Archive - 2006
(Cross posted at MyDD. Please add your comments there.)
On Hardball the other night Sen. Edwards said,
"Running before makes you focus on something different. Instead of focusing on how crowds respond to you and what everybody seems to love of you. That's not the test for being president. The test for being president is are you the best person to occupy the Oval Office and be the leader of the free world? Because literally the future of the world is at stake here. This is not about popularity and excitement."
It seems as if many of us here have worked on presidential campaigns in the past and perhaps we need to focus on something different as well. What does make someone a great presidential candidate?
Clearly charisma, popularity and the excitement you can generate is part of it. I supported Dean in 2004 and the excitement was palpable. It was powerful and empowering. It was also ephemeral. It comes and goes way to easily. We don’t need to abandon charisma as one of the criteria, we just need to put it in proper perspective.
Another criteria that was talked about a lot was electability. This was criteria that I believe was used effectively yet wrongly against Gov. Dean. A very important part of being an effective leader is getting elected to the leadership position. Yet this becomes a game of the polls and trying to outguess what everyone else is trying to outguess.
Then, there is the issue of policies and positions. We need to elect leaders that will fight for our ideas. No matter how charismatic or electable Ronald Reagan was, I could not support him because of his policies. This should be obvious. The question becomes, how do we understand a candidates policies and positions. During 2006 there was a lot of focus on voting scorecards. Lieberman actually scores pretty well on the scorecards, not because of any great policies or positions, but because he games that system pretty well. We need to think more deeply about how we really understand a candidates positions.
Yet to me, perhaps the most important criteria is how effective will the candidate be in bringing about real change. Here, I’m interested in much more than simply change in who is sitting in the White House. JFK’s famous quote, “ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country” captures some of this. Too much of politics seems to be about gathering more people on one side than another. It is about identifying the likely voters that support your candidate and getting them out to vote, instead of reaching out to unlikely voters and changing minds. I think we need to change a lot of minds in our country right now about what is best for us, for our country and for our world.
Here, I diverge even further from many in the blogging community. People often say that they aren’t interested in ‘moral victories’. They want to get their candidates elected. Yes, I want to get my candidates elected too, but I’m much more interested in moral victories. Perhaps that is because of the campaigns I’ve worked on. Gov. Dean, my wife, and Ned Lamont all failed to get elected, but I am very proud to have worked on their campaigns and believe that their moral victories have helped bring about real change.
So, as candidates look in the proverbial mirror, I hope they ask not, “who is the fairest of them all”. I hope they ask not even, “Can I win? Can I endure the trials of a campaign?” No, I hope they look in the mirror and ask, “By running, whether or not I am elected, will I be helping make this country better?” It sounds as if a few long shots are saying these sort of things, and I hope that this was a subtext to what Sen. Edwards said on Hardball.
Granted, I’m an incurable idealist. I will throw my heart and soul into the next campaign, even though I haven’t completely recuperated from the last. I’ve had my heart broken before, and I know I need to be prepared for it to be broken again. I just am hoping that the candidate I support next will be worth it.
So, these are my thoughts on the criteria for a good candidate, what are yours? How should we judge the crop of potential candidates, and how do you think some of these candidates really stand up?
On October 30, 2006 at a demonstration protesting the murder of journalist Brad Will in Mexico, members of the NYPD assaulted an independent videographer and stole his videocamera.
Watch the video here
I sent the following message to the New York City Police Department:
I am researching a report circulating on the Internet alleging that “On October 30, 2006 at a demonstration protesting the murder of journalist Brad Will in Mexico, members of the NYPD assaulted an independent videographer and stole his videocamera.”
This is described in more detail, including a video at http://iwitnessvideo.info/blog/4.html
Is this being investigated internally? Is there a statement from the Police Department concerning these allegation?
Any information presenting the Police Department's view of what happened would be greatly appreciated.
I received an acknowledgment that my "service request number is 1-1-282740520."
Read this blog post about the response to my email.
