As you know, you go into a campaign with the electorate you have. They're not the electorate you might want or wish to have at a later time.
Democrats have a really hard time remembering this.
American progressives—the far political Left of this country—do not live in the country they wish to live in. They hate the fact that this country elected George Bush president twice over more progressive candidates. They hate that the country is pro-life and moving more in that direction. They hate that the country is pro-gun, so much so that their effete progressive candidates must endure elaborate RealTree festooning every now and then to appease the masses. They hate the fact that the entirety of the Dust Bowl, Dixie, and the desert, are not filled with the equals of the liberal, intellectual elite of New York City, Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C.
And, they’re not real shy about the way they feel, particularly when they’re progressive bloggers.
This is fine. They’re bloggers. They’re American citizens. They can say what they want.
The problem comes when, in an attempt to garner the favor of the ever-cantankerous left side of the blogosphere, Democratic candidates hire bloggers with profanity-laced, President-hatin’ pasts to helm their online efforts and blogging output.
That’s what happened to John Edwards this week. He hired Amanda Marcotte of the blog Pandagon to be his blogmaster and Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare’s Sister to be his online communications person. If personnel is policy, let’s just say those two hires reflect the Edwards campaign’s desire to be “Queen C—of F—k Mountain” and “F—k BushCo.”
It’s not exactly the winning populist message John-Boy was shooting for, I reckon, and bloggers on the right side of the aisle recognized that immediately. Too bad for Edwards, Marcotte, and McEwan, no one on their side did. Or, perhaps more damaging, they did and couldn’t do anything about it.
By Wednesday, the Edwards campaign was fighting push-back on the picks that were supposed to grant him great Netroots power. Marcotte and McEwan were slammed for being anti-Catholic, outside the mainstream, and just plain vulgar. Edwards fired the two bloggers. On Thursday, he un-fired them. Or something. The details are hazy.
While Marcotte’s and McEwan’s fates were up in the air, the left side of the blogosphere began laying blame for the firings at the feet of righty bloggers. While there are some on the right who I’m sure wouldn’t mind the credit, it wasn’t us. There’s not an army of Rethuglican bloggers stifling Marcotte’s free speech. There’s not a league of Christofascists demanding she be banned from blogging evermore.
What there are are a good number of sensible bloggers on the right with decent political sense who made the not-exactly-rocket-science observation that perhaps someone who refers to the “hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit” in describing the virgin birth might not be fit to bring the Edwards message to mainstream voters. And, further, that Edwards should be judged by the company he keeps.
But the left of the blogosphere asks these ridiculous questions of the Edwards campaign:
* Are you with the people who work their asses for you, or are you with right-wing extremists who hate you?
* Are you willing to point out the double standards and hypocrisy behind this story, or will you cave to even the mildest pressure from the Republican Noise Machine?
* Do you have any loyalty to the netroots, or was it all just sweet talk, where loyalty actually only flows uphill and shit actually only flows downhill?
My apologies for the profanity. In the left blogosphere, it seems, one’s political influence is inversely proportional to his ability to formulate posts without dropping the F-bomb or wishing for the President’s death, so curse words are hard to avoid.
The “mildest pressure” he’s speaking of is apparently the right blogosphere’s unspeakably un-American tendency to quote Marcotte’s writings accurately.
But let’s go to one of the more sensible left bloggers, Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly:
Bloggers nearly all talk trash, and if Edwards sets a precedent by agreeing that you shouldn't hire a blogger who's ever said anything that anyone finds offensive -- even for a relatively low-level position -- then that's pretty much it for hiring bloggers. And that would be a shame. I hope they stick to their guns on this and laugh it off. It'll be forgotten in a couple of days if they do.
“You shouldn’t hire a blogger who’s ever said anything that anyone finds offensive” is decidedly not the standard this incident represents, and to suggest that it is reflects either obtuseness or deliberate misleading by the blogger.
There is a difference between talking trash and being just plain trashy. If you dare, click through to some of Marcotte’s rants, published in full by Michelle Malkin and National Review. It’s not hard, in skimming their works, to figure that Marcotte’s and McEwan’s style would prove serious liabilities in courting centrist, mainstream voters.
Edwards, Marcotte, and McEwan know it, too. In the announcement of their un-firing, on his blog, John Edwards tells us the girls have promised to behave like good little feminists from now on:
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.
Perhaps instead of taking them at their word, he should read some of their work, which is largely humorless and hateful, and intended to be just that. If anyone is hijacking the debate about the future—if anyone is distracting us from the important issues at hand, like John-Boy’s plan to plunge us into perpetual sickness via socialist health care—it’s the Edwards’ camp’s boneheaded hiring of two women whose writings have been so vile they’ve served to hijack and distract the news cycle for a full week.
Of course, Democratic candidates can’t help but hire from the politically powerful pool of bloggers on the left to earn cred with the Netroots. The Netroots raise money well and they push activists well, which candidates need, especially in a primary.
It remains to be seen how much of a pass Marcotte and McEwan will get from the mainstream press for the things they’ve written in the past. I guarantee you it will be more than any righty blogger would be granted, which is a large part of the reason carpet bombing with the F-word is not a guarantor of upward mobility in the conservative blogosphere.
All bloggers have a paper trail. They’ve almost all said things they regret, and might not entirely please a candidate who wishes to hire them, but luckily for Republican candidates, conservative bloggers tend to stick closer to the mainstream in both their beliefs and their rhetoric.
The fact that liberal bloggers do not do the same is not the fault of conservative bloggers, a Republican oppression machine, or an American electorate creeping toward theocracy. But as the Netroots continue to be a liability of their own making, expect them and the Democrats who hire them to blame the American electorate, as they always do.
“What’s the Matter With Kansas?” they will ask again and again, when the question they should be asking is “what’s the matter with us?”
In the meantime, enjoy the fireworks as Marcotte and McEwan set up camp in Chapel Hill, N.C. and begin their expert outreach to rural, Southern, evangelical and Catholic “godbags.”
They should watch out. We silly Southern Christians sometimes don’t pick up on satire as subtle as theirs.