Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bloggers and the Democratic presidential race

Most of you could probably have guessed that I'm not crazy about any of the people who are likely to become the next Democratic candidate for U.S. President. John Edwards has good plans for revamping flagging social programs, but he's too socially conservative. Barack Obama is wonderfully charismatic and would probably be a force to reckon with in the White House, but for me personally he's too fiscally conservative and too interested in making a pitch to win over so-called "faith voters." And Hillary Clinton? Well, you know what I think about her.

But I'm going to have to hold my nose and vote for someone next year, so I've been keeping my eyes open. And a couple of things suggested to me that Edwards might just be positioning himself as a genuine left-wing candidate. Certainly his health care plan, while far from optimal, is a terribly gutsy move for anyone in my country of birth. And just as exciting was his appointment of one of my favourite U.S. bloggers, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon, as his official campaign blogger. I was impressed with the fact that Edwards' people knew the U.S. political blogosphere both to hire a campaign blogger in the first place, and to realize what a gem Marcotte is, and I was also impressed with his daring in hiring someone like Marcotte--a true lefty--to represent him to the blogosphere. I'm not a Democrat, not really, but if Edwards was going to be that cool, then maybe I could look the other way whenever he talked about identity politics.

Well, my tentative steps in his direction were stopped cold yesterday when, after being hounded for a week by the right-wing blogosphere and the hard-right Catholic League, Salon magazine reported that Marcotte and her co-blogger were fired for having voiced some left-wing ideas in their own personal blogs, months ago, with a sense of humour. This was, of course, after Marcotte had already uprooted her life and moved across the country to take the position. But their firing says more about Edwards than just that he's a crappy boss--it also says that his people weren't quite bright enough to have done their homework before choosing Marcotte. And most importantly, it also lets us know that when the U.S. right says jump, he will. And this is despite the fact that the guy from the Catholic League who's been making such a fuss has been shown to be far kookier than Marcotte could be even if you took everything she writes completely seriously. What will this supposed friend of the left do when the right brings out the big guns and aims them straight at his health care plan? Because if he doesn't think they will, he's not just naive, he's crazy.

After impassioned pleas to keep Marcotte and her co-blogger broke out across the blogosphere, though, this morning, three new posts appeared on the Edwards campaign blog. One was from Marcotte, and was, in essence, a fauxpology (which is, I suppose, the best you can do when you have to apologize but you have nothing to apologize for). The second was from Marcotte's co-blogger, and had similar content. And the third was from John Edwards himself, and went like this

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.
So he's hardly flipping the far right the big ol' bird, but it looks like they've been rehired--for now, at least. The whole ordeal still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, though. After all, the jury is still out on whether, when Time magazine dubbed Edwards "the new Howard Dean," they meant "Presidential candidate who can ignite the fire of the youth through a creative use of community-building technology," or "Presidential candidate who makes a colossal misstep early on and goes down in flames." I also can't help but be reminded of how grim the political spectrum down there looks. When you have no genuine left-wing party, the so-called middle-of-the-road folks get pulled so far right that the real lefties don't fit in anywhere. Except Canada, I suppose. Because for all our system's flaws, we've got something the Americans don't have--a political spectrum that encompasses a full range of viewpoints.

It's something the centre-left might want to keep in mind the next time people start droning on about the supposed attractiveness of a Liberal-NDP merger.

[Update: Majikthise comes to the same conclusions, but is significantly more optimistic than I am about what this means for the future of "standing up to the right." Ah well, I suppose that's why she's living there and I'm not!]


Anonymous said...

I have no horse in this race, but can't help agreeing with Daily Kos when he argued that the other candidates failed the Party by not standing up to the right when these kinds of smear jobs come around. He/they have said the same thing about when Obama was smeared by Fox about the supposed 'fundamentalist muslim' school he attended as a child.

Edwards ultimatly did the right thing, although it took him a while. The other candidates stood on the sideline and watched - they should be taken to task at least as much as Edwards.

West End Bob said...


Thanks for your pragmatic analysis of this issue. I must admit to only "skimming" these stories, but your post sums it up quite well.

Now the real question remains for you - and us - as to whom to vote for in '08? My guy - Russ Feingold - has taken himself out of the running, unfortunately. While there was probably no chance of him getting the Democratic nomination, I certainly admire his views on all issues. This country is not quite ready for someone of such convictions.

Thank goodness our future home does offer genuine differing views - Can't wait to participate in the system!

Anonymous said...

I thought I'd read that the firing was just a rumour (on Pandagon or Feministe or one of those blogs). Or was that just a talking point?

Is there any particular reason you removed Pandagon from your sidebar? That's actually how I discovered them. (See, some people really do click blogroll links!)

Anonymous said...

...Because for all our system's flaws, we've got something the Americans don't have--a political spectrum that encompasses a full range of viewpoints.

It's something the centre-left might want to keep in mind the next time people start droning on about the supposed attractiveness of a Liberal-NDP merger.

I agree - the existence of the NDP pulls the Libs more rightward than they would normally sit. Without the lefty party sitting on their flank and available to left wing voters, I believe the Libs would mirror the Democrats in many ways - ignoring the left (who else would they vote for?) and adopting right wing positions to try to steal voters from the Cons.

