Netroots: In Defense Of Pandering

In a Matt Yglesias post discussing John Edwards strong "netroots support", Dave Weigel provides a comment that intrigues me:

I'm intrigued by the fact that Edwards is so much stronger among the netroots than among Democrats at large.

The netroots like to be stroked, and he strokes them. Examples: The netroots don't think the elected Democrats are doing enough to end the war, and Edwards says as much.

. . . A favorite theme on the right-wing blogs (and among some pundits, like Barone) is that the netroots are issuing commands to Edwards et al. That's mostly bulls**t. The netroots are VERY VERY CLEAR about what they want, and the candidates that notice this and feed them red meat reap immediate rewards.

Posted by: David Weigel on April 17, 2007 02:46 PM

My first question, is there anyone or any group that does NOT like to be stroked? What does that mean exactly? Does Labor NOT support candidates who "Stroke" them by supporting policies they prefer? Does NOW and NARAL not support candidates that support the policies they prefer? Why is the Netroots unique in wanting to be "stroked?"

My second question, if "doing something on Iraq" is the Netroots' signature issue, why did Chris Dodd not skyrocket in suppport when he came out for Reid-Feingold? It's my number one issue and Dodd's sponsorship of Reid-Feingold is THE REASON I am supporting him. There is not one other person on the blogs that I know of that has made the choice I have on this. So is Iraq really the Netroots' signature issue? I've argued it should be but it clearly is not. So then why is the Netroots for Edwards? My theory on the flip.

The entire Netroots movement was centered on Iraq, but it was not philosphically about Iraq. It was about Fighting Dems. That's why Howard Dean was the Netroots' candidate of 2004.

That's why the Netroots backed candidates as diverse as Jim Webb and Carol Shea Porter. That's why Paul Hackett captured the Netroots' imagination to the degree that when Sherrod Brown, a much more liberal candidate than Hackett, was perceived as pushing Hackett out of the Ohio Senate race, a good part of the Netroots was up in arms.

John Edwards, the Johnny Sunshine of 2004 (I find it funny that in many ways, Edwards was the Obama of 2004 - the fresh face, the conciliatory manner, the new style), transformed himself into a Fighting Dem, starting with his retraction on Iraq.

And when Russ Feingold and Al Gore decided to not run, Edwards was well positioned to capture the support of the Fighting Dems supporting Netroots. At the same time, Obama more fully revealed the new politics, nonpartisan persona, he still features to this day.

I am on record as abhorring Obama's political style. I think it is awful. We'll see if he can win with it, because it is now crystal clear he ain't gonna change. And even if he wins, I think he will be hurting the Democratic Party with his approach. But it is also clear that the stagnant Netroots support for Obama is no accident - he has rejected the philosophy of the Netroots. He has "anti-stroked" the Netroots.

It would be illogical for the Netroots to support Obama imo. He is against the very core idea of the movement - Fighting Dems. It is perfectly fine for Obama to do this. His choice. But it would be bizarrre if the Netroots did not criticize his choice.

He has chosen a different political tactic that is central to the Netroots philosophy. What should surprise is not that Edwards is favored over Obama, rather what should surprise is that Obama still has the Netroots support he receives.

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    Go Edwards! (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by gentlyweepingguitar on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:29:57 PM EST
    I support Edwards because he is intelligent, quick thinking, strong, decisive, and he doesn't come with all that embarrassing baggage that Republicans love to spend their billions on making attack dog commercials.

    Good for you (none / 0) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:32:33 PM EST
    Dodd is the BEST!

    Just to be clear (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by robotalk on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 08:04:33 PM EST
    It is not pandering to believe in the same things that other people do. Nor is it pandering to actually believe in something.

    Of course (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:16:07 PM EST
    My use is ironic.

    Perhaps Obama supporters (none / 0) (#1)
    by CA JAY on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:21:45 PM EST
    see him as RFK II, a chance for that alternate world that would have existed if not for June 1968.

    I support Edwards for the same reasons I supported Dean in 2004: he is against the Washington establishment and isn't afraid of the truth (saying we do need much higher taxes to function as a healthy society).

    What does Obama have to do with RFK? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:25:58 PM EST
    Please explain that. It makes absolutely no sense to me.

