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State GOP bloggers lose their leader, Michael Brodkorb

Michael Brodkorb
mngop.com
Michael Brodkorb

Michael Brodkorb has left the blogosphere.

With one of the most politically influential bloggers in Minnesota turning in his keyboard to become the deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, one has to wonder what his fellow citizen pundits on the right side of Minnesota politics will do. 

Of course, Brodkorb, who had blogged at the site Minnesota Democrats Exposed for several years, and I have a history. It's well documented by him, other bloggers and the media. It was an incident that on some level we both personally regret. On another level, we are both better and smarter for the experience.

From my view on the Democratic side, I think Brodkorb has matured. The question is: Will the bloggers that sling arrows on the right follow course? 

To date, Brodkorb is the best Minnesota example of partisan discipline that never violates Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment for Republicans: "Thou shall not speak ill of another Republican."

However, other Republican rank-and-file bloggers seem to be sinning regularly against Reagan's code, to the consternation of most in the party. These sins are not one-time lapses but, rather, a trend: first in battles over the presidency, then in the race to lead the state GOP, and now in the governor's race.

Take note of one of the biggest firebrands on the right, Andy Aplikowski. His Residual Forces blog is one where you will often find a hard-right edge. For several years, he has attempted to ignite a revolution among hard-line conservatives. Aplikowski hasn't yet chosen which horse to ride in the governor race, but the fact that others have will continue to create tension and factions among these uber-activists. 

Recently, Aplikowski committed what a few years ago would have been a mortal sin in blog etiquette — he took down or retracted an entire post and replaced it with this post, headlined "Fine You Deal With It."

Don't worry -- the DFL bloggers preserved and promoted the post, which details rumors of a nasty rumor battle between the political followers of Rep. Marty Seifert and Rep. Laura Brod. That seems to be a standard formula of partisan blogs: rumors about rumors.

That is also the kind of strategy that Brodkorb mastered effectively in his early blogging days when he operated anonymously at the site Minnesota Democrats Exposed.

The problem for Republicans is that they now seem to be turning that strategy on themselves.

Another player is Gary Miller, who writes at Truth v. The Machine. (I still haven't figured out what the machine is or what the truth is.) Miller led the charge to "draft" Rep. Laura Brod into the governor's race and launched a Facebook group shortly after Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced he wouldn't run again. 

Miller openly went after Seifert about one of Seifert's supporters suggesting a purge of Ron Paul supporters from the GOP. But he did thoughtfully conduct a transparent discussion.

Now, the state GOP is trying to regroup after a tough couple of years and with an internally divisive governor's race ahead. It will be up to Brodkorb, with all of his experience of  lobbing bombs only at Democrats, who will have to help unite a party that seems to face numerous political landmines locally and nationally.

For our part, Brodkorb and I have long since broken bread, exchanged parenting and political stories and built a mutual respect for our individually chosen roles in the Minnesota political universe.  As Michael has said, "The hatchet has long been buried — and not in each other's back."

Now as a party leader, he has the task of keeping his fellow partisans from backstabbing each other in the blogosphere, and in the back rooms of politics.

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Comments (9)

Point of order: Brodkorb ripped Mark Olson after olson was endorsed by the GOP SD-16 to run for State Senate - a clear violation of Uncle Ronnie's 11th Commandment.

It is also a clear demonstration that in the GOP, party elders know best for those in the fields.

In fact, it's very clear that the party elders think the way to make the grass roots grow, is to feed 'em a bunch of (fertilizer).

And MudSlingerMike certainly knows how to sling the (fertilizer). I'd bet it was Brodkorb that got to Aplikowski, and leaned on Andy to pull that post at Residual Forces.

Why no mention of liberal blogger Jeff Fecke's post "Anybody but Entenza" and the liberal blogger firestorm that subsequently erupted?

I guess it didn't fit your narrative.

What I find most fascinating of all is how small the readership is of these blogs is compared with their influence. MDE probably runs less than 8k unique visits a month, which is pretty small for a site with several new articles per day. The total number of people actually reading it is a tiny fraction of the state's population, certainly less than 0.1%.

I think that Brodkorb is moving into a leadership position at a time when it's probably the last shot at parlaying blogging fame into something useful. The outsized attention on individual bloggers will probably end as both more people pick up the habit and there is less ability to gain attention by throwing bombs.

