When David Kravitz co-founded BlueMassGroup in 2004, he couldn't find another locally focused site like it, in Massachusetts or anywhere else. "Now practically every state has one," he says.

You've got Democratic Party establishment groups engaging with groups like Moschella's, and you've got people like Green, who insists that the netroots stands outside the Democratic Party. There are former establishment figures who are now working at online activist organizations, and former wise-ass bloggers now working inside the Capital Beltway for members of Congress and party committees.

And they keep finding ways, alone or in tandem, to flex their muscle. Raising money is one — Cambridge-based ActBlue has become a major cog in grassroots fundraising efforts, and it was the conduit for an astounding $1.3 million in contributions to Warren's Senate campaign in the first three months of 2012.

But there are also efforts like that of colorofchange.org, which launched a campaign against the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over "Stand Your Ground" laws, after the Trayvon Martin shooting. It has already convinced 16 major corporations, including McDonald's Kraft Foods and Amazon, to pull funding from ALEC. And it was the netroots who drove the boycott of Rush Limbaugh sponsors, after his vicious comments about Sandra Fluke.


The conservative equivalent of Netroots Nation, RightOnline, has its annual conference one week later, in Las Vegas. Now in its fifth year, RightOnline bills itself as "the first conservative event to ever counter the leftwing Netroots Nation Convention."

In fact, the whole point of the conference — run by inside-the-beltway Americans for Prosperity Foundation — has seemed to be mocking and disrupting Netroots Nation, by scheduling it at the same time and place. (This year, Netroots Nation organizers prevented that through exclusivity agreements in Providence.)

If past is prologue, the 2012 RightOnline gathering will involve a lot of cheering and jeering, as speakers like Michelle Malkin and Dana Loesch denounce the evils of socialism, ObamaCare, the global-warming hoax, and other ills of the left. They will celebrate the purging of moderate RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) in GOP primaries. The how-to panels will focus on how to gain more attention for your venomous blog posts and videotaped pseudo-investigative reporting.

At the 2009 RightOnline conference, "rhetoric was an easier sell than direct action," wrote David Weigel, reporting for the Washington Independent. That has been the norm every year, judging by reports, and blog posts by attendees.

That could easily have been the direction of the liberal netroots. Attending that first conference in 2006, I suspected it would be.

The biggest hero of that conference, by a wide margin, was bitter Bush-basher Joe Wilson, who had called out the administration on its claims of Nigerian yellowcake. The biggest cause was Ned Lamont, the Connecticut liberal challenging too-moderate Joe Lieberman in that year's Senate primary.

Netroots attendees are still frustrated with moderates in the Democratic Party — Green says PCCC won't help Bob Kerrey in the Nebraska Senate race — but there have been no significant attempts to target incumbents in primaries since Lieberman. And they still have lefty heroes, but the emphasis is squarely on the practical over the idealistic.

"Nobody with Netroots Nation wants to create something where everybody just complains about the other guys," Moschella says. "It's about nitty-gritty tactics: 'How are we going to win on the ground?' "

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Related: Your guide to Netroots Nation 2012, Game Change?, The Dr. Phil Years, More more >
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