Why the Blogosphere Went for Edwards
I feel like writing this now, before any caucus or primary results, while my feelings are uninfluenced by events that right now remain uncertain. I don't think the mainstream media or the people that work inside the Beltway really understand the blogosphere at all. We may not fully understand them either, but we have a better grasp of what makes them tick than they have of what makes us tick. We're fighters. Fighting is pretty much all we do.
This whole movement was born of a vacuum. The primary vacuum was in the media. We discovered in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq that the media was not only shutting out our voices, but they were distorting the facts, and the facts were, therefore, going unrebutted. And we discovered that we could publish our voices just as easily as the New York Times could publish the lies of William Safire, Judith Miller, or Dick Cheney. We discovered that we could factcheck the articles appearing in the papers and the warmongers appearing on our television.
We found a truth deficit and set out to provide the truth that was lacking. For those of us that have been doing this for years, we are steeped in this contrast between what is reported and what is true. We know who the liars are. We know who the lazy reporters are. And we know who has been battling with us (Russ Feingold, Chris Dodd) and who has not (Joe Lieberman, Harold Ford). We now have comrades-in-arms...people that we have been standing with day after day after day. And we have enemies that have undermined our mission at every opportunity.
I'm sitting here listening to a speech Barack Obama made yesterday in Coralville, Iowa. He's saying all the right things. Here's an example (paraphrased): 'If you have been steeped in the common wisdom of Washington DC that says it is a good idea to invade Iraq, you can't be the best person going forward to question and change our foreign policy.' And that is exactly right. That explains so clearly what it means to have been in the fight on the side of the blogosphere versus what it means to have been on the sidelines within the consultancies of the Capitol. 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. Take Armando:
...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.
His 'style' will be ineffective. Why did so many of us conclude this? It's because we have watched Tom Daschle, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi try to negotiate with the Republicans (in the minority, the majority, no matter) and it does not work. We have watched the Dems talk tough and then back down time and time again. We're done with conciliation and we don't believe bipartisanship is possible without first crushing the Republican Party down to a stump.
Ironically, Obama might be the perfect candidate to provide the kind of crushing victories this November that will make true bipartisanship possible again. I definitely think that is a possibility. In fact, I feel his chances are strong enough that I can't endorse Edwards over Obama. I do hope Edwards wins in Iowa, but not necessarily because I prefer him to Obama. More than anything, I want Edwards' style to be vindicated. I want partisanship and combativeness to be rewarded. And I want Clinton/Lieberman/Ford/Carper/Carville/Begala/Penn to lose.
In any case, this is the best I can do to express why the blogosphere went for Edwards. None of the candidates were going far enough on policy, but at least Edwards was representing our fighting natures. And that, in the end, was decisive.