Sunday, July 22, 2007

Why so few endorsements

I am getting old in blog years, as I started Fester's Place, my single author blog in September of 2003 during the height of the Dean wave. I had been at Kos and Atrios and Media Whores Online, Daily Howler, CalPundit, the News Blog, TPM and Skeptical Notion for the year of so before hand. Agonist and Gilliard, and BopNews were some of the most interesting accessible foreign policy/Iraq blogs going on at the time. And almost everyone had their particular favorite for President. Wampum supported Edwards, a few oddities supported Gephardt and Kerry, no one liked Lieberman, and then the battle royale of blogging endorsement battles: Dean v. Clark.

Everyone had an opinion and it could get nasty. I liked Clark, but I thought he had too little chance to either win or produce long lasting structural change, so I supported Dean. By this time in the same cycle, he had already received at least four (very) small donations from me, as well as half a dozen Meet-ups, some postering and generic outreach efforts.

Chris Bowers at the Open Left
notes a change between this year and the last cycle --- so few of the B and A list blogs are actively endorsing candidates. I can think of a few easier ways to start a food fight than offering random, and non-researched opinions as to the thought processes of hundreds of other writers, but I can safely offer my own.

As I see it, in 2003, there were two major issues going through the Democratic campaign universe. The first was electability --- could we knock off an incumbent with massive amounts of money, a slow but steady decline from very high levels of popularity and organizational/operational superiority. The second was an actual issue --- IRAQ --- that also stood as a symbolic chasm of disagreement of worldview, values and actions between significant factions of the Democratic Party.

The blogging population, myself included, tended to be fairly narrowly focused and massively overrepresented of the excluded and frustrated outsiders (why else would you blog in 2003, for if you were included, you could always write for the 'liberal' New Republic or BluePrints.

The frustrated faction saw two groups of candidates --- marginal status quoers who in my eyes were a good guarantee of business as usual --- and potential change candidates in Dean and Clark who echoed and mirrored the outsider's frustration. At this point in the 2003 cycle, choosing Dean or Clark was a signal of frustration combined with comprehensive out group solidarity. Seeing a writer and their community that you respected endorsing a change candidate made it both easier to endorse and lowered the cost of challenging the status quo. We were collectively seeing that there were other people who were just as frustrated as us.

Now fast forward four years. The frustrated anti-war factions are now the mainstream public opinion leaders. The head of the DNC is someone who respects the power of the frustrated factions of 2003 and is actively implementing a change agenda. Netroots activists and communities can credibly claim success in forcing change --- Ned Lamont in CT showing that taking a stand can improve Democratic chances, the Harman primary in CA for better behavior. Special election victories for Herseth and Chandler. The half dozen low dollar shockers in 2006. These victories are not just for national political office; the Allegheny County, PA Democratic parties are being changed. Three solidly progressive candidates won Pittsburgh City Council seats against machine backed incumbents, and the local committees are being filled by a new generation of activists with roots that stretch back only a few years.

My frustration level at the Democratic Party has decreased, and the major policy initiatives that I want to see implemented are at least being addressed by all major of the major candidates, and most of the minor candidates. I have preferences between the candidates as I think some would make better Presidents than others, but of the group that have a chance in hell of being nominated, I think that they have all meet my minimal standards and the deviation between the best and the worst are real but not massive. I'm not estatic about any of the candidates but they are all good enough for me.

I think that may be part of the reason for so few endorsements, a greater and more generic acceptance of the policy positions and outlook of the frustrated factions of 2003. I also think that some of the other structural and incentive narratives that are being offered have a good deal of weight.

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