Liberal Wonkery

LIBERAL WONKERY….Max Sawicky defends liberal policy wonkishness here. Henry Farrell follows suit here. Both make the point that lefty bloggers did a lot of good, wonkish work in the Social Security debate earlier this year, most of which depended on the even more serious ongoing wonkery of lefty policy analysts. And in the end, it made a difference.

I think Max in particular makes a good point about the terms of the debate. The Republicans may have an awesomely efficient noise machine, but there’s more to it than that:

Now you could say the other side has nothing but crap to say, but you would be kidding yourself. Underestimating the power of the opposition. It’s a delusion. We still live in a conservative country, sports fans. People don’t like unnecessary wars and Congressional corruption, but they aren’t crazy about moving to an ample, generous welfare state either. There is no mass outrage over our unsustainable fiscal policy, or the ginormous trade deficits. Concern for poverty in the wake of Katrina has vanished faster than a sunshower.

….My view is that bullshit starts to stink before too long, but a good idea can walk a hundred miles. We need propaganda and agitation, but to give the public something substantive that it can take to heart is the basis for progressive transformation of society….Being angry and stupid isn’t good enough.

My own view is that in addition to activism, which blogs obviously excel at, blogs can also be very good at what I call “policy-lite” ? short but serious takes on policy issues leavened with enough red meat to make it entertaining. It’s not the same thing as a Brookings white paper or even a 5,000-word Washington Monthly article, but blogs do provide a forum to educate and inform at a non-expert level in between all the snarkiness and partisan catcalling.

In fact, despite what I said earlier, the lefty blogosphere does have at least a few high traffic sites that provide a steady diet of policy-lite: fact-heavy posts containing numbers, graphs, and summaries of serious policy research. On the right, not so much.

Much like the real world, in fact.