Personal Thoughts On Why I Haven't Have Endorsed In 2008

by: Chris Bowers

Sat Jul 21, 2007 at 13:15

Note: I am retracting much of the original post. What remains can be found in the extended entry and has been placed in a purely personal context. I apologize if my tone or assertions offended anyone, especially since I now agree that those assertions were incorrect. I just find it interesting that so few bloggers who I remember making endorsements in 2003 have done so in 2007. I wanted to try and figure out why that is. I found the feedback I received to be very helpful in that regard--Chris
Chris Bowers :: Personal Thoughts On Why I Haven't Have Endorsed In 2008
Taking a quick look at The Liberal Blog Advertising Network, it occurs to me that I am not aware of any single blog on the list endorsing any of the eight Democratic candidates currently running for President. I even checked some of the major local and state blogs on the list who cover politics in the home states of Presidential candidates, and again I don't see any endorsements. BlueNC in North Carolina has no Edwards endorsement that I can find. Prairie State Blue in Illinois not only has no Obama endorsement that I can find, but they currently have something of an anti-Obama diary on the top of their recommended list. In New York, neither The Albany Project nor Rochester Turning have any Clinton endorsements I can find.  Granted, there is not a total absence of endorsements, and I can think of at least two bloggers who I like very much who are supporting Obama: Jared Roebuck of MyDD and Lies Before Breakfast, and Jenifer Fernandez Ancona who is starting a regular column on Open Left (the objections to which I thought were quite unfair from several commenters, and neatly rebutted by Paul Rosenberg here). Also, personally, I have publicly made donations to both John Edwards and Bill Richardson. However, donating to two candidates is not exactly the same thing as making a strong endorsement of one, and I haven't donated to anyone in about three months.

(Endorsement Update: The General has endorsed Edwards, but says he will switch to Gore if Gore runs. Also, Archpundit has endorsed Obama. One more: Armando has endorsed Chris Dodd.)

Overall, the progressive blogosphere has maintained a nearly ubiquitous public face of neutrality in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary. This is a stark reversal from 2003-2004, when public blogger endorsements of Democratic presidential candidates were the order of the day.  Until it closed down in mid-2003, MyDD had openly supported Howard Dean for nearly a year. The Left Coaster openly endorsed John Kerry. At the old Dailykos, then front page writer RonK, Seattle, openly backed Clark. And these are just a few examples among literally dozens. I remember comment threads back in 2003 when many people did not believe those who said they were undecided. Last cycle, not endorsing someone appeared strange, even untrustworthy! It was as though you were simply not covering the 2003-2004 Democratic nomination process adequately unless you had publicly chosen sides. If you were not endorsing a Democrat, perhaps you were actually a Republican troll!

What has caused this change? There are many possible reasons, perhaps the most obvious of which is an increasing sense of political maturity where the importance of engaging in activism apart from trying to elect one person President has set in on the movement. There are other possible reasons too, at least which I have felt in my own personal experience. I have no idea if they impact other bloggers or not, and I actually doubt that they do, considering the peculiar nature of my situation as a blogger. Here are some things that impact me:

  1. Netroots handlers inside presidential campaigns. At least five Democratic presidential campaigns, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Obama and Richardson, have "netroots coordinators," or some variation thereof, on staff. These are paid staffers who the campaigns hire, at least in part, to talk to progressive bloggers, and I count many of them as my friends (or at least friendly colleagues). Conversations I have had between bloggers and Internet / netroots staffers often involve stories pitching us stories, asking for corrections on posts I have already written, or asking them to provide comments on stories on I intend to write. This is new territory for me, and without a professional political background I sometimes find it difficult to negotiate, especially since I respect the opinions of the people with whom I talk. I certainly would not know how to negotiate if I were to endorse a candidate, and feel like the conversations go better if I stay neutral in the campaign.

  2. Desire for access. One of the best state blogs out there, Blue Hampshire, is currently running a series of "policy straw polls" where they ask all eight presidential campaigns to explain what distinguishes them on a variety of issues (so far, health care and Iraq have been polled). I think this is a really exciting project, and a great step forward for blogging. I tried to much of the same thing myself a few weeks ago, when I asked every campaign to estimate how many troops their redeployment plan would leave in Iraq. In order to do this, I need access to campaigns, which I think might disappear if I were to make an endorsement.

  3. A Divided Community. Even though there has so far been a record-breaking amount of activism on behalf of Democratic presidential campaigns this cycle, the progressive blogosphere and netroots community remains profoundly divided on which candidate it supports. This was certainly the case during my time at MyDD, and I doubt that it is any different here on Open Left.  Since bloggers are ultimately accountable to their readers, a divided community makes a forthright, activist public endorsement impossible for me. I can't represent the community if I start taking unilateral action against the wishes of many in the community.

While I think for most it is probably a desire to push all campaigns in a positive direction, and feeling that the movement is bigger than any one candidate or campaign, I just wanted to mention how these three factors play complicating roles for me as well. Hopefully it won't cause you to think any less of me. I often find what I do to be new and difficult territory, and I am often unsure how to handle it. Right now, maintaining public neutrality seems like a good route.

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the other side of an endorsement (0.00 / 0)
I think the most relevant role blogs could have in the primary is not coming out for candidates, but coming out against candidates. This was the difference between netroots support for Dean in 2003 and 2005. Instead of the endorsement, the veto.

This solves point four (almost entirely), point one and two are very similar, and point three will remedy itself in the general.

On twitter: @BobBrigham

There are disadvantages (0.00 / 0)
Not engaging in activism for any particularly candidate distances us from most of our readers, and from the progressive netroots in general, who are working for specific candidates. There are more small donors than ever before at this point int he campaign. The candidate rallies are huge by all historic standards. Lots of interesting new online activist techniques are being employed. And we are just not a part of any of that. That seems dangerous.

And while I agree that bloggers have been harder, or more overtly against, some candidates than others, I don't really see any "Stop Obama" or "Stop Clinton" campaigns anywhere in the blogosphere either. Are we really coming out against campaigns, or simply covering campaigns as a form of media for progressive activists? And if we are doing the latter, how well are we really representing those activists by staying on the sidelines? They aren't on the sidelines themselves.

[ Parent ]
staying on the sidelines (0.00 / 0)
I think its great that the bloggers are "staying on the sidelines". After all, the MSM is not covering the issues or the Democratic candidates' positions so by default the blogosphere has become our only source of evenhanded, non superficial coverage. The 2008 primary campaign has started very early and many people and bloggers are waiting to see how the candidates handle themselves, how they shake out and don't want to do MSM's job of shooting down one of our own. I believe there will be plenty of time to get behind the eventual nominee and become more partisan. While I don't agree with everything each candidate says, I do think that we have an embarassment of riches compared to the repub party field. We do have our preferences but we can support any of our possible nominees against anyone the other side can muster.

Why yes, I'm a liberal. Thank you very much!

[ Parent ]
veto is the problem (4.00 / 2)
The short-head blogs did exercise a veto, of Hillary Clinton. By vetoing her they largely excluded themselves from substantively examining the likely Democratic candidates. Endorsements, or actual neutrality, would have at least allowed space for more honest discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.

Another issue is the Dean-centric aspect of the short-head blogs. That has limited their ability to engage the broader Democratic community that is showing up online, supporting Obama for instance. Since Dean was not an idea candidate (unlike Hart, or for that matter Bill Clinton) there is not much common ground for idea candidates like Edwards, or even Obama, to engage his online supporters. And again the one candidate who is a 'fighting Democrat' like Dean has been ruled out by the short-head blogs.

