since the blog was founded in 2009. I also attended events with Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The main disappointment of 2013? The House of Delegates, where numerous top Democrats were hoping to pick up as many as 10 seats, just a week or two before the election. In the end, we netted just one seat, which of course was incredibly disappointing. Again, I’d urge the “powers that be” to do a thorough “after-action” assessment to figure out what went wrong and to fix it for 2015.
#6. 2012: Not a super-exciting year for me personally, and not nearly as fun as 2008 politically, but still a fairly successful year for Virginia Democrats, as Tim Kaine was elected to the U.S. Senate and Barack Obama once again carried Virginia in the presidential election. Of course, it’s was fun to be able to participate not once but twice in driving a stake through George Allen’s political career. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to win back any U.S. House of Representatives races, so that definitely lowers this one in the rankings.
#7. 2007: Not a bad year, overall, as Virginia Democrats took back the State Senate, flipping it from 23-17 Republican to 21-19 Democratic. We also picked up 4 House of Delegates seats, which sounds good but was actually a disappointment, as pre-election predictions by top Democrats like Tim Kaine had us expecting as many as 15 House seats (and 7-9 Senate seats). On a personal note, I spent a significant amount of time this year co-authoring the book Netroots Rising with nate Wilcox. That was a great experience, no doubt about it.
#8. 2004: A maddeningly frustrating year, in which the worst president in U.S. history, the guy who stole the White House in 2000 (with an assist by the Supreme Court), was actually reelected despite the increasing quagmire in Iraq and many other problems. My intense frustration after November 2004 led directly to my decision to “think globally/act locally” by starting up “Raising Kaine” (and generally getting involved in trying to elect Democrats in my own state). So at least something positive came out of that “annus horribilis,” as they say in Rome…
#9. 2011: The first election after the 2010 census and redistricting was no fun at all. As if losing two Senate seats (and control of the Senate, despite pro-Democratic gerrymandering) wasn’t bad enough, we also got our butts handed to us in the House of Delegates, falling from 39 to 32 Democrats. We also had an extremely nasty/godawful primary between Barbara Favola and Jaime Areizaga-Soto. Definitely not a fun year in any way.
#10. 2010: Not quite as bad as 2009, but not good either. I mean, any year when a superb Representative like Tom Perriello is defeated by an utter loser/stuffed shirt like Robert Hurt can’t be good. Throw in the loss of Rep. Rick Boucher (to the climate-science-denying wacko Morgan Griffith) and the defeat of Rep. Glenn Nye by Scott Rigell, and there’s really nothing good to say about 2010. Miserable.
#11. 2009: Just a godawful year in every way; do we even have to talk about it? In brief, we got wiped out in the Tea Party madness, resulting in the loss of great Democrats in the House of Delegates, not to mention the election of far-right-wing extremist Ken Cuccinelli as Attorney General, etc, etc. Plus, the Democratic primary between Terry McAuliffe, Brian Moran and Creigh Deeds was one of the most unpleasant experiences most of us who were involved in it have ever experienced. Good riddance 2009, may you forever rot in hell.