Oscar Wilde is often quoted as saying “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” That quote came to mind as numerous people pointed to the op-chart by K. Daniel Glover, as well as his followup, discussions on Personal Democracy Forum, My Left Nutmeg and especially the discussions on BlueMassGroup, here, and here.
Most serious bloggers seem outraged at the lack of journalistic qualities in the Op-chart and the follow-up on “Beat the Press”. In particular, they note the broad strokes that Glover uses to describe bloggers and his lack of any apparent real research into what went on with bloggers involved with campaigns, and Carroll’s accepting a single source of satire as fact without bothering to check sources or facts.
Some of my media watch dog friends actually applauded the op-chart as raising, no matter how poorly, the issue of transparency, accountability, ethics, etc. amongst bloggers. Yet most of my friends who aren’t especially involved have contracted me with lines like, “You’re Famous” or “You are my hero”. I don’t know. Running around pointing everyone to these articles somehow feels a bit like Steve Martin yelling, “The new phonebooks are here! The new phonebooks are here!”, but to go back to Oscar Wilde, being talked about isn’t all that bad, especially since I’m not as well know as Jerome Armstrong is.
With that, let me give some background to the role of bloggers in the Lamont campaign. As noted elsewhere, campaigns, in particular, cannot be adequately described from a single viewpoint. That is probably why good journalists try to use multiple sources, check facts, etc.
Back in February, I let people know that I would start working for the Lamont campaign. It was complicated for me, since I had been BlogMaster for John DeStefano’s gubernatorial bid prior to this. My role in the Lamont campaign was technology coordinator. It makes sense for campaigns to hire certain bloggers as technology coordinators, since many bloggers spend a lot of time with their technology.
It was a part time job for me as I continued to work on other projects, particularly in financial services, where I had worked a lot during the 80s and 90s. My responsibilities surrounded working with databases, making sure that various systems worked, etc. I was given almost no opportunity to write for the campaign, which was a disappointment to me.
Given my role, as well as my background with the DeStefano campaign as well as being one of the credentialed bloggers at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I was given a special exemption. I would be allowed to continue blogging, within some specific guidelines about what I could and couldn’t say about the campaign. I also helped Ned when he blogged on DailyKos.
Many people who came to work for the Lamont campaign were already bloggers. However, we had a strict rule. Except for a few of us, everyone on staff was told they could not blog during the campaign. Personally, I think this was overkill and I often argued against the policy.
With this, let me digress briefly to talk about what blogging is. To me, to talk about bloggers working for campaigns, makes about as much sense as it does to talk about knitters working for campaigns. Blogging is working with a specific medium (websites, instead of yarn), for many different purposes. I started blogging primarily to play with technology and to communicate with friends. It was only over time that a political component emerged. Some bloggers aspire to journalistic qualities. Others aspire to advocacy qualities, or to the qualities of someone writing in a personal diary. This seems like a very simple fact that most people around blogs get, yet somehow, most journalists writing about blogs fail to understand.
So, what would a good article about bloggers and political campaigns have to say? Yeah, it is interesting to see who is getting paid how much for their jobs. However, it would make a lot more sense to spend a little time talking about the jobs the bloggers had. Were they technology coordinators like I was? Were they doing traditional communications jobs in campaigns? Were they working of fundraising? Field? Other stuff? I know bloggers that have done all of these sort of jobs. Beyond that, did they let people know about their job for campaigns on their blogs? And for that matter, what sort of blogs did they write? Were they writing political news, political opinions, personal stories, details about knitting, some combination of all of that, or something completely different?
Of course all of this misses what I think the bigger story is. Blogs have encouraged people to publicly express themselves. This has resulted in greater political involvement and discourse, and in my mind promoting a more participatory form of democracy is a very good thing for our country and for our world. Are their things that the traditional media can do to help make blogging, media and democracy even more participatory, including questioning sources and motivations of these sources? Absolutely.
That is why these stories are so important and why they need to be explored.
