Reflecting on the success of Daily Kos and the netroots

In a post yesterday Markos reflects upon his site traffic since he began his blog in 2002. It is a remarkable post, as you can watch his traffic grow from month to month, to the point today where DailyKos has 16m pageviews a month, or 500-600k a day.

I first met Markos in the summer of 2003. The ever thoughtful writer Garance Franke-Ruta introduced us. At the time his early blog was getting 800k or so pageviews a month. By the time he spoke at a conference we did in SF in late 2003 it was 2m a month. By the time of our Annual Meeting in 2004, where Markos made what I believe was his first public appearance in Washington, it was 5m a month. And by the time Crashing the Gate was released in March of 2006 it was up to 22m a month (click here to read my foreword to CTG). Today the site traffic has leveled off to a still daunting 16m a month, and Markos has helped inspire many to get off the sidelines and into the arena, including Gina Cooper, the founder and visionary behind Netroots Nation (formerly YearlyKos), the most important annual gathering of emerging progressive leaders in the country.

The rise of sites like Daily Kos and the netroots has been one of the most significant developments in American politics in the early part of the 21st century. My friendship with Markos and his colleague Jerome Armstrong has been among the most rewarding and interesting of my long career in media and politics. The success of Daily Kos and other such blogs should leave no doubt that progressives and their allies the Democrats are in the midst of building a new and more competitive culture and movement, one much more suited to the emerging challenges of the 21st century than ever before. As Matt Bai rightly points out in his new book, this new movement is new, emergent, experimental and has made plenty of mistakes. But could any start up be any other way? While the 1990s in Silicon Valley gave us stinkers like, it also created enduring and powerful companies that are still redefing our lives today. Periods of great institutional entrepreneurship and reinvention are by nature messy things. This period of progressive reinvention is no different.

For I can no think of no time of all my years in politics that what we know as left of center politics is as vibrant, innovative, dynamic, open and nascently strategic as it is today. With control of Congress and perhaps the Presidency in 2009, we will also see if this movement is ready to lead America at one of its most challenging junctures in its history (see our recent essay The 50 Year Strategy for more on this).

No matter where we go together next year I end this one with a hearty salute to the millions of Americans who have "gotten into the game" in recent years - giving money, volunteering, blogging, commenting, reading, engaging and voting in unprecedented numbers. At the end of the day it is my hope, my belief, perhaps my prayer that these new technology tools that have allowed private citizens like Markos - and millions more - to enter the great American debate in new and powerful ways will end leading the renewal of our mighty but wounded democracy in the years ahead, providing the ultimate antidote to the imperial age of Bush. While leaders like Markos have gotten plenty of attention, the power of blogs like Daily Kos is that they have become vehicles for millions to be connected to and participate in our democracy like never before, making our politics - I hope - ever more one "of the people, by the people, for the people." And for all this I end this year excited and hopeful about our nation and our politics in the critical year ahead.

Happy New Year....