Daily Kos is a political weblog founded by Markos Alberto Moulitsas Zúniga, nicknamed “Kos” (pronounced “kose”), who launched the website on May 26, 2002. He continues to maintain it from Berkeley, California, where he resides. In its first year, Daily Kos attracted more than 1.6 million unique visits and about 3 million page views. As of August 2006, it was drawing an average of some 696,500 unique visits per day, or about 20 million per month.
Mr. Zuniga, who in 2003 was retained by the Howard Dean campaign as a technical advisor, describes Daily Kos as follows: “This is a Democratic blog, a partisan blog. One that recognizes that Democrats run from left to right on the ideological spectrum, and yet we're all still in this fight together. We happily embrace centrists like NDN's Simon Rosenberg and Howard Dean, conservatives like Martin Frost and Brad Carson, and liberals like John Kerry, and Barack Obama. Liberal? Yeah, we're around here and we're proud. But it's not a liberal blog. It's a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory. … The battle for the party is not an ideological battle. It's one between establishment and anti-establishment factions. And as I've said a million times, the status quo is untenable.”
The Daily Kos front page, which is the first thing a reader sees when visiting the website, contains entries written either by Zuniga (“Kos”) or by any of about a half-dozen people to whom Kos has given front-page posting privileges. These front-page posters each serve what Zuniga calls “one-year terms.”
Apart from the front-page posts, most of Daily Kos’s content appears inside of the “diaries” (entries written by registered users, who are limited to one posting per day) and are then read and commented upon by other users. According to Zuniga, almost all Daily Kos contributors are “ordinary citizens interested in talking about and participating in the political process,” and most of them “fall on the liberal side of the U.S. political spectrum,” though “people of conservative views are welcome to come and debate.”
The Daily Kos’s claims of receptivity to political centrism have frequently been betrayed by the causes the weblog embraces and the language in which it couches its commitments. On April 1, 2004, Zuniga himself posted one of Daily Kos’s most controversial blogs to date. Titled “Screw Them,” the piece ridiculed four American private contractors in Iraq who, the day before, had been ambushed and killed (by guerrillas), mutilated and burned, dragged through the streets of Fallujah, and then publicly hung from a bridge. Zuniga’s post read: “Every death should be on the front page. Let the people see what war is like. This isn’t an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush’s folly. That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries [sic]. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.”
In April 2004, Daily Kos initiated dKosopedia, which it describes as “a collaborative project of the DailyKos community.” Modeled after Wikipedia, this is a “political encyclopedia … written from a left/progressive/liberal/Democratic point of view while also attempting to fairly acknowledge the other side's take.” All Daily Kos readers are invited to contribute to dKosopedia. As of August 2006, it consisted of 6,633 articles.
During the 2004 U.S. election cycle, Daily Kos readers donated approximately $500,000 to fifteen Democratic candidates whose campaigns Zuniga identified as being most in need of financial support. Though all fifteen candidates eventually lost at the polls, Zuniga maintained that the project had been successful in that it forced several Republican incumbents to secure their reelection by spending party money that otherwise could have remained in the proverbial Republican “war chest.”
Prominent content contributors to Daily Kos in recent years have included Barbara Boxer, Jimmy Carter, John Conyers, Jon Corzine, Russ Feingiold, Tom Harkin, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Jim McDermott, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Cindy Sheehan, and Lynn Woolsey. Below are selected excerpts from some of their postings:
In August 2007, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama appeared as a guest speaker at the Daily Kos national convention. According to a New York Times report: "Mr. Obama, who has built his candidacy upon the mantra of change, received booming applause when he was introduced to the audience of more than 1,500. When the moderator mentioned that the senator turned 46 years old on Saturday, several of those gathered in the ballroom began to serenade him with 'Happy Birthday.'"