As FreedomWorks’ BlogCon conference gets underway this weekend, it’s a good time to remember why these gatherings are so important to building conservative coalitions and advancing the cause of liberty.
For more than a decade now, conservative bloggers have leaned on one another to share news, collaborate on ideas, and hold elected officials accountable. Sometimes as allies, sometimes as adversaries, but always fighting for what they believe to be the best course of action to advance free-market principles and fight the growth of government. Emerging from the grassroots, these innovators are scattered across the country, doing what often feels like lonely work.
As their voices have grown stronger, smart organizations have created conferences for these bloggers and activists to connect with each other. These events turn handles on Twitter into a real world friends.
Through the Samsphere events in 2008, I was able to meet some inspiring and passionate bloggers, including prominent leaders like Erick Erickson and Emily Zanotti.
Americans for Prosperity, under the leadership of Erik Telford, created the RightOnline conference that is still going today and unites both online bloggers and traditional activists.
FreedomWorks and others are taking it to a new level with well-organized weekend events like BlogCon.
The opportunity to get in the same room with other conservatives from the online community and share a drink or few is important because it reminds us that even when it feels like we’re on our own, there is a larger community facing the same challenges, fighting the same fight, and working to advance the cause of liberty.
There’s something different about sitting across the table from someone and sharing stories that no email list, hashtag or Google Hangout can replicate. It’s at these events where real community is built.
This community has been through tough times. Being a conservative blogger is no easy task. Candidates don’t know if they are a supporter or an antagonist (often, it’s both). It’s not something many can afford to do full time. Those who do find full time work blogging often find it to have both the joys and trials of being a newspaper journalist: big megaphone, lousy paycheck. Some have been hired by organizations, only to see those organizations crumble away.
As conservative bloggers have built this community though, with the encouragement of organizations like FreedomWorks, they have emerged as real leaders within the conservative movement. Their voices are critical and respected. Many who started blogging as a hobby now work for conservative organizations and elected officials, bringing new energy and ideas to innovate from within.
Thus, as the conservative movement faces a crisis of direction, the map of a path forward lies with the conservative online community. From state-level bloggers and political activists to DC reporters and think tank journalists, this community is generating ideas and pushing forward.
They won’t always agree, they won’t always win, but their determination, passion, and willingness to fight can and will make a difference. Events like BlogCon only make this community more determined, more passionate, and more willing to stay in the fight.