Thursday, August 17, 2006

Have the Blogs Blown Connecticut (and Sold Their Souls in the Process)?

New Poll Gives Lieberman 12-Point Edge

Today’s Quinnipiac University poll, which shows incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman leading challenger Ned Lamont in the November election, is hardly unexpected. What is surprising is the extent and depth of Lieberman's popularity. In a 3-way race running as an independent, Lieberman pulls 53% of likely voters, compared to 41% for Ned Lamont and 4% for Republican Alan Schlesinger. His poll numbers appear to have improved, perhaps dramatically, since the primary. An August 12 poll, by Rasmussen, had given Lieberman only a 5% edge.
Even worse news for Lamont: The Quinnipiac poll shows that 55% of Connecticut voters approve of the job Lieberman is doing, while Lamont has a negative 25-30% favorability rating.

The success of blogs in mounting a Democratic primary challenge to Lieberman was impressive. Against all odds, they carried a somewhat wooden, utterly inexperienced candidate to victory over a popular incumbent senator. But it is now time to face a political reality in which Lieberman, not Lamont, will win the November election with support from both Republicans and Democrats. The blogs may have set up a nightmare scenario for the Senate, with an independent Lieberman as power broker and kingmaker, willing and able to shift his alliance between Republicans and Democrats. Worse, he will have a voter mandate from his state to do so.

Having demonstrated some political acumen during the primary, the blogs astounded many observers by their obsessive coverage of Lieberman in the days following the election. His every utterance was discussed and dissected, to the extent that 80% of the posts on major liberal blogs were about Lieberman. The correct and natural move at this point would have been to exploit his image as loser, marginalizing his comments and devoting attention to Lamont. In short, the blogs behaved like political naifs, rowing upstream against a political process that naturally marginalizes losers.

Make no mistake: To an extent blogs have perhaps not yet grasped, they have put themselves on the line in Connecticut. If Lamont loses, and it appears he will lose, the blogs will also lose. They will be ignored by party officials. They will be deemed politically incompetent and ultimately irrelevant to the political process, capable of muddying the waters, but not much more.

Reader unrest is also bubbling below the surface. Having thrown their hats into the Connecticut political ring, the blogs could not tackle, for example, the delicate (for American voters) issue of Israel’s wanton decimation of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure without putting their Connecticut candidate at risk. AmericaBlog philosophized in favor of a doctrine of collective punishment while Daily Kos washed its hands of the mess, declaring that the issues were too complex for discussion. Even Seymour Hersh's sensational article in the "New Yorker" about Washington's coordination with Israel in the Lebanese action was utterly ignored by major blogs. They were prevented, in other words, from doing what they do best, which is to challenge administration policy.

Major liberal blogs have crawled down a slippery slope in Connecticut and may not be able to redeem themselves. The November election may signal the end of the blog phenomenon as well as Lamont's political career.


Gary Sartori said...

I used to have great respect for the blogs, hell I write blogs all the time, but since the vile, hatred for Joe Lieberman has come out, I no longer have respect for them at all. The enemy here is Bush, not Lieberman, but the blogs don't seem to understand that. Joe Lieberman votes with Democrats 90% of the time, so it's not like they're getting a Rick Santorum type. Yet, the liberal blogs are willing to throw Joe overboard for ONE VOTE!!! That is truly sad today in American politics. The blogs so control things today that all of the Senators who voted for the war in 2003, have recanted, except one. Since Lieberman is not following the liberal line, he must be destroyed. The blogs have hijacked the party.

Rottenwood said...

Wow, that was... overdramatic.

It's been cute to watch the mainstream media attempt to turn blogs into some kind of political superforce. (Slow news year, guys? Or is the endless Middle East carnage too depressing, and not 'fresh' enough for the front page?) But it's time to grow up and get real. To think that a small pack of amateur pundits can possibly compete with the grotesque amount of mainstream support enjoyed by Lieberman (endless campaign funds, lobbyists, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, loyal donors, etc.) is embarrassingly naive. The blog audience is basically a bunch of choir members preaching to other and sharing high-fives, with some playground flaming and bickering thrown in when 'the enemy' leaves a post. To think that these cute little rants and raves had any real effect on voter turnout is the sort of delusion you need really fun narcotics to enjoy.

"I'm so torn on who to vote for... wait, I know! Let me boot up my computer and see what some congo drum major at Wesleyan thinks of the race. I'll let him be my guiding star."

I'm a lifelong citizen of Connecticut, other than a college stint in New York. I'm an indepedent, so I couldn't vote in the primary. But let me tell you about the people in my life that DID vote for Lamont: my parents, my aunt, three close friends, my boss, and a handful of co-workers I share lunch with. Not a single one of these people reads political blogs; most of them are probably unaware they even exist. They're simply fed up with Lieberman and are hungry for change. Lieberman's "ain't I so moderate!" antics are a transparent circus act to groom himself for a run to higher office, and make him an easier pill to swallow in the red states. The people I know are tired of seeing ol' Joe use our state as a dress rehearsal for the big time, and voted accordingly.

Make no mistake: whatever happens to Lamont, he made an impressive run and accomplished more than anyone could have expected. But blogs don't vote, and neither did the mostly out-of-staters that nattered about this race for months. Regular American citizens actually shook off the cynicism, got off of their duffs, and pulled the voting lever. It IS possible, and doesn't require marching orders from the evil empire of socialist bloggers that are apparently devouring innocent Democrats whole.

Lieberman may well win the race, but it will have nothing to do with the failure of a bunch of Web sites most people have never heard of. It'll be the same old song and dance: incumbency favoritism, name recognition, lobbyist dollars, television saturation, negative campaigning, and Rush and Co. lunging at Lamont's jugular 24/7.

Oh, and as for Gary's 'liberal purge' of poor Lieberman... please. If the 'one vote' was for, say, making harsh budget adjustments to the number of begonia plants at the Pentagon, it'd be one thing. But continued support of an obviously floundering military occupation in the Middle East - the death and maiming, the increasing anti-American rage worldwide, the war profiteering - is a very serious issue that more than qualifies as a reason to hand Joe his pink slip. When a man's vote is aiding and abetting the needless deaths of human beings, it's time to pull our pants up and throw Joe a hip-check.

Or, in Gary's world, what's 50,000 corpses or so to a guy who's usually pretty nice?

nonny mouse said...

The November election may signal the end of the blog phenomenon as well as Lamont's political career.

Are you kidding? It's hard to take this kind of blanket assessment seriously. Blogs are still a relatively new phenomenon, and evolving every day. Ya win some, ya lose some, ya learn from your mistakes and go on.

To cheerfully predict the doom of blogs if Lieberman wins is like predicting the end of music when vinyl gave way to CDs. It's too close to the rightwing wishful hope that if the Republicans took control of the House and the Senate and the White House and the Supreme Court, then the Democratic Party would roll up the carpets, declare themselve out-of-business, and liberals would all go away, vanish from the face of the earth forever, never to reappear again. Funny thing - just didn't happen, did it?

Blogs are a reflection of the people who visit them, read the stories, write comments, discuss issues, link to other stories - it's the Town Meeting Hall in virtual reality. Blogs don't 'control' anything - they reflect the mood and the thoughts of ordinary people. And if anyone doesn't like the idea that the mood and the thoughts of the American people aren't important, no matter what conduit they choose to express themselves through, then maybe we'd all better go rethink our definitions of democracy.

We, the People. Who write letters, and march in protests, and telephone our representatives, and talk about politics over our beers at 4th of July picnics, and - yes - discuss the issues of the day on blogs. We. The People.

Get used to it. We're here and we're not going away just because you would like us to.