From my perspective I have seen no signs at all that Michael has matured. He has simply brought his blogger's perspective and instincts to the mainstream of the Republican Party. The problem Michael has always had and which he brings to his new job, is that he has never understood the difference between political opportunism and effective political strategy. That's why he failed in achieving his goals at Minnesota Democrats Exposed, and that's what makes the decision to bring him into the party itself, so curious.

> he has never understood the difference between political opportunism and effective political strategy.

A very important point, Hiram, but I think it's safe to say that Brodkorb is far from unique in this sense.

The various political bloggers of various tribes typically have limited campaign experience, have never held office, and little to no background as journalists. I would be surprised if more than a few have read the essential classics such as "The Prince", "Rules for Radicals", or "The Autobiography of Malcolm X". These omissions might not be a problem if they weren't usually quite obvious.

Give that their readership is generally limited to a small cadre of followers, the main use of many bloggers appears to be their ability to manufacture news, even on a slow day. In good times, we might be able to afford such a luxury, but I believe that there is plenty of political news in a Depression - especially when there are fewer pages in a newspaper to print the news on.

I believe that the era of "slash and burn" blogging is ending for all these reasons. What it will be replaced by, at least among bloggers, is up in the air. All the same, Brodkorb's departure might be a good time to mark the passing and get on with what comes next.

Here's hoping the next wave is a bit more substantial.

(Note: I am also a blogger, and I also have limited campaign experience, have never held office, and no training as a journalist. You may include me in my own description, which is what I intended.)

I generally agree with the comments, with a couple of exceptions/additional comments:

A) Individuals need to determine for themselves whether or not individual bloggers or blog sites are dishing fertilizer or substance. Depending on the topic du jour, that is not always easy. In my own case, I have significantly reduced the number of places I used to visit regularly due mostly to the venom and swill that the same trolls trot out on any issue or topic.

B) "Slash and burn" blogging may diminish in some quarters, but there are always going to be those who push the limits to call attention to themselves. At times, it seems that dishing dirt is more important than the issues themselves as both sides try to increase visit counts.

C) As "new media" has expanded, those pols and pundits who crave media attention have found willing enablers in their respective camp who crave the opportunity to publish whatever is being offered.

With the ease of access to bloggers and other alternative media types, quality has often been overshadowed by quantity. Like any other "good," the pols and pundits who generate the "supply" of the information (good, bad or otherwise) have "customers" who will consume what is offered. Throw in a 24/7 news cycle for good measure too.

Politics isn't rocket science. Bloggers do what they do, but when a blogger changes roles, it's a really good idea to step back and think about what the new job requires. In terms of the goals of the Republican Party organization, that is winning elections, Minnesota Democrats Exposed hasn't been effective. Brodkorb, in his new job, is going to have to figure out that what didn't work when he was running a mostly unread blog, isn't likely to work on a broader stage either.

Brodkorb was never really a blogger. A blogger is an independent journalist out to add his two cents to fray. Brodkorb was, from day one, a political assassin working for the Republican Party of Minnesota, officially or unofficially, trying to further the goals of the party or at least those that manage the party. He was rewarded like good soldiers are with a promotion and a title. The only real difference between Brodkorb and the rest of the party hacks was he was at least regularly made some sense and the lazy political reporters in this state paid attention to it. That's it. Why the political journalists in the state can't see the Republican Party effort to control the blogs and comments for online publications shows how naive they are.

No doubt Michael tried to further the goals of the Republican Party, the more interesting question to me at least is whether he actually did. In my opinion he was a failure at that and the Republicans in formalizing his position have demonstrated a lack of understanding of blogging (or internet political assassination if that's a term anyone prefers) for effective political advocacy.

I feel just a little bit uncomfortable in saying these things, because I do think the hiring of Michael Brodkorb by the Republicans is a good thing for Democratic electoral prospects. But I am also concerned that the Republican Party, at least for the moment has ceased to be a significant political force, and that worries me quire a lot. And with Michael around who can be expected to give us all an endless series of press conferences and hissy fits about offhand remarks from invulnerable Congressman the slide downward of the Republican Party will only continue.