[ Parent ]
So Plausible, Yet So Wrong! (0.00 / 0)
The short-head blogs did exercise a veto, of Hillary Clinton. By vetoing her they largely excluded themselves from substantively examining the likely Democratic candidates.
No one has excluded themselves from substantively examining anyone.  Especially in comparison to 2004.  Clinton hasn't been accepted/analyzed on her terms. But why should she?  It's not the analysts' job to accept the candidate on their own terms.

Endorsements, or actual neutrality, would have at least allowed space for more honest discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.
Clinton is the establishment candidate.  That's both a strength and a weakness and has honestly been discussed about as well as can reasonably be expected, given how much animosity the establishment has generated by playing dead for the GOP since 1994.

Another issue is the Dean-centric aspect of the short-head blogs. That has limited their ability to engage the broader Democratic community that is showing up online, supporting Obama for instance.
I wasn't a Deaniac, so I feel pretty comfortable standing up and saying that I think this is bullshit.  It was not Dean per se, but the oppositional spirit--which he shared most notably with Clark and Kucinich--that was important.  And since Dean went on to be DNC Chair--and, by all accounts, well on his way to being the most successful one since sliced bread--this equation is particularly perplexing.  It's Obamaphiles who have displayed a limited ability to engage, as most of them (not all) seem to be stuck in hero-worship mode. 

Since Dean was not an idea candidate (unlike Hart, or for that matter Bill Clinton) there is not much common ground for idea candidates like Edwards, or even Obama, to engage his online supporters.
Hart and Clinton were idea candidates but Dean wasn't?  I have no idea what you mean by "idea candidate."

And again the one candidate who is a 'fighting Democrat' like Dean has been ruled out by the short-head blogs.
Hillary Clinton a 'fighting Democrat'?  Well, when she feels like it, I suppose.  But that's not what the term really means.  Fighting for yourself as a Democrat when you're attacked is a whole lot better than just rolling over.  But it's fighting for others when they're attacked that makes you the real deal.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Re: So Plausible, Yet So Wrong! (0.00 / 0)
My point about short-head blogs and Clinton is pretty simple. The proprietors of blogs set the standards for discussion on their blogs. Markos made it clear that he opposed Clinton long ago, Bowers did as well on MyDD. And so it was difficult, until about a month ago, to have any meaningful discussion of Clinton or her positions on those blogs, the communities were comfortable dismissing her out of hand. This is not about 'analysts' or the 'establishment' or even the candidates, it is about the members of a community engaging in politics on blogs.

I was a Deaniac, and to me Dean stood for opposition to the Iraq war and a more outspoken Democratic party. Neither stance has any policy implications, and as Markos mentions in the above linked op-ed netroots support for Dean was not ideological (this is also why I don't agree with Bowers' conception of the netroots as a movement, since I can't identify what it is a movement for).

All of the current Democratic candidates are running idea-driven campaigns, Edwards perhaps most of all. Bowers notes that each has had tremendous success with activists online and off, the top three have each far outstripped what Dean was able to organize online at this point in the last cycle.  Yet not even Edwards, who has done the most to reached out to the short-head blogs, is getting much traction among the 2004 cycle bloggers.

I think the shutting down of discussion of Clinton and the less ideological nature of the short-head blogs have made them less relevant in a primary where ideas are more important and Clinton has a very good chance of winning. This made it easy for Obama, who is running on 1992 DLC ideas, and his supporters to dismiss Daily Kos, his primary competitor isn't there and so they have little need to engage. I do not think that handlers, insider-itis or divided communities are the main causes of this lack of engagement.

[ Parent ]
Ah, Now I Get It (0.00 / 0)
I think you're right that Obama felt he could dismiss DKos in part because Hillary wasn't a factor there.  I think this was both stupid and arrogant on his part, but I do think it was part of what went on in his head--and probably more prominently what went on in his inner circle.

But I don't buy a lot of what preceeds that, even though I now see there could be a lot more in-depth discussion of it.

It may be unfair to focus on differences and perceived soft spots, but I'm trying to avoid writing a diary-lengths comment here.  So I'll start by saying you make some good points that could well require a series of diaries to work through properly.

Nonetheless, here goes...

I was a Deaniac, and to me Dean stood for opposition to the Iraq war and a more outspoken Democratic party. Neither stance has any policy implications,

Being anti-war has no policy implications?  This statement is so absurd as to be irrefutable.  If you can swallow this, is there any contradiction you won't swallow?

But then I look at the whole paragraph, and I think I understand what's happening here:

I was a Deaniac, and to me Dean stood for opposition to the Iraq war and a more outspoken Democratic party. Neither stance has any policy implications, and as Markos mentions in the above linked op-ed netroots support for Dean was not ideological (this is also why I don't agree with Bowers' conception of the netroots as a movement, since I can't identify what it is a movement for).

The confusion here lies at the threashold of many-diary-land.  Cutting to the quick: (1) The Iraq War was so insanely stupid that opposition cut across a wide range of ideological positions, and was most readily expressed without reference to any of them. (2) However, over this time period, being reality-based at all began to emerge clearly as an ideological position in and of itself.  (3) This also became coupled with opposition to authoritarianism, which emerged more and more clearly as the core of conservative ideology under Bush.  (4) This is a recapitulation of the 18th Century struggle of the Enlightenment against the power of tradition and the Church, which was also, for many, but not for all, a struggle against monarchy and hereditary rule as well.  (5) The Enlightenment was a movement, even though there were considerable differences within it--it included enlightened monarchs as well as anti-monarchical radical democrats.  (6) The netroots may be considered as a movement in several different senses, one of which is as a focal point of neo-Enlightenment opposition to the authoritarianism centered in the Bush Administration, whose tacit logic still pervades most of the Beltway, even with the Dems in charge of Congress.  (7) The netroots may also be considered as a movement for civic participation, which by its very nature has a broadly inclusive attitude toward more conventionally-defined ideologies, but which is still itself distinctly ideological, with a focus on process rather than specific substantive desiderata.

All the above sums up to this: It's not about idea-driven vs. not idea-driven.  It's about very different dynamics and different scopes of ideas.  Personally, I don't see either Clinton or Obama as particular idea-driven candidates. I see them as ambition-driven, which is to say, politicians.  And I think that they both are pretty much recycling the same wornout DLC ideas of the 1990s, with Obama getting a little extra juice out of the fact that he's black, and thus--ala Sonny Liston--can take on the mantle of the Black Great White Hope.

Now, it may come as news to some people, but Markos is not exactly a deep thinker.  He's not stupid by a long shot.  But his depths, as he's revealled them online, are emotional, not intellectual.  It's his passion, not his intellectual vision, that drives him.

Chris is a much deeper thinker, and his decision to set deeper thoughts aside is a fairly considered one, something along the lines of this, I imagine: we are in the grips of a struggle where more strategic and more mid-level thinking will play a much larger role in determining whether we ever have the luxury of fully exploring those deeper thoughts again.  Open left, as I read it, represents, in part, an effort to bring the integration of mid-level and strategic thinking to the fore.  (There is a deeper intellectual motivation in doing so, but that motivation need not be actively examined and debated. At least not now.  Once it has time to flesh out, perhaps.)

