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The Death of the Issue Candidate?

by: Matt Browner Hamlin

Sat May 05, 2007 at 10:09:10 AM EDT

Yesterday I posted on an editorial from a local Iowa paper that gave Sen. Chris Dodd a very positive review.  The post started a small discussion about the viability of Dodd and who the top tier candidates are. I was going to include this as a comment on it, but it grew long. I think it merits a larger discussion and would like to hear your thoughts on where the netroots stands with regards to furthering the success of presidential candidates who aren't considered to be in the top tier by the mainstream press.

I think it's really sad that the one place where all candidates should be given a fair shake based on what they've done and what they stand for -- the blogosphere -- has fully adopted the same conventional wisdom that is put forth by people like Chris Mathews, Adam Nagourney, and the staff of The Politico. Namely, that the Democrats have a three person race between Clinton, Obama, and Edwards and no one else stands a chance.

Blogs should be capable of challenging that assumption and enable other people to receive the same internal consideration as the bigger names. In this cycle, the ones who lose out are Richardson, Dodd, Kucinich and Biden. From what I've seen, bloggers have generally been willing to swallow the CW pill that says these four are not serious candidates and thus don't need to dedicate attention to them.

Yet within these four are the three Democrats in the race with the strongest positions on ending the war. Richardson has called for zero residual forces. Dodd supports Reid-Feingold -- something Clinton, Obama, Biden, and Edwards have not done or said they would do. Kucinich has been for defunding the war for years.

Bill Clinton and Howard Dean succeeded because grassroots activists took them seriously when the mainstream press did not. I find it sad that this cycle the grassroots, particularly grassroots pundits on the blogs, has shown no real willingness to part ways from the mainstream press assessment of who is viable and who is not.

If the second tier candidate - the issue candidate - is dead, it is we who have killed it.

Matt Browner Hamlin :: The Death of the Issue Candidate?
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UMMM? (4.00 / 1)
I think it's really sad that the one place where all candidates should be given a fair shake based on what they've done and what they stand for -- the blogosphere -- has fully adopted the same conventional wisdom

I think you must have a pretty narrow view of what the "Blogosphere" is. I don't see this as the case as much as you do. Maybe you are spending too much time reading the BIG BOX Democratic Blogs that play the safe commentary game in order to gain that "mythical media credibility"???

I am only half-kidding there... This community site (and "left CT" for the most part), and a few of others (ie: BooTrib, My Left Wing, and even CLP) have less of a tendency of smacking around diaries, diarists, and comments that post on some of the lower tier candidates or some of the "lefter issues"(Far right Liebermanism doesn't count as leftism). As well, the non-Democratic left blogs tend to give those candidates more credibility.

The same cannot be said of the Big Box ones like HuffPo and dKos, where the slightest detour from the mainstream tends to get blasted by the herd like members.

In other words: Posting this diary here at MLN doesn't do much to help the situation, but at certain other sites might be more fruitful. (Though you might risk getting pounced by that afore mentioned herd. heh)

Drinking Liberally in New Milford
ePluribus Media

Good Point (0.00 / 0)
You're right - I really am targeting this more towards bigger blog figures than small blogs. But I posted it here because I rarely diary at Kos and because it was in response to comments in a previous thread.

Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union

[ Parent ]
My view right now (0.00 / 0)
is that only so much can be done in a presidential race. That's why I'm keeping my nose out of it for the time being.

That said, when it comes to conventional wisdom, I think it can be just as easily framed as "community wisdom" – if your aim is to run with insiders, you act and eventually think like an insider. There's an incredible diversity of blogs out there, and some are much more concerned with protecting the hierarchical nature of our political ecosystem in the name of civility than challenging it in the name of their values.

Just because some bloggers are AdNags-esque civility / CW trolls doesn't mean the medium is lost: just that the divide between broadcast and interactive media isn't as wide as the gap between progressives and authoritarians. Same as it ever was.

"running with the insiders" (0.00 / 0)
is exactly what I meant with the "mythical media credibility" comment. It all has to do with either having credibility with the MSM OR with the netroots.

I don't think you can have credibility from both, and some are more interested in getting on the MSM to further their personal agendas. IMHO, when Bloggers have gained that MSM cred they have done it, for the most part, by selling out their netroots cred.

