Monday, February 26, 2007

Lindsay on Edwards on Bloggers on Politics on and on

Lindsay Beyerstein, of Majikthise, has an interesting article over at Salon (sure, an article at Salon is not quite as prestigious as Lindsay's invitation to deliver this year's Norman E. Richardson lecture at Gettysburg College, but we'll admit to being impressed). It is a good glimpse at the inside story behind the Edwards' campaign's initial steps towards bringing Amanda and Shakes aboard.

Her central insight, which I think is dead on, is that the idea of bringing sympathetic bloggers into the organization itself radically misunderstands the role and utility of sympathetic bloggers. the right has figured out that it is crucial to have polemicists who share your goals, but who are independent from the campaigns. These megaphones can be used to get out messages that the campaigns would like to have out there without having to have their fingerprints all over them. Additionally, the candidate does not inherit the baggage that comes with the mouth in question. No one will call on Bush to be responsible for anything Limbaugh, Coulter, or Malkin said. The left has no well funded noise machine like the right, but liberal bloggers have an isomorphic role.

Elizabeth Edwards has been well enmeshed in the lefty blogosphere and, combined with the "Two Americas" theme that plays extremely well to the good hearted on-line liberal community, put them in a good place to take the Edwards' campaign a long way towards becoming the darlings of the electronic Democratic set. Indeed, recounting the conversations in which Lindsay herself was being wooed by the campaign, there seemed to be a real sense of the rhetorical strength of the folks they were recruiting and the ability of campaign to bring in folks who considered policy options and issues that were generally outside the safe zone for a mainstream candidate.

All of this just makes it even more baffling how they could have been so utterly blindsided by Donohue's obvious swift boat attack. If they knew who they were getting and were out for bloggers known for their rhetorical and intellectual pop, how could they have not had counter-attack plans ready and waiting. they had set a trap that they knew the Republicans couldn't resist and they not only failed to capitalize, they let it sink them.

All of this leads me to Lindsay's own question -- how should Democratic politicians make maximally effective use of bloggers? Like the White House uses Tim Russert, knowing they'll get a friendly reception that will get their message out? Like Limbaugh, as attack dogs who will stir the pot until the mainstream media has no option but to pick up the story? As straight reporters? As cash cows? As consultants? Or should they bring them inside, but be prepared to fight back more vigorously?