Thursday, February 08, 2007

Edwards and the Netroots

The news of the day is that John Edwards has refused to cave to right-wing nutbar pressure to fire bloggers Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen. Those unfamiliar with the dustup can read about it here.

Here's Edwards' statement on the matter:

The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwan's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in.

Fine and dandy.

Edwards is being hailed by his fans in the left-wing blogosphere as a man with a spine today but there are definitely a few "howevers" attached to that praise. Some are disappointed that he didn't launch a full-fledged attack on the wingnuts who created this storm. Others want him to go after the MSM's shoddy reporting. Release the hounds!, they declare.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of all of this was statements from bloggers like Chris Bowers at MyDD, Martin at Booman Tribune and the crowd at Daily Kos that Edwards had better deal with this situation the way they thought he should or else he'd lose the support of the "netroots" - once again elevating the status of the "netroots" to near mythic proportions.

Did the netroots help get candidates elected? Yes. Although that sure didn't work in John Kerry's case, did it? Oh, but that wasn't the netroots fault. Kerry just didn't have that spine Edwards is supposedly displaying. Does the netroots raise money for candidates? Sure. But let's not forget about who really funds so-called democracy in the United States. Joe Netroot's $10 donation to his local candidiate is a nice gesture and makes him feel like he has power, but it's nothing compared to Corporate America's millions that are funneled into Washington every election cycle. So, while the netroots have some amount of people power, it is also very limited.

Democratic candidates won the last time around because Amercians were sick and tired of losing the Iraq war. I suspect the results would have been the same regardless of whether the netroots existed or not. Some factors are simply out of the netroots control. Remember the "macaca" moment that sunk George Allen and gave the win to Jim Webb? No netroots influence there - just serendipity.

Do the netroots have some influence? Sure. People who read blogs are often inspired to become active in their local races. They write about the issues to inform others. They raise a bit of money. Some netroots leaders end up being interviewed by the MSM. What is lacking, however, is the huge political machine that the right has been nurturing and employing for decades.

So the left's netroots movement may have actual power at some point in the future. As it stands now, however, it's still in its infancy and that power is very limited. That's why I thought those proclamations by bloggers like Chris Bowers were a bit laughable. John Edwards' campaign won't fail if he loses netroots support and for some bloggers to declare they'd abandon him over this issue seems to be a rather pompous display of overestimating their own power.

Frankly, what ought to be a major concern for so-called left-wing bloggers are the statements Edwards made at the Herzliya conference:

Cheryl Fishbein from NY: When you do learning of Jewish texts, you give credit to ideas of scholars who have helped you ask questions, I would like to give credit to my friends and colleagues who have had this same overriding question of shared a existential threat: Would you be prepared, if diplomacy failed, to take further action against Iran? I think there is cynicism about the ability of diplomacy to work in this situation. Secondly, you as grassroots person, who has an understanding of the American people, is there understanding of this threat across US?

A: My analysis of Iran is if you start with the President of Iran coming to the UN in New York denouncing America and his extraordinary and nasty statements about the Holocaust and goal of wiping Israel off map*, married with his attempts to obtain nuclear weapons over a long period of time, they are buying time. They are the foremost state sponsors of terrorism. If they have nuclear weapons, other states in the area will want them, and this is unacceptable.

As to what to do, we should not take anything off the table. More serious sanctions need to be undertaken, which cannot happen unless Russia and China are seriously on board, which has not happened up until now. I would not want to say in advance what we would do, and what I would do as president, but there are other steps that need to be taken. Fore [sic] example, we need to support direct engagement with Iranians, we need to be tough. But I think it is a mistake strategically to avoid engagement with Iran.

As to the American people, this is a difficult question. The vast majority of people are concerned about what is going on in Iraq. This will make the American people reticent toward going for Iran. But I think the American people are smart if they are told the truth, and if they trust their president. So Americans can be educated to come along with what needs to be done with Iran.

That's my bottom line: do you want John Edwards dragging your country into a war with Iran or not?

All of this netroots/blogger crisis stuff has just been a ridiculous diversion. You may want to grant Edwards a "spine" but you may regret that when it comes to how he might handle foreign affairs if he actually does become the president.

Update: The Catholic League has released its reponse to Edwards' decision. How pompous:

“Edwards said today that ‘We’re beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can’t let it be hijacked.’ I have news for him—the Catholic League—not Edwards—will decide what the debate will be about, and it won’t be about the nation. It will be about the glaring double standard that colors the entire conversation about bigotry.

“We will launch a nationwide public relations blitz that will be conducted on the pages of the New York Times, as well as in Catholic newspapers and periodicals. It will be on-going, breaking like a wave, starting next week and continuing through 2007. It will be an education campaign, informing the public of what he did today.

Reminder: Bill Donohue is The Catholic League's president and he can try to hide from his bigoted track record but it's well-documented.

What a hypocritical blowhard.


catnip said...

crossposted on my blog

Anonymous said...

thank you, catnip, I was about to barf!


sjct said...

Catnip, why don't you put up a thread about the great blogroll blow-up over at dKos. Martin is whining and Maryscott is rantin' and ravin' over Markos dropping them from his money-making machine. Fascinating stuff. Who knew just having a link of dKos was worth 300 clicks a day.

hrh said...

Hi, hrh/supervixen here to say hi. Looks nice over here. Could you use another metaranter?? ;-)

catnip said...

Good to see you here, hrh. :)

sjct, your wish is my command. See the nouveau thread.