Friday, August 24, 2007

Political prognosticating presumptuous?

By Carol Gee

In the wake of a failed Bush administration, the 2008 election campaign began immediately after the 2006 elections. To elect Democrats in 2008 is a big political goal that will use millions of dollars, gazillions of spoken words, and gallons and gallons of journalistic ink (electronically speaking, of course).

Why on earth would politicians want to subject themselves to such a high cost endeavor? What candidate tactics will be new to this election? What will the current administration and congress leave behind to govern?

What does current news or commentary foreshadow for 2009 and the beginning of a new era of governance? Today is Friday, August 24, 2007. It seems to me that we can presume at least three issues will continue to drive electoral politics: the war in Iraq, an increase in the influence of the blogosphere, and a rise in power at the centers of both political parties. To illustrate, I offer these items.

The war in Iraq - I have always been sorry that former New York Governor Mario Cuomo never got a chance to be President. This man has a capacity for speaking the truth, utilizing heart mind and spirit, and being wise. His words urging Democrats to find their vision are featured at the beginning of this piece. The Center for Media and Democracy post by John Stauber (8-20-07) was titled, "Iraq: The "Gift" That Keeps On Bleeding." The author examines current alliances within the Democratic party, how the 110th Congress is reacting to the war in Iraq, the Center's contributions to the YearlyKos conference, and what Iraq War Veterans Against the War are doing right now to make a difference. Stauber also plugs Mat Bai's popular new book, "The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics." To quote what really caught my eye from the post,

Shortly after the November 2006 election . . . liberal legend Mario Cuomo analyze[d] the Democratic Party in the wake of its stunning electoral victories that had given Democrats control of the US Congress. Cuomo criticized the Democratic Party for lacking vision, big ideas and a winning political argument. His recipe for future Democratic victories was simple: "You seize the biggest idea you can, the biggest idea you can understand. And this is what moves elections."

Cuomo then dared to voice an inconvenient truth: "Now it's 2006 and we're all rejoicing. Why? Because of Iraq. A GIFT. A gift to the Democrats. A lot of whom voted for the war anyway." The former New York governor challenged his partisan audience, "If Iraq is not an issue, then what issues do we have to talk about? … Where does that leave you? It leaves you in the same position you were in in 2004 – without an issue. Because you have no big idea."

The story of Cuomo’s speech is from the concluding pages of Matt Bai's new book The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics. Bai writes, “An uncomfortable silence hung over the ballroom. No one had yet expressed the situation quite that crassly, although everyone knew it was an accurate accounting.”

Blogosphere journalism - The mainstream media can no longer hold an exclusive claim to professional journalism. The blogosphere has increasingly broken the news, kept important stories alive, and done significant investigative or analytical writing. Members of the mainstream media must now check the web the first thing after starting their shifts. Jay Rosen at PressThink compiled a list (augmented by comments) of the best examples of bloggers' significant valid journalistic coups of recent times. It makes one proud! Quoting just a bit,

A reading list, with different kinds of complications—some big, some small—to his tales of virtue and greatness in reporting and blogging.

. . . This is what I pulled together—draft version—as my list of somewhat representative, by no means definitive or even halfway-complete list of cases.

. . . March, 2007. Firedoglake at the Libby Trial. Popular lefty political blog provides the only blow by blow coverage of the trial by splitting the work among six contributors who bring big knowledge to bear for a committed-to-the-case readership; news media repy on the blog for its updates and analysis.

Congress center weighting -- Centrists in both parties are becoming more influential in Congress. They have the votes to help one wing or another of either party to pass or block any bills introduced. Many presume that the congressional and presidential elections will be won by those who can garner enough votes from the centers of both parties to win majorities. Today's news items focus only the congress. However, it must be noted that members of the House and Senate are running for President while still serving.

  • Republicans -- Influential Senator John Warner made the headlines yesterday following his recent trip to Iraq. Faiz at Think Progress posted this yesterday: " Sen. Warner Calls On President Bush To Begin Iraq Withdrawal In September." To quote Warner:

    I say to the President, respectfully, pick whatever number you wish. You do not want to lose the momentum. But certainly, in the 160,000 plus — say 5,000 — could begin to redeploy and be home to their families and loved ones no later than Christmas of this year.

  • Democrats -- John Kraushaar, from, wrote (8/24/07) about the clear split in the Democratic party between Liberals and recently elected Centrist legislators. "Liberal blogger targets ‘Bush Dog' Dems." To quote:

  • A leading liberal blogger has declared political war against centrist Democrats – the latest move in an intensifying show of dissatisfaction with the Democratic Congress by the once-friendly blogosphere.

    Matt Stoller, who blogs at the well-trafficked, has compiled a list of 38 House “Blue Dog” Democrats who have voted with Republicans on key legislation, and called on the activist community to put pressure on them – and perhaps challenge them in primaries – if they fail to shape up.
Predicting or trying to influence the outcome of the 2008 election will keep all of us political news junkies well occupied for the next year and a half. The way I will make my choice among the Democratic presidential hopefuls will be to ascertain who could be the best guardian of America's Constitution. Pure and simple. How will you choose?

Here are some additional blogging references:

  1. Project for Excellence in Journalism: "Understanding news in the information age"
  2. Public Knowledge - "a Washington DC based advocacy group working to defend your rights in the emerging digital culture."
  3. Happy - "Real news. Compelling stories. Always Positive"
  4. Texas Weekly-"Texas government, Texas politics"

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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