Thursday, February 8, 2007

The DLC and the Edwards Blogging Controversy

(cont'd from Witness for the Prosecution)

I told you that so I could tell you this:

For those of you who enjoy the excitement of unfettered speculation nicely spiced with a decent conspiracy theory or two, let's spend a moment conjuring up the genesis of the Edwards blogging controversy.

1. Who told him to hire them in the first place?

Let's begin by stating the obvious: John Edwards knows no more about blogging than I do about nuclear physics: he's aware of its existence but as far as the details go, well, it's all sort of over his head. The idea that he might have heard of Marcotte and McEwan before the suggestion came to hire them, let alone actually have read and been familiar with their blogs, is laughable on its face.

Which naturally raises the question: Where did the suggestion come from if not from his own brain?

At first blush the most logical answer might be "from his staff, dummy". Maybe. It's certainly possible that he has, somewhere on his staff, somebody who's familiar with the layer of the blogosphere at Level A (Atrios, Kevin Drum, Andrew Sullivan, InstaMouthit Glenn Reynolds, et al). There might even be someone not unfamiliar with Level B bloggers (the HuffPo Gang, David Sirota, Brad Delong, Jonah Goldberg and the rest of the Kewl Kids, skippy, Ezra Klein, et al). But a sufficient familiarity with the outstanding writing and high esteem in which Marcotte and McEwan - Level C bloggers - are held by those who know them argues someone used to diving into the deep end of the blogging pool, and that's a bit more problematic. Not impossible, mind you, but definitely not something one feels comfortable assuming.

Unlike the Republican Party, which uses wingnut bloggers to spread lies and inuuendo on a regular basis, the Dems are famous for their blogging cluelessness. Before Howard Dean came along, and even after for a good while, Democrats acted as if the Left Blogosphere, far from being a helpmate and potential resource, was a collection of somewhat disreputable, noisy, undisciplined nags which they were more than a little ashamed of having on their side. The kind of party activists who tended to be hired as staff on various campaigns considered blogging or following blogs a waste of time and energy.

And that attitude has only recently begun to change. Considered in that light, it seems much more likely to me that the suggestion came, not from the inside of the Edwards campaign, but from the outside. Ask yourself one simple question: Who in the infamously New-Media-shy Democratic Party owns the internet? And it's not Al Gore.

Of course. See where I'm going with this?

In a post on the Winter Conference, I made two statements that are relevant here.

  1. Dean seems to have taken on the corporate enablers of the right-wing DLC in a genteel bar-fight

  2. Edwards is a fence-straddler, bowing to the power of the DLC on the one hand and trying to carve out a leftish niche of his own in defiance of them on the other

Let us suppose for the sake of argument that the suggestion to hire Marcotte and McEwan came from Dean's blog-savvy outriders at the DNC, not from Edwards' own staff. What do you imagine might happen when the prestigious (which it still is, not that it deserves the label any more) NYT prints the scurrilous and hypocritical rantings of wingnuts Donohue and Malkin as if they ought to be taken seriously? Who in the Democratic Party has a long history of running away from confrontations with the Right like tigers running away from ants?

You guessed it.

2. Did the DLC send its Enforcers to interfere?

Assume that they did and suddenly Edwards' hesitation starts to make sense. Let's suppose that the original discussion inside the Edwards campaign had to do not with whether or not to stand behind its new staff but whether to respond to the charges or simply ignore them. Let's further suppose that a DLC loyalist/spy (there's one in every Democratic candidate's entourage) calls, oh, I don't know, Terry McAuliffe, and tells him what's going on. What would Terry "I can raise a billion $$$ if y'all would just act like Republicans" McAuliffe do?

Why, he'd get on the phone and tell Edwards personally that he has to fire those troublemakers immediately "for the good of the party", making sure to mix in a veiled threat or two to make the consequences of disobedience clear. That's his style. Why would he bother with what is essentially an internal matter?

Why do you think? To give Dean a black eye.

Because this scenario presents Edwards with a real quandary: defend his DNC-recommended staff from an idiotic wingnut smear or openly defy the Party Power and risk a murderous dogfight with DLC honchos just when he's getting his campaign into gear. Al From, Hillary Clinton & Co are very big on "party discipline", which they define in exactly the same way the Republicans do: lock-step obedience. They are also determined to avoid at any cost alienating their inherently conservative donation list, much of which is right-of-center Christian (thus their hiring and support of Vanderslice and their avidity in shoving her "consultations" down the throats of reluctant Dem candidates). The last thing they would want as they're attempting to form their would-be alliance with the Christian right is a major candidate like Edwards slapping their targets upside the head.

While this analysis is undeniably speculative, it's hardly off-the-wall speculative. It fits everything we know about Edwards, the DLC. and Dean's DNC to a T, and fills in a lot of otherwise perplexing gaps in Edwards' handling of the affair.

Of course, so would cowardice.