    It doesn't make much sense to me either (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by CA JAY on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:29:34 PM EST
    as I'm trying to get into the psyche of Obama supporters but try this:

    Both are young for a presidential candidate
    Both are excellent speakers
    Both are promising a new "way" during the time of unpopular war that seems to be highly appealing to university age voters


    Kennedy was the extreme on the war (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:31:55 PM EST
    among the viable candidates in 68.

    McCarthy was sort of the Kucinich of his time.

    I don't see it.

    RFK would never talked about playing chicken.


    Regarding the wars, (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by CA JAY on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:37:16 PM EST
    you are 100% correct. Obama's treating Iraq the way Humphrey treated Vietnam though Obama doesn't have an LBJ-like shadow looming over him.

    Another part of Obama's appeal might be he had the war issue "right" in 2002 while Edwards and Clinton went along with the criminals er GOP. In 2007, Obama does NOT have it right but his supporters seem to give him a bye on the issue.


    Obama = Humphrey (none / 0) (#8)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:39:35 PM EST
    Good analogy. And high praise. HHH was a great man.

    Obama = Elmer Gantry. (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by dkmich on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 05:09:30 AM EST
    He has a flock (supporters) that are faith based (in him), and he routinely holds sermons (rallies) during which he preaches (speechifies)love and kumbaya (bi-partisanship), and passes the hat to raise money. The more I hear about or don't hear from Obama, the more he reminds me of a TV evangelical preacher and the less I like him. Faith is a dangerous thing and is no basis on which to vote for a President. Faithful flocks are what elected George W. Bush.

    Do you forget what "Fighting Dems"... (none / 0) (#9)
    by cal11 voter on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:43:23 PM EST
    meant in 2006?  Didn't it refer to our Dem candidates who served in Iraq or were vets?  Any vets in this Dem field?  

    I understand your "Fighting Dems" to mean partisanship.  I think you are correct that Obama does not want to go that route; at least, he doesn't want to do it now.  I think Obama supporters are supporters because of the man and what they believe he stands for, not his partisanship style of politics.

    That is my phrase (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:18:29 PM EST
    that was then coopted for other uses.

    I did not know this. n/t (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by cal11 voter on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 10:17:04 PM EST
    You prove the point that Obama is emotion. (5.00 / 1) (#26)
    by dkmich on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 05:11:33 AM EST
    Obama supporters are supporters because of the man and what they believe he stands for..
     If the man said something, anything, you would know and wouldn't have to "believe" in WWOD.

    Interesting, but (none / 0) (#10)
    by Ben Masel on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 05:59:05 PM EST
    could do with further elaboration on the distinction between Netroots (tm) and net roots.

    And bore everyone to tears? (4.50 / 2) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 06:41:01 PM EST
    Come now Ben, this is not Daily Kos.

    frankly (none / 0) (#11)
    by cpinva on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 06:12:20 PM EST
    aside from himself, i haven't a clue what obama stands for. he's talked a lot, and written a couple of books, all the while saying nothing of consequence. he certainly has no legislative track record to speak of.

    with obama, at least for the moment, there's more form than substance.

    with regards to edwards, three words: personal injury attorney.

    nothing wrong with it, but the 'wing and the MSM beat him over the head with it in 2004, they'd do it again in 2008, count on it.

    I think you're right about (none / 0) (#13)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 07:31:26 PM EST
    the netroots supporting fighters and the support not being ideological. But the dynamic has changed. The floodgates of criticism are open and what's happened is getting through to people beyond the blogs. I was irrationally cheered to read the excerpt from Lee Iacocca's book with even his outrage about Bush trashing the constitution and the capitalists stealing the country blind. The Repubs aren't going to be able to act under the radar anymore, so don't need to be opposed in quite the same way. What's needed more for the next administration will be how to as a country undo the damage that's been done.

    From Carville's report (PDF) last week on the mood of the Dem base:

    Democrats above all else are looking for a candidate who will rise above partisanship and unify the country, as well as for a candidate who is strong and will stand up for the public good.