Either way--and there are a lot more other players not just in between, but triangulating all over the starchart--the ideas in play between Clinton and Obama are relatively small bore compared to the dimensions of the struggle as Bower, Markos and most other bloggers see them.  What's far more important is the openining up of channels for new ideas to bubble up from below.  Edwards is somewhat different, I would argue, but he suffers from the fact that the blogosphere is relatively remote from the issues of class that drive Edwards.

I would much prefer it, of course, if there were a much tighter coupling between the ideas that resonate in the blogosphere and those in the presidential campaign.  But if the choise is between a tighter coupling and preserving the distinctiveness of the blogosphere, I would favor the later without question.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
to build on what you're saying ... (0.00 / 0)
It's in some ways a leadership question.  I think the ideas in the blogosphere have to be more developed BEFORE they can have a presence in the campaign(s).  We potentially have a more interactive relationship with the progressive base because we aren't necessarily bound by the blinders of partisanship.  And can thus be their transmission belt.

Full Court Press!

[ Parent ]
I'm Not Sure What This Means--But I Want To (0.00 / 0)
What, exactly, are "ideas in the blogosphere"?  (As opposed to ideas, period, which are discussed in the blogosphere, but may be laid out in excruciating detail in pdf files on non-blog sites?)

Ideas are always going to be more finely honed within a campaign, if only because they represent the views of the campaign, as opposed to being the subject of an ongoing multi-party discussion.  It doesn't matter if the discussion takes place in an 18th Century coffee house, a 19th Century bar, a 20th Century conference hall or a 21st Century blog thread, that's just the way conversations go.

I have a distinct feeling you have something more precise in mind which would make more sense to me.  Maybe it's still vague in your mind, too.  But I think it's worth articulating more clearly.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
let me approach this obliquely ... (0.00 / 0)
Paul, I meant NEW ideas.  Old ideas can be fine-tuned to death within campaigns, lest half their staff end up on the unemployment lines.  But they are constrained by the necessary fixation on winning that particular election.  We are hopefully not so constrained.  I thought your paragraph beginning "The confusion here ..." was a good example of trying to develop something beyond the issue of the moment (the war).

Historically, ideas initially follow movements, and then at some point begin to lead them.  In other words, movements grow out of reactions to grievances.  From the movement grows new vision, because movement creates new possibilities.  Then the new vision(s) exert a further driving force on the movement.

We are at the point where our reaction to grievances to predominates, and as an initial premise of this entire thread (the stagnation of the blogosphere) makes clear, we are in need of new vision.  I wish I could articulate what that new vision should be (and then I could be king), but I believe that process is part of that vision and what we have to agree on at this point is the need for that vision.

I hope this doesn't sound too zen, but ...

Full Court Press!

[ Parent ]
NEW Ideas? (0.00 / 0)
Instant run-off voting and other alternatives to our first-past-the-post single-dsitrict system are so new to many people online that they haven't even heard of them, for example.

But the Marquis de Condorcet first explored alternatives a few years before our Constitution was approved, and the State of Illinois used a multi-discrict method of cumulative voting for about 100 years, so the ideas themselves aren't new.  But they are new to most folks online, and virtually unthinkable to folks offline.

This is hardly true of every idea or issue you can point to.  But it's at least partly true of much of the thinking.  New ideas tend to have old roots--lots of them--whether people know it or not.  The first theories of evolution (that we know about, that is) were invented by the pre-Socratic Greeks.  This doesn't mean that all ideas are old ideas.  Only that they have ancestors.

Which, I think, complicates the discussion considerably.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
new relative to the current spectrum of opinion, then (0.00 / 0)
I'm not trying to split hairs.  In chess, an opening isn't named after the first player to play it, but the first to make it a working system in tournament play.  And I'm concerning with more than electoral technique.  I'm talking about redistribution of power.

Full Court Press!

[ Parent ]
5. Clinton Anxiety (0.00 / 0)
I would add another reason, which dares not speak its name: Clinton Anxiety.

Here's how it works:

(a) few progressive bloggers favor Clinton in the primary;

(b) most progressive bloggers recognize her as the current front-runner; and

(c) the Clinton camp is notorious -- I speak as a New Yorker -- for having a long memory of who was with 'em and who was agin 'em.

So to endorse now is to risk being shut out of the front-runner's campaign (and the next administration), whether for access or for a job.

I seem to recall a Times article on the Clinton campaign from more than a year ago about her campaign, noting that it was both lining up many of the party's major fundraisers, and spreading the message that Hillary will remember well who got on board early, and who didn't.

"Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they’ve stolen." -- Mort Sahl

[ Parent ]
And 6., Absence of a Dean Figure (4.00 / 1)
A sixth reason which only exacerbates those enumerated by Chris: the absence of a Dean figure.

While I know progressives who currently like one of the contenders, I don't know any who love one the way so many in the 'sphere loved Dean during the run-up to the primaries.

For example, I like Edwards. But I'm not champing at the bit to hit the donation bar every time his blog asks me to. He's just not People Powered Edwards -- though he gets a lot of cred for raising poverty as an issue in 2003 and again in this campaign.

The only candidate who seems to inspire ecstasies in a few is Obama, but this is much less widespread than Dean mania was online.

I guess we also have to take into account that there are just many more mainstream Dems online (and paying attention to blogs, or blogging themselves) than in 2003.

"Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they’ve stolen." -- Mort Sahl

[ Parent ]
Gore is that figure (4.00 / 1)
Obama inspires a wider amount of people, but he just doesn't have the fervent support of Dean.

I think if Gore jumps in, the progressive blogosphere's short head, and many Deaniacs who have been active MoveOn and DFA members since 2004, will enthusiastically support him.

Leftmost Bit

[ Parent ]
However (0.00 / 0)
"For example, I like Edwards. But I'm not champing at the bit to hit the donation bar every time his blog asks me to. He's just not People Powered Edwards"

But Edwards does in fact have far more small donors at this point in the campaign than Dean did back in 2003, so more people are hitting that donation button. I think we are too often assuming that everyone feels like "us," when it fact they don't. If Edwards, Clinton and Obama all have more small donors and activists than Dean did at this point in 2003, yet we are arguing that none of them have as much activist support as Dean did, or something along those lines, then who are "we," really? It seems to me that the answer is that we are not the voice of progressive activists, as "we" were back in 2003. More people are taking sides early on than they did last cycle, yet fewer bloggers are doing so. What's up with that?

[ Parent ]
is a donor an activist? (0.00 / 0)

Join us at the Missouri community blog Show Me Progress!

[ Parent ]
yes (0.00 / 0)
I would certainly say so.

[ Parent ]
Degrees of separation (0.00 / 0)
To your point, and the one above, I'd argue that the medium is more mature with a greater audience than it was back in Deaniac times. There are more people reading the blogosphere, and hence more people available to hit the donate button. I'd surmise that this is a large factor in the increase in small donors this cycle as well as the early start to the primary season.

But I'm not sure to what level of activism a donation is. It obviously is an action. And a welcome and needed one. But it's not the same level of action or participation across the board that I think existed in 2003.

If teaching is so easy, then by all means get your degree, pass your certification test(s), get your license, and see if you can last longer than the five years in the classroom 50% of those who enter the profession never make it to.

[ Parent ]
Hmm (0.00 / 0)
I would say that a donor who only gives to one candidate (or better yet who is a first-time giver drawn out by a particular candidate) could be an actvist.

But I don't think people Obama get's $5 from at a rally really qualify. Nor does David Geffin, for that matter.

Me | My Work | Future Majority

[ Parent ]
What's Up? It's Simple. (0.00 / 0)
More people are taking sides early on than they did last cycle, yet fewer bloggers are doing so. What's up with that?

