Friday, February 09, 2007

One more on the Edwards bloggers

Well, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan still have their jobs, which is good. They had to humble themselves a little, but in a way it’s nice to see progressives using the “non-apology apology” that right-wingers so often turn to.

Via Ezra Klein, I see this piece at quoting a couple of religious Democratic “leaders” (neither of whom I’ve heard of before) who feel Edwards should have dumped the two bloggers.

Democrats -- and Edwards in particular -- have embraced the language of faith and the imperative of competing with Republicans for the support of religious voters. His wife, Elizabeth Edwards, even sits on the board of the leading organization of the religious left, Call to Renewal. But in private conversations and careful public statements today, religious Democrats said they felt sidelined by Edwards' decision to stand by his aides.

"We have gone so far to rebuild that coalition [between Democrats and religious Christians] and something like this sets it back," said Brian O'Dwyer, a New York lawyer and Irish-American leader who chairs the National Democratic Ethnic Leadership Council, a Democratic Party group. O'Dwyer said Edwards should have fired the bloggers. "It's not only wrong morally – it's stupid politically."

O'Dwyer e-mailed a statement to reporters saying: "Senator Edwards is condoning bigotry by keeping the two bloggers on his staff. Playing to the cheap seats with anti-Catholic bigotry has no place in the Democratic Party."

“Stupid politically”—hmm. I disagree, given the circumstances. It would’ve looked terrible for Edwards to knuckle under to Michelle Malkin and William Donahue. Here, though, are some tougher hypothetical questions. What if Mr. O’Dwyer had publicly called for Amanda to be fired? What then would be the politically smart move for Edwards to make? Who is a more important constituency, religious liberals or the blogosphere?

Personally, I identify with both constituencies, but that overlap is perhaps small. The question points to a more fundamental one in politics: reach for the center or energize the base? One could quibble, but most people would place open-minded religious believers in the center, and the readership of Pandagon on the left.

It pains me to pose the question this way. I find that trying to occupy the slot of “religious liberal” is exhausting; there are roadblocks, misunderstandings, frustrations every direction you turn. Being a resident of the blogosphere is more energizing. Correspondingly (I don’t know what the causal relationship is, it’s a chicken-egg thing) the religious left is weak in getting things done. The blogosphere—it sounds funny to say it, but it does have a shaggy kind of organization and is growing in influence. If I do the math, I come out in favor of the blogosphere.

Marcotte “playing to the cheap seats?” I guess he means crude reflexive atheists, and/or people who like a good jizm joke no matter what. Marcotte and McEwan also play to smart people--young, smart, passionate people out here in Flyover Country.

This whole stupid thing with McEwan and Marcotte pushes several of my buttons. I realize it’s a tempest in a teapot and ought to die a quick death as a news story. Yet I'm flashing back to a summer when I was in my 20s, between jobs, hanging out with friends in Dupont Circle, having vague thoughts about trying to get work in Washington, then discovering to my disillusionment that these people were unprincipled, or if they had principles they were invisible under layers of intrigue. They thought about their careers 24/7 and I was unlikely to ever get on their wavelength. It wasn’t that these people flat-out rejected me—I’d let it slip out that I might be job-hunting and they were trying to be helpful. But they turned me off with obnoxious networking behavior, pressing business cards on me when I was standing in line to get a beer. I was lacking in ambition, sure, but they were lacking in perspective.

There needs to be more room in politics for people who are smart and passionate, yet sometimes irreverent and not laser-like in their focus. People with a sense of humor. People who get context (which was the first casualty when people were ripping sentences out of Pandagon for scrutiny). Room for regular people, in other words.

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