No one symbolizes the success of the liberal political blogosphere — known to many as the “netroots” — more than Markos Moulitsas, the outspoken founder and owner of Daily Kos, the popular daily blogging site, which began in May 2002 and rose to prominence during the Bush era.

The Daily Kos is part of a particular group of “A list” blogs like Fire Dog Lake, Atrios, Open Left, MyDD, Crooks and Liars and others that pioneered an aggressive and progressive approach to electoral politics, reflecting a generation of tech-savvy, promotion-conscious writers, activists and thinkers who dedicate much of their focus to getting liberal Democrats to win more campaigns.

During the Bush era, pushing back at conservatives and defeating Republicans was the centerpiece of the netroots’ activities. However, in the Obama era, a good deal of their attention is now focused on conservative, so-called Blue Dog Democrats.

Markos, who was born in Chicago to a Salvadoran mother, and Greek father, grew up in El Salvador, and returned to the U.S. in 1980, according to his Wikipedia page. Markos, called Kos by most in the blog movement, has had an unusual path to activism and progressive stature, given that he served in the U.S. military from 1989 to 1992, and was formerly a Republican.

Earlier, Markos majored in journalism and political science at Northern Illinois University, and received a law degree from the Boston University School of Law in 1999. He lives in Berkeley, Calif., with his wife and two children.

Despite the lack of a predictable original path to progressive politics, there is no question about Markos’ success. He has authored two books. The first, Crashing the Gate: Grassroots, Netroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics, was published in March 2006 with Jerome Amstrong, who is considered one of the originators of the progressive blogosphere. His second book is Taking On the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era, which he has described as referencing famed Chicago organizer Saul Alinsky, who authored the original “Rules for Radicals” in the 1960s.

The Daily Kos has more than 200,000 registered users, and many prominent politicians and elected officials have posted on the site. Markos has appeared numerous times on mainstream media shows, and was tabbed as a columnist for Newsweek, juxtaposed with Karl Rove on the conservative side for the 2008 election.

The Daily Kos has spawned a major national progressive conference, now called Netroots Nation, (which is not now run by the Daily Kos), which attracted 7 of the 8 presidential candidates in 2007 and where more than 1,000 bloggers and activists attended (the next one is in Pittsburgh, Aug 13-16).

AlterNet’s Executive Editor Don Hazen sat down with Markos in the AlterNet offices in San Francisco in early April for an interview.

Don Hazen: Let’s start with the big picture — what is your take on the situation we find ourselves in? Has the netroots increased its influence in the Obama era?

Markos Moulitas: If you look at the official definition of netroots — which is pretty much anyone who engages in politics online — then absolutely; the netroots has had huge impact, if for no other reason than that it played an important part in Barack Obama’s victory. He’s sitting on an e-mail list that’s 9 to 12 million strong. But it’s a massive e-mail list. Twitter has obviously become the darling of the chattering class of D.C. All of the reporters are twittering, and they’re being exposed to criticisms that they’re not used to. So in that sense, yes.

If you want to get more particular, like blogs, that may be a different story, but I think the broader netroots — and to me it’s one big interconnected ecosystem — has become integral. It’s going to be the key way, moving forward, that people use to communicate. Especially as newspapers are dying, or going online only, and our modes of information are increasingly digital as opposed to analog.

DH: Did you expect this financial mess, and how do you expect it to affect the other issues that are important, like health care, climate change, immigration?

MM: Well, it’s been happening for a while. I know during the Bush years there was a pretense that the economy was going strong. But it was clear that it was an economy that benefited an elite, but really, there was little trickle down.

So really, as far as I can remember, this entire decade, it’s been tough for people I’ve been around. I’ve had the luck of having success with Daily Kos, but I’ve seen my social circles and my friends — they’ve all struggled. So I’ve never been under this illusion that things were great and now suddenly, BOOM! — they’re bad.

But of course now we’re facing a sort of economic Armageddon. Am I surprised? I’d like to say “yeah,” but after eight years of George Bush, nothing surprises me anymore. Disappoints me, but doesn’t surprise me.

How does that affect the key agenda? I had a theory in 2008 that the bailouts — the $700 billion that [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson and Bush asked for were an attempt to bankrupt the country before Barack Obama could enter the White House. Of course, Obama embraced that and double-downed on that, so my theory went out the window!

It seemed like a great theory at the time, but now I don’t know anymore. We just saw recently that [Sen.] Arlen Specter [who has now joined the Democratic Party] is trying to use the economy as an excuse to flip-flop on EFCA. And we’re seeing Republicans ratchet up this whole, “We can’t chew gum and walk at the same time, ” rhetoric, that Obama’s doing too much and that the only thing he can focus on is the economy.

And of course during economic tough times there is always that rising anti-immigrant sentiment. Every time people are losing their jobs they’re looking for a scapegoat. I’m hoping this time it’s not so bad — I’m not sensing a huge anti-immigrant backlash, because I think people are really blaming the AIGs and the bankers and Wall Street for the current problems. I don’t think anybody really thinks that banks aren’t lending because of illegal immigrants.

So I’m hopeful that the backlash doesn’t materialize. But there is obviously moral and political reasons to push comprehensive immigration reform, and by all indications it seems the administration’s going to push it. How far, remains to be seen.

Click here for the rest of this article.