When Democratic candidates stormed the gates of the Republican-controlled Congress last year, they found a significant degree of support from the growing ranks of the progressive blogosphere. So now that the Democrats are taking the reins, a trio of local bloggers decided to monitor just how well the new congressional majority does in following through on its campaign promises.
The collaboration between Rhode Island Future (www.rifuture.org),www.kmareka.com, andwww.pat-crowley.org — slated to go live on Thursday, January 4 — will provide coverage of the first 100 hours of the new, Democratic-controlled 110th Congress while also focusing on Rhode Island’s delegation.
Blogger Pat Crowley, who conceived the “Countdown to Change” idea, says he hopes that it “will provide a launching pad for citizen activists. Anyone can just report the news, but the Countdown to Change project will be go beyond the headlines and provide research links, activist opportunities, interviews, and news without the filters put in place by the mainstream media.”
A joint news release by Crowley, RI Future’s Matt Jerzyk (an occasional Phoenix contributor), and Kmareka’s Kiersten Marek notes that Democratic leaders have promised to make change in seven key areas: lobbying reform and fiscal accountability; increasing the minimum wage; making college more affordable; passing legislation to negotiate lower prescription drug prices; allowing stem cell research; implementing the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations; and reducing subsidies to big oil.
Asked how much follow through he expects, Jerzyk says, “That’s the kicker.” Considering how bloggers came of age during Re¬pub¬lican control of Congress, he adds, “We’ve been outside, throwing rocks for so long. [Now] we want to make sure that Democrats implement change and not succumb to the same trappings of power. This effort is fundamentally not about monitoring what gets done in the first 100 hours, but about holding the Democrats accountable for their promises . . . If the Democrats are going to expand their hold on Congress and gain the presidency in 2008, they have to show that they can move an agenda.”
The Rhode Island-based bloggers plan to cross-post their reports and to provide interviews with members of Congress and other key policymakers.
Jerzyk’s blog, in particular, has become a must-read for Rhode Island political junkies, and it broke several significant stories during the past election season, including how a young staffer for US Senator Lincoln Chafee was responsible for e-mailing veiled campaign attacks on Democratic rival Sheldon Whitehouse. While the blogosphere’s overall influence remains an open question, the Countdown to Change participants say they offer more than just an alternative to conservative talk radio and the diminishing amount of news in papers like the Providence Journal.
“We are parents, professionals, and citizens who want to see America achieve a more participatory democracy,” says Marek. “We are using one of the most powerful new tools of communication to try to improve our democracy — publishing blogs that keep citizens updated about the workings of our legislature, the passing of laws, and the impact those laws will have on all our lives.”