Why Obama Doesn't Bother With Blog Outreach and Why McCain Does

The Washington Times published an article on how McCain is allowing bloggers on his conference calls. And not just conservative ones, but non-political bloggers and even liberal bloggers.

This has caused a certain stir amongst liberal bloggers, because Obama doesn’t invite us to his calls, and never has. Clinton does, but she certainly doesn’t invite conservative bloggers.

So, let’s lay this out simply and get past the “participation” BS.

Progressive national bloggers as a group did not go pro-Obama until Edwards dropped out. Also, in most cases the readers were pro-Obama first, not the other way around. Obama reached our audience without going through us, and sees no reason to bother with outreach to us. Bloggers who now support Obama do so despite the fact that Obama can’t be bothered to do blogger outreach.

Obama only works with groups who can deliver votes he can’t easily get on his own. So SEIU has a voice. We do not because we did not deliver our readers, he got them on his own.

The two things we can do for Obama that matters are media pushback and atacking McCain. But we will do those things whether he’s nice to us or not, and he may not even appreciate us attacking McCain, since he very clearly wants top-down control over message with no freelancers.

There is zero ROI on spending any time on us, for Obama, at least in the short term. Therefore Obama doesn’t spend any time on us. He also, personally, finds us boring, and has said so.

This will come back to bite Obama if or when he’s president and the bloom is off, and he finds he has few real friends amongst bloggers and thus amongst those who have some influence with the base. But that’s a year and a half to two years down the road. I doubt he’s thinking it through that far, or he may think that his charisma and skill is such that he can keep his followers so happy that they will scream us under if we dare criticize him when he, say, leaves a huge residual force in Iraq (or whatever.) I doubt it, because most bloggers will really only turn on Obama when the base starts being disillusioned. But, as I say, that’s a long way out and is irrelevant to him right now.

As for McCain, his brand is “trust” and “transparency”, that he has nothing to hide, that he’s a man of honor and that he’ll tell you to your face if he doesn’t agree with you. Opening up calls, for him, is a no brainer. He has rarely tried to directly control the media, he has instead tried to make them like him, knowing that people don’t throw their hardest punches at people they like. By treating bloggers with respect, McCain hopes that they will treat him somewhat more gently than they would otherwise. He isn’t thinking “oh, Liberal bloggers will endorse me”, but he is thinking that if he treats bloggers well, they may occasionally hesitate before delivering a swift kick to the rhetorical nads and then hit somewhere slightly less painful.

Since bloggers, like the media, are human, I daresay McCain is right. People treat others the way they are treated””this is the basic rule of human reciprocity. Should it be this way? Of course not. But human nature is human nature, and McCain is working with it, not against it.

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Ian Welsh

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  • thing I am uncomfortable with here is that the author seems to think that bloggers as whole are “special”. To my way of thinking, blogging is simply another way of communicating. That “bloggers” think so much of themselves that they can feel themselves “snubbed” smacks of hubris to me. McCain panders…so does Clinton. Either of them will say whatever they think their audience wants to hear. That’s partly what makes them “likeable”. People who manipulate others are often very “likeable”. I don’t know what sort of president Obama will be, but personally I much prefer someone in the office who is thoughtful, rather than someone who is “likeable”.

  • but I’m at least heartened by his media and communications platform, the only really progressive and popularly democratic feature of all his policy positions. I agree completely with your assertions. But the failure of “progressive national bloggers” IMHO was not uniting behind Edwards early. There are a lot of ifs, and I don’t think it means Edwards would have gone on to secure the nomination but he probably would have been in up to Super Tuesday, continuing to take votes from Hillary (and Obama). Then Obama would have needed the blogosphere more than an Edwards endorsement. IF IF IF???

    …and as far as McSame. I recently saw him on the John Stewart show. We receive the shows between a week to two late so I don’t know when the show aired stateside. But when Stewart finally “went after” McCain he warmed him up for a good few minutes, explaining, “hey, I’m going to throw you this really really soft ball up in the air, here it comes, are you ready? Ok, here it is…” (vomit in my throat). I was astounded.

