Dispatches from the YearlyKos convention in Chicago


Some 1,500 bloggers, armed with laptops, digital cameras and umpteen other gadgets descended on Chicago for the YearlyKos convention.

In the words of its creator, DailyKos was a “freakish curiosity” that morphed into a spectacular online cult since its inception almost five years ago. So it was hardly a surprise that the largest political blog in the United States over the weekend convened in Chicago some 1,500 bloggers, who arrived armed with laptops, digital cameras and umpteen other gadgets.

The crowd consisted of almost all religiously liberal progressives–except perhaps the one Reagan Republican man from Colorado who told me he’s so disenchanted with his beloved party that he ruled out voting for all Republican presidential candidates. The conventioneers were more or less celebrating the online power-turned-off-line politics.

At only its second annual meeting, the Kos community, named after DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, the convention transformed into a hard-to-ignore crowd. At the first convention in Las Vegas last year, Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., was the only presidential candidate who showed up to woo the online powerhouse, which, among other things, takes credit for putting Democrats in the majority in Congress last fall, catapulting Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., and most importantly, jolting Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

Unable to ignore these huge propaganda brokers, all Democratic presidential candidates except Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., flocked to the convention site. But for a while, it seemed that they were overwhelmed–or underwhelmed–by the unruly crowd, which clanked keyboards and glittered the hall with digital camera shots as candidates sparred over issues. Welcome to LiveBlogging!

Like the blogsphere, the rare and historic presidential debate had no rules of engagement: Cheer or jeer whenever–and at whomever.

Perhaps none of the six candidates, who all hesitantly committed to hiring a White House blogger if they are elected, received more boos than Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. A clear front-runner otherwise, the “unscientific poll” conducted among conventioneers showed her trailing both Sens. John Edwards, the favorite, and Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Clinton’s money affair with lobbyists was a deciding factor: She refused to retreat when Obama and Edwards cornered her in an attempt to subdue her unflinching relationship with Washington lobbyists, who she said are among the Americans she would lead as a president.

Idealistic bloggers booed her loudly, but she didn’t budge for that.

Part of the message in the convention, as Moulitsas put it, was that bloggers “arrived”– big time. And they demand serious attention. The tiny but charming Moulitsas, who was ushered to the podium to make the closing remarks of the convention, dwelled on “those early lonely days” of the blog, “when people thought of our views as naïve.”

Never again. Hours before he was inaugurated in November as the new majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., posted a video commending what the “Kos community” has done for the Democratic Party.

Informality is what defines bloggers, both in writing and in style. Moulitsas, himself a former Republican, showed up in shorts for a panel. A colleague of his invited all bloggers to “consider the panel an open thread!”

A popular blogger from Paris was among the first to jump in, saying that he enjoyed meeting for the first time all those people he had never met but always conversed with.

And it likely won’t be the last time they meet. DailyKos announced that it’s rebranding the convention next year, calling it “Netroots nation.”