There's no great mystery here, IMHO.

Last cycle, people blogged because of the lack of political alternatives (among other things) and Dean spoke against that lack of alternatives, so endorsing him was a very natural alignment.  (The rationale for Clark was similar, but with a greater emphasis on his background of practical experience.)

This cycle, people are blogging because they blog.  Some new people are blogging because candidates inspire them, but they're a small fraction in an already vast arena.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Have I mentioned lately... (0.00 / 0)
...that you're rapidly becoming my favorite source of meta?

Yeah I blog.

[ Parent ]
Good point (4.00 / 1)
I think a lot of establishment bloggers are hedging, which is actually the smart play.  We all know that Clinton has a solid lead and Obama/Edwards could conceivably win this thing so absent a savior like Dean or Gore, why make unnecessary enemies? Clinton is making nice with the bloggers, so why pick a fight with them?

Still I predict as we get closer to the primaries, some prominent bloggers will get on the anti-clinton bandwagon and choose either Edwards or Obama if they think their support can make a difference. 

[ Parent ]
What about the "elephant in the room" (0.00 / 0)
How'd you get through that entire post without mentioning the Joe Anthony fiasco?

What about it? (0.00 / 0)
Why is that the elephant in the room? What would you like me to say about it? It was a one-time event and thus, at best, an example of something larger. What do you see it as an example of that I did not mention here?

[ Parent ]
One basic reason (4.00 / 2)
that so few a-list bloggers have full-throatedly endorsed a candidate, is that so few candidates this time around seem worthy of a full-throated endorsement.

Supporters - and bloggers, and staffers - who might have flocked en masse to a Gore, Feingold, or Warner campaign have dispersed. (At the same time, there's no Lieberman, Bayh, or DLC candidate in the field either.)

That is probably a factor (0.00 / 0)
But why were the choices so much clearer in 2003-4 if there was so much less activism for those candidates than there are for the current bunch? More people are attending rallies. More people are giving small donations. More people are visiting campaign websites. More people are watching debates. Overall, far more progressive activists are engaged this time around than they were in 2003-2004, and yet the blogosphere presumes to argue that progressive activsts are less satisfied with this group of candidates they were with the 2004 crop?

The progressive activist world in more engaged in the 2008 campaign than they were in the 2004 campaign at this point. Yet, we bloggers are far less engaged in direct activism on behalf of presidential candidates than we were in 2003 at this point. If we think the candidates are not worthy of endorsements, what does that say about our connection to progressive grassroots activists around the country?

I think it clearly shows that we are becoming more distant from the progressive zeitgeist than we once were. And I think the reason for that is that we are become more insidery.

[ Parent ]
Why choose? (4.00 / 1)
In 2003, Howard Dean was nearly revolutionary as a presidential candidate who said the war in Iraq was wrong and the Bush administration was harming the nation with its foreign and domestic policies. Okay, Kucinich and Nader were saying similar things but they had no chance of getting elected.

Then Clark entered the race with a similar perspective and peeled off some progressive support.

So there were strong feelings about the candidates who were willing to buck the Lieberman wing of the Democratic party. In response, other Democrats were fired up to support Kerry on the basis of resume and electability, or Edwards based on his populism.

Now it's not revolutionary to say the war was a mistake, or that civil liberties and Constitutional protections should be restored. The Democratic candidates seem much closer together on policy goals. And they all seem to have decent character. There are some differences on experience and resume, but resume never won an election. So really it boils down to who can organize and run the best campaign and can get the most support from the general electorate. That's something that can only be discovered in the campaign itself.

Any Democratic candidate would be light years ahead of any Republican, so most bloggers see no need to choose and are taking a wait and see position.

[ Parent ]
Thanks, T Maysle, (0.00 / 0)
you save me having to write it. There may well be insider issues that keep the major bloggers from endorsing. But if they see the candidates at all like my politics-junkie self, there are no compelling differences among this year's crop. The passion, especially the negative passion against an entrenched out-of-touch status quo (my view in 2003) vs. against a wild-eyed guy undoing all we've worked for the last quarter century (my caricature of the opposing view in 2003) just isn't there.

[ Parent ]
Agree completely (0.00 / 0)
A loose consensus has formed in the upper reaches of the Democratic Party.  We are not all happy with it, many of us have strong disagreements with various components of it, but we, and the Democratic presidential candidates, are willing to give it our support.

None of the candidates has played a part in forming this loose consensus.  Thus, they each seem "lackluster" because none of them is driving the agenda; they are each determined to follow it without openly adopting it.

Edwards has, to a limited extent, attempted to add poverty and income issues to the agenda, or at least to push it toward the front.

The lesson the candidates have taken from 2000 and 2004 is this:  early separation invites a "bring down the leader" mentality among the other candidates in the party and, more importantly, in the corporate press/media.

[ Parent ]
I understand that position (0.00 / 0)
As it seems to be a version of what most people are saying here. I just think that the numbers show otherwise, and more people are engaging in activism for specific candidates than they were in 2003-2004. And while our zeitgeist seems to have solidified around a wait-and-see approach, I don't see that as the case among the larger pool of progressive activists. That difference in approach seems important to me, but maybe no one else sees the difference I am seeing.

[ Parent ]
Well (4.00 / 1)
Look at the dKos straw poll results over the past two years. It's not just netroots "insiders" who were strongly backing Feingold (he was at 38% this time last year before dropping out), or Warner (consistently in double digits), or Clark (the same), or Gore (not polled, but consistently demolished all the field in "fantasy" straw polls).

Also, my sense is it's not that prominent bloggers don't think candidates are worthy of endorsements, it's that they're all worthy, while simultaneously none is especially worthy, for different reasons. In many ways, the overall strength of the field is one reason for this phenomenon.

[ Parent ]
Stakes and Contrasts (4.00 / 2)
But why were the choices so much clearer in 2003-4 if there was so much less activism for those candidates than there are for the current bunch?

In 2003 the primary stakes were much higher.

While I appreciate your insight, and largely agree that there has been a rapid fusion between the first-wave of blog-based online activists and the existing Democratic Establishment, I think the phenomena you're investigating can't be examined credibly without taking the wider political environment into account.

It's not just the short-head blogs that are refraining from picking sides, it's everyone. Progressives and democrats are energized, but in a general sense. Even the people I know who are working for a candidate are far less committed than your average dKos poster in the last primary dogfight. The online squabbles between various supporters are minor and amateurish compared to the flame-wars of yore.

I also think it's a mistake to conflate attendance at rallies (or donations, even) with hard support or "activism for a candidate." I don't see much of that. There's a higher baseline of participation and people feel the tide is turning, but this  hasn't translated into much candidate-specific activism from my perspective. For instance: I still see more leftover "Kerry/Edwards" bumper stickers than I do primary candidates.

Why? Stakes and Contrast.

In 2003, we launched a war, which most online activists (though not many policy-wonkers) deeply opposed, and which sharply divided the primary field. I know I wasn't alone in seeing that election as a vital chance to reclaim some moral dignity for the county, a feeling which is notably absent from the primary today. "I want my country back." Remember that?

Also, in 2003 theoretical head-to-head matchups between Bush and potential Democratic candidates had W cruising to victory. Electability was all the rage, but this fueled support for alternative candidates as well as for Kerry. I saw early in 2003 that John Kerry would be very hard to elect vs. Bush (the dynamic of "strong and wrong beats weak and right" was obvious all along), and as a result you had one and a half outsider campaigns (Dean and Clark) whose reason d'etre was the belief by many that the Establishment candidates were weak, out of touch, and not up to the job.