Drinking Liberally in New Milford
ePluribus Media

[ Parent ]
Well, speaking for myself... (0.00 / 0)
I've taken great pains to give coverage to Dennis Kucinich on my blog.  He's visited CT twice in the last 3 months and I've had great access to him.  And I think he'd make a fine President.

I wish Sen. Dodd would make himself as available to us.  We're the grassroots here in Connecticut and so far the most visibility I've had with him was a brief handshake at the JJB dinner...and I don't think he even knew who I was, but I was holding a video camera and wishing him well, so he acknowledged me.

Some candidates are visionaries when it comes to utilizing the blogs (Dean, Kucinich, and Lamont come to mind), and some merely plod along using the same old MSM techniques, like Dodd (announcing his candidacy on frickin' Imus, for god's sake!)  While that wasn't a fatal misstep, it did shake my confidence in his judgement slightly.

I think Dodd would be a more visible candidate here on the blogs if he made some effort to talk to us.  We're something like the MSM in that respect, and we tend to give more coverage to those who make themselves available to us.

Connecticut Bob

Dean got attention and money (0.00 / 0)
It remains to be seen if Dodd, Biden, or Richardson will get any. So far the prognosis doesn't look good.

As for your other assertions Chris Dodd in particular has been given his due when he's stepped up and shown leadership. The reality though--more than simply conventional wisdom--is that he has to climb over three candidates who are getting 100x the press coverage he is, and who will also gain the lion's share of available money. So he's fighting an uphill battle on two fronts. That's simply not a good situation.

Attention (0.00 / 0)
You're right - Dodd and Richardson do get recognized when they're right on issues like Iraq or global warming.

But more often than not, the passing references of Dodd's leadership do not add up to any larger narrative or recognition of him as a strong Democratic candidate. Basically, if the only time some is getting discussed is when they do positive things and that's frequently the case with Dodd or Richardson, why isn't the common denominator (good behavior) worthy of support on whole?

Obviously this isn't a black and white issue. Lower level candidates do get attention on the blogs. But, on whole, blog attention tends to closely parallel mainstream media attention in scale and tone. That's what's so disappointing to me.

Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union

[ Parent ]
Nature of the beast (0.00 / 0)
You're look at specificity when presidential races are big simple ideas, manifested in one candidate. What the candidate says isn't nearly as important as what he (or she) represents and symbolizes. Style trumps all. That is especially true this early out.

For a prime example look at Barack Obama. For many people he represents something new, the future, change. It really doesn't matter --at this point--that he hasn't articulated what he would do differently to bring this change about. "Change" is a hot commodity right now.

[ Parent ]
In fact (0.00 / 0)
some of Obama's statements should raise red flags for those that do not believe in "pre-emptive war/illegal invasion"... In other words, more of the same. :(

Drinking Liberally in New Milford
ePluribus Media

[ Parent ]
Style trumps all? (0.00 / 0)
Chris Dodd voted to authorize a pre-emptive war on another country.  So did Hillary and Joe Biden and John Edwards. What's more incriminating than that?

Obama spoke out against it from the start. I don't know how Obama would have voted if he were in the Senate then, but based on his public statements at the time, he showed good judgment. I can't say the same for Dodd or Hillary or Edwards or anyone else who voted for the war. 

So, if you're looking for substance, look at the votes. To me, the actual votes of Dodd and Edwards and Clinton and Biden -- and the lack of judgment and political courage they reveal -- raise more red flags than anything Obama has ever said.

[ Parent ]
At this stage of the game (0.00 / 0)
I believe that's true, style is more important than substance. Hillary is selling as herself as a "done deal", someone who's ready to be president. Obama is "the next big thing". Edwards is "heart", democratic idealism. Right now it's who we believe in and how well they're packaging and marketing themselves.

I was watching the Hannity-Rocky Anderson debate last night from Salt Lake City and the one thing Hannity kept harping on were the democrats who gave Bush authorization, especially Hilary and also Harry Reid. I expect all the republican candidates to use that meme as their counter-argument, that the democrats are posturing for political advantage. Edwards and some extent Chris Dodd have pushed back against that this week. hillary is still vulnerable there.

