Over two years and 2000 posts ago, George W. Bush made a blogger out of me. I was coasting along in octogenarian ease, writing an occasionally lofty OpEd piece or irate letter to the editor, when my reactions to what Bush was doing--rage, ridicule and disbelief--demanded a more immediate and unbuttoned outlet.
Now, with Barack Obama on the horizon, a different set of responses seems to be in order. The new president, unlike Bush, is familiar with the connections between words and actions, and what he does and says is likely to prompt more serious and prolonged thought than raw emotion, analysis rather than upset, not the best aphrodisiac for blogging spontaneity.
If so, that would be a social loss. As Andrew Sullivan noted in his recent Atlantic piece, "The wise panic that can paralyze a writer—the fear that he will be exposed, undone, humiliated—is not available to a blogger. You can’t have blogger’s block. You have to express yourself now, while your emotions roil, while your temper flares, while your humor lasts. You can try to hide yourself from real scrutiny, and the exposure it demands, but it’s hard. And that’s what makes blogging as a form stand out: it is rich in personality."
This melancholy mood is inspired by Jon Swift's now-annual collection of the best blog posts of the year. Reading these self-selected outpourings of estimable minds and hearts is a reminder that the most effective criticism is inspired by boobery rather than brilliance (see John Mason Brown's classic review of a Hamlet performance: "He played the king as if afraid someone else would play the ace").
Will next year's collection be as much fun to read? Will Obama, with his elegance and (please God) effectiveness, subdue us into nodding our heads in agreement and interjecting the occasional, tentative "Yes, but..."? Will a literate Leader of the Free World enslave our critical savagery?
Not to worry. Right from the start, with his choice of Rick Warren for the Inaugural benediction, the new President has indicated he will show clemency for bloggers. He will, at a minimum, provide enough mistakes and miscalculations to inspire us to keep saddling up and riding to the republic's rescue with our wit and wisdom.
Even Obama's most fervent admirers should not "misunderestimate" his capacity for the kind of folly that keeps life interesting and bloggers blogging.