  • When a mere eight large corporations control the entirety of the U.S. broadcast media, blogging is NOT “simply another way of communicating.”

    For me, blogging is a form of insurrection. I can get out ideas that are usually squelched by the corporate news media – such as the idea that the U.S. manufacturing base has collapsed so badly we may not be able to achieve 20 percent wind energy by 2030.
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/5/14/17722/3424/955/515691

    Or the idea that if we are going to get really serious about changing economic paradigms, we better start thinking about military action against Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man, and other corners of the British Empire.

    And the blogs are where many stories originated, which took weeks or even months to appear in the corporate media. Go back and compare how much material there is on the financial crises before the bailout of Bear Stearns on the blogs compared to the MSM.

    Obama’s unwillingness to “reach out” to the blogs is another indication that his time in the Ivy League moved him from the radicalism of street organizing to the elitism of the ruling class. Already, there are signs that the “free trade” corporatists are falling over each other in their rush to get the Democratic Party to do their bidding:

    Frustrated by Bush’s failures, many in the business elite want to return to the softer empire of corporate globalization and, increasingly, they are looking to the Democrats to navigate this return. As a measure of this – the capitalist equivalent of voting with their feet – political analyst Kevin Phillips notes in his new book, Bad Money, that, in 2007, “[h]edge fund employees’ contributions to the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee outnumbered those to its Republican rival by roughly nine to one”.

    (from DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA: How to rule the world after Bush, By Mark Engler, May 20, 2008 http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/JE20Dj09.html )

  • doesn’t reach out to the blogs and is systematically choking money off to independent, but democratic aligned organizations which he feels he doesn’t need and/or can’t control. Blogs is just one part of it (I’ve written about the other part, also.)

    Actually, on blog calls with Clinton I didn’t find they said what they thought you wanted to hear, as far as that goes. Quite the contrary. Not to say they never pander, they certainly do. But they never pandered to blogs, they just included them in the conversation.

    And anyone who thinks Obama never panders, well, I’ve got this bridge, see, and it’s very reasonably priced.

    As for hubris, virtually every other campaign had bloggers on some of their calls, at least. And that makes sense, because bloggers have an audience. Not to mention, millions of people. You wouldn’t cut off journalists with the exact same circulation, why bloggers? (Well I’ve told you why, and except for the fact that Obama is acting out his disdain for blogs, it has nothing to do with integrity, and everything to do with power and control.)

    Obama had best win, because he’s telling a lot of people (not just bloggers) “I don’t need your help”. And when you look at state rather than national polls, y’know what, he’s currently losing to McCain. When you tell people to shove it, you don’t need their help, failure is not an option.

    Say what you will about Clinton, but I don’t know anyone who thinks she’d be choking of money to independent small-d groups, or freezing out constituencies she doesn’t control. The blogosphere went mostly Obama, but Clinton kept her outreach.

    *shrug* I’ll support Obama, of course, and tell folks to vote for him, and so on. So will every other prog-blog, even the hard-core Clintonistas. But he’d better win or he won’t have a lot of friends to cushion him in his fall from grace.

  • some reasons why prog-blogs didn’t unite hard behind Edwards, and they have a lot to do with the Edwards campaign. Plenty of blame on both sides on that issue.

  • *very* suspicious of anything published by the Moonie Times under teh guise of “news”.

    Like anybody else, Obama talks to bloggers when he has something that needs to be communicated through them, and when he has nothing that needs be put out through that channel, he doesn’t.

    the Times is trying another avenue to put out the “Obama is Elitist” meme that the Republican’ts have been putting extra effort behind since just before Pennsylvania.

    Let them yammer—it’s just the sound of hyenas preparing to attack their own, once this, like other messages fails to catch in the more mainstream media.

    -5.75,-4.05
    “We’re all fucked. It helps to remember that.” –George Carlin

  • heard the exact same thing from other bloggers. This story is simply correct, no matter who it comes from.

