February 07, 2007

I've never been all that impressed with John Edwards. His mediocre campaign in 2004 for the Democratic nomination barely raised a sweat on John Kerry, and his bid for the Vice Presidency provided no benefit whatsoever to the ticket. L'affaire Marcotte can be looked at two ways: he either didn't perform due diligence when he hired her as his campaign blogger, or he knew what he was getting, didn't think statements like this would effect his ability to get out his message, and now must humiliate her and cut her loose.

There is a double standard here, one that I think liberals must insist on: that any platform or ideology based on compassion and concern for those least privileged, the hallmark of progressive politics for more than a century, has to have as its spokesmen people who walk the walk as well as talk the talk. So of course the right is free to have bigots like Michelle "V-Dare" Malkin and William "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity" Donahue as its public face, and John McCain can employ an extremist as his bloggissimo. Modern conservatism doesn't pretend to be compassionate towards human suffering, and so who can begrudge its candidates for playing to that crowd. On the other hand, liberalism without civility is a contradiction in terms.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald has a defense of the Edwards bloggissimos, and more questions about some of the hatemongers hired by Republicans to do the same sort of work. What a lot of Marcotte's defenders (I haven't read much of the other blogger to judge one way or another) seem to be missing isn't that she has "made controversial or profane remarks in the past," but that she doesn't seem to have an "indoor voice" to begin with. A politician like Edwards wants to win elections, and if one of his employees has a history of making remarks that offend the religious beliefs of a core constituency of your own party, he must act quickly before the problem metasticizes.

There is an important role for the Marcottes of the world, to roil the waters and shake up the false consensus that restricts our political debate. Some people have to go too far in their rhetoric, if only to show up the mealy-mouthed among us for our complacency, and Pandagon often succeeds in doing precisely that. But if that's the path you want to take, you must also understand that other doors will be closed to you, and that the heavy lifting of actually getting something done will be performed by the policy wonks and the "concern trolls" you routinely mock.

UPDATE [2/8/07]: Not fired, at least for now. The two pretty much had to repudiate everything they had previously written on their blogs as "satirical in nature" for which they are sorry if anyone "was personally offended." In the future, this may neuter other talented bloggers who wish to join campaigns, and people who take their political writing seriously may find the "satirical in nature" language hard to swallow. But the kids stay in the picture. My respect for the courage of John Edwards, if not his political foresight, has just gone way up.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Huh? Wht was that a 'brave decision'>? His launch velocity - if he gets it - will come from the left netroots. They are the 10% that gets him to the Big Kids table. If he'd fired them, that support is suddenly in play. he's now locked it up - but at a pretty significant cost down the line.

They made choices, he makes choices...

Armed Liberal

Steve Smith said...

Nah, his launch velocity comes from the fact that he ran last time and was the Veep nominee, which is the reason he does as well as he does in Iowa and New Hampshire. His two main rivals at this stage are Obama and Clinton, neither of whom receive launch velocity from the netroots. The netroots support is vastly overrated at this stage, particularly for the Presidential nomination, and I doubt they constitute 10% of the primary voters. Keeping both of the bloggissimas carries the risk that their previous posts may be an issue later in the campaign, among people with less toxic opinions than Donahue or Malkin, but Edwards is willing to take that risk in order to stand behind his workers.

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