[ Parent ]
Dodd is ticking up (0.00 / 0)
I think Dodd it ticking up ever so slightly. He's good in big bites but the 8 way debate in 90 minutes is a waste of time. I had to give 12 minute presentations in high school speech class  - that shouldn't be how we decide who gets to be President.

The Dodd-Brownback debate was good. Maybe Dodd should take up evolution as a big issue. It's kind of ridiculous that evolution has to be a debate in 2007. You can't seriously discuss bioterrorism, food safety, or biotechnology and hold that evolution doesn't exist.

Here's an excerpt from a CDC publication on E. Coli:
"Adaptive EVOLUTION by transient or prolonged states of hypermutation can cause neutral mutations to rapidly accumulate throughout the genome. To detect possible elevation in the rate of molecular EVOLUTION in the emergence of E. coli O157:H7, we compared 12 genes with housekeeping functions (Figure) that have been sequenced in both E. coli O157:H7 and E. coli K-12 (a commensal organism), as well as in an outgroup species, Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium. The EVOLUTIONARY distance (expressed in point mutations per 100 sites) between Typhimurium and K-12 is shown against the distance between Typhimurium and O157:H7 for synonymous and nonsynonymous sites separately (Figure). The line indicates equal rates of EVOLUTION in the two lineages."


Dodd is great on science. I'd love to see him give a big speech on science and evolution in Tennesee, home of the Scopes trial. As a Catholic Dodd can even cite Pope John Paul II from 1996 and Pope Pius XII in 1946 in support of evolution (is Brownback in conflict with the Catholic Church?), with a bit of background on Galileo and the idea that the earth revolves around the sun. The recent court case absolutely smashing Intelligent Design advocates as frauds could help as well. It ties up a lot of Dodd's best themes, the law, science, research, children, education - all in one tidy and extremely necessary package.

We can't regress to pre-enlightenment thinking and expect to be a world leader. Science is about evidence. Dodd is a good person to press the case about evidence. He could talk abou the Nuremberg trials as a pinnacle of the idea that evidence mattered - that it had to be presented in full view and tested - not just accepted on faith.

Here's an idea (4.00 / 2)
How about we organize a "second-tier" debate?  We'll invite everyone EXCEPT Clinton, Obama and Edwards to debate.  That'll give them recognition. 

I'm pretty sure I can arrange to host it on Public Access in Bridgeport.  Should I send out the invitations? :)

Connecticut Bob

Another attribute of the 2nd tier (0.00 / 0)
"Yet within these four are the three Democrats in the race with the strongest positions on ending the war."

Ironically, they are also the candidates with the most and most diverse experience.  Long term Senators, Congressman, a Governor, Diplomat, and a Mayor.

because Connecticut voters count: http://www.CTVotersCount.org

Issues vs. Political Career (0.00 / 0)
There are reasons why Chris Dodd is a second-tier candidate -- reasons that go far beyond where he stands on the issues during this election cycle. I don't mean to rain on the Dodd parade, but a dose of reality is needed. For people who have watched Dodd's career for 20-plus years, where he stands on the issues today can't erase some major errors in judgment.

One of his biggest mistakes was his successful efforts to loosen the acccounting standards that led to the Enron scandal. Dodd and Joe Lieberman tag-teamed to get options out of the FASB reporting standards.

From Wikipedia:

Dodd was an original cosponsor of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, and he helped to organize the Senate's override of President Clinton's veto.

This bill loosened FASB accounting standards. Transcript from PBS Frontline elaborates ...

HEDRICK SMITH: [voice-over] To help investors and clean up the books, the accounting industry's standards-setter, an obscure entity in Norwalk, Connecticut, known as FASB - the Financial Accounting Standards Board - decided in 1993 to close the options loophole.
SARAH TESLIK: Well, the insurance companies in Connecticut and the accountants are heavily based in Connecticut. FASB is in Connecticut. Both Senator Lieberman and Senator Dodd have historically been very protective of accountants and very protective of executives. Even though they talk a good liberal Democratic line, if you look at the votes and you look at the actions, it's not there.
HEDRICK SMITH: [voice-over] Led by Senator Lieberman, the Senate passed a non-binding resolution in May, 1994, condemning the FASB proposal by a lopsided 88-to-9 vote.
HEDRICK SMITH: Pressed by the high tech and accounting industries, the House and Senate passed the [Private Securities Litigation Reform Act] by large majorities. But President Clinton vetoed it, asserting that it would close the courthouse door on investors with legitimate claims.
HEDRICK SMITH: Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, then head of the Democratic National Committee, led the effort to overturn Clinton's veto.

