Natasha Celine of Pacific Views (and a veteran blogger of the “sleepless summer” of Howard Dean) writes to me:

The idea of Hillary Clinton running for president really sounded good to me right after her 2000 campaign, but she killed my enthusiasm with her votes and public statements. She’s wandered between Republican apologist, warmonger, ‘moral’ crusader and ardent supporter of women’s rights. Or maybe healthcare. As if the last things should make up for all the rest of it, as if Democratic politicians haven’t figured out that supporting women’s rights and better health care is literally the least they can do. A floor, if you will, as opposed to a ceiling. It would be putting it mildly to say that I’m disinterested in her candidacy.

See her entire letter in DOCUMENTS section in left sidebar.

Also: “Sonoma” comments on Bob Kunst’s open letter to Hillary Clinton: “No one- and I mean no one- despises the Bushites GOP more than I. But if HC somehow managed to gain the presidential nomination, I would refuse to vote Democratic for the first time, as measured in decades.”

Background: Before the 2004 race, Rhodes Cook argued that “Once the primary voting begins, it is arguable that pragmatism trumps ideology. For the candidates that have done best of late in the primaries have not been the ideologically pure of heart but those who are best funded, best networked, and most capable of rallying their party’s base in its broadest form.” Kerry’s nomination was another case study in such pragmatism by party regulars hungry for victory. But the left of the Democratic “party’s base in its broadest form”–folks like Kunst, Kos, Soto, Gilliard, and Celine, will, I think, argue that (a) so-called pragmatic Democrats keep losing–with Clinton as an exception in many ways–and (b) it is fundamentally disingenuous to shift principles and policy positions to ape polling data and focus groups reports.

PolicyByBlog is non-partisan, but I think the blog-enabled wildfire protest against Hillary’s strategy and tactics (if not always against her person)¬†demontrates the power of blogs and the internet to give voice to popular discontent that would have, in the past, only been revealed in careful surveys or in who DID NOT show up on election day.

As a political historian what fascinates me is the speed and ease which practically anyone can speak up against the powers-that-be via blogging. In my forthcoming book, BLOGWARS, I note that for huge swaths of human history we have little or no idea what the “people” thought about anything at all. Accordingly, historians seeking “history from below” must root around, for example, in the records of what Greek slaves said under torture, the letters and marriage contracts of Romano-Egyptian traders and soldiers found in garbage heaps, the accounts of medieval peasants interrogated by the Inquisition, and medieval criminals’ petitions for pardon.

I’m also interested in how blogs act like “Voluntary Associations.” Blogging allows interaction between individuals that could in turn accrete their common knowledge, focus their activism, recruit others and march–virtually–toward a goal. Such “smart mobs” or self-organizing networks are discussed by many researchers concerned with the sociology of cyberspace. In terms of politics, this is significant because while democracy is held to be based on and favor “individual” rights, democracies in fact tend to operate through the agencies of voluntary associations, that is, so-called “interest groups” like unions, the Sierra Club, the oil industry, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and, now, groups of bloggers self-aggregating to champion a cause, reveal a scandal, or pillory a politician. Such “voluntary associations” have always been foundations of the democratic experiment. Alexis de Tocqueville, that great student of the American political system, argued that a democratic “government…places each citizen, even the most humble, in a condition of [enabling him to act] with as much independence, and of making of his independence as much use as is available to the most exalted citizen.” But de Tocqueville was not referring to independence from other independents; the American Constitution that he admired affirms the right to form groups to “lobby” government. (Gun rights, for example, are linked to joining a “militia.”)

In 2003 blogs helped raise a candidate to prominence (Howard Dean) but his campaign did not prove able to push to victory. Perhaps in the years to come we will see a blog “voluntary association” try to sink a candidacy–that of Hillary Clinton. In irony: we can expect a rightblogswarm and a leftblogswarm with the same target.

Originally posted December 31, 2005 at PolicyByBlog

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