August 12, 2005


The New Litmus Test (Dean Barnett, 08/12/05, The Weekly Standard)

CNN political commentator Bill Schneider is many things, but a dispenser of new and original insights he is not. So when even the avuncular cable analyst noticed the rise of the left-wing political blogs last week, it suggested that the ascendancy of the liberal blogosphere has gone from conventional wisdom to cliché.

What had caught Schneider's eye was the role blogs played in the special congressional election in Ohio's second district. [...]

[A] strange dynamic took hold in the special election. The Republicans nominated a veteran state senator, Jean Schmidt, who according to both friend and foe was a lackluster politician who subsequently ran a lackluster campaign. [...]

The Democrats, on the other hand, nominated political neophyte Paul Hackett to be their standard bearer. [...]

In the Hackett race, the bloggers who got involved proved themselves to be much savvier readers of the political landscape than the pros at the DCCC. While the DCCC was still considering the race hopeless, blogger Bob Brigham accurately perceived the effect the Hackett/Schmidt dichotomy would have on the race's dynamics and knew the battle was winnable.

So while Brigham got involved and ultimately blazed a trail that would soon be followed by other, more prominent, left-wing blogs like the and Daily Kos, the DCCC remained on the sidelines. When Hackett went on to lose the race by fewer than four points, the blogosphere's rage against the DCCC for staying out of the action until the final few days was palpable.

Again, Bob Brigham led the charge, rather colorfully expressing his anger. When the DCCC's in-house blogger "Jesselee" posted a bland thank-you/looking-to-the future essay on the MyDD, Brigham responded:

My perspective on the OH-02 election is that the DCCC was f***ing irrelevant because you were too cowardly to fight early. When Hackett came to you at the beginning, you blew him off. When he won the primary, you looked at the numbers and sat on your ass. When you did come in, it was great--but way too late.

I love the ad you did, it would have been nice for people to see it before the final weekend. The DCCC sent some serious people at the end and they kicked ass, but it was too little, too late.

You f***ed up, the blogs stepped up, and EVERYONE saw that your cowardly targeting was total f***ing bull***t.

Right now, I think the DCCC is totally f***ing irrelevant (members of the media can quote me on that as some of your colleagues already have). Get your s**t together [...]

With an increasing likelihood that Democratic politicians might play to the blogs, it makes sense to ask what kind of politician and what kind of politics will appeal to the liberal virtual masses. On this score, Paul Hackett provides an invaluable case study.

Hackett was definitely a moderate. He never promised an end to the war in Iraq and never adopted any truly "progressive" causes. While he didn't say, "Read my lips--no new taxes," he did repeatedly belittle his opponent's tax-hiking ways. One would have to scan his website rather aggressively to find any mention of the fact that he is Democrat. Yet the left-wing bloggers loved him. Why?

While Hackett shared little with the liberal blogosphere in terms of substantive positions, they did have one thing in common--a mutual fondness for bilious and spiteful rhetoric. While some may cherish Hackett's bluntness, the attorney's choice of words at times made him sound as though he was channeling Michael Moore.

During the campaign, Hackett referred to President Bush as a "chicken-hawk son of a bitch." Later, Hackett posited that the president posed a greater danger to the United States than any other threat.

It's getting so that Democrats will need permission slips from their parents before running campaigns anymore. Posted by Matt Murphy at August 12, 2005 2:47 AM


Hackett gave the Dems the military cred that they so badly desire. I hate to question the motives of a fellow Marine who served bravely and honorably, but I got the sense that he volunteered for the tour in Iraq at least partly to gain battle credentials to boost his political career, a la John Kerry.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 12, 2005 10:15 AM

So the Democrats can win only if they put up the evil, bloodthirsty neo-Nazi goons from Abu Grahib to run on the "Bush=Hitler" platform.

As Mr. Spock would say, "Illogical."

Posted by: Mike Morley at August 12, 2005 11:02 AM

Hackett belittled Schmidt for hiking taxes? He was quoted as saying he wouldn't mind paying more and he thought everyone else should, too.

Now, taxation is certainly a debatable subject, but to talk about it this way (like Hillary has sometimes) is very revealing. It marks Hackett further out of the mainstream than Walter Mondale, for example.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 12, 2005 11:49 AM

It was Rush who exposed Hackett, who campaigned as a supporter of the war and the president, as an anti-war Bush hater.

Why didn't the GOP in Ohio do a slam dunk on him so more people would have gone out to vote?

Posted by: erp at August 12, 2005 11:55 AM

Because the GOP in Ohio is bloated and inefficient, and (rightfully) ticked that the establishment candidate, Pat DeWine, lost the primary because the Stupid Party was being the Stupid Party and throwing a fit over the Gang of 14 deal.

Posted by: Timothy at August 12, 2005 12:52 PM

And so that's why the Dems won, right?


Well, so, in a very narrow and technical sense and due to an overzealous and overly literal reading of the term, they did not actually "win" per se. Nonetheless, I think we all can chalk up Ohio as a moral win for the Dems. We can expect to see a lot more elections where Democratic candidates disguise their party affiliation in order to narrowly lose against weak Republicans.

It used to be that liberals shied away from the "L-word." In the future, whenever I hear a candidate saying something like "I think labels are misleading" I won't be able to tell if he's a liberal Democrat or a, ummm, liberal Democrat. All I'll know is not to vote for him.

Posted by: Steve Skubinna at August 12, 2005 8:25 PM

Steve Skubinna:

Yes -- when you're running from labels, you're running scared.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at August 13, 2005 1:31 AM