Bloggers Don’t Have to Choose

Bob Cesca is one of my favorite bloggers. The “Morning Awesome” series of posts is alway an awesome way to start my morning. Cesca’s very pro-Obama, as I’ve noticed a few other people are too. However, following John Edwards’ exit from the presidential race yesterday, Cesca offers up an unrestrained call for endorsements in a post titled, “Bloggers Must Choose, Too.” (UPDATE: I retooled this sentence on further reflection. Cesca’s not jumping the shark, he’s just providing a case for bloggers to endorse Obama that I think is unconvincing.)

I was thinking… It’s also time for the major bloggers to get behind one of the remaining candidates. I know the unspoken strategy has been to avoid pissing off a reader-base which may have taken many years to build, but this is only the future of the party we’re talking about here.

I don’t know that the major bloggers have avoided endorsing a candidate out of fears of losing readership. Quite the opposite. Many people have written about the experience of regularly being accused of shilling for one candidate, then the other (a sign of a pissed off reader-base) specifically because they have not made an endorsement. Digby shut down her comments section, things got so bad. Others, like eRiposte at The Left Coaster, have found solace in making an endorsement, clarifying their position for readers who know what to expect going in. Cesca is advancing a theory of traffic-related reasons for avoiding endorsements that has been trafficked in by a lot of people who wish the major bloggers were endorsing their candidate (which Cesca gets to later). However, no major blogger I’ve seen has ever written or said that they’re not endorsing because of traffic. Cesca’s preface of “unspoken” is a fig leaf in his argument.

Moreover, I have no clue how a blogger endorsing or not endorsing one of the Democratic candidates has any bearing on the future of the party. Cesca doesn’t explain and I think he’d be hard-pressed to tie even the most influential Democratic blogger’s personal candidate preference to having any structural role in the future of the Democratic Party.

Again, either candidate will make history, so the choice comes down to a new paradigm — “change” — versus more of the same DLC style leadership we’ve been discontented with for so many years. Honestly, this is Joe Lieberman versus Ned Lamont.

No, it’s not. Clinton is not Joe Lieberman. Obama is not Ned Lamont. They have similar issue positions and voting records. No one has suggested Clinton be expelled from the Democratic Party, nor that Obama is a political outsider tapping into a strong anti-war sentiment.

Yes, Clinton is of the DLC. Yes, we’re discontent with that. But there’s no comparing the Obama paradigm of “change” – a vacuous and completely meaningless branding – with the actual, factual connections of Hillary Clinton to a brand of Democratic politics that I know I have major ideological differences. “Change” is so vacuous, Clinton is even using it herself. She has been labeled an “agent of change for 35 years,” whatever that means

Does it sound like I’m agreeing with Cesca on change vs. DLC? Sure, but only to the extent that I think the DLC brand of politics needs to be exiled from our party.* But I don’t know if “change” means “not the DLC” or “progressive, fighting Democrat.” It doesn’t – “change” means nothing. More importantly, what does Obama stand for? Is he more progressive than Clinton? Is he opposed to bipartisanship for the sake of bipartisanship? Will he fight for us? Nothing in the “change” brand tells me these things.

Worse, Obama has had a recent string of highly objectionable comments that suggest, like Clinton, a drift towards centrism and bipartisanship that runs counter to what the Democratic Party needs now. Praising Reagan, calling the GOP the “party of ideas,” and insinuating that his (independent and Republican) supporters won’t necessarily vote for Hillary Clinton if she were to win the nomination are all things that suggest Obama isn’t offering a new paradigm, let alone one that’s so substantially different from what Clinton offers as to be a foregone conclusion for progressive bloggers on the order of Lieberman v. Lamont.

Cesca concludes his post:

So it’s time to pick a side here, bloggers. Start off with, “While I will support the eventual nominee…” or, “While I admire [or respect] both candidates…” And go from there. We’ll all make nice after there’s an official nominee. Until then, it’s time to take a stand on this thing.

