1/3/08

Edwards And The Zeitgeist Of Blogtopia
By: Mark W Adams


After doing this blogging thing for a few years now (long enough to know to give the marsupial credit for the word Blogtopia at every turn), I consider myself a veteran; especially at a time when the Great Orange Satan seems populated by bickering children with six digits in their user numbers wholly obsessed with why Democrat X is the second coming of Bobby Kennedy and Candidate Y is a fool, gaming the recommended diary list as if that alone will clinch a caucus victory for the good guys.

I'm rather proud of my UID 9284 and find it more than amusing that the kids scream and cry when Papa Kos insists the six-digiters play nice. So when user number 8962 goes meta (in Orange and in Green) there's something to be learned about who "we" are by looking at why so
many old warhorses of the Blogosphere broke for John Edwards all of a sudden.

Boo! . . . goes meta under the fold:

... But Obama hasn't really embraced us. He's gone his own way. And that explains why, in the end, the blogosphere broke heavily for John Edwards.

No, I don't mean people turned their back on Obama because he didn't pay the proper respect to the blogosphere. That isn't what happened. Obama didn't embrace our way of doing things. Worse, he began to use rhetoric we had spent energy to debunk. He went even further. He tossed aside one of our central insights...an insight won through hard experience: we cannot compromise with the Republican Party...we must smash them.

Perhaps because his wife is such an avid reader of blogs, Edwards' campaign tapped right into our zeitgeist. He came out with our insight front and center. You want Edwards' message? Here it is: 'Fuck David Broder, fuck Joe Klein, fuck Chris Matthews, fuck FOX News, fuck Tim Russert, fuck Mitch McConnell, fuck Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big Defense. We don't need them. They won't negotiate in good faith. They're stacking the deck against us. And we can beat them by telling the truth and getting organized.' That's Edwards' message, and that is the message we have internalized both through our successes and our failures.

What's funny is that Obama is saying many of the same things, in his own way. The policy differences between Edwards and Obama are minimal. But Obama's tone deaf to the blogosphere. And, as a result, the blogosphere didn't trust him.
Booman is one of those "big" bloggers who's been around long enough to figure out who is who -- and not afraid to name names or speak truth to power. "Power" of course being the other couple hundred thousand card carrying members of the progressive netroots. Interestingly enough, however, he concludes that he can't pick Edwards over Obama, or visa-versa. Opting for a Hamlet-esque stance where he just knows everybody dies at the end so he refuses to endorse, or not to endorse.

He says he wants Edwards to win, because he wants his own fighting style preferences to be vindicated. But I think he's trapped by his own early -- and publicized -- infatuation with Obama. That and possibly a lack of faith in his own instincts versus his analytical abilities. It's hard to tell. When someone makes such a forceful case on why the 'sphere is (and should be) endorsing Edwards, yet can't pull the trigger himself, the mind quivers.

In the 'sphere, power is in numbers: hit counters, rec lists, click-throughs, subscribers. There are peers, and then there are peers. Major liberal bloggers have their own set of peers that have nothing to do with their readership, but all about links to other major bloggers. But you really can't heard the cats, big or small. However you can see the dynamics after a couple of election cycles play out. You get a perspective that lets you understand that some candidates are just offering up sour milk to the kiddies, and others will pour cream into our saucers. In one way, we are all being treated like every minority coalition that ever signed on to the Democratic Party, and we're sick of it. You don't have to be an A-Lister to feel the scorn from the Beltway insiders and their pet pampered politicians.

So much of this it the nature of the medium. Bloggers READ. We aren't just catching sound bytes, filtered news snippets, or incorporating the conventional wisdom from the charming host of our favorite talk show. No, I believe the avid blog readers out there are the most informed voters on the planet. But the Blogosphere's old war horses have a handle on what makes these informed readers tick better than anyone, including me.

