Endorsements in the Blogosphere

Yesterday Chris Bowers noted that most bloggers have not endorsed a candidate this year, with many responses throughout the liberal blogosphere, such as Fester at Newshoggers today. This is in contrast to last year when the blogosphere was often at war between different camps backing different candidates.

There are a number of reasons why this year is different–and the memories of the blog wars of 2003 might be one reason. As there are many different types of blogs which reflect a variety of viewpoints, there are actually a number of reasons for this.

Bowers looks at this more from the perspective of a big blogger with ties to the Democratic establishment, concentrating on reasons such as bloggers having ties to friends in multiple campaigns or not wanting to risk loss of access the campaigns of candidates opposing those they endorse. This may very well be true for some, but hardly applies to the many smaller bloggers who do not have these connections.

This is largely a sign of evolution of the blogosphere. In 2003 bloggers were primarily the small guys who were outraged by the Bush administration and the war. Howard Dean managed to obtain the support of many due to channeling this frustration. Even those of us who ultimately backed other candidates were primarily looking towards the 2004 election, which meant supporting a candidate to run against Bush.

We lost in 2004, but the blogosphere went on. Bloggers increasingly saw themselves not as simply campaigning against George Bush but as building an alternative media to counter the right wing noise machine’s hold on the mainstream media. The focus was no longer on backing a particular candidate but to make our own noise about the types of stories the mainstream media had ignored during Bush’s first term. By that measure we were a success, as the media no longer acts as lap dogs to the Bush administration and their failings have increasingly dominated the news.

Upon entering a new presidential cycle, many bloggers continue to stress issues as opposed to individuals, and now see their blogs a way to cover the details of Democratic campaigns to a degree beyond which the mainstream media is willing. This often means looking at the strengths and weaknesses of various candidates as opposed to backing one individual. Some bloggers might also believe that their blog has a better chance of success by remaining a source for supporters of multiple candidates as opposed to just one.

Another factor is that it is simply too early. Campaigns serve a purpose, and it is useful to wait and see what each candidate has to say, and how they say it, before making a decision. I learned this in 2003 when I began by supporting Howard Dean until Medicare became an issue in the debates. While the liberal blogosphere is concerned about health care in demanding universal care, most liberal bloggers appear to have little knowledge about or interest in the day to day policy decisions regarding our current health care system. Most bloggers had no realization that when Medicare became an issue, Dean responded by lying about his past positions when he could have probably survived the controversy by simply admitting he had been wrong in the past and had changed his mind.

While most bloggers ignored the issue, or provided a knee jerk defense because they liked Dean’s position on the war, journalists did review Dean’s past statements on Medicare. A candidate who based his campaign upon being a straight talker could not survive once caught in such deceptions, and I knew his favorable coverage by the media would end. By the fall of 2003 I was writing that Howard Dean had zero chance to win the nomination, and the seeds planted by the Medicare issue led to the coverage of every gaffe which destroyed Dean in January. This makes me more reluctant to endorse a candidate in July knowing how much time there is for any candidate to jump the shark. This year many bloggers fail to understand that all the coverage of Edwards’ haircuts is really just a polite way for the media to say that he is a lightweight who is unqualified for the presidency, but they will attempt to demolish him if he should be a credible candidate in January.

Even if I were willing to endorse a candidate, the fact remains for myself, and many other bloggers, that there is no candidate who I fully support. There are some I like far more than others, as is obvious in my posts here, but the candidates I prefer all have their weaknesses. There are others I would not normally consider supporting or voting for if not for seeing far worse alternatives being offered by the Republicans.

It is also too early to be certain about the make up of the race, especially among bloggers who desire to limit their choices to a candidate who has a fighting chance to win the nomination. Compared to last month, John Edwards looks much weaker while Bill Richardson has been showing momentum. By the end of the year it might continue to look like we primarily have a race between Clinton and Obama, or the race might change drastically, such as when John Kerry came back from behind Al Sharpton in the polls. The possible entry of Al Gore further makes the nature of the race unclear, and some bloggers might be holding out to see what Gore does before making a decision.

As we saw in 2004, endorsements might also mean little as the race could be totally different from how we now envision it after people go to vote in Iowa and New Hampshire. Edwards hopes to move to the lead with a victory in Iowa, but after having virtually lived in Iowa such a bounce is unlikely, and unless he wins by several points his campaign will probably be over. On the other hand, if the predictions by some that Richardson will upset to win Iowa come through we would have a totally different race.

Once we get past Iowa and New Hampshire the field of candidates could be totally different, and past endorsements may no longer be relevant. Many bloggers may suddenly be supporting their second or third place candidates based upon who remains viable, especially as many do not see that great a difference between their top choices.

If I could manufacture a candidate with the best characteristics of Gore, Obama, and Richardson, who would be more like Matt Santos of The West Wing as opposed to anyone in reality, then I would probably endorse and be actively promoting such a candidate. Liberal Values reflects my personal views on politics, and for now will reflect my personal investigations into the candidates who most interest me as I attempt to make a decision. That means looking at all the candidates, including independents and those of all parties. If there were more choice being offered by the Republicans I would also consider their candidates, but at present all they offer is a variety of authoritarianism and support for an irrational foreign policy which weakens the United States and undermines our national security. It is also possible that I will not endorse a candidate for the general election, considering the difference between backing a person I see as the lesser of two evils as opposed to really supporting an individual.

Be Sociable, Share!

No Comments

2 Trackbacks

Leave a comment