(Cross-posted at Greater Democracy)
What will the master narrative for the 2008 Presidential race be? This is a question that has been bouncing around in my head over the past couple of days for several reasons.
In The Decider from “On The Media” this weekend, Paul Begala said, “Democrats tend to be the party of the laundry list. We have four point plans for everything. We have more solutions than the country has problems. Republicans, understanding the media better, because they mostly are still disciples of Ronald Reagan, the master of the media, they mostly tell narratives, they tell stories and stories beat laundry lists every time.”
At a party this weekend, I was speaking with a journalist about what happened with the Lamont campaign. The discussion came down to narrative. The pre-primary narrative was about an unknown challenger taking on a three-term senator and former presidential and vice-presidential candidate. It was about Ned, who he was, what his issues were, and what was wrong with the political system. After the primary, the narrative shifted. It became about Lieberman, how he was fighting to hold onto power. How he wouldn’t give up.
I am reading drafts of a book about the Dean campaign that focuses on the archetypal narrative; Trippi’s role in the narrative, and how email was used to foster that narrative.
Narrative is important, and as I think about Lakoff, I think that perhaps what matters is less the frames, than the underlying narrative. The frames help shape the narrative, ideally, they give it some archetypal structures, but it is the narrative that matters.
So, what will be the narrative for the 2008 presidential campaign. Already, I imagine, people are trying to shape that narrative. When I was down at RootsCamp in DC, there were people from different campaigns there looking for possible staff and perhaps trying to start shaping the narrative.
You see the narrative taking shape already in blogs. Some of it is the superficial horserace components. Who has the most money and the most support early out of the gate? Who is the dark horse to watch? Some of it gets to issues: the environment, the economy, the war. A big component is excitement.
In Washington, one person, knowing I was from Connecticut asked what I thought about Sen. Dodd. I started talking about things like habeas corpus and reforming the bankruptcy law. My interlocutor didn’t want to hear about that. His question? Would the bloggers in Connecticut be excited about Sen. Dodd.
I like Sen. Dodd a lot, but exciting isn’t one of the first things that come to mind when trying to characterize him. How will the narrative shape around his campaign? I’m not sure yet.
At the other end of the spectrum is Sen. Obama. He is a great orator. The idea of a draft Obama movement is generating a lot of excitement, as can be noted by the hordes turning out to hear him in New Hampshire. Will that excitement carry forward? What sort of shape will it take? What larger narrative will emerge?
Perhaps a clearer narrative is emerging around Gore. His message about climate change resonates. There is a tension in the question of whether or not he will run. That tension will be resolved at some point, but a clear ongoing narrative is easier to imagine.
The same applies to Sen. Edwards. His message about economic justice also resonates. Katrina brought economic issues into stark focus. Yet economic justice seems to recede from the spotlight fairly quickly. Will Edwards’ supporters be able to build a sustained narrative around economic issues and/or expand the narrative?
Gen. Clark’s narrative seems to remain around security and defense. The way things are looking in Iraq right now, Gen. Clark may end up with a compelling story handed to him.
Sen. Clinton’s narrative seems a bit more challenging. She has a lot of money, a lot of connections; a lot of power. She is also being portrayed as polarizing. How will that play against the One America sort of themes that seem to reside in both Sen. Edwards and Sen. Obama’s speeches? Can something new be added to the narrative?
Likewise, for Sen. Kerry, what sort of narrative will emerge for him? Vilsack and others have potentially interesting stories, but can they catch fire? People have started to talk about a Bobby Kennedy-esque narrative. Will Obama, or perhaps Edwards take on the mantle of RFK?
More important, where will the narratives come from? How much will they be produced by ‘the people’, or to stay with the archetypes, from the Greek chorus? Will the people be the netroots? Something more than the netroots, or something other than the netroots? How much will the narrative be crafted by the campaigns and how much will the narrative be crafted by the traditional media?
I don’t have any specific answers. However, I will try to keep friends focused on what the underlying story is or could be.