It looks like Lindsay Beyerstein dodged a bullet—she was offered the position with the Edwards campaign that Amanda Marcotte accepted, and she turned it down. It’s a smart article—there are some good lessons to be learned about blogs and politics from it.
The Edwards campaign wants decentralized people-powered politics. Ironically, by hiring well-known bloggers to manage a destination Web site, it was actually centralizing and micromanaging. Every campaign needs a blog, but the most important part of a candidate’s netroots operation is the disciplined political operatives who can quietly build relationships with bloggers outside the campaign. And the bomb-throwing surrogates need to be outside, where they can make full use of their gifts without saddling a campaign with their personal political baggage.
Lindsay knew she’d be targeted, just as Amanda was — she’s a godless pro-choicer, too. That’s actually a disturbing problem; why should favoring secularism and a woman’s right to choose be a detriment to someone working for a Democratic candidate?
Because people are terrified fools with no job security and nothing to look forward to in life but their own death and the vicarious revenge of Jesus’ War Machine.
…Hey, you asked.
I was over there at Salon, and the comments are really negative about Amanda, Lindsay, Steve Gilliard, and blogs in general. I asked why so hostile and got snapped at big time. Seems strange behavior from such a benign article. I guess it proves even more that Lindsay was right.
Because when a young woman talks about reproductive rights they know she really means it. Men (and to some extent post-menopausal women) espousing the same views aren’t seen as so ‘extreme’ because they’re talking in the abstract.
Slacker Ninja says
It shouldn’t but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t.
Steve LaBonne says
It’s disturbing to see this kind of clueless flailing from a candidate who’s had nothing else to occupy his time the last 4 years except getting his campaign in shape. It sugggests that he would lack basic competence as a general election candidate and, if he survived that, as President. Maybe he really isn’t much more than a pretty boy after all.
PZ Myers says
Well, I think Edwards half gets it. He knew that the way to tap into the vigor of the blogosphere was to get someone who writes with passion and is fearless about expressing themselves, like Lindsay and Amanda and Shakes…but he didn’t recognize that that same passion we value was going to trigger a fierce counter-reaction from the right. And he flopped. Bold idea, feeble execution, miniscule commitment.
There are no great candidates for President in either party. It’s very sad. The person who becomes President is going to spend 4 years cleaning up the giant fucked-up mess left by Little Lord W.
Gore in ’12!
I still don’t think you can blame Edwards for the way he handled the situation after hiring Amanda (I thought hiring Amanda was a mistake from the beginning, and for that, he should be blamed).
1.) The more Amanda became an issue — and I think we all know the Republican hit squad ain’t going to back down, ’cause they’ve got nothing else to do — the less the Edwards campaign can focus on actually important issues, like say health care and poverty.
2.) The more Amanda became an issue, the more Edwards is identified with some of the things she’s written, and the less viable he becomes.
The political climate is not such that Amanda’s level of progressiveness is viable in a national election, and the way to change that is not to hire highly progressive bloggers, but to vote and fight to make genuinely progressive issues central in political debates. And the way to do that is to get candidates, not bloggers, who hold genuinely progressive views and know how to make it clear to the American people that those issues matter to them.
Bill Dauphin says
Because even a Democratic candidate still has to get votes from the demon-haunted red-staters among us, if he actually wants to change anything.
We all want our candidates to stand boldy and ambiguously for Truth, Justice, and the American (Progressive/Secular…) Way, and that’s a commendable impulse on our part. BUT… not all of the demon-haunted are demons themselves. Some of their minds can be changed, but they will be changed by people who lead them, rather than people who ignore them or ridicule them. And to lead it’s necessary to be out in front… which in this case means winning elections.
The old line is that “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” (attributed to Edmund Burke, but here’s an interesting discussion of that); when it comes to electoral politics, losing elections qualifies as “doing nothing,” IMHO. I think what we need is not brave radicals willing to lose in the service of pure principle (can you say Ralph Nader? I knew y’could), but people with the right principles embedded in their hearts and minds, but who are willing to win, even if it requires a little tactical compromise.