In 2007 there are no serious outsider candidates in this race, and the stakes are relatively low. All the campaigns have a good theoretical chance for victory, and they all espouse an essentially equivalent message which is generally satisfying to the base. No one has distinguished themselves from the field because they are all running extremely risk-averse operations.

In 2007, while there are differences between the candidates, they are orders of magnitude away from the contrasts at work in the last campaign. The campaigns have also have not (yet) directly confronted one-another, and while I'm sure eventually they will, it's unclear to me what they could credibly do so over.

So we have a low-stakes, low-contrast primary; the polar opposite of the last. I think even without the increasing symbiosis between the establishment and first-wave online activists, this would still be a tepid and low-endorsement season by comparison.

Me | My Work | Future Majority

[ Parent ]
But Josh (0.00 / 0)
Can you really just dismiss all of the activism made on behalf of specific candidates as examples of soft support in 2007, but then say that back in 2003 it was a signal of hard support, all just based on your personal impressions of the people performing the activism?

How can we say that people are not picking sides when the quantitative numbers that measure activism all show a real increase on behalf of specific candidates? I don't see a way around that, although clearly pretty much everyone seems to think I am wrong, and that progressive activists are not as engaged on behalf of specific candidates as they were in 2003-2004.

[ Parent ]
Good question (0.00 / 0)
True: my observation is 100% subjective and instinctual. The only thing I have that comes close to an empirical basis is my simple bumper-sticker-counting example, but I think it's a good one. Sticking a sticker on your car is a strong show of support. I see way more people holding on to their Kerry/Edwards stickers ("we were right!") than I do primary candidate names. If anyone, I think Sen. Clinton has the hardest support there.

I also guess I question your assertion that there really is all that much happening. What are the metrics other than dollars banked and email addresses added to the list? That's not activism to me.

My definition of activism is effort by individuals to promote their chosen candidate. To that end I don't see much (or anything) in the way of buttons, tabling, signs, t-shirts, or any other signals that this is activity is taking place. The only email forwards I've gotten were from someone supporting Biden.

I think that most primary voters are at least somewhat ambivalent (if pleased) about their choices. It's an "any of them would be fine" kind of mindset. We've built a great (and still growing) culture of giving, but political donations are just another consumer activity, as is showing up at a rally for the rockstar experience.

Are people doing candidate visibility? Are they going to meet-ups? Are they actively fundraising among their social networks? Is anyone saying "I sold my bike for democracy?" There have been flashes and glimmers, but my (again totally subjective) perception is that there is a lot less of this kind of participatory activism now than there was in 2003.

Also, FWIW, I think the questions you raise are excellent and should be explored further. I didn't mean my comments to be taken as negative.

Me | My Work | Future Majority

[ Parent ]
Maybe this will help (0.00 / 0)
In 2003 there was a battle for the soul of the Party, initiated by Howard Dean (the self-proclaimed "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party").

Dean was embraced HARD by the netroots.

Dean was totally unacceptable to the party establishment.

At this stage in 2003, which relative to the Primary schedule lines up with about late May this year, Wes Clark was still off the radar. It was Dean against the establishment. The perennial losers of the DLC had stepped forward to Stop Dean. There was an intraparty WAR going on! Choosing sides was imperative, inevitable.

Not so today. To a large degree, it's because our perceptions have been proven right, and embraced by the party establishment - you CAN'T compromise, or even reason, with the modern Republican Party; the Iraq War is a misbegotten clusterfuck; ... (won't somebody please expound on my "..." there MUST be more than this. Mustn't there?)

Dean v. Kerry is not at all like Clinton v. Obama. In 2003 many were unwilling to accept the alternative. This time that's not the case. In 2003 there was a stark difference between the alternatives.

This time that's not the case.

I think it's fantastic that ALL of our candidates are drawing large crowds and unprecedented small-$ donations. But chalk that up to advances in the culture - don't try to compare 2003 apples to 2007 oranges.

And don't endorse - for someone in your position it's not worth it.

[ Parent ]
And let me add (0.00 / 0)
I had to hold my nose to vote for Kerry, even the electoral cycle equivalent of 18 months from now. He ran a campaign designed to win over voters who thought like Republicans. As Al From & Bruce Red prescribed. And to the bitter end he refused to run against the Iraq War.

None of our candidates are doing that this year. I'm with the General - I'd like to see Edwards take the oath of office in 2009, unless Gore decides to run. But I'd cast a vote for Obama in a heartbeat, or Richardson, and even Hillary is starting to talk the talk.

[ Parent ]
The important stuff is post-election (0.00 / 0)
I agree with the general sentiment, obviously. The proof is in the pudding; what happens after a Dem is elected? Not to get too ahead of ourselves (it's a long way and a lot of work from happening), but my sense is that any of these folks can be whipped into doing the right thing.

Me | My Work | Future Majority

[ Parent ]
Not to diss Kerry (0.00 / 0)
After he lost he re-located his center. To the point that yesterday he wrote
Here's what I'm asking you: I don't care if you have a horse in 2008, or who you're supporting. Anytime you see a Democrat get attacked, please step up and defend them.

That's good stuff. Could have served him well in 2004. And profoundly illustrative of the difference in the political climate.

[ Parent ]
well, chris, (4.00 / 1)
in our case it's pretty simple. while i personally may endorse a candidate during the primaries, our site is a community site. i don't wish to presume that i would ever speak for our readers in such a way. also, i'm just not paying all that much attention to the presidentials yet. big things are afoot here in New York and that consumes most of our attention.

secondly, there isn't much affection for hillary as a presidential candidate amongst our community. why would you presume that our site or rochester turning would endeavor to endorse a candidate that is a second or third choice among our readers at best?

add to this that, for either party, new york simply isn't in play. at all. not even a little bit. this is hillary and rudy land and our state legislature, where we focus much of our attention anyway, passed a law specifically to benefit them both by moving our primary to Feb 5.

that said, i'm not saying that the phenomena you describe doesn't exist, it certainly does and i have noticed it as well, but i'm curious as to why you chose to highlight our site as well as RT for not endorsing a candidate that either of us as communities care much for.

It's time:the albany project.

Mostly as an example (0.00 / 0)
"m curious as to why you chose to highlight our site as well as RT for not endorsing a candidate that either of us as communities care much for."

but I can see why, considering the points you raise, that it was not a particularly good example.

[ Parent ]
wait untiil september (0.00 / 0)
I agree with Tparty, there's no clear netroots candidate (ala Gore or Feingold or Warner) and none of the candidates are trying to be THE netroots candidate, probably out of a calculation that it would hurt them more to have that label than it would help them. 

I think after Labor Day, when the election really heats up, some bloggers will endorse, especially if one of the candidates who has a real chance at winning begins to court them. 

Also, we will know definitely by September I think if Gore is running.  I know everyone rationally knows he really really isn't running, but I think there's a lot of irrational hope in the blogosphere that Gore still might run.  Thus its hard to throw support for another candidate when you're dreaming of Gore. 

if he gets in, not until mid-late October (0.00 / 0)
simple reason -  he will not get into the race before the Nobel Peace Prize is announced.  This is probably his one shot, and he has to know that were he an announced candidate the Norwegian Parliament would eliminate him.

I'm not saying he gets in even if he wins, only that I would be shocked were he to get in before the Prize is announced.

