How to Blog?

I’d love to be asked that question, but instead they asked Felix Salmon of Reuters:

Blogs are a conversation. Remember that. They’re not a sermon, they’re not a news article, they’re much closer to a discussion in the pub, or sometimes a graduate seminar. They can be funny, or serious, or angry; they can be two words or 20,000 words long; they can be pretty much whatever you want them to be, including heavily reported. But they’re distinguished by having voice, which is one necessary part of a conversation.

Hmmm. I’m tempted to react to that, but then there’s this:

Of course, having a good blog can get you hired, too: there are two sides to that coin, and right now the market in good bloggers is pretty hot, and the number of bloggers making six-figure incomes has never been higher.

Donald Douglas goes apeshit on that one:

I can’t imagine anyone making $100,000 a year blogging . . . I want some names! Let’s hear ’em: Who’s making 100k?

What intrigues me more than the $100K number is Salmon’s bland assertion that “having a good blog can get you hired” and that “the market in good bloggers is pretty hot,” which I’m tempted to translate as: “Your blog sucks, otherwise somebody would be hiring you to do it.”

Salmon, however, wrote his notes on blogging for the South Asian Journalists Association, and they are probably not perfectly applicable to the conservative blogosphere. I know conservatives who are getting paid to do political blogging of one form or another. But they aren’t being paid for “voice.” They’re doing fee-for-service work, delivering an online product rather than personality.

‘New Ideas’ and Old Mistakes
Adding a personal perspective without becoming entirely personal, conservatives face a demand-side problem in the current blog market. The people who might have the wherewithal to provide $100K incomes for bloggers don’t seem particularly interested in regular conservatism — that is, conservatism of the sort that the average Republican voter wants.

Instead, the money people want “new ideas” from kids like The New Establismentarians or perhaps even, as Professor Douglas notes, Scott Payne’s “Twenty-First Century Conservatism,” which looks very much like a formula for re-making the GOP in the image of Susan Collins — a conservatism that NARAL, AFSCME and the Sierra Club could love.

We see here a disconnect, a manifestation of the same problem that the Culture 11 disaster exemplified. Steve Forbes (and other investors whose identity we do not know) correctly believed that conservatism needed “something new,” but they didn’t have the slightest clue what that something should be. So they hired David Kuo and got Conor Friedersdorf and “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage.”

Mercifully, the investors had the good sense to pull the plug before Culture 11 could give us “The Conservative Case for Cap-and-Trade,” “The Conservative Case for Keynesianism,” “The Conservative Case for Infanticide” . . .

Steve Forbes has been a free-marketeer his entire life, and yet where was the free-market voice at Culture 11? Where was there anything remotely like the cheerful Reaganesque sensibility — “Hope, Growth and Opportunity,” to borrow Forbes’ 1996 presidential campaign slogan?

Why is it that whenever someone like Steve Forbes gets the urge to give somebody a wad of money to generate “new conservative ideas,” the money never ends up in the hands of actual conservatives? It’s like watching a cable channel whose programming consists entirely of reruns of the David Brooks biopic: The Republicans Who Really Matter.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Immediately after the election, I warned against exactly the problems that are now affecting the conservative movement. Defeat inevitably induces doubt, and when the GOP gets its ass kicked, the experience characteristically induces in some Republicans a desire to emulate the liberal victors — ergo, “new ideas.”

In “You Did Not Lose,” I argued against the tendency to see election results as an ideological referendum, a rejection not only of conservatism as an idea, but of conservatives as people. In “Don’t Overthink It,” I argued against the tendency to make an electoral debacle an occasion for the sort of intellectual navel-gazing which predictably leads some to conclude that Republicans could win if only they were more like Democrats.

The reason I warned against these tendencies was because I’d seen them displayed after the Bob Dole debacle in 1996, when both David Brooks in The Weekly Standard and Christopher Caldwell in The Atlantic Monthly launched vicious attacks on the red-state conservative grassroots.

My warnings evidently went unnoticed by anyone important, for once again we see the same gormless quest for “new ideas” we saw 12 years ago, a quest that produced George W. Bush and “compassionate conservatism” and — eventually — brought us full circle, right back to Square One. Except that this Square One is not 1997 (when at least the GOP still held its congressional majority) but more like 1965, 1977 or 1993, when the liberal Colossus bestrode the world triumphant, scornful of any restraint.

What the Official Conservative Movement really needs now, as in the wake of those previous electoral catastrophes, is not “new ideas,” but rather courage and confidence in some very old ideas — cf., “How to Think About Liberalism (If You Must).”

However, because my blog sucks, nobody’s offering to pay me $100K to promote those ideas, so please hit the tip jar.

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