Netroots is a term first used in 2002 to describe a grassroots movement that is fueled by Internet participation. The term was first applied to the site MyDD (My Due Diligence, and later My Direct Democracy) in 2002, and mainly used by people of the Democratic Party to lobby for candidates or certain causes. Now the term applies to Republican, Democratic and other party candidates and movements that use Internet sites to rally support, disseminate information, gather donations, and allow for individuals to blog or write wiki type articles on a key issue or a specific candidate.
The profile of political organization has been changed greatly by Internet participation. In 2008, every major political candidate for president had a central website. On these websites, people could research a candidate’s stand on issues, evaluate and fact check information, blog about the candidate, and use the blog forum to announce key events or organize grassroots movements. Friendships between like-minded folks, or sometimes animosity between people who disagree were and still are common. Such sites, past and present, are often victims of “trolls,” people who deliberately write inflammatory or spam messages to enrage an online community.
Though netroots sites have as their primary goal a way of organizing large numbers of people, there are some negatives. People may organize around an issue or candidate they don’t completely understand. Some bloggers feel such a sense of empowerment that they begin to vehemently and violently attack any posts on the netroots or another site that disagrees with their point of view. Unfair or expletive-filled attacks can tarnish the reputation of a candidate they support or pigeonhole all supporters of a candidate as unjust, unfair or just plain nuts.
In a sense, when candidates empower the people too much through a netroots movement, supporters can become a liability to candidates. There is virtually no way to stop a certain number of netroots participants from vicious attacks on another party, another candidate, or to guarantee that blogs and comments are well thought out. Fortunately, most netroots sites have the option for you to join different types of groups based on your interests, career, or location. People can experiment and find out which groups best fit their personality, education level, or style of blogging.
The advantage to Internet campaigning is that it has the potential to reach a much larger group of people across the country, and many more than a grassroots campaign alone can accomplish. Grassroots movements are limited to phoning, canvassing, or sending mailers to people’s homes. Netroots movements have the advantage of providing instant access to information about local grassroots efforts, thus fueling more participation in a movement. Many more people will volunteer locally to support an issue or candidate because a main Internet site gives them access to more information about how to get involved.