The great thing about blogging is the medium's democratic spirit: anyone can become a blogger and rise or fall on the merit of their work. Political bloggers, especially the liberals who pioneered the field, can climb their way from obscurity into the most powerful, glittering, hallowed halls of influence. But Politico's Ben Smith, in a profile of blogger Jane Hamsher, raises an important question: Do successful bloggers who join political operations heighten their influence, or are they compromising their ideals? Smith describes Hamsher as "a pixie-ish 50 year old former Hollywood producer who named her blog after her dog, and is taking what she calls 'the next step in our evolution.'"

By its willingness to accommodate the White House’s effort get a health care bill even if it meant losing the public option, the mainstream liberal infrastructure created the opening for new groups, like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, to spring up, and has empowered Hamsher. [...]

[Liberal blogger Glenn] Greenwald chalks up her willingness to defy the White House in part to the fact that she - like he - doesn't hail from a particular Beltway culture. "I think Jane's success in a prior career has made her immune to the rewards of access -- and fear of punishment -- which keep most younger inside-the-Beltway progressives obediently in line," he said. "She's not 26 years old and desperate to work for a DC think tank, a Democratic politician or a progressive institution. She doesn't care in the slightest which powerful people dislike her, but rather sees that reaction as vindication for what she's doing."

Smith sparked with debate among liberal bloggers about whether they -- as individuals and as a whole -- were too close to the Democratic establishment. Is it possible to further the aims of the Democratic Party while also holding the Democrats responsible to a liberal agenda? Smith thinks that Jane Hamsher may have found a way. The rest of the liberal blogosphere is left wondering if they've failed where she succeeded.