The Ham Hock of Liberty

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Attention Pundits

Memo to: Jon Chait, Joe Klein, Lee Siegel, Richard Cohen, and the rest.

From: Some guy with a blog.

Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that your strings of pearls are being worn thin from clutching, at the intemperate and potty-mouthed "fascism" of liberal blogs. Apparently, you don't like these self-appointed kingmakers "purging" the Democratic party of anyone who doesn't toe the line, as seen most clearly in the current Senatorial primary race in Connecticut. You have picked up the whiff of intolerance and fascism behind the near-unanimous support for Ned Lamont, versus the incumbent Joe Lieberman. You think that the full-court press to elect Mr. Lamont is, apparently, almost a crime against basic human decency. And so you have started several sandbox fights with your arch-enemies, the guys (and girls) with blogs.

As you are so fond of explaining to the rabid pre-teens on the internets what is really good for them, let me explain what's good for all of you: NOT calling the exercise of democracy "fascism" or "purging." Some people with websites do not hold the reins of governmental power. They do not direct party funds. They don't run the military. They have, in other words, no actual power. What they have are opinions and some facts. Sort of like yourselves. When they advocate the election of Ned Lamont, the only ability they have to effect this is to convince people that he is a worthy candidate. Worthy of votes, donations, and word of mouth to Connecticut voters. The voters of Connecticut will decide whether they agree. This is the point you seem to be missing. If enough voters in Connecticut decide that their views will be better represented by Ned Lamont than by Joe Lieberman, he should be elected. Right? This is how democracy works. If you disagree, you are just as free as Markos, or Jane Hamsher, or Atrios, to make your argument why Joe Lieberman is the better choice.

Let me suggest, however, that "Joe follows his conscience" and "Joe is bipartisan" may not be compelling reasons for a voter who does not agree with Mr. Lieberman on the substance of his beliefs. And when you attack the rabid lambs of the blogofascisphere, you're insulting and denigrating not the purported kingmakers of the internet, but the people who read and contribute to these sites. This is the second mistake you've been making. Markos, Atrios and the rest do not have monopolies on truth any more than you do, and their audiences are quite aware of this. What the popular bloggers provide is not the shining light of truth, but fora. They're basically glorified party hosts, and if the party ends, or the host starts acting like an ass, the party will go elsewhere. But it won't go away. It could even end up back on your doorsteps, if you had opinions and information that were of interest.

In the meantime, however, I have not seen any of you offer a compelling reason why a Connecticut voter should cast his or her ballot for a candidate that does not represent that voter's views as well as another candidate. Maybe competence or ethics would be a good reason, but nobody has offered any evidence that Lamont would be unethical or inept, apart from the fact that he would be new at the job. Which, of course, every officeholder is at some point.

So, for your own sakes, please consider trying to understand the new media environment a little better. As far as I can tell, none of you does actual investigative reporting, just opinion. Now that instantaneous worldwide publishing is available to just about anyone, you can no longer expect to have an audience simply because of your names, or your employer. There is simply no point in attacking the blogosphere because it speaks out and supports politicians with whom the writers and readers agree, and criticizes those with whom it does not agree. If you continue to perceive this as "fascism" rather than the epitome of "democracy," the next few decades are going to be very unpleasant for you.

Stop focusing on the messengers, and focus on the message. If you believe that Ned Lamont's campaign is misguided, and the voters of Connecticut should have fewer choices on election day, explain why on the substance of the candidates' positions. I'm glad Joe Lieberman has a conscience (which I sincerely believe he does), and that he is willing to break with his party when he does not agree with them. If, however, Joe's conscience causes him to cast votes that make his constituents unhappy, he runs an electoral risk. See the difference? Joe is not being challenged because he has a conscience and does not toe the party line, he is being challenged despite those traits. Because he breaks with the party on issues of importance to lots of people and lots of voters.

"Lieberman deserves support, because he votes against your beliefs and interests." That's basically what you're saying. Think about it.

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