No, it’s not time to pick sides. Why in the world would bloggers eschew an endorsement when there was a diverse field with populist and progressive voices, but rush to endorse once it’s down to two choices? Speaking broadly, the two most progressive candidates (Edwards and Dodd) are out; the most adamant voices for ending the war (Richardson and Kucinich) are out; the most experienced candidate (Biden) is out. Given a choice between the two least experienced candidates with some of the most centrist rhetoric and records, why would progressive bloggers leap into this binary?

Both candidates have upsides for me in some areas, downsides in others. Both have serious unknowns that trouble me. In an email, Eli from Multi Medium captured the large narrative concerns about Clinton and Obama in a way that works well for me.

My biggest worry about Obama is that he will compromise rather than fight; my biggest worry about Hillary is that she will fight for the wrong things.

Given that dynamic, why would I** or any other blogger jump in with an endorsement?
I spent a lot of time on the Dodd campaign watching how bloggers were or were not endorsing. There was one thing in common – they endorsed when they whole-heartedly believed in the person they were endorsing, never a second before. Go read this list of endorsement posts and try to find one person who made their decision public because someone said, “You have to pick”. You won’t be able to (and I’ll note, we had some major bloggers endorse on that list).

People endorse because they believe in a candidate. Hell, go read Cesca’s passionate and thoughtful endorsement of Obama on Huffington Post. He didn’t write that post because someone told him to pick, finally. It’s disappointing that he is forcing a different standard on other big name bloggers.

In the end, though, Cesca’s call won’t matter much. A lot of Edwards supporters online are shifting towards Obama. To the extent that they believe Obama to be a better candidate and a better Democrat than Clinton, some bloggers will surely endorse him. I doubt it will make much of a difference and I would certainly urge caution when it comes to comparing Clinton and Obama to Lieberman and Lamont, no matter who you line up where.

* I don’t think Democratic bloggers endorsing a presidential candidate has any impact on the status of the DLC or their level of regard in the Democratic Party.

**I don’t consider myself to be a major blogger, let alone the sort of blogger Cesca would be waiting expectantly to endorse Barack Obama.

3 thoughts on “Bloggers Don’t Have to Choose

  1. Interesting. When Dodd dropped out, I did sort-of have to pick — if only because I wanted to phone bank for someone, and NH is important. But even then I didn’t re-endorse. I just mentioned I’d be heading down to the Edwards office to phonebank.

    I’m not interested in helping either of these candidates win at this point. I’m interested in helping them be better candidates. That means applying pressure to Obama to stop his fetishization of unity (which I’ve been complaining about since before he was a candidate).

    It also means applying pressure to Clinton to apply that dogged (some would say bullying) style to the opposition, and help us fight the battles that matter.

    Or to kind of take off on what Eli said — to make sure Clinton is on our side, and to make Obama realize sides matter.

    I’m into doing whatever it takes to get that done. The question at this point is not who is the better candidate, but how do we make both of these candidates better.

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  2. Not that I have enough readers to make a difference, but first I endorsed Dodd, then I endorsed Edwards… and before that I literally begged Al Gore to run in a post at FDL.

    But now that it’s down to Obama vs. Hillary, I really can’t choose. I think Obama might be the kind of charismatic, inspirational candidate the Democrats have been lacking in the last two elections, but I think Hillary would probably be a better president.

    I go back and forth between them, but my enthusiasm is roughly proportional to their backbone and progressivity. So, lukewarm at best, and I certainly can’t imagine myself saying that either of them is Teh Awesome and you should totally go out and vote for him/her.

    If a blogger has a preferred candidate that they think is head and shoulders above the rest, I think they *should* endorse that candidate rather than being coy about it and letting an unacknowledged bias seep into their posts. But if they don’t think anyone really distinguishes themselves, an endorsement is a waste of time.

    Let your readers know where you stand. If there’s a candidate you like, endorse them. If there isn’t, don’t.

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  3. Let your readers know where you stand. If there’s a candidate you like, endorse them. If there isn’t, don’t.

    Yep, that makes sense to me.

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