January 03, 2007

"Blog Wars" And The Improbable Candidacy Of Ned Lamont

A week or so ago, I made reference to a one-hour documentary called “Blog Wars” that was to be featured on the Sundance Channel. I had DVR’d it and finally got around to watching it.

HereÂ’s my review.
“Blog Wars” was made by filmmaker James Rogan during the weeks leading up to the 2006 CT Democratic Primary where nutroots candidate Ned Lamont campaigned to unseat Senator Joe Lieberman. It focuses primarily on the Lefty blogs – both local and national – that made Lamont’s candidacy big news in a slow news summer.

The events as they unfolded were presented pretty much as I remember them at the time. Was it really almost six months ago? Rogan spent much of the film interviewing such well-known bloggers as Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (aka “Kos”), firedoglake’s Jane Hamsher and AmericaBlog’s John Aravosis as well as a few proprietors of the more popular Liberal blogs here in CT. He throws in commentary and interviews from the Right side of the ‘sphere for their perspective (most notably Michelle Malkin, Andrew Sullivan and Powerline’s John Hinderaker).

The major theme that Rogan touches on is one that I think we could all agree on. This is the degree to which the blogosphere has picked the lock of exclusivity that the MSM has had on political reporting and commentary in the past. His presentation was - in my opinion - pretty unbiased, letting the subjects at hand speak for themselves.

Beyond that, I really believe that the full measure of how influential the blogs – Left and Right – actually are in the context of general elections has been considerably exaggerated by many.

Who swings elections in this country? It’s the mostly unaffiliated, non-partisan and somewhat disengaged middle of the electorate known as the “Independents”. And when partisan bloggers go on the attack, their messages rarely reach these voters and almost never make a lasting impression when they do. Case in point: the CT Democratic Primary of 2006.

What is really amusing to me is watching some of these folks in the nutroots make starry-eyed pronouncements that what they are engaged in is “people power” or “direct democracy” like they’re on some kind of liberating electoral crusade.

Feh. That may be exercising Freedom of Speech, but it isnÂ’t democracy.

Democracy is an individual exercising his or her right to vote. That in and of itself is more individual power than more than half of the worldÂ’s population possesses. The reality is that when it comes to democracy, individuals really have very little power to affect the outcomes of elections.

But with many of these people it’s not about casting votes, it’s about influencing votes. And that’s simply politics. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But for them to believe that what they do is really any different than some agenda-driven organized special interest group is simply naïve.

Kos had an interesting quote regarding the MSM, particularly the segment that dwells within the Beltway:

“We’re all replaceable and that’s the beauty of what we’re doing. None of us are that important. And D.C. is a city built upon 'self-importance'.”
Yeah, and The Daily Kos isnÂ’t? Is Markos telling us with a straight face that he truly believes heÂ’s not important? I don't buy that for one second.

Think about it. WeÂ’re talking about people who advocate for or against particular candidates or issues and receive no monetary compensation. They put in all the time, effort and keystrokes for FREE!

So what motivates them if it isnÂ’t money? ItÂ’s the idea that theyÂ’re being heard. ItÂ’s the hope that theyÂ’re making a difference. ItÂ’s getting an unbelievable amount of hits and comments and links. If that kind of activity isnÂ’t built upon self-importance then I donÂ’t know what is.

The Lamont-Lieberman race was a virtual showcase for CTÂ’s Left-wing bloggers. But though they were in the spotlight back then who really cares anymore? Two years from now, whoÂ’s going to remember (outside of a handful of people in CT) those sites on Blogspot that pumped up Ned Lamont as the Second Coming? Who will even remember Ned Lamont's name? WasnÂ’t he that rich guy who beat Lieberman in the Primary but got his ass handed to him in the General? And what was that dudeÂ’s name that had a float showing Bush and Lieberman kissing or something? Eh, I donÂ’t remember, either.

That realization must be beginning to sink in with them as we enter the early stage of the next election cycle. ItÂ’ll hit home even harder as the months go by. Ah, those were the days. Remember?

The country gave them a look at that time because they were loud and in-your-face. But we didn't see a whole lot of insightful discourse. We did get to see and read a lot of childish, profanity-laced rants. As Kevin Ellis, a self-described political moderate, points out:

Yes, I understand that blogging is spontaneous and freeing and you sometimes need to be shocking and angry to cut through the political rhetoric. I just happen to think that it's also possible to be compelling and influential without being an ass.
Not of lot these bloggers did, though. And many of us always suspected that they were a little unhinged (if not a little sociopathic). But based on the majority of the comments they made to (or in front of) the documentary cameras, “Blog Wars” only reinforces what we saw on the surface – that a lot of these nutroots bloggers are insufferable loudmouths and they get off on being that way. It’s a wonder anyone around them can stand them. Perhaps few of them can. Now those would be interesting interviews. And I suppose if you have no real friends, it’s easy enough to find fellowship via the internet.

To them, it all comes down to Bush-hatred. They hated Joe Lieberman because he supported our efforts in Iraq. It was one – ONE – issue that he and the President agreed on. And for that, they made Lieberman their target. What else do these folks use to rally themselves outside of Bush-hatred? Nothing.

And I often wonder what they’re going to rally around in January 2009, when Bush leaves office. What will they be able to focus all this “passion” against? What else can sustain this “movement”? I really don’t know.

One last point I’d make about “Blog Wars” is that it really exposes Ned Lamont as an extremely weak candidate. There were several clips of him with that “deer in the headlights” look when he was asked to stray from Kos’ talking points. It was painful to watch. Even some of his supporters admit this. In fact, the real story of this documentary is the absolute miracle of Lamont’s initial success against Lieberman.

Ah, but alas, after the hoopla of the primary Ned Lamont lost badly to an “Independent” Joe Lieberman on November 7. Because, then ALL of CT’s voters got to have their say. And Republicans represented a mere 26% of the total turnout. It’s about as Blue a State as you can find. The result of the General Election was proof that in the grand scheme of things the nutroots represented a marginal fringe that was more bark than bite.

When the final returns came in, it represented the “people power” of the real world, not the fantasy world of the Lefty bloggers.

It must have been fun while it lasted, though. Eh?

Posted by: Gary at 02:30 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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