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Markos 'Kos' Moulitsas on Obama, Twittering, Fighting the Blue Dogs, and the Major Changes Coming

The founder of the popular Daily Kos site discusses the growing power of the online netroots, and their upending of political gatekeepers.
 
 
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No one symbolizes the success of the liberal political blogosphere -- known to many as the "netroots" -- more than Markos Moulitsas, the outspoken founder and owner of Daily Kos, the popular daily blogging site, which began in May 2002 and rose to prominence during the Bush era.

The Daily Kos is part of a particular group of "A list" blogs like Fire Dog Lake, Atrios, Open Left, MyDD, Crooks and Liars and others that pioneered an aggressive and progressive approach to electoral politics, reflecting a generation of tech-savvy, promotion-conscious writers, activists and thinkers who dedicate much of their focus to getting liberal Democrats to win more campaigns.

During the Bush era, pushing back at conservatives and defeating Republicans was the centerpiece of the netroots' activities. However, in the Obama era, a good deal of their attention is now focused on conservative, so-called Blue Dog Democrats.

Markos, who was born in Chicago to a Salvadoran mother, and Greek father, grew up in El Salvador, and returned to the U.S. in 1980, according to his Wikipedia page. Markos, called Kos by most in the blog movement, has had an unusual path to activism and progressive stature, given that he served in the U.S. military from 1989 to 1992, and was formerly a Republican.

Earlier, Markos majored in journalism and political science at Northern Illinois University, and received a law degree from the Boston University School of Law in 1999. He lives in Berkeley, Calif., with his wife and two children.

Despite the lack of a predictable original path to progressive politics, there is no question about Markos' success. He has authored two books. The first, Crashing the Gate: Grassroots, Netroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics, was published in March 2006 with Jerome Amstrong, who is considered one of the originators of the progressive blogosphere. His second book is Taking On the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era, which he has described as referencing famed Chicago organizer Saul Alinsky, who authored the original "Rules for Radicals" in the 1960s.

The Daily Kos has more than 200,000 registered users, and many prominent politicians and elected officials have posted on the site. Markos has appeared numerous times on mainstream media shows, and was tabbed as a columnist for Newsweek, juxtaposed with Karl Rove on the conservative side for the 2008 election.

The Daily Kos has spawned a major national progressive conference, now called Netroots Nation, (which is not now run by the Daily Kos), which attracted 7 of the 8 presidential candidates in 2007 and where more than 1,000 bloggers and activists attended ( the next one is in Pittsburgh, Aug 13-16).

AlterNet's Executive Editor Don Hazen sat down with Markos in the AlterNet offices in San Francisco in early April for an interview.

Don Hazen: Let's start with the big picture -- what is your take on the situation we find ourselves in? Has the netroots increased its influence in the Obama era?

Markos Moulitas: If you look at the official definition of netroots -- which is pretty much anyone who engages in politics online -- then absolutely; the netroots has had huge impact, if for no other reason than that it played an important part in Barack Obama's victory. He's sitting on an e-mail list that's 9 to 12 million strong. But it's a massive e-mail list. Twitter has obviously become the darling of the chattering class of D.C. All of the reporters are twittering, and they're being exposed to criticisms that they're not used to. So in that sense, yes.