Sen. CHRISTOPHER DODD: It is with a deep sense of regret that I'm on the opposite side of my president on this issue.

CHARLES LEWIS, Center for Public Integrity: Chris Dodd, here he is, he's Chairman of the Democratic Party, but he's also the leading advocate in the U.S. Senate on behalf of the accounting industry. And he helps overturn the veto of his own president, who installed him as Democratic chairman. Chris Dodd might as well have been on the accounting industry's payroll. He couldn't have helped them any more than he did as a U.S. senator.

HEDRICK SMITH: By way of thanks, the accounting industry gave Senator Dodd nearly one quarter of a million dollars in political donations, even though, at the time, Dodd was not up for reelection.

Public Campaign awarded Dodd it's Golden Leash Award in 1998:

"The Golden Leash is a symbol of the ties between special interest money and elected officials. It is awarded to Members of Congress who demonstrate egregious conduct in the quid pro quo practice of dollar democracy.

"This award serves as a reminder of Senator Dodd's acceptance of $910,304 in campaign cash from January 1993 to December 1997 from the Securities, Investment, Accounting and High-Tech Computer industries."

There were other votes in favor of banking interests over consumers. Then there was the small matter of Dodd voting in favor of the Iraq War. There was also that lukewarm support of Ned Lamont after the primary. (Was that because Ned campaigned on the issue of eliminating big money from politics?) ... Fact of the matter is that Dodd has had a lifetime to distinguish himself as presidential material, and quite simply he hasn't done so.

To Dodd's credit, he has been working hard to be a leader on a lot of big issues. I commend him for that, and if he keeps up that sort of leadership, he will leave a powerful legacy as a political figure -- but as a Senator from Connecticut, not as President.

a few thoughts (0.00 / 0)
1) Soaking up the sun

Clinton and Obama are soaking up the sun for a number of reasons. Both are visible "minority" candidates and both have high national name recognition. If Richardson had as high a name recognition he too would be in that picture. For an interesting take, look at Latino publications and Richardson is usually replacing Edwards as the #3 candidate that is discussed.

2) Soaking in the money

Clinton, Obama and Edwards have individually outraised the others in total I believe. When you have the money you can put together a "fast response" team and a "pr team" to generate and maintain message.

3) Being in the front of the pack isn't always a good thing.

I have been posting here about Clinton stink to progressives. Her associations and staff that are Leibermanesque at best. I have been hammering her becuase, as a progressive, I find her embrace of the Liebermanesqe unacceptable. Does that mean I have chosen my candidate? No, I have chosen NOT to embrace Hil, because after investigation I have found reasons to not want her to lead my party. Being in the forefront right now, at this point in time, is NOT good for a candidate that is weak on the issues. Your money and name only buy you scrutiny, and being in the harsh light right now is NOT benefiting the leaders with those who are researching them.

4) MSM and Blogosphere-crap

Does anyone here take Drudge seriousy? Then why take anything that the corporate media wants to promote seriously? As many have said, the "big blogs" are trying to be taken as serious by embracing the corporate media frame. Well, anyone who has made a "reduction" of choice at this point is really a jerk (yeah, I'm being a bit of an asshole, but let's get real, at this point what do you really know about all the candidates?). Which may be why you see that the same people (big names) that have given to Clinton have also given to Obama and Edwards, and some to Richardson and Dodd (Sorry, but Dennis really doesn't get squat from the "big name doners" and I don't see that he will, as for Biden... Joe who?). So, any blogers that have started to try to define the horse race are really only setting themselves up to be disappointed, and in the end, hurting their credability.

5) The field ain't done yet.

The field at one point was larger. The field may get smaller still or there may be a few new entries into it. If someone who has "the mantel" chooses to be a late entry, the entire game changes. Gee, I did that without once making a pun on how gory such an entry would be for those in the "top teir"... The point being that the game is afoot and as everyone who ever read Sherlock knows, that means there are no rules and one has best keep their wits about them to see how to play it.