My understanding is that he has another book coming out in September.  He would also want the chance to do the promotion on that without it being seen as purely a campaign book.

Just my perspective, however limited that of one overaged (61) blogger from Virginia who had endorsed (Vilsack, whom I know, because he opposed reauthorization of NCLB) and who is now neutral.

As it happens, four of the candidates sit on the committees with oversight on No Child Left Behind -  Clinton, Dodd, Obama and Kucinich.  So in my case I am waiting to see the reality of what they do on education.  The only campaign with whom I have talked about education is Edwards - with Elizabeth briefly at a fundraiser, and gave her staff some materials.  In theory I am supposed to talk with Clinton policy people but that has not happened.  I or people with whom I am associated have spoken with the Congressional staff of the candidates on the committee, but that is different.  If any campaign reads this and does want to talk with me, feel free to contact me at kber at earthlink dot net.

Meanwhile, I will remain neutral, at least until after our general assembly elections in Virginia this November.  That is more than enough to consume most of the time I have for politics, and the rest is sucked up by lobbying on the Hill on NCLB.


If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy.

[ Parent ]
We'll see (0.00 / 0)
I don't expect a wave of endorsements at any point in this campaign, considering the path we have taken so far. Maybe a week or two beforehand, but by then it will be too late to make any real difference.

I think the structures I list above, along with the general blogosphere desire to try and influence all campaigns, will result in bloggers staying "neutral" pretty much throughout. But I guess only time will tell on that  front...

[ Parent ]
What if its a tight 2 person race late in the game? (0.00 / 0)
The temptation increases a lot then I think for some bloggers to jump in.  Imagine a tight Obama-Clinton race, with Edwards falling out of the picture.  Obama and his people give bloggers the hard sell and Obama makes a bunch of guest posts on Dkos, emphasizes things like Net Neutrality...Then does everyone still stay neutral?  Some like Atrios would, but the rest?

I know those are a couple big "ifs" but I don't think its a long-shot scenario.  IN fact, given current trends and if Edwards slips at all in Iowa, its what we're looking at. 

[ Parent ]
Selling Out Without Really Getting Paid? (4.00 / 2)
Face it. Activists have always been a cheap date. Pizza, anyone?

And so, while I'm sure that all your angst is well-earned, Chris, I also think it's sharpened by the fact that most of what you're receiving is psychic wages.

Meanwhile, to the bigger question of what it means to the blogosphere as a whole.  And here the answer has to be tempered by the nature of this campaign.  To wit: there is no Howard Dean.  And important as Iraq may be, there is no Iraq War, either, since it's not just about getting out of Iraq, but about undoing the entire Bush Damage Spectrum (it's the new BDS, replacing "Bush Derangement Syndrome, which even Peggy Noonan says no one believes in anymore).

In short, the whole political landscape has changed, not just the blogosphere.  Of course we all knew that already.  But relating the specific dynamics of institutional change to the broader processes of historical change is a perennial problem for students of any field, so we've got lots of company now.  The question is, amongst all that company, who might we be most like?  And, therefore, what sorts of analogies might give us fruitful insights.

The Party-System/Realigning Election Lens

Two suggestions come most readily to mind, and both are related to theories of party systems and political realignments.  These are (1) the internal organization of parties and (2) the leading forms of political communication.  While political realignments and new party systems don't necessarily involve changes in either of these two, they are associated often enough to merit attention.

Partisan newspapers were one of the primary conduits for the creation of the first party system, especially for the Democratic Republicans whose activities were being criminalized by the Federalists under the Alien and Sedition Acts.  The formation of local political clubs (which are, of course, still with us to this day) was also important to the establishment of the first party system.  Jackson epitomized the shift in the second party system to mass mobilization campaigns, with mass rallies, parades, picnics, etc.  (You can still find Jefferson-Jackson picnics on Fourth of July or Labor Day in different locales.)  William Jennings Bryan introduced the classic form of the barnstorming campaign, with multiple speeches per day, taking advantage of train travel, to generate as much free media as possible, in the same realigninig campaign that McKinnley/Hannah made all about modern fundraising, mass propaganda and paid media.  And Roosevelt swept in a Democrtatic majority outside the bounds of pre-existing media power, then reshaping the media landscape with his own use of radio.  In turn, tv also played a significant role in the de-alignment of politics from 1968 on--which emerged at the same time that primary nominating elections finally displaced for good the dominant direct power of internal party bosses and state-level machines.

With these sorts of historical shifts in mind, it seems only natural that the blogosphere should undergo a sorting-out process that only reaches some sort of stabilized form (with all the false appearance of being inevitable after its done)  at least one election cycle after the new party system kicks in--meaning 2012 at the earliest.  From now until then, at least, we should expect continuing fluidity, though with the pace of technological innovation, it's entirely possible that no real stabilization will occur even then.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

asdf (0.00 / 0)
"To wit: there is no Howard Dean."

As I have noted before, at least three candidate are currently driving more online activism than Dean at this point in the campaign: Clinton, Edwards and Obama. Further, Richardson and Dodd are close, and I'm sure the others are getting some too. There may not be a Howard Dean, but there is much more activism than before.

But I think you are right about the inevitable sorting out and stabilization of the blogosphere. It happens as virtually any system grows older. Why doesn't anyone git .400 anymore? Because baseball, like any system, sees its individual actors regressing to a mean as time goes on.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, There Is No Rajah Hornsby (.424 in 1924) (0.00 / 0)
Obviously, it's not about the level of activism, necessarily.  But it is about intensity of opposition to what other communication channels are promoting.  And we don't have that anymore.

But that doesn't have to mean our uniqueness has been assimilated by the Borg.  It can mean a maturing process of symbiosis that brings real change.  The FP posts about Obama and Spitzer are hopeful indications in this direction.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Regarding PSB (4.00 / 3)
FWIW, Prairie State Blue is a group blog made up of many individuals with a range of political leanings from moderate to liberal to really far left (we even have a resident right-winger). As such, we've never really tried to speak with one voice through any type of editorial process to date. If anything, this is probably the reason we have no endorsement for any candidate, Obama or not.

We generally have one goal: cover Illinois-centric politics while working to get Democrats elected locally.

If teaching is so easy, then by all means get your degree, pass your certification test(s), get your license, and see if you can last longer than the five years in the classroom 50% of those who enter the profession never make it to.

Exactly. n/t (0.00 / 0)

Jeff Wegerson

[ Parent ]
What about just plain old... (4.00 / 5)
fear of being wrong?  Which goes nicely with being more insidery, I suppose. Some of the loudest left(ish) voices still have a lingering tone of dismissal in their voices when they mention the blogosphere. And have since Dean imploded.

No Strong Progressive Advocate (4.00 / 2)
Your ideas seem right on to me.

Another point: I'm a relative newcomer to the blogworld, but as I understand it, Howad Dean was seen by much of the progressive blogworld as speaking out truthfully (on Iraq) while all the other campaigns mumbled conventional blather. But this time around none of the candidates are speaking out in the same way, even as the American public has shifted significantly more progressive. Right now 70% of Americans want the US out of Iraq, 45% want Bush impeached and 54% want Cheney impeached, probably around 70% want single-payer healthcare, probably 70% think this country should help the poor and tax the rich, and probably 75% want the government to research and support energy efficiency and renewable energy to stop climate change and reduce our dependence on oil dictators.

The equivalent to Dean this time around would be a candidate who:

* Demanded a complete withdrawal from Iraq within 6 months and criticized the US for its imperialism.

