Thursday, August 23, 2007

Some thoughts on McNerneygate

[cross-posted from my frontpage post on Calitics]

First things first:  there are other issues besides quotes in the media about the occupation of Iraq.  First of all, there are all of Jerry's votes in Iraq.  Someone else besides me--I think it was kid oakland, and I for some reason can't find the post--made a list of all of Jerry's votes about Iraq.  Except for McGovern, they were exactly what we would want and expect.  And Jerry had his own reasons for the McGovern bill that he explained to me in an interview with me when I went to DC.

Now, this doesn't mean that how Jerry is quoted in major beltway media outlets isn't important.  It is, especially when it seems like he's flip-flopping to cater to two different audiences.  If nothing else, we like consistency in our politicians.

But we have to remember two things.  First of all, Jerry is a freshman incumbent who doesn't have very much experience with media and wasn't a politician to begin with.  And secondly, especially given the grumbling complaints that a few of us have expressed with Jerry's staff in DC, the message his staff seems to be trying to create for him will only serve to amplify the complaints about how Jerry deals with interactions in the media.

That said, I think that we in the netroots tend to take a much bigger focus on the media than anyone else in the country does because that's what we're all about as an enterprise.  One of the main raisons d'etre of our entire movement is media accountability, which leads us to place an excessive amount of attention to anything said and done in traditional political media establishments such as the Washington Post.  So a centrist-style flip-flop in the Washington Post will alienate us a great deal, but I can just about guarantee you that it's not what the average voter in Lodi and Stockton is living and dying on.

All this talk about removing Jerry from ActBlue pages or other stuff is insane, in my book.  The only reason anybody is even contemplating it is because, well, we all put a lot of work into Jerry's campaign.  That's true.  But because of all the effort we put in, we put Jerry on a pedestal that perhaps no candidate belongs being on.  He became a netroots hero,  primarily because of the contrast between him and Richard Pombo.  And there still is that huge contrast, and a few quotes out of context in the Washington Post written by a reporter who is intentionally trying to push a "Dems in disarray" storyline isn't going to change that.

But expecting someone--especially a freshman with little political experience--to say and do the right thing every single time is a bit naive, especially in the face of DC staff who might be pushing messaging that we in the netroots would be opposed to.  And it's especially not going to happen in a district that still leans Republican and which the NRCC has identified as one of their top targets.

Finally, there are so many issues at work here besides the occupation of Iraq.  There is the problem of health insurance.  Energy and environment (where Jerry has been an extremely strong leader, statewide and nationwide).  Restoring the constitution.

I think, honestly, that we should hold the "we've been betrayed" talk for a time when we've actually been betrayed.  Jerry will have his disagreements with us on a few issues.  But hey--imagine if any of us ran for Congress.  We disagree with each other a lot of the time, and if any of us ran for office we would have wide areas of agreement with each other on the vast majority of issues, but we would have disagreements on strategy a great deal of time.

Bottom line is, hanging Jerry out to dry because of some quotes in the Washington Post is a horrible idea.  If anything, Jerry needs on-the-job training on how to deal with media, because the truth is, he wants to end the occupation of Iraq.  And the other truth is that we need Republicans to help us end the occupation of Iraq.  I think it's naive to believe, as Jerry apparently does, that they'll willingly come to the table without more strong-arm tactics.  But if you take what Jerry actually said--namely, that sometimes we don't agree with the Democratic leadership, and that we need Republican help to end the occupation--both of those are true.  How often have we on the blogs said, "what the heck are they doing, anyway?"

The only difference is that we don't go saying that crap to reporters at the Post who are out to hurt our efforts.

Last point:  I'd like everyone to think about the storyline that would be created by a public abandonment of Jerry because of some Washington Post quotes.  I don't think it's a good one.

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