Matt Stoller, UID 585, of Open Left and MyDD fame tapped into the zeitgeist.
If you believe we need a political realignment, as I do, or a different way of governing, then it's worthwhile to examine Reagan's career and his turn to change America. In 1980, Ronald Reagan showed that he was willing to unify America, to change the way citizens thought about their relationship to their government. Only, he was no centrist, he unified the country against liberals. To start his campaign, he picked a fight against the civil rights movement, and the first thing he did in office was to illegally crush a union. That is how you realign, through aggressive divisive persuasive arguments and actions. Only Edwards has put forward an aggressive populist message, one conducive to the partisanship we need.
I'm not trying to say we should shut up and listen to our elders. MarKOS Moulitas himself is rather annoying most of the time, to me anyway. He's rather shallow when it comes to really getting to the heart of just what kind of an institution he's sitting on top of, what it all means. "Meta" just isn't his thing, nor is endorsing a primary contender -- he's got issues with them all and like Booman, thinks he's a rather handsome Hamlet . But "meta" definitely is something that Stoller's partner, Chris Bowers (uid: 123) enjoys writing about.

Bowers' meta discussion on why the "A-Listers" do and don't pick one candidate over another is worthy of a look. He knows he's one of those "elite bloggers" and doesn't hesitate using his position to effect change or attempt to influence the rest of us. But he'd like to think he's a reluctant warrior. His rationale for backing Edwards makes him sound like he's picking the lessor of three evils -- but I think it's more likely he, like so many elite bloggers, is a little gun-shy after getting badly burned by Howard Dean's collapse, and Joe Trippi being on the Edwards team ignites alarm bells.

Bowers, like the rest, is famous. He's on his way to being legendary, yet he like so many of the A-Listers just doesn't understand that this alone makes him different and affects who he is and what he has to say. He has an audience and as any successful communicator, he tailors his writing both to the composition of that audience and the type of media he uses for his message.

Again, it's the nature of this written media. You can't judge something by a wink or a nudge to inform the nuance of the written word, not without an emoticon which barely gets the job done. A blogger is stuck with the body of work they've been publishing every damn day. Candidates might forget that Google remembers everything, but bloggers don't. If they do something out of character, they better come up with an viable explanation or their readers will scalp them. Famous bloggers don't hear the cheers or boos of their fans, aren't hounded by paparazzi, and can't rely on a charming smile to get them off the hook with their public.

Nope. We bloggers, famous and otherwise, are cursed with having to make sense -- or resort to what all the conservative bloggers do and close down our comment box.

Everybody who knows blogs knows who Chris Bowers is, (and I'm only singling him out as an example of the phenomenon -- nothing personal Chris, luv ya!) There were subtle clues about who he would eventually endorse (the blogosphere's equivalent to reading someone's body language) if you paid attention. If you read between the lines on what battles he's picked to write about (like his forceful defense of the Amanda/Shakes blogger resignations from Team Edwards last Spring), and watched over the year how Bowers' rhetoric matched up with which candidate -- you would have been shocked if he came out for anyone besides Edwards. With Dodd and Kucinich unelectable, his choice was a lot less agonizing than he lets on. We knew it was coming, just didn't know when.

With Iowa days away, the Hamlet act became an imperative many of the A-listers could no longer live with. I think it mattered to them that the remaining A-Listers were picking sides, and this became for them a requirement to act. Evidently Booman, ever the trend bucker, is content with his non-position -- even though we all know which candidate his no-prisoners fighting style resembles most. It's also apparent that he doesn't live in an early primary State.

UID: 1636 (Armando) took on the new moniker Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left, but his tent isn't big enough to cover candidates who think that politics in the early 21st century is anything but hardball. His fights with the rest of the Kossack community that led to his leaving the Great Orange Satan made him a legend beyond his fantastic writing ability and insightful notions. He's a fighter by nature, and that is instinctively what we all are craving, someone who will fight for change. Armando was "this" close on more than a couple of occasions to fully endorsing Edwards earlier this year, or so it seemed. But he too has seen the clock ticking away his last chance to be a player.