* Demanded that Congress impeach President Bush and Cheney for their many high crimes.

* Supported universal single-payer healthcare and was willing to fight the insurance companies to enact it.

* Pushed for large tax increases on the rich and expanding education and social services for the poor.

* Vigorously criticized the coal, oil, gas, nuclear, and corn-based biofuels industries and fully supported energy efficiency, solar, and wind power.

So far, only Kucinich has come close to taking these stands (and Edwards on poverty) and he is seen as unelectable. All the candidates have criticized NAFTA, but few have really fought for labor or labor's issues (perhaps Edwards and Kucinich).

So it is difficult for me to get very excited about any of the candidates except, of course, that all of them would be far, far better than Bush/Cheney. But none of them really inspire me.

Heh (4.00 / 1)
So it is difficult for me to get very excited about any of the candidates except, of course, that all of them would be far, far better than Bush/Cheney. But none of them really inspire me.

My sentiments exactly.

I would add that there's probably still an opportunity for someone to make waves with a campaign that more severely indicts the status-quo. While Democrats are generally satisfied with the primary field (likely because they smell victory), people by in large are really upset with the way things are going. Still, I'm not holding my breath.

The difficulty is in framing a real change message as positive (e.g. "criticizing America for Imperialism" is a sentiment I understand and agree with, but formulated thusly is a decided loser with the public, and doubly so when you have the presentation skills of Dennis Kucinich) without turning it into inspecific smooth-jazz feel-good pap (which is where Obama and Edwards go wrong).

I think a candidate who actually tried to lead where those public sentiments are going could attract significant support, especially if he or she picked some smart battles along the way. People aren't morons, and they know there are entrenched interests in perpetuating global warming, poverty and a kleptocratic health care system (and the war, natch). The entities behind this are not popular, and can be attacked responsibly and effectively if a candidate is willing to risk their ire, and the ire of the political/media establishment for rocking the boat.

Nobody wants that hassle, it seems, and why would they? Whoever squeezes through will have a good shot at the White House, so why take unnecessary chances? At this point we're seeing an almost un-precedented level of risk-aversion in the primary. This will probably have to change sometime in the Fall as candidates make their play, but given the run-up, I don't expect anything actually exciting to happen.

But, as consolation, campaigns are less important than, you know, governance. While the themes that are outlined are important, policy (and promises) that come out on the campaign trail are theatrics. The really interesting task will be whipping a Democratic governing majority into doing the Right Thing, which will be necessary no matter who is elected.

Me | My Work | Future Majority

[ Parent ]
The guiding philosophy (4.00 / 2)
of my site was that there was too much attention payed to the 2004 Presidential elections. That instead of obsessing about Bush and Kerry, we should have been hammering their base in Congress. Bush became a lightening rod. If they could hold that one point, everything else would fall in line. It worked. Just hide behind Bush and parrot everything he said and you were safe.

I want to make every vote that Republicans cast as difficult as possible. I want to make it personal. We've certainly done an excellent job with Jean Schmidt. She now blogs herself.

From my way of thinking, the battle for political dominance is one of attrition. The field isn't focused on one single point, but instead on hundreds. The weakest links in the political chain are the House of Representatives. This gives you your best return on investment. The run for the White House is an orgy of wasteful spending. Case in point what's going on right now. Millions raised just on the 1 in a 100 chance that all the front runners get caught in some sort of drug / hooker scandal.

Even in loosing races the return on investment can be huge. Case in point the Ohio 2nd. The Hackett loss dramatically shifted the political landscape. Now the once safest Republican district in the country is a hotbed of Democratic fundraising. The impossible of two years ago is now the conventional wisdom thanks to focusing on one weak link.

The only time I ever blog about Presidential matters is when they intersect with Congress. I don't blog about it. I don't think about it. I don't endlessly argue about how many strands of John Edwards' hair can dance on the head of a pin. I try to devote as little mental energy to the run for the White House as humanly possible. It's very liberating.

This way of thinking intersects nicely with the electoral nature of Ohio. We don't choose Presidents, just close the deal.

By the way.. (0.00 / 0)
What is hackett up to these days? 

[ Parent ]
Last time I talked to Hackett, (0.00 / 0)
which was earlier this year, he was buying an building in downtown Cincinnati for his law office, and grumbling about his $80,000 in campaign debt from the Senate primary. He also had some choice words about how the Democrats were handling the Iraq issue.

Many feel that there's no way that he'll get back into politics given the amount of money his invested in his business. Others think that there is no way that he can resist.

He's made the news a couple of times recently: At the beginning of the year, armed with a loaded assault rifle, Hackett chased down three "youths" who crashed into his fence. One of the "perps" had brass knuckles. When I asked him why he needed an assault rifle for the job, he told me that it was his weapon in Iraq, so he was most comfortable with it. I imagine him Tony Soprano style sleeping with the rifle leaning against his bead. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters convened a grand jury on the incident, but no action was taken.

He's also defending Marine Ryan Weemer, who is at the center of an investigation of the killings of captives during the battle of Fallujah.

[ Parent ]
Sometimes I wish (0.00 / 0)
That another midterm election was coming up, because I agree with you on where we can make the most difference, and I don't like how all of the attention is sucked in one direction.

What to do about that is another issue worthy of discussion.

[ Parent ]
it's easy: what do they gain by endorsing? (4.00 / 2)
Atrios wonders who would care who he endorsed?  But the answer is lots of people.  If prominent bloggers - say Markos and Duncan - made different choices, that would be held against them, and their candidates.  If they made the same choice, that would be held against them, and their candidates.

There would be, in general, accusations of discord or collusion, of secret deals or secret payoffs, of access or lack thereof.

And the biggest thing involves people thinking for themselves.  Maybe a newspaper has to sum up its reporting in one editorial endorsement, but I see--as I hope most blog consumers do--blogs as providing news and opinion, then leaving the decision making up to the consumer.

If a blog(er) did endorse, then found fault--any fault, however small--with their candidate, how would they handle it?  Of course, the people I know and trust, I *trust* to say what they think.  (But how do you know?)  And then where does that leave them if they do say it?  Does the campaign manager call and say, 'you know, with friends like you...?'

In the opposite view, does a campaign want endorsements from 'loose cannons?'  What if Markos drops another mercenary bomb?  What if Duncan's time abroad or in California somehow become an issue?  Does a campaign need the hassle of being the next JetBlue, tied to a blog or blogger they really have no contact with or control over?

I'd suggest that most bloggers stick to what Duncan has done:  rattle everybody's cage from time to time, but also point out what he believe to be positive news, then perhaps mention some local or regional candidates of note across the country for some value added attention.

huh?? you missed the real reasons (0.00 / 0)
It's a good observation--the lack of endorsements--and I do see it as a sign of Netroots maturity. I think its more about the acceptability of the field, not getting burned (saving emotional energy to rally behind the nominee), and keeping focus on electing more Democrats in general, not just the Presidential race.

Probably, the biggest reason we haven't endorsed a candidate for President at West Virginia Blue is we know we'll be promoting the eventual nominee really hard--we're in the "support the Democratic Party nominee" camp". Any endorsement of one candidate is a de facto negative statement of all the others. It's harder to retain our credibility in pushing the eventual nominee if we come out strong for someone else first.

That's an easy stance to take this cycle when all of the viable candidates (Clinton, Edwards, Gore, Obama, Richards; in alphabetical order) are acceptable. I have some personal preferences among that group. Really, though, all of them are well qualified and would make a huge improvement over any Republican.