    Bi-partisanship most important among Democratic primary voters; morals among Republican

    Can work with both parties and unite 38
    Is a strong leader 22
    Is for the public good, not special interests 22
    Is competent and effective 20
    Can inspire people again 14
    Cares about people 13
    A person of good moral values 13
    A reformer who will change government 11
    Is authentic and real, not a typical politician 10

    Clearly there isn't any inherent conflict between "working with both parties and uniting" and "being a strong leader." Obama is appealing to this mood, though he'd be way further ahead IMO if he just stopped bashing his own party. But I'm not sure his "political style" isn't exactly what will be of broadest appeal coming out of the crisis of the Bush years.

    But then I'm currently reading Audacity of Hope, so maybe the pull of the cult is just strong right now.

    That poll question (none / 0) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:16:59 PM EST
    is the most ridiculous ever and always is.

    Throw the finding in the trash can.


    Oy (none / 0) (#22)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 10:08:54 PM EST
    I'd missed the question. What's the font size of that, 4pt?

    Thinking about the next president, which TWO of the following qualities are most important for the next president to have?

    A bit leading. OK.


    Carville? (none / 0) (#27)
    by dkmich on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 05:18:23 AM EST
    You're citing Carville?   Holy cow, is Reagan next?  Until the Dems have a solid 60 votes, there is no bi-partisanship.  And if HRC or another Reaganite Dem takes office, we'd be  better off with veto proof margins in the House and Senate and a real R in the WH.  At least with a real Republican in the WH, they can freely oppose.  Put in a Reagan emulator like Hillary, and she will guilt and steamroll the Dems into giving her everything she and her corporate cronies want.  

    She was cting a flawed poll question (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 09:16:00 AM EST
    It's worthwhile knowing (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Alien Abductee on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 02:09:37 PM EST
    what data the big Dem consultants are pushing and where the flaws are in it.

    I think Dems want problem solvers who will... (none / 0) (#14)
    by cal11 voter on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 07:51:55 PM EST
    by necessity need to be able to work with the Republicans.  Of the big Three, that means Obama and Clinton IMHO.

    They all can work with the other side (4.50 / 2) (#21)
    by Alien Abductee on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 10:07:05 PM EST
    The only question is on whose terms and following whose agenda?

    Obama tends to give up too much out of the gate to gain their good will, something that isn't necessary and is a very bad tactic on his part.


    Actually, I think you are right. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by cal11 voter on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 10:34:34 PM EST
    The government won't come to a halt if a Dem is elected President.  The question is what will the President's policies be?

    P.S.: This was a reply to Abductee. n/t (none / 0) (#15)
    by cal11 voter on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 07:53:46 PM EST
    You know how I feel about Edwards (none / 0) (#20)
    by andgarden on Tue Apr 17, 2007 at 09:55:39 PM EST
    on this. So yeah, go Dodd! ;-)

    It's worse than that. (none / 0) (#28)
    by Avedon on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 05:39:05 AM EST
    It's not simply that he doesn't "pander" to us, it's that he panders to the other side.  He's just smoother about it.  But he constantly seems to be having those "Sister Soldja-out" moments.

    His "fresh", "new" message seems to be that he's not in tune with the base.  And we need this because...?

    Sorry, I forgot... (none / 0) (#30)
    by diogenes on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 11:11:00 AM EST
    Was Edwards in tune with the netroots in 2004 when he ran for president?

    Sheesh (none / 0) (#32)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Apr 18, 2007 at 12:58:51 PM EST
    Bring some intelligence to the table"

    "And I really doubt you have ever heard Obama speak, or read his web site.  He has spoken out on a ton of issues.  Sponsored bills recently about leaving Iraq."

    Have you ever read me posts and understood them on Iraq? Clearly not.

    Great diary, BTD. (none / 0) (#34)
    by littafi on Thu Apr 19, 2007 at 12:01:21 AM EST
    I miss you at Daily Kos.  

    You were the one who first got me thinking about Obam with your diary in November/December.  Sirota was too harsh in his manner of critique, but you explained it.  I did not buy it then, but when I saw Obama on Face the Nation in January, there it was: triangulating strawmen.

    I've got to come by here more often. I miss reading your stuff.

    On the big isuse, you generally have it right (or, we think in similar ways).

    Take care.