Armando:
The reason he [Obama] is critiqued for his strategy is precisely because those of us who do so believe "the end result does [NOT] advance progressive ideology significantly." This is perhaps the most frustrating thing about discussing these issues with Obama supporters. They seem incapable of understanding that we do not criticize Obama's political style on aesthetic grounds; we criticize his style because we think it will not work to actually EFFECT CHANGE. We believe that despite his being touted as the change candidate, his political style is the one LEAST likely to achieve progressive policy change.
It's no coincidence that many of the "A-Listers" of the 'sphere got on the same bus at almost the same time. It's not a conspiracy as much as a confluence of events presented to folks who share a similar perspective, having been at this since the Deaniac days. Right now, Blogtopia is all about change. We've had enough of being stabbed in the back as compromise and reasoned discourse leads to caving in to every outrageous conservative whim again and again. Change is our raison d'entre. One of the reasons we flirted with Obama at all is because he was different, he wasn't Edwards and he didn't seem to be a DLC type Blue Dog. We had "hope" he was the future (and by golly, he still is). But right now, today, we need someone who will kick some corporate ass.

Those of us who aren't sworn to some journalistic ethos, or picked someone early in the process we're sticking to (like I did, and am lucky enough that it was Edwards), can't help but notice who the vile mainstream media prefers -- and it's not John Edwards. We just can't have that, can we -- especially when the Potomac Villagers get the pandering we deserved, dammit. WE are the base. The beltway punditocracy is the problem, the very manner in which they behave. To appease them is to become assimilated. To talk to them politely, with respect, without using the word "fuck," is to let them win.

An Edwards nomination, let alone a presidency, would annoy the mainstream press to no end. Even if his policy positions weren't so in tune with the blogosphere, that alone would get Edwards a hefty bunch of supporters. It seems to be working for the Ron Paultards.

The system is rigged, and the only viable candidate who is willing to recognize the long-handled-dirt-removal-device for the spade that it is, and say so, is John Edwards. Obama, and Hillary have figured out that the vast majority of the people who regularly read the prominent progressive blogs won't go anywhere, that we won't turn tail and get behind any Republican whatsoever. Not even a populist like Huckabee. And they're correct, so they've tacked to the right and will probably govern accordingly, taking the activist base for granted much the same way Bill Clinton and even Jimmy Carter did.

But John Edwards has been about fighting for change since he started this run. He's been trying to tell us that he's our champion right along. It's about damn time we got his back. I believe our ideas are superior, our solutions better, our principles stronger; that we, the liberals of this country articulate the desires of the majority better than any mythical centrist, and we're right. Edwards is one of us.

So welcome aboard Duncan, and Avedon (uid: 13106) and (God help us) even Mikey Moore. I'm glad you all decided to put yourself out on the limb before the Iowa vote -- when it, you know, might matter.

(Just wondering what uid:18467 (Digby) is waiting for...)

3 Comments:

Avedon said...

Well, now I'm curious - how do you find someone's User ID on DKos?

I don't really regard myself as part of the Kos community - I'm not a heavy comment person, since I'm kinda busy somewhere else. I think I only signed in because I felt like there was something I wanted to spread around one time, but I usually forget I could crosspost there if I wanted to.

Miss Welby said...

hi Mark, I follow your blog and now understand more about the Iowa caucus, how it works...

I gave you a link and would appreciate if you'd like to reciprocate :)

Mark W Adams said...

I know Avedon you're no Kossack. But I had to include you as part of the overall zeitgeist.

You're uid was easy. Like Matt and Chris and Armando, you didn't change who you are. Just like putting in Mark_Adams.dailykos.com takes you to my Kos Page, Avedon.dailykos.com takes me to yours. Now, hit the comment button and mouseover your name in a comment and instead of Avedon, it becomes your uid.

Duncan's was a different story. You and I know damn well that he's posted at least one comment at Kos over the years, but he didn't use the name Atrios, so I can't find him. I didn't try Duncan Black or Eschaton.

Hey, come on by American Street today! I'll be there every Friday.

And yeah, cross-posting at the Great Orange Satan is probably something we all should do, but who has the time to deal with all the children. I don't know how you do it at Duncan's place.

20 or so comments like you usually max at Sideshow is about perfect, a conversation. The 100+ comment threads at KOS, Eschaton and places like Kevin Drum's blog are just out of hand. I get lost.