We the People: Benny Meets Open Left's Chris Bowers
I'm posting from a hotel in the historic district of Philadelphia. I am here in attending meetings for a library conference. The weather was kind until about an hour ago when the sky turned grey and now it is getting colder. But no complaints from this blogger.
On Friday evening, I e-mailed Open Left's Chris Bowers to engage him in a conversation and meet since not long ago, he embraced John Edwards' message and supports that message for Edwards' candidacy. I knew I would have some time on Sunday in between meetings, so I thought, what the hell, I'll ask if he's free. To my surprise, Chris was free and willing to meet for a beverage. So this afternoon, I met him at a coffee shop in University City (where the Penn campus), which is West Philly.
I arrived a few minutes early and sat at a table by the window and facing the door so that I could spot him easier. I knew what he looked like because I had seen him moderate a panel at Yk08. I knew he did not know what I looked like (not many do except when I occasionally post a pic here or at Cheers & Jeers at the Daily Kos).
We got our beverages: his an Earl Grey tea with milk and my Diet Coke then sat to talk.
The conversation turned more into an interview because of my curiosity about what it was like to be a netroots entrepreneur, thus with my peppering him with Q's I wrote down ahead of time the meeting lasted nearly 2 hours. I won't report all of what we discussed as this post could turn into an article in itself, but will post some pics and some interesting things I learned about him and his career as a political blogger. I thank Chris for being so gracious with his time and sharing with me his experiences, especially as my blog is very different as it focuses on John Edwards' message and my own related experiences; his is to designed to generate revenue and to drive the conversation, whereas I do this as an avocation.
For BW readers who aren't familiar with Chris' background, he was a grad student at Temple, considered going into the academy, then decided not to. He started blogging some time ago, and his posts at MyDD started getting noticed by the traditional media at MSNBC and CNN, thus MyDD, along with the Daily Kos, were the go-to progressive sites that not only bloggers were going to, but the traditional media were watching.
In 2007, he , Matt Stoller, and Mike Lux formed their own team to create Open Left, which is more ideological and more as he termed it, "outside institution building". I asked him to explicate a bit more about that concept. To Chris, it means the building of PACs (501 c3), being more active in legislation, but for the good of all, not just for money, which differs from the corporate welfare state we live in. I can see why Chris would want to do this, given that he comes from a union family and has done consulting for unions such as the SEIU.
Chris is considered an "A-List" blogger, and I asked him what his reaction was to the term, "A-Lister." He said it was "negative". While he knows his work is read widely, his blogging is also pure luck. He doesn't see himself as part of the elite, nor would he want to be identified as such.
He enjoys making a living out of being netroots entrepreneur. Fiercely independent, but believes in working together too which is why he, Matt Stoller and Mike Lux formed Open Left.
I also asked him how much time he spends inhaling and exhaling political analyses. About 55-65 hours a week, but at the moment it is around 75 hours per week because of the primaries. However, OL's readership/eyeballs has reached around 12,000 daily, so to him it is worth the extra effort. Additionally, I inquired how much time he spent on the minutia of the business, and he said he was around 5 hours a week. He prefers strategy over working in the business. That is another thing we had in common.
There was a lot more we talked about, including a post he wrote about on Saturday about how voters in NH are looking at candidates based on identity, but he believes identity is part of ideology, whether it be cultural, class, etc.
We also took a brief stroll on Locust Walk to talk about his neighborhood, Ward 27, where he is the precinct captain. I asked him, what do you? He said knock on doors, get folks to vote, etc.
It was gratifying to meet Chris. I expected to meet someone who was a bit more edgy and perhaps it is because he lives in the North east. While he is self-assured, he is definite believer of "we the people." I was greeted with thoughtfulness and friendliness and at the end, when I shook his hand to say good-bye, he gave me a hug.
Philadelphia has been the city of brotherly love for this blogger.
Long live progressives!