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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.