February 14, 2007

Why I'm Not Backing A Primary Candidate

Melissa McEwan has followed Marcotte in resigning from the Edwards campaign:

A second blogger working for Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards quit Tuesday under pressure from conservative critics who said her previous online messages were anti-Catholic.

Melissa McEwan wrote on her personal blog, Shakespeare's Sister, that she left the campaign because she was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the level of attention focused on her and her family.

... Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, responded that he considered the bloggers' past writings personally offensive and added that similar content would not be tolerated. But he decided to keep Marcotte and McEwan on staff to give them "a fair shake." ...

In other words, Edwards didn't really stand up for them. Worse, he obviously didn't see this coming. I mean, did anyone at his campaign read their blogs before hiring them? Was there any freaking doubt that bringing on the talents of two extremely outspoken feminists was going to provoke a showdown with a pack of howling, foaming, totally unhinged wingnuts?

When I heard about the decision, I thought well, finally a Democrat has decided to pull a reverse 'Sister Souljah' and have a head on confrontation with the poisonous arbiters of what passes for civility these days. I thought that a Democrat might finally have decided it was time to have a serious discussion about whether bad words really are worse than material harm done to thousands of women or intentionally stoking racism, whether they're worse than calling for genocide, the hanging of political opponents and assassination as a standard tool of foreign policy. But that isn't what happened, and so here we are.

Unless Al Gore drops his hat into the ring, I'm perfectly content to let Democrats in primary states pick one of these hopefuls to represent our party. I have no particular affection nor animus towards any of them, though I'd defend them against lies or criticize them if they say things that I think are dangerously boneheaded. And on the day in 2008 when the party annoints its champion, I'll support that person, because any single one of them is better than any single Republican who's stepped up. That's not even a question.

But I'm not lining up to cheer for Edwards to be that person, no more than I'll line up for his fellow candidates who could have taken this opportunity to band together and shut out right wing criticism. In other words, to show the same mutual, partisan support that they expect all of us to muster up in support of the eventual winner.

Every Democrat running for the office of the presidency should hope daily that they'll be lucky enough to be counted as enemies by disgusting freaks like Michelle Malkin, Dinesh D'Souza, William Donohue, and James Dobson. They should pray that they'll say something progressive and rational enough to drive misogynists masquerading as Christians right out of their tiny, dim, little minds.

Every Democrat should know enough to understand that those people, hiding behind patriotism and religion, are faithless cowards who hate every founding principle of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. When those people criticize any Democrat, that Democrat should publicly give thanks. They should use it as an opportunity to contrast them with people of genuine faith and love of humanity, with true patriots, with people who have worked ceaselessly to bring the United States closer to a time when the promise of our founding documents is made manifest for every sector of society.

There is great honor in the criticism of scoundrels. The first Democrat to act like they understand this will gain a following so large and so quickly that it will give the political establishment whiplash just trying to keep up.

Update: For some alternate opinion, Ezra says that Amanda's stepping down was the right thing and that the entire thing was handled badly from the start, while at My Left Wing, shanikka says that both bloggers should have stayed but that some of the criticism was correct.

Posted by natasha at February 14, 2007 11:05 AM | US Politics | TrackBack(2) | Technorati links |

she left the campaign because she was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the level of attention focused on her and her family

In light of the emails we've all seen, I'm not sure there is a more polite, or a more professional way to put it. Maybe the bigots didn't win afterall. Personally, I have issues with these punks... any time one would care to step outside


These bastards need to be a little more careful about talking about hanging people they don't like. I've got a rope, with their name on it.

Posted by: Thomas Ware at February 14, 2007 03:38 PM

While the narrative that started this mess remains in place, this sort of thing will be considered sanctioned. It's still 'okay' to target feminists, atheists, or people who make feminist critiques of religious doctrine as applied to public policy.

It's precisely because this narrative wasn't challenged early and fast, in my opinion, that this got as bad as it did. It's because Democrats before Edwards spent years not challenging it that people think this is all right.

Saying similar things about black people in racial terms would be something that even racists would understand wouldn't be approved of and would be more hesitant to voice publicly or to send to a stranger by email. People understand that racism at least has to be hidden because public opinion makers will take it seriously and negatively. No such brake exists on saying sexist things, no such brake exists on attacking feminists.

If public opinion isn't conditioned to understand the damage of misogyny, prominent feminists will continue to get attacked in exactly this way and will for this reason continue to be a 'liability' to campaigns.

Posted by: natasha at February 14, 2007 06:01 PM

There is no clear candidate that the Democrats, or at least the left side of the blogosphere, can rally around, as most did in 2004. Each has their own flaws and their own advantages.

But that said, the more we as activists refuse to get involved, the more we give the race to Hillary Clinton. She has clear advantages in terms of cash on hand, favors owed her, Bill in her corner, and the "it's her turn" factor is in play.

Now, I am not wild about Hillary being the Democratic Party nominee, for these reasons:

First, she doesn't inspire. If most especially the netroots and the progressives are stuck once again with "this is what we're stuck with - suck it up and let's get rolling", 2008 is going to be another long, hard slog.

Second, a whole lot of individual opinions about her are cast in concrete. I never say never on this score because Nixon was able to pull off a perception makeover that just got him over the wire in 1968, but her negatives are both high and rather hard to whittle down.

Third, while Bill worked very hard to square the circle between creating policy that a majority of the public would accept, but that made lives better over the long run for most Americans, Hillary seems a lot more tone deaf on this situation. (Witness her refusal to discuss, let alone admit, the error of voting for the Iraw War Resolution.) I can guarantee that Bill Clinton's policy goals would be very different today than in '92 or '96. Hillary is better organized at getting things done, but can she get a majority of the public to go along, and is she willing to educate them to some extent, as Bill has in the past, over why this or that new direction is worthwhile?

Fourth, Hillary shows no more desire to build coattails than Bill did. This was a disastrous situation for the Democrats in the Congress as a result, and Hillary's lack of action in New York State elections bodes ill for future endeavors in the Congress.

That said, if you want Hillary Clinton as the candidate, fine. But to step aside and just assume that a good choice will be made by the Democratic Party based mostly on the merits is folly.

It might, however, just might happen if we make the effort to discern the candidates' capabilities and make the case effectively for the one best suited, in our minds, to the job.

My two bits...

Posted by: palamedes at February 14, 2007 11:05 PM

See, and if I thought that one of them particularly stood out in a way that made the balance of their flaws and merits significantly more positive overall than the others, I'd be right there with you. It isn't that I won't talk about them at all, or won't pay any attention to them, it's just that as things stand, I'd rather sit out the fight unless one of them seems clearly perilous.

I see all of the headliners as being supportable, something I want to emphasize because I'm uninterested in propagating the pointless electability argument. Electability is a conversation about what other people are looking for in a candidate, which never ends up making any bloody sense. They're ok by me, but the things that draw me to each of them aren't making the case so far. I neither especially want nor don't want any of them and I'm not going to pick one based on who I think other people find attractive. They're mostly all good enough Democrats though, so if you feel strongly about one of them, yes, please do go on and support them.

But this premise doesn't make any more sense to me than dating someone I'm ambivalent about because all my friends think they're dreamy. My friends, in that situation, would be welcome to step in and have a crack themselves.

Posted by: natasha at February 14, 2007 11:36 PM