Has American Politics Changed Forever?

Netroots Nation, the lefty bloggers' conference, is coming to Providence next weekend. And we've got our big preview issue out today. My colleague David Bernstein asks whether the netroots can beat the corporate money flooding the 2012 elections, post-Citizens United. And with Occupy set to be a major topic of conversation, Chris Faraone looks at the police crackdown on reporters covering lefty protest.

I've got two pieces. First: a practical (if wise-assed) guide to the event. And second: a look at whether the Internet's January eruption - killing a pair of bills known as SOPA and PIPA that aimed to crack down on web-based piracy of movies, music, and pharmaceuticals - marks a fundamental shift in American politics.

When I started reporting this story, I was pretty skeptical that the anti-SOPA fight was a watershed. The coalition of opponents - lefty civil liberties types, the libertarian right, and a series of Internet bigfoots facing what they considered an existential threat - seemed like a pretty unique, tough-to-replicate troika.

But the more I dug into it, the more I started to think that was a narrow way to look at the issue. The tools on display in that fight have a force that seems likely to outlive the anti-SOPA coalition - to replicate and mutate on a wide open Internet. There could be something big - a game change - happening here. One of the most provocative takes is from Yochai Benkler, co-director of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society:


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