I'm so glad I have a choice.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to keep spamming you with comments, but here's a post about how the "firing" and "firing and rehiring" rumours are just that - rumours.

I grant that some may feel reason to doubt this post because it comes from Pandagon (who theoretically could be involved in a coverup), but it seems to me that the people involved would know the actual details.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Point taken. Perhaps I feel more of an affinity with this particular case because it's a blogger who got hurt--and one whose words I've particularly enjoyed over the years.

west end bound,

Honestly, at this point I think I'll probably sit out the primary. I'm really not a Democrat anyway, and only registered to vote as one so that I could vote in the primaries. If I had a particular favourite, I'd go ahead and do it, but as things stand I'll probably wait until November 2008 to vote next in the U.S.


We don't know everything that happened behind the scenes, but from what I've read, it sounds like the bloggers were hastily fired and then it was decided that they should talk about it first, so they took the firing back. We haven't heard anything yet to contradict this.

I removed Pandagon from my blogroll links when Amanda announced that she wouldn't be posting there anymore. I really only have so much time to read about U.S. politics, and I particularly enjoyed her writing. I've replaced Pandagon with Ian Welsh of the Agonist now--he's a Canadian, but he's got some interesting insights into the U.S.

the existence of the NDP pulls the Libs more rightward than they would normally sit.

I hope you mean more leftward! But yeah, that's exactly what I meant. The existence of the NDP not only gives lefties a real option, but it also makes the Liberals themselves more palatable than they would be without a party to their left. That's why I get so angry whenever either one of the parties tries to demolish the other--it's only when we've got a full spectrum of choice that we can be truly politically healthy as a country.

Anonymous said...


Yes, I meant more leftward. sigh. I'll shut up now.

Anonymous said...

*Sigh*. I was starting to like Edwards. How are the USian supposed to defeat the right when USian liberals steadfastly refuse to just friggin' grow a set?

As as aside, good indication of my ignorance but my first thought when I read about this story was, "When did Phil Donahue become a nutbar"? Answer: he didn't.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


Oh, dear. No, Phil Donahue is actually pretty left himself, and has had a lot of demons to fight on that front himself. He looks like a Baptist minister, but he's on our side!

West End Bob said...

only registered to vote as one so that I could vote in the primaries

So I guess you must have retained a US address in order to register to vote in the primaries. Wasn't aware you still had the "ties", as we will due to the lousy US real estate market right now. Without a local US address the only voting option would be for the national general election, correct? No local races, state races, etc.

Anonymous said...

web: The United States has no national elections. The presidential election is actually 51 statewide races to appoint delegates to the Electoral College, which is the actual decision maker. (Okay, yes, except for Bush v. Gore.)

IP: I don't know. I hate living under an administration that is inconsiderate of groups that do not directly support its election, and I would be proud of a Democratic candidate who challenged xir staff to find a better way. Far from not "having a set" as a prior commenter suggested, I think it shows a courage to stand aside from the Karl Rove/Lee Atwater strategy of dividing the nation into factions in such a way that you can enchant 51% of them to vote for you.

Tyrone said...

I'm sorry to disagree, but I strongly support some kind of Liberal-NDP alliance. See my post for an explanation as to why.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


I read your post. It sounds like what you're proposing is a Liberal-NDP government coalition. If you read my blog at all (and I mean at all, because there are probably a dozen references to it in my "greatest hits" sidebar alone), then you know I think that's a terrific idea. So you're not actually disagreeing with me.

Since you clearly didn't understand what I do think, here it is in a nutshell:

1) It's good for both parties for both the Liberals and the NDP to continue to exist as full-fledged parties. As things stand, the Liberals will have someone on their left flank and won't only be pulled to the right, as the Democrats in the U.S. have been, and the NDP will continue to provide a genuine option to lefties and won't feel pulled to the centre themselves with someone else occupying that spot. Keeping the two parties both separate, and healthy, is the only way to have a full, vibrant political spectrum in this country.

2) If the two parties ever felt like they wanted to put aside their disagreements and form government together rather than trying to snuff each other out, that would absolutely rock my socks. However, the NDP has only expressed interest in working with the Liberals in a minority government situation, and when I asked now-Liberal leader Stéphane Dion about a possible interest in a coalition in my interview with him, he only kept repeating over and over again that he thought the Liberals would be able to get a single-party majority on his watch. It's disappointing, but those are the facts.

3) I personally would be just fine with your "non-competition agreement" idea, as long as the terms of the agreement were fair and equal and it were really in "selected ridings" instead of dividing up the whole country along party lines. However, I don't think either party would agree to this because in Canada, the parties have so often rattled the sword of "we're running candidates in all ridings, therefore we are legitimate!" for so long. It's entirely silly, but again, those are the facts.

4) If the Liberals ever got to a point of agreeing with you--and I hope they do--the very best show of faith they could give the NDP would be full support of proportional representation. This is something you don't mention once in your post, and that's a huge, huge oversight.

I will reply this on your post as well.

Anonymous said...

A bit of an update on this story here:

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

west end bound,

Actually, I don't still have a U.S. address. When you apply for a primary ballot, you just give your last address, as you do with any ballot. For me, that's Michigan.

West End Bob said...


Thanks for the ballot info - Looking forward to actually having to apply for the ballot.