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue

It is a worthy stance (4.00 / 1)
But it also precludes having any influence over who the nominee is. for a medium made famous by trying to influence who the Dem nominee is, that is a big change in attitude. It isn't necessarily good or bad, but it is a big change.

[ Parent ]
what is THIS site about? (4.00 / 1)
In reading the main liberal/progressive blogs (though not this one), I have noticed a fairly consistent pattern of the commenters being somewhat to the left of the Blogmaster(s).  Around get out of Iraq now, independent candidates, pandering to the center, and impeachment.

Why do I not think that the case with OpenLeft?  Well, what are the other blogs trying to do?

(1)  Comment on the issues of the day, particularly keeping us up-to-date on the latest atrocities of the Bush administration, lest someone wake up some day and drowsily mutter, "That Bush, he ain't so bad."

(2)  Argue about how hard a line the Democrats should be taking against the various Bushtrocities.

(3)  Influence (in the long run) who the Democratic candidate will be.

(4)  Influence that candidate.

(5)  Drum up support for that candidate.

As well, they are part of the necessary glue to maintain the cohesion of the progressive movement.

OpenLeft is different in main part because of its self-reflexivity.  It focuses less on the Bush bandits and more on the progressive movement itself.  It was set up that way, as I gather from its introductory statements of purpose, by its leadership.  Thus the dynamic I see in my first paragraph is reversed -- the commenters tend (but only tend) towards the roles in points one through five.  And Bowers/Lux/Stoller tend to examine the dynamics of the movement itself, a perspective that puts them potentially to the left of the commenters who are engaged in the Great Consolidation following the blogosphere's great success of 2006.

In other words, I see OpenLeft as a potential leadership force.  A serious movement think tank.  I favor no candidate at the moment, but should I come to favor a particular favorite, even passionately, I would still see no point to getting OpenLeft to support that candidate.

Full Court Press!

[ Parent ]
yes, definitely a big change (0.00 / 0)
I didn't give you the deserved credit in my comment for the overall observation of what a big change it was. Then again, most of your post was about the reasons. :-)

I do agree it is a major change. There is a growing maturity on the part of the Netroots movement. I view it as a positive development in that we are walking and chewing gum (as a movement) at the same time. While there are plenty of people blogging up a storm about their favorite candidates, there's also a lot of energy going into the hard work of protecting/expanding a Democratic majority in Congress (as well as state-level races).

We're both also saying--with emphasis in different places--is front-pagers at sites generally have more to lose than to gain by endorsing a Dem. Pres. nominee in this field.

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue

[ Parent ]
interesting post (0.00 / 0)
I'm part of a crew that's getting ready to launch a state community blog, and several of us are quite open about who we will support in the primaries. Most of us are leaning one way or another, but three of us are already really active on behalf of our candidates (Edwards, Obama, and Richardson). The whole reason the site's not up yet is that our web guy is working with Draft Gore groups and decided to build first.

I'm really curious to see how this plays out as the primaries heat up.

Join us at the Missouri community blog Show Me Progress!

a stronger movement (0.00 / 0)
Chris and many others on this thread are right, there are a lot of factors here. But I really do believe that the most important one is the rising strength of the progressive movement. Even though there is no clear movement candidate, the fact that every one of the candidates have been steadily migrating our way on a range of issues is the best testament to the difference between now and this time, 2003, and it's the reason there is no clear choice.
I also wanted to comment on Chris' thought about being "insidery". I think the short head bloggers clearly are more insidery than they are, and there are some obvious downsides and dangers to that. But I think there are good things about that, too, and not just that it's a reflection of the movement's strength. The way movements actually make change is that some folks in them keep banging away on the outside, but some folks go inside and create change from within by getting a seat at the tables where elected officials and party power brokers make decisions. 

asdf (0.00 / 0)
I don't think blogger endorsements would move any votes (and bloggers recognize that), and they would launch a thousand flame wars in comments.  So what's the point in a race where there are so many candidates advocating progressive viewpoints?

Insert shameless blog promotion here.

Howard Dean has charisma (0.00 / 0)
I've stood near him many times and listened as he addressed huge crowds and intimate gatherings. He has that charisma that hits you hard up close and across a room. There's no getting around it - charisma makes a huge difference in bringing support yet so few politicians have it. When you see Dean address a crowd you can see that smile on the people's faces that just spreads across any room. He has joy of life.

No one running now has it. So we progressives use our heads instead of hearts and slog through the plans and calculations of winning/not winning - appearance v. reality, and all of it. It's probably a good thing.

I just wish Howard Dean had been allowed to run for president cuz that's what he'd be now & everyone, including me, would have health care & the Vets would all be home being cared for. Damn.

There is a progressive movement candidate (0.00 / 0)
and he is clearly recognized as a populist progressive by his opponents at The Wall Street Journal, Fortune and the Economist magazines. Why he isn't recognized among the progressive movement is curious, especially considering the other candidates who business folk support financially this time and are quite comfortable with, according to Fortune magazine.

Endorsements (0.00 / 0)
I endorsed Edwards, though very tepidly, in this post, though like the General I'll drop him in a minute for Gore if that becomes feasible.  I should note that this is not an official ProgressiveHistorians endorsement, but my personal endorsement.

Maryscott has essentially the same position.

Sirota came out for Edwards in April.

And of course Amanda Marcotte worked for Edwards, so one presumes she supports him.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...

Endorsements in a Primary State (0.00 / 0)
Dean from Blue Hampshire here; thanks for the kind words about us.

This is a really interesting post, because the issue of endorsements has been something I've been struggling with.  There are many contradictory, competing factors in play, such as:

* I really get into who's endorsed whom (and in a primary state it's great fun to watch the locals one by one pick a prez candidate), but at the same time feel almost as if it's hubristic for a blogger to think his endorsement is any great shakes.

* Access, as you mention is a big concern, though I doubt my inbox would be less full from campaigns if/when I actually do endorse.

* On BH, I tend to focus more on the senate race than the prez primary, but the problem is the same.  I make pretty clear that I "like" and "support" Steve Marchand, but I stop short of "endorsing", because I want the folks who come to our site who are into the others (Shaheen, Swett, Buckey) to feel like they are welcome.  In such a small, politically active state as ours, post-election or primary comity is necessary.

* I'm just not passionate about the prez candidates this time the way that I was about Gov. Dean the last time.  I also think we are a good place, (much like the tubes version of our state) for "2nd tier" candidates to get a fair shake away from the MSM obsession with the frontrunners.

I can't pretend to tie this together into some conclusion, but there it is.  It's likely I'll endorse in fall, but I'm still working out mentally how to do it.

Anyway, great post.

Blue Hampshire - Defeating Republicans since 2006.

Johnny! (0.00 / 0)
I'm probably not a big enough blogger to be recorded, but you can count me as having endorsed Edwards a long time ago. 


I dunno, Chris (0.00 / 0)
I think you may be discounting the fact that many may not have made up their minds yet. There are appealing parts of each candidate, troubling things about each candidate.

I think maybe like a lot of Democratic voters, some bloggers are sitting back and watching the debates, the policies put forward, the "electability" factor and much more. Maybe the biggies will endorse ... just not yet.

I actually like that "unattached" feel, at least this early in the game. It allows the big bloggers to criticize each candidate as he or she sees fit, and give kudos when called for. It actually feels much less embedded and establishment that way -- I think readers may be best served by a more distanced stance, especially if it's genuinely reflecting an undecided attitude right now.


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