Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blogging partisans and partisan blogs

Last November, James Bow wrote a post about who he thought should win the various Canadian Blog Awards, and among other things, he said that I ran "the best NDP blog." Now, don't get me wrong, it was delightful to get an endorsement from someone I respect as much as I do James. But I had never thought of myself as writing an "NDP blog," and the characterization brought me up short.

I tried to tell myself that I was just splitting hairs--that I'm a New Democrat and I blog, so of course I have an NDP blog. Heck, I even belong to the "Blogging Dippers" blog aggregator. But something just didn't sit right about the label, and the more I steeped in it, the more it felt like a description that just didn't fit what I was trying to do with my blog. It reminded me of why I hadn't taken Greg Staples up on his offer to appear on his Bloggers' Hotstove podcast after the first time: I told him that if I could be sure it'd just be about shooting the breeze with a bunch of bloggers of different political stripes, that would be one thing, but if the extreme partisanship of a couple of his panelists was going to box me into the corner of Speaking For The NDP, I didn't want to play.

But still, I couldn't quite put my finger on why the idea bothered me so much until two posts came along: one that discussed the difference between blogging partisans and partisan blogs, and one that exemplified it. The first post, written by James Bow about the Wajid Khan floor-crossing, talked about how Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor had broken the story because sources inside the party had leaked it to him. The post then went on to muse about the pros and cons of partisanship in blogging, likening Taylor to Liberal blogger Jason Cherniak:

Just as Jason Cherniak has been co-chair of Stephane Dion’s blog campaign, and a reliable partisan blogger for both the Ontario and federal Liberals, Stephen Taylor’s work in organizing the Blogging Tories and his apparent relationship with insiders within the Conservative Party make him as much of a mouthpiece for the Conservatives as Jason is for the Liberals. And, indeed, I envy Stephen. He has himself a considerable plum to put on his resume, not to mention a possible future as an official within the Conservative Party — up to and including political candidacy. Like Jason, you’re looking at one of the future movers and shakers in this country.

Which should be fine, so long as, from this point forward, Stephen knows that he will be seen progressively more as a mouthpiece of the Conservative Party, and less his own man.
The second post, written by the aforementioned Jason Cherniak on his blogging anniversary, talked about the way Jason saw the direction of his blog in the upcoming year, and laid right out on the table the fact that he viewed his blog as a force to do good things for his party:
In the coming year, I look forward to a provincial election in Ontario. There may also be a federal election, but I'm not holding my breath. It will really depend on whether Harper wants to force one by putting forward a budget that no other party can support. Whatever happens, I will continue to do my best to help the Liberal Party because I believe that we Liberals offer the best option for Canadians.
Now, James talks about how he envies people like Stephen Taylor and Jason Cherniak their positions as bloggy conduits for their respective parties, but here's the thing: I don't, not at all. If the NDP were to come to me and offer me a similar deal, I wouldn't even have to think about it before turning them down. I find the very idea a little distasteful, in fact--for me, political blogging is about an individual or, in the case of a group blog, a group of individuals, writing up opinion pieces about whatever occurs to them. If I disagree with the NDP about something, I will do so respectfully, but I'm still going to write about it--reams and reams, if it's something I care about. If somebody from one of the other parties does something that makes the NDP look good, I'm not going to strain to find something to say about it just to spread the word. And most of the time, I'm going to be writing about things that aren't partisan ideas at all--things like electoral reform and election speculation and campaign strategy--because those are the kinds of things I actually have something unique to say about.

Don't get me wrong: I really am a partisan New Democrat. Like Jason and Stephen, I, too, want to help my party, and in fact I spend a lot of my free time doing just that. I'm just not interested in doing that with my blog. So if what you're here for are well-argued treatises on NDP policy or debunkings of all the ridiculous things that get said about the NDP by bloggers and the mainstream media alike, you're definitely in the wrong place. (For that, you actually want Accidental Deliberations, who writes the real "best NDP blog.")

I'll end by illustrating my point with a list of some of my favourite contrarian posts from partisan bloggers whose blogs are nonetheless not partisan. These are people who admit their biases upfront, but still aren't ashamed to call their parties out when they deserve it:

Political Staples
Bound By Gravity

Calgary Grit

New Democrats
Thought, Interrupted by Typos
Rational Reasons


Oxford County Liberals said...

C'mon ID, the Blogging Hotstove isnt THAT bad. You should come on - I'd bet you'd enjoy doing it once you did one.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Oh, I'm a huge fan of the Hotstove! And I enjoyed my single, longago appearance on it, too. But whether the panelists end up sounding like a bunch of friends shooting the breeze over a beer or more like the panel of party spokespeople on CPAC depends entirely on who's on that week, and I'm not the slightest bit interested in participating in the latter.

James Bow said...

Well, you should come on when I'm on. That way, with two non-partisans in the mix, we can keep things from going to far into the partisan side.

rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rob said...

I think that you will find if you go back as far as the last election that a lot of Liberal bloggers were very critical of the party.

West End Bob said...


Just keep doing what you are doing and call it anything you want . . . The reason lots of us read your blog is precisely because of your skill at offering different and pragmatic analysis of issues with arguments from both sides of the topic.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention! I'm often tempted to more partisan than I am, mostly out of reaction to other blogs (sort of like what you describe with "the extreme partisanship of a couple of his panelists was going to box me into the corner of Speaking For The NDP"). But then if I think about it being easily baited wouldn't do much for me anyway.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I've been tempted, too, but I've found that I've only once gotten even a halfway decent post out of it, so I refrain. If I want to write well, it's got to be a lot less knee-jerk.