    And no, Obama does not deal with bloggers the same as everyone else. That is simply a fact, he virtually never, ever, communicates with them and on the rare occasion when his staff does it tends to be extraordinarily pro-forma.

    I have dealt with the Edwards, Obama, Clinton and Dodd campaigns this cycle. I am familiar with the different styles, and Obama is simply the one who has the least outreach, to the point where it’s not far different from having none.

    McCain is, in fact, being more open than Obama. That doesn’t mean what he’s saying is good, just that he’s more open.

    As for Obama, this is a combination of strategy (top-down communications control, squeezing out anyone who might go off message) and personal disdain, which he has not concealed. It may well be the right strategy, I know many people who think it is, including bloggers. But right or wrong, it’s what he’s doing.

  • I think that is a very big part of it.

    Another factor is that blogs tend to be post consumer news.
    Rehashing, rewording and repeating the news in it’s various forms.
    Why bother with the niche market when he gets major market play and has a massive boots on the ground force?

    I think that there is more danger than benefit to him at this point.
    I am willing to bet that this dynamic will change come the GE.
    After all, fanning the flames of inter-party rivalry is a bit counter productive. The liberal nature of the blogoshpere will be a lot more useful in a GE when “our team” winning is a unifying goal.

  • ego is certainly involved. Blogging is ego centric by it’s very nature.That aspect is very much a reason I enjoy reading blogs.
    By regular folk for regular folk. These folk just happen to be more prolific and visibly opinionated than most of us.

    The fact is that there are a lot of “special” bloggers out there who’s take on things I really appreciate. Who’s perspective gets me thinking more about subjects that are ignored, or briefly touched on in the MSM.

    Ian is certainly one of these folk. For that matter, the Agonist has more than it’s fair share of “special bloggers” Sean-Paul was a huge influence on my continued sanity through the early days of the Iraq Invasion.

    Yes. Some of these writers are indeed important and special.
    Blogs are a niche certainly. The medium is still very young but the influence continues to grow at an exponential pace.

    Ian makes some good points. The influence of blogs may be fairly small compared to their potential but it would be short sighted to leave them out in the cold. I personally think that we will see more interaction from the Obama campaign in the coming months. To not do so would be a strategic error.

  • Obama posts on Huffpost when he wants to, and they get exclusive coverage. He has ceased to post on Daily Kos, and while it might be because the language there is often vituperative and vulgar and not at all inclusionary, it is also possible that his campaign is suspicious of Markos and his ego tripping attempts to be a powerhouse in the party through fund-raising and influence. There are a few other liberal blogs with large audiences, but other than maybe 5 blogs total with such reach, why should he bother? His model is all about communicating directly to his supporters without any media filter. Isn’t this something we have been hoping a Democratic candidate would achieve?

    Once he is in office, is it really in the interest of the netroots to be a cheerleading arm for his administration? Is that our purpose? Or would the body politic be better off with a blogosphere that remains skeptical, mostly negative about the federal government, and willing to keep his administration on its toes?

  • If he were to charm or patronize us with phone call conferences .. that still wouldn’t make him a progressive and we’d still complain about that. Him communicating with “us” doesn’t necessitate any successful degree of lobbying on our part.

  • deliberately refusing to see the point. Not talking to people is a sign of what you think about them and what you think about their priorities.

  • 1) He will leave a significant residual force in Iraq.
    2) He will not enact universal healthcare of any variety
    3) He will not hold anybody responsible for what happened, but will push everything under the rug for “healing”.
    4) His economic policies will be essentially neoliberal, at best.

    He’ll be good on some things:

    1) Open government (well, relatively open, compared to Bush)
    2) Telecom policy

  • … he has actually stated a position on that, yes. I agree with the list generally but, I wonder if he would derail Congressional attempts to hold people accountable.

    This an area I think the Netroots should push for as long as it takes. It’s not something he can easily brush aside with the crimes being so egregious.

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