Hold Fast

A Blog by Matt Browner Hamlin

Hold Fast - a blog by Matt Browner Hamlin

Daou & Attributing Blame to Liberal Bloggers

September 29th, 2010 · No Comments

Peter Daou has a follow-up to his piece on Obama and the blogs yesterday. He makes a couple points that I really don’t think stand up on their own any more.

First, he continues to cite the critical writings of liberal bloggers like Glenn Greenwald, Marcy Wheeler and Jane Hamsher as contributing to a drop in the President’s approval rating:

The title of my post (“How a handful of liberal bloggers are bringing down the Obama presidency“) was largely interpreted as a slam on the bloggers themselves. It certainly wasn’t meant as one, which I hope was clear from the body of the post. Rather, it was intended as a literal observation that a small group with disproportionate influence was contributing to President Obama’s depressed approval ratings by holding him accountable whenever he appeared to undermine core Democratic and progressive principles. [Emphasis added]

It may be true that some people disapprove of the President because of what they’ve read about him on prominent liberal blogs. But I don’t know of a single national poll which has asked this question and certainly not with the degree of specificity Daou is attributing to people like Greenwald, Hamsher and Wheeler. I just don’t buy the notion that a handful of liberal bloggers are significantly or even measurably contributing to a drop in Obama’s approval rating.

Second, he cites blogs and social networks as the source of negative headlines that damage the administration in the public’s eyes:

I’ve argued that the cauldron of opinion that churns incessantly on blogs, Twitter, social networks, and in the elite media generates the storylines that filter across the national and local press, providing the fodder for public opinion and ultimately determining conventional wisdom.

Blogs and social networks are responsive. They notice what the administration or Congress or right wing activists are doing and highlight these activities. They do not create the stories of, say, the President ordering to have a US-born American citizen to be killed without trial. The responsibility for generating news lies with the agents, not the people watching what is happening.

Daou worries that problems for the administration really happen when “left and right come to agree that a political leader is on the wrong track.” But I don’t know of a single notable instance (excepting the audit the Fed efforts) where prominent voices on the left and right have a negative opinion of what the President is doing for the same reasons. For example, the right wing pretty universally opposes health care reform, but a plurality of Americans (and a lot of prominent liberal bloggers) are disappointed with health care reform because it did not go far enough. These are not the same thing! More to the point, the President still has a 78% approval rating among Democrats (PDF) as of last week. The extent that liberal blog readers are being influenced towards not approving of the President seems too small to note.

I think things would be pretty great if the words of Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher and Marcy Wheeler had the power to move public opinion on a national scale. But I think attributing falling approval ratings to the writings of a handful of bloggers not clapping louder is wrong. Sure there are problems beyond the economy, but elevating blog critiques this high is excessive.

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Tags: Barack Obama · Blogs