The Blogs United in Martinsville for Free Speech conference really exceeded my expectations, and a huge kudos is due to Alton, Anne and Mary. Barnie Day was a great emcee, and the speakers and presenters did a wonderful job. It was definitely worth the five hour drive, and I am amazed that this small core group pulled off something which was so flawlessly and impressively executed.
And there was free beer, and plenty of it. Diverse political viewpoints and alcohol always create a memorable dynamic. The facilities were excellent, and the food was great — I definitely got my $50 worth. Thank you also to Smith River Community Bank for helping to make this such a great deal for participants with your sponsorship.
It was wonderful to meet some of my fellow bloggers, and begin to understand the personalities behind some of the postings I’ve read. It really is an interesting collection of people which would defy any attempt at concise characterization, which makes sense when you see the vibrant political blogosphere in Virginia. There really is something in the political blogs in Virginia for everyone.
I was impressed by the wide array of speakers at the conference. Bill Bolling, Bob McDonnell, and Leslie Byrne headlined, and all did an impressive job. The Republicans, were consistent in their calls for responsibility and a focus more on policy than politics. Leslie Byrne gave a pretty impressive speech calling for a market-driven free-for-all which I found surprising, and nearly Republican. As the Democrats have been in the lead for the most part with the blogs, it’s in retrospect unsurprising that they might grasp the meaning of the medium better, and didn’t refer to “Kos Daily”. But Bolling and McDonnel did provide a lot of good policy “meat”, and seem willing to provide the source material for the transition of the blogosphere which they hope to inspire.
A more policy-focused political blogosphere would undoubtably improve the quality of this public resource. If more followed the example of folks like Conaway Haskins and Jim Hoeft, to name a few, readers would receive a daily civics lesson at the graduate level and we’d have a terrifically informed electorate, with the highest quality political discourse. Unfortunately, the readership of the blogosphere would shrink enormously, as this wouldn’t provide what all the blog readers are actually interested in. The reality of blogs is that they serve the market that is, not the market as we might wish it to be. With readers interested in all of the different aspects of politics, we will have blogs that focus on all these different aspects from all of the different perspectives readers are interested in.
The conference included the policy gurus, the muckrakers, those with a narrow focus on politics, and those which provide the flavor of their other personal interests along with political discourse. It included the famous, the barely known, and the infamous; the left, center and right. It was serious and funny, self-deprecating and critical.
It was just what it needed to be. Great job!
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