Political Weblogging

Vote for Whitey, he weblogs

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Harold Kurtz covered some of of the current buzz about the Democratic candidates, the California recall election, and even Bush’s recent speech. It’s a great recap of quotes from other publications, interspersed with humorous and pithy asides. More importantly, though, it highlights some articles worth following, such as a Salon article that’s worth a serious read or two by all the people who think that Dean’s election is in the bag because he weblogs.

Though you might need to sit through an ad to read it, the Salon article by Farhad Manjoo quotes people from the Dean campaign that are growing concerned that perhaps there is too much emphasis on Dean’s online presence. On TV, it’s beginning to look like his followers are primarily of a specific race, economic level, and educational background.

For instance, the article reflects concerns by Dean supports, such as Steve Chaffin, an unofficial coordinator for Dean in Ohio:

Chaffin … worries that because Dean has relied greatly on the Web as a campaign tool, the candidate’s message has not been widely received by “blue-collar people” and minorities. This concern, which has popped up repeatedly in the media, is shared by many other Dean supporters, including Richard Hoefer, a San Francisco filmmaker who believes that the campaign has been too “blog-centric.” Asked if he thinks there’s a homogeneity to Dean’s base, Hoefer responds, “You mean whitey?”

In some ways Dean’s campaign reflects the same audience I’ve seen at tech conferences and symposia – white, primarily urban, middle/upper class, white collar, professional, highly educated. The only difference from what I can see is that there is more equal distribution of men and women than in these other venues.

Some of this is leading to concern that Dean is focused too heavily on webloggers, and that would be a mistake. In St. Louis there are probably about 2000 webloggers, at most. Yet there are close to 250,000 registered voters in this city. Rather than reaching out to the 200,000+, is Dean’s strategy focused primarily on that 2000?

According to the article:

The danger that supporters appear most wary of is “preaching to the choir” – bringing the pro-Dean message only to folks who are already inclined to accept it. Indeed, Richard Hoefer calls this the biggest pitfall of Dean’s blog strategy. “I’ve been at odds with Dean for America because I criticize them for being too blog-centric,” he says. “I think they preach to the converted, and it bugs me because I think they’re missing the boat. I think Dean has incredible appeal to blacks, Latinos, minorities – but the message hasn’t gotten out there yet because they have been too focused on the blog.”

If the registered voters in this city follow along racial lines, 51% will be black.

Manjoo says, no worries, because the webloggers are on top of the problem. In fact, if there is one major criticism I have of the article, it is the authors constant rah rahing of webloggers, and how we’re aware of this danger and how we’re doing something about it. He writes:

The self-awareness of the potential shortcomings of Dean’s campaign is exactly the kind of thing you might expect from people as well-educated and affluent as Dean supporters tend to be.

Everyone in the audience who’s affluent, please raise your hand.

There is also an assumption in the article, and elsewhere, that once Dean bags the Dem nomination, the minorities and the women will fall in line, little ducks in a row; the good thing about the online presence is it’s attracting that most fickle of voters – white men:

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the proprietor of the popular lefty blog Daily Kos and a consultant to the Dean campaign’s Web efforts, says that even if Dean is failing to appeal to minorities now, they will come to him if he wins the nomination. Meanwhile, Moulitsas says, polls show that Dean is currently attracting a crowd that the Democratic Party has had trouble with in recent elections – white males. This is partly because of Dean’s use of the Web, Moulitsas says, but mainly because “he’s a very aggressive candidate in his speaking style, and the anger. Nobody wants a president that’s a wimp, and Dean sounds tough, he sounds like he’s ready to kick some ass, and I think that really fires men up.”

Well, shucks, son. If you want to talk tough, our man Bush dressed up in a pilot’s suit and landed on an aircraft carrier. I reckon his toy gun is bigger than Dean’s, what say?

If this is a typical Dean supporter speaking out, and this is the type of advice Dean is getting, he hasn’t rat’s tail’s chance in a room of rocking chairs of taking the election away from Bush.

I have some numbers for you:

Alabama 9
Colorado 8
Texas 32
Arizona 8
Mississippi 7
Kentucky 8
Minnesota 10
Louisiana 8
Indiana 12
Illinois 22
Missouri 11
Nebraska 5
Idaho 4
Alaska 3
Kansas 6
Iowa 7
Georgia 13
Oklahoma 8
Ohio 21
South Dakota 3
Tennessee 11
Utah 5
Wyoming 3

These are electoral votes for the other states. The quiet ones, the insignificant one. These are the states populated by people that quietly watch the debates in Washington DC, and the demonstrations in New York, and the protests in San Francisco and see the tongue rings and cluck their own tongues at the foolishness of these kids. These are states made up of blue collar and white collar workers, blacks and whites and native Americans and Hispanics and Asian-Americans and Indian-Americans and Arab-Americans. They’re Christian for the most part, with some Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish people. A Buddhist or two. Maybe. Even some folk with tongue rings, because it is a free country, son.

There are some webloggers here, but not as many on the coasts because the Internet just never had the impact here as it did elsewhere. These states count themselves thankful, too, as they watch California’s unemployment exceed 10% in some areas due to the Dot Com implosion.

These states don’t have the electoral punch of California or Florida or New York, but combined these states are enough to elect a president. Half these states with New York, or Florida, is enough.

I think of those yellow ribbons and American flags I saw in Kentucky, in the towns along the way, through Indiana and Missouri and I know that behind those doors are union members and blacks and women – traditional Democratic voters. I also know that while Dean is meeting with the white, educated, internet savvy males at a Weblogger Meetup in San Francisco (earning some more Internet bucks), Bush is speaking at a plant that builds bombs here in St. Louis, giving an uncomplicated speech that’s equal parts patriotism, anger, hope, and fear.

And Bush isn’t some governor from some tiny state that allows gays to marry (as they’ll see it) and has all those independents who betray their party (as they’ll see it); and he isn’t some weblogger who works at Harvard in Boston or a software company in LA. Bush comes from Texas, that’s about as American as you can get. He worked in his Daddy’s business, he believes in God and Country and he’s one of us, these people will think. Even though they might be union members and blacks and women, they may in the quiet of that voting booth hesitate over Dean’s lever; hesitate and move on and pull down the one next to Bush’s name because he’s a man more like them, though they can’t stand him, and really don’t trust him.

Better the devil you know, then the devil you don’t.