6) In order to last this season you have to have a thick skin.

Hil won't appologize for her Iraq vote, so she wants a "do over". Obama is getting racist threats and already has SS security. Edwards like $400 haircuts. Dodd, Richardson, Kucinich and Biden are generally ignored. Clark and Gore are bandied about as options to enter. With bloggers like myself and even sub-mainstream reporters like Palast (http://www.commondre...) are taking closer looks at the candidates, there are still things that have to come to light about those running and those that have the potential to run. There is a lot out there that still has to come to light, to be sifted though. It's not even started to be "game on".


Finally, I would love to see "blogger debates". Where 20 blogs are asked to generate two questions per blog that are general and then one question per blog that are candidate specific. Then there is a debate where the questions are randomly pulled and each candidate is asked two questions that are specific to the candidate being asked, then all the candidates are asked five general questions. Finally, from the general questions left unasked each candidate gets to pull one of the general questions remaining and have that asked to all the candidates.

I would love to see these "blogger debates" at one per month for the next six months. Think of it this way, at the end of this there will be no way that "the blogging community" could not have been considered a major part of a "public" campaign to find out the most we could about the candidates in the fairest way possible.

The best part is that right now, with this format, we could get at least four of the candidate to agree on doing this starting in June, maybe even five (I'm not sure Biden would want to, but who knows) that would force the frontrunners to also participate, even though neither of them really would want to.

The question now is --- how do we put it together and get it orgnized. How do we get the 20 blogs selected and how do they paricipate? If we put it together, they will either come or they won't and it will gte "blog press", so we just need to put it together and see what happens. Either the blogs are important of they are not.

The question is not what you are, we already determined that, we are now negotiating price.
electrealdemocrats.com Online since 3/07 -- TimetogoJoe.com Online s

Matt (0.00 / 0)
I said as much in my last post in your first reference to the Dodd candidacy.

Falling into the MSM talking head (no nothings but ratings) trap should not - imo - be the center of open discussion amongst thinking people interested in the best for our nation which is now in the more precarious state since perhaps its inciption - I don't consider the Civil War in the same category for reasons I won't go into here.

The US foreign policy - decided by elites - was to make the USA an expansionist nation and world power - personally I'd be happy as could be to live in a nation democratic nation Switzerland-like or Norway-like America as to be an aggressive empire who's end has been written repeatedly in the history books. Empires end because of over expansion. And our size, in our over-reach creates great strains on the democratic processes which was created for smaller nation-states.

That said, a thoughtful discussion on blogs like this can make its way into the national dialog. The problems are deep. I think we need to challenge ourselves and the candidates with deep questions - not to be found on so called "Hardball" and its ilk.

personally, I think it is still too early...... (0.00 / 0)
for any candidate to be considered victorious or high in the running.  18 months till election day is a long time, and who knows where Clinton and Obama will stand by then.  The fact that they peaked so very early, is not necessarily a good thing. 

Election 2004, I loved Kucinich.  I loved what he was saying.  Did I send him any of my hard-to-come by donation dollars?  No.  I felt I needed to keep that going to the candidate(s) with the most potential to win. 
I feel the same way now.  The Worst Democrat is by far much better than the best Republican. 

Not 18 months (0.00 / 0)
This will probably be over by Feb 5 2008, which is 9 months away. Unless...there is no clear primary winner, which means the convention could determine the democratic nominee. I'm not sure when that happened last.

This race began in earnest 6-9 months earlier than the one in 2004. Which means money and organization are even more important, which puts Obama and Clinton in good position, possibly even Edwards. The rest could easily get starved for funds at some point.

[ Parent ]
In a way (0.00 / 0)
this helps those with less money (as long as they have some?) because it means they don't have to hold back on it too long.

"This will probably be over by Feb 5 2008, which is 9 months away."

If they have 4 or 5 million they can use as much as possible coming close to the new mega-supersized Tuesday blowout. It will come down to them using it wisely to get their message out in as short a period of time as they can. Of course, those with the 15, 20 or 30 million banks can sautate over a longer period leading up to it.

ACCCCCK! Just imagine how many Hillary, Obama and Romney adds we will have been subjected to in that peiod of time.

Drinking Liberally in New Milford
ePluribus Media

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