Last Monday, a lawyer in Georgia issued a proclamation so grandiose that readers could be forgiven for thinking it came from the Pope himself. The writer was Erick Erickson, editor of the blog Red State. In a post titled “The Absolution I Cannot Give,” he intoned:
“In the past 48 hours I have had call after call after call from members of the United States Congress. They’ve read what I’ve written.They agree. But they feel the hour is short and the end is nigh.So some are calling looking for alternatives. Some are calling looking for energy. Many are calling looking for absolution. And so I address them and put it here so you can see my advice. I can give no absolution for what you may be about to do. I can offer no alternatives.”
Republicans in Congress were begging a blogger for permission to vote for the best interests of the country by raising the debt ceiling. If you don’t follow the conservative blogosphere you might have wondered just who is this person was and how he became so important.
(Erickson did not name the representatives calling him, although Representative Joe Walsh (R-IL) confirmed that his office gets advice from Erickson.)
Erickson’s advice is aggressively partisan. Two weeks ago he assured House Republicans that the political fallout from an economically catastrophic default would fall on President Obama, writing:
“As I pointed out to John Boehner yesterday, despite what the pundits in Washington are telling you, it is you and not Obama who hold most of the cards. Obama has a legacy to worry about. Should the United States lose its bond rating, it will be called the ‘Obama Depression’. Congress does not get pinned with this stuff.”
In other words Erickson was encouraging Republicans to destroy the economy on the grounds that it would redound to their political benefit.
How did someone whose only experience in public office has been serving on the Macon, Georgia, city council become an advisor to national Republicans? It’s important to understand that Erickson isn’t just a blogger. “He’s an activist and a media figure,” says one Republican consultant. “Describing him as a blogger is inadequate.” Although Erickson’s rise from obscurity was through Red State, he has a much larger media footprint than just its 178,000 monthly visitors and one million monthly page views. Since April 2010 Erickson has been a regular contributor to CNN. He replaced Herman Cain as host of Cain’s radio show, popular among conservatives, when the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO began his presidential campaign. He also frequently guest hosts for conservative radio host Neal Boortz, meaning Erickson broadcasts for five hours daily.
The other point is that Erickson doesn’t use his blog as a mere forum for opining, much less conveying information. Erickson is an activist and media is his vessel. In some ways that makes him analogous liberals such as Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos blog, and Jane Hamsher who runs Firedoglake. But Hamsher and Moulitsas weren’t getting calls from Democrats in Congress begging them for dispensation to vote for a bill that is terrible for Democratic priorities. “I’m not nearly as plugged-in as him,” says Hamsher.