If I have to choose between moving the country in the right direction, however slowly, and congratulating myself for my voiceless moral purity, I’ll choose the former every time. YMMV.
All that said, though, I agree that the Edwards campaign should’ve known they needed fireproof suits before they waded into this, or they shouldn’t have waded in in the first place.
Bill Dauphin says
In my previous post, “We all want our candidates to stand boldy and ambiguously…”
should (obviously) have been “We all want our candidates to stand boldly and unambiguously…”
I hate when that happens! [sigh]
Steve LaBonne says
It was a Freudian slip, Bill. You accidentally expressed the real nature of the Democratic Party. Could even be a great campaign slogan- “Vote Democratic- Bold, Yet Ambiguous!” ;)
Bill: just about all of that is very hard to disagree with. The devil, of course, is in discerning which tactical compromises are in fact minor, and which instead betray the core principles that a party (candidate, special-interest group, whatever) is supposed to stand for. Reproductive rights and a secular foundation for the U.S. government ought to be, as PZ implied, pretty damn fundamental to any Democratic presidential candidate.
I think Marcotte would be a liability for any serious Democratic Candidate, and especially for Edwards, who seems to be going for the blue-collar vote much more aggressively than Hillary or Obama. She’s much too far over to the left.
And Beyerstein makes the Edward’s campaign sound terribly inept, confirming the impression the whole Marcotte episode projected.
Bill Dauphin says
Sure. Politics is an art, not a science, and that’s as true for advocates and voters as it is for candidates and officeholders.
Absolutely. But does anyone doubt Edwards’ commitment to reproductive rights? If you do, by all means oppose him. But don’t mistake his distancing himself from a particular expression of that principle — an expression that some potentially persuadable voters find offensive — for distancing himself from the basic idea.
As for secular government… I believe every one of the viable Democratic contenders is absolutely committed to secular government and the separation of church and state… but the time has not arrived — not by a longshot — when anyone can get elected to major office in this country while openly expressing contempt for religion. I know it’s frustrating to hear candidates relying on the rhetoric of religion ([cough]Obama), or delivering major speeches in churches ([cough]Edwards), but for the time being, the only word for candidates who don’t do that will be “loser.” In order to move electorate to where we want it, we must first speak to it where it is.
Personally, for example, I favor universal health care… and not only that but government-provided single-payer coverage… and not only that, what I really favor is a comprehensive public social welfare plan that treats not only health care but a living income and a decent retirement as public entitlements. BUT I would never support, nor even vote for, a candidate who campaigned on jumping to my preferred end-state in a single leap… because that candidate would be doomed to lose, and in so doing would set my principled goal back instead of moving it forward.
I’m scared of the candidate who wants to go for the 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play: That candidate loses. Give me instead the candidate who never forgets where the goal line is, but understands s/he might have to rely on a long series of short gains to get there.
Of course, it’d be nice if s/he would keep an eye out for the long-bomb opportunity, eh?
Phoenix Woman says
The last portion of Lindsay’s piece, where she notes how the Webb campaign worked with bloggers without trying to assimilate them, is the key here.
The righties have their Republican Noise Machine — a whole galaxy of various TV networks (remember, former RNC Chair Roger Ailes ran NBC’s newsroom for archconservative Jack Welch before Rupert Murdoch tapped him to create FOX News), radio networks, colleges, think-tanks (more like sheltered workshops, as very little thinking goes on there and they exist to provide “experts” to be cited in news articles and TV/radio programs) and online activists (everyone from Matt Drudge to Instafuckwit) who while they aren’t officially affilated (most of the time) with the GOP, will do whatever they can to advance its agenda. The left has only recently begun to fight back, but the righties have a three-decade head start.
