You can’t get much more old school than Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Joel Connelly, the curmudgeonly dean of Washington state’s political press corps, and a walking history book of the region’s political lore. So when this old media stalwart throws the new media a compliment, you can bet that he didn’t toss it off lightly.
In today’s column — “Democrats show signs of life in inland West” — Connelly laments how the Democratic establishment abandoned once-blue, rural, Western districts. But he sees a ray of hope.
Lately, prodded by blog sites, the party has begun to notice the 5th District in Eastern Washington — where rancher Peter Goldmark is opposing freshman GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris — and the open 1st District in Idaho.
Connelly sees a trend, in which “rural, moderate-to-conservative Democrats” might be brought back from the brink of extinction. Some of this renewed opportunity is being generated by a crop of extraordinary candidates like Peter Goldmark and Larry Grant, and some of it represents a backlash to hard-line Republican ideology and congressional corruption. But Connelly also credits the netroots.
The re-emergence of Democrats in the inland Northwest has a number of rich ironies.
The region was initially ignored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its chief, Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, D-Ill.
One who did notice was Markos “Kos” Moulitsas Zuniga, cheeky proprietor of the popular DailyKos Web site. It is read by thousands of Democrats across the country and has helped Goldmark and Grant raise the bucks needed to contend.
While the national Democratic establishment may still look on the netroots movement with suspicion, local observers like Connelly, who live and breath local politics, clearly see our impact. Democrats may not pick off McMorris, Sali, Pombo and Doolittle in this cycle, but the fact that these races are so competitive is a confirmation of the 50-state strategy the netroots have championed. Every dollar the NRCC spends protecting supposedly safe Republican districts is a dollar they’re not spending fending off Democratic challengers like Darcy Burner.
Sure, as Connelly makes clear, it’s only a “trend.” But as trends go, it’s a pretty damn good one.
[Cross-posted to Daily Kos, please recommend.]