At Daily Kos this afternoon, BarbinMD asks a good question: why has Obama spent a longer time away from Daily Kos than he has from Fox News?
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the shout out that Daily Kos received during the interview. It seems that for some reason, the senator is less willing to take on our commenters than he is Chris Wallace. It's now been 922 days since his last visit. Is it time to borrow from Fox News and start our own "Obama Watch?" After all, we never pushed the "Barack is a Muslim, Marxist, un-American, latte swilling, elitist" stories. That should be worth something, right? Or is that left?
The reason I ask is that there are far more Democratic primary voters to be found on Daily Kos than on Fox News. Only 7% of the Fox News audience supported John Kerry in 2004, whereas the vast majority of the roughly 1.12 million daily readers of Daily Kos not only vote for Democrats in general election s, but in primaries as well. Surely, with several remaining upcoming Democratic primaries, Obama would rather appear on media outlets where he can not only reach more Democratic primary voters, but where he can even control his own message by crafting his comments ahead of time. At the very least, one would think that the Obama campaign wouldn't lie to the blogosphere about Obama's appearance on Fox News.
What concerns me about this entire affair is not he specifics of the interview, or even the general argument about whether Democrats should appear on Fox News. Instead, what concerns me is the blogosphere's apparently large loss of influence over the presidential election in influence over the presidential election during the past twelve months. Last year, the blogosphere successfully spearheaded a campaign to keep Democratic debates off Fox News, while simultaneously managing to hold a full-fledged presidential debate of our own at Yearly Kos in early August. Last year, Democratic presidential campaigns were shunning Fox News and embracing the blogosphere. This year, Democratic presidential campaigns are flat-out lying to the blogosphere and their appearances on Fox News. That is quite a tumble for the blogosphere. How did this happen?
More in the extended entry.
|Matt's basic argument, with which I am inclined to agree, is that the blogosphere and netroots have lost their leverage over the presidential campaigns because we have made our endorsement, and now there is no way to hold the campaigns accountable as a result. MoveOn.org and many of the larger blogs endorsed Obama a while ago. Now, Obama's more than 3-2 advantage among small online donors, and more than 2-1 advantage among online supporters, basically means that he has the constituency as locked up about as much as anyone ever hope to have it locked up in a national primary. Further, the unwillingness of many to even call the Obama campaign on its about face from once freezing out Fox News to now appearing on Fox News, not to mention sending out mendacious missives about the purpose of his appearance on Fox News, only exacerbates the situation. Last year, the progressive political blogopshere was still undecided and / or split among several candidates, its potential voter and activist support had to be respected. Now, because we have fallen in line and take beatings with a smile, there is no need to respect us.
Then again, it has also been demonstrated that one of our only means of influencing Democratic behavior is to make endorsements in congressional primaries. For example, during a year of mass action on the Iraq war, the only two Democratic votes we flipped on Iraq in the House were Dan Lipinski in IL-03 and Leonard Boswell in IA-03. In both cases, we only managed to flip those votes because of the primary challenges those candidates either face or still face. Even in defeat, Mark Pera's campaign in IL-03 can be viewed as just about the only successful anti-war rally of 2007, and it was accomplished by making an endorsement in a primary.
One of the most difficult aspects of grassroots progressive activism is, given our relatively small resources, finding means of influencing Democratic behavior. Just about the only proven mechanisms we have found to date involve spending resources either in favor of primary challengers to incumbents, or in simply spending money to run ads against Democratic incumbents (which proved successful in flipping some Democratic votes on S-Chip). In all three cases--the debates in 2007, the S-Chip votes in 2007, and the Iraq and FISA-based primary challenges in 2007-8--the blogosphere and netroots successfully leveraged things of actual value in order to change Democratic behavior. Presidential candidates wanted our support, incumbent Bush Dogs didn't want local Dems to know how conservative they were, and no one wants to face a serious primary challenges.
At this point, I'm not sure what we can do to influence the Obama campaign's behavior, and hold it accountable for what took place over the weekend. In retrospect, I supported endorsing Obama not as a means of influencing either remaining Democratic candidate, but instead to try and help bring the nomination campaign to a conclusion, and also to use the energy of support behind Barack Obama to help some excellent downticket candidates on the Blue Majority page. At this late point, our ability to influence the presidential campaigns themselves might be gone. They know who we are supporting in the primary, they know who we are supporting in the general, and the campaigns have built massive in-house organizing centers that can circumvent netroots institutions almost entirely. Our best hopes for leverage in 2008 probably are to be found outside the presidential campaign at this point, in places like encouraging more congressional candidates to sign on to the Responsible Plan, or by supporting candidates in blue district primaries a both the federal and local levels. The events of this weekend, where the Obama campaign can appear on Fox News, the campaign can lie about the purpose of the appearance, and then bloggers who call Obama out on this get attacked by Obama supporters online, to me smacks of the death knell of blogosphere influence in the 2008 presidential campaigns. The best we can hope for right now is to affect the outcome of the campaign itself (which is, of course, still important), use the energy of the campaign for our own purposes (like elected progressive leaders downticket), and hit Bush Dogs where we can hurt them (at the local, state, and congressional district level). Unfortunately, as for as presidential campaigns go, it seems to be out of our hands.