This parallel universe of right-wing media/colleges/think-tanks is the creation of none other than William Simon, who was Nixon’s “energy czar” and like other Nixonites (and Republicans in general) was aching for revenge for Watergate. He did this by urging his fellow cons to stop supporting mainstream colleges/think-tanks/media, unless they could buy them up and remake them into conservative-pleasing outfits.
Buying up/buying off the press proved to be rather easy: Big Media wanted corporate tax breaks and the elimination of most (if not all) regulations on how it did business, such as anti-trust regs and the Fairness Doctrine. The Republicans were happy to oblige, especially as they knew that with the Fairness Doctrine gone, there was nothing standing between them and their plan to swamp the nation’s AM radio band with hate-radio jocks such as Rush Limbaugh, starting first in the rural regions (where they literally gave away Rush Limbaugh to small stations grateful for anything cheap they could use to fill up their timeslots) and then moving to the bigger markets.
Jason? Hillary….left? In what parallel universe?
Matt T. says
That’s actually a disturbing problem; why should favoring secularism and a woman’s right to choose be a detriment to someone working for a Democratic candidate?
Because it’ll piss off low-rent dirtbags like William Donahue and Michelle Malkin, who’ll stir up a horde of screaming howler monkeys to protest, totally ignoring any truth in the matter or the screamers’ own hypocracy. And pleasing those people is much more important than listening to folks who might actually vote for you in this lifetime.
Man. Any bets on how quickly Edwards will fold when one of the heavy wingnut slim merchants like Limbaugh or O’Reilly goes after him? Day? Less? Yes sir, there’s a man who’ll fight for progressive issues, I’m convinced of it.
Brian X says
The conservative marketing machine has won, at least for now. Even if we do get a Democratic president next time around, it won’t matter — we’ll still be having the cultural conversation based on the conservative dictionary.
I honestly don’t see truly progressive politics making any headway in this country for at least another generation — the best we can hope for is another Bill Clinton, a centrist with a knack for getting things done in spite of opposition.
Jason? Hillary….left? In what parallel universe?
“She” refers to Marcotte, not Hillary.
If by “truly progressive politics” you mean something like democratic socialism or European-style social democracy, you’re going to be waiting a lot longer than a generation. You may be waiting forever. That war is over, and the left lost.
Bill Dauphin says
I have to disagree with both Brian X and Jason: Neither has the “conservative marketing machine” won the war nor has the left lost it. The public is, on an issue-by-issue basis, far more progressive than the voting record shows… and that’s truer of younger adults than older ones. We (i.e., we progressive/liberal folks) haven’t lost the war of ideas; we’ve just been losing the political battles.
And that’s changing, too, starting with last November’s elections. Just 3 or 4 years ago people were talking with a straight face about a permanent Republican majority… but then the wingnuts overplayed their hand, and now they’re poised for a fall.
I firmly believe things are moving in our direction. We need to keep pushing hard, of course… but most people are by their nature small-c conservative, regardless of their political identification: Societal attitudes have a fair bit of intertia. If we keep our collective (good lefty word, that) shoulder to it, we can keep things moving in the right (by which I mean, left) direction. But if we allow frustration at the pace of change to tempt us to crash into social inertia full-speed, we will have made the same mistake the right has made.
In the meantime…
This is a bad thing? Does anyone here think there was any chance someone more liberal than Clinton could have been elected in 1992? Or that anyone could have managed to govern in a more progressive fashion than Clinton did? He may seem centrist from the POV of the emboldened 2007 left, but you have to recall that at the time nearly half the country thought he was practically a socialist.
Look, I was born during the 1960 campaign and one of my earliest childhood memories is watching JFK’s funeral on TV. In the time since, I’m hard pressed to think of anyone who has led us better — or more progressively — than Clinton. It’s well and good to dream of a latter-day Camelot… but it’s hard to imagine anyone with half a brain could watch 5 minutes of GWB on TV and not yearn for “another Bill Clinton.”