Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Carrying Obama's Water

In a recent post on Talking Points Memo, the eminent Harvard sociologist Theda Skocpol argues that progressives need to unify and get behind Obama. What especially bothers Skocpol is the feminists who are so angry over Hillary losing that they're willing to support McCain. But she's also dissatisfied with the liberal bloggers who won't let FISA go, single-issue people, "blustering egotists" like James Carville, and Jesse Jackson.

I'm with Skocpol. Progressives should be "carrying Obama's water" (to use a Limbaugh phrase) and pounding McCain morning, noon, and way into the wee hours for the pajamas media.

But it's not happening and it's especially strange that it's not happening in the major liberal blogs.

Skocpol mentions that "the supposedly progressive blogs are full . . . of diversions." Actually, the liberal blogs are so full of diversions that it's ridiculous. Obama gave a major speech on foreign policy yesterday and laid down his markers on withdrawing troops from Iraq. Nevertheless, "general news" blogs like Talking Points Memo and Huffington Post didn't devote much more space to Obama's Iraq position than they did to the New Yorker cover of Barack Obama as a Muslim terrorist. In fact, Obama's speech on Iraq is now far down on TPM's front page while their report on McCain's criticism of Obama as "rigid and ideological" is fairly close to the top. In a certain way, TPM is (unknowingly) disseminating McCain's positions.

Much of the problem with Talking Points Memo and Huffington Post is that they view themselves as political news organizations. Feeling obligated to report all the news that's "fit to blog," these blogs end up peddling the diversions much more than they promote Obama or attack McCain.

Another problem with the liberal blogs is the rigidity of their approach to criticizing McCain when they do attack him. Contrary to the conservative blogs which continually experiment with new ways to attack Obama, the major liberal blogs stays consistently on two themes--that a McCain administration will be the third term for Bush and that McCain is doing an enormous amount of flip-flopping. McCain's certainly doing the flip-flopping but there are a number of other things that should disqualify him from the presidency as well.

A final point is that progressive bloggers tend to distract themselves with their criticism of how the mainstream media is covering McCain. The fact that the mainstream media is formulating a number of the campaign narratives in ways that favor McCain drives progressive bloggers to distraction and they devote a disproportionate amount of blog space to deconstructing the mainstream media. If the progressive blogs were doing a better job of creating their own narrative for electing Obama and defeating McCain, they might actually push the mainstream media to change their tune.

The only exception I see to Skocpol's argument is Daily Kos which pushes pretty hard against McCain.

Progressives really need to unite around Obama while the progressive blogs need to cut through their own clutter to promote Obama's candidacy.

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