Got my copy of Eric Boehlert's Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press the other day and first thing I did, naturally, was open it to the index and do a mental CNTL-F for friends, acquaintances, rivals, secret crushes, and myself.
I'm not in it.
Didn't expect I would be. Why would I be? Eric's premise---and I feel comfortable calling him Eric because we're like that. We follow each other on Twitter.---is that the rise of the progressive blogosphere---the netoots---profoundly influenced both the last two national elections and the way the national media covered them, and I'm not part of the netroots. Not in any active way. I don't use the blog to organize or raise funds or get out the vote. I don't mind making it clear who's got my vote but I've never done it in the form of an endorsement, because who cares? My rants against Republicans, conservatives, quisling Democrats, and the journalists who love them are just me blowing off steam. I'm not leading or trying to lead in the attack. I don't have an issue or a theme. As much as I write about politics, I don't consider myself a political blogger at all or even a liberal one. I write about what's on my mind at the moment and that works against my influencing the debate---when other bloggers are tackling the big issues with fire and passion, if you click over here you're likely to find a review of Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
And I'm not sure that very many people with political clout even know I exist. Peter Daou has been a fan of the blog from way back and he's been very generous in arranging invitations to events that have brought me into contact with some seriously important people---I ever tell you about the time I made Hillary laugh?---and Austin Guest has kindly done a decent job of keeping me up to date on what's being done by the Progressive States Network. But when I attend their shindigs and to-dos I have a tendency to drift into a shadowy corner and gawk from there. It's not that I'm shy. It's just more fun to eavesdrop and spy than to schmooze. I'm there because I'm interested in them. Schmoozing is about making them interested in you, and that's work.
I did shake Ned Lamont's hand once though.
My sense, anyway, is that thanks to Jim Wolcott most of my readership lives and breathes outside the political world and that, for some reason, my readers include more scientists than politicians and journalists, and I'm proud of that.
But even if I was plugged in, and involved, and important, there's another good reason for Eric to have left me out of his book, despite the fact that we're like that---Did I mention we follow each other on Twitter?---Bloggers on the Bus isn't just about the rise and triumph of the netroots, Eric also tells the story of how the Progressive blogosphere almost tore itself apart during the Democratic primaries last year, and I stayed well out of that narrative.
Regular readers might remember that was rooting for Clinton in the primaries, but perceptive readers noticed that I really didn't care who won the nomination, Clinton or Obama. I didn't see they were all that different on the issues, I liked and respected the both of them, and I was pretty confident that either one would beat John McCain. Hillary would have done it differently, that's all.
I also thought and still think the prolonged primary campaign was good for the Party and ultimately good for Obama. That opinion, more specifically the irritation it seemed to cause my Obama-supporting readers and fellow bloggers, was the first clue I had that something odd and unpleasant was going on. But I sort of shrugged it off philosophically, figuring that once one or the other had the nomination in hand, the other's supporters would climb aboard the bandwagon. After all, it wasn't about us.
I guess I was sort of aware that bloggers on both sides were not distinguishing themselves, because I stopped reading a bunch of blogs I'd been in the habit of visiting regularly, pro-Clinton and pro-Obama. At any rate, I knew there was disagreement, but I didn't know the depth of bitterness and anger and resentment it caused. I still baffles me when I come across residual signs of that bitterness, anger, and resentment, when I read a post by a progressive blogger who seems to want an apology that Barack Obama has turned out to be what he always appeared to be or a one time Hillary-backer who seems to think Obama-supporters should be ashamed of the fact that President Obama is governing pretty much as President Clinton would have and even relying on the same set of advisers.
I'm not telling you this to impress you with my Olympian detachment and my ability to coolly rise above the fray---basically I'm admitting to be way out of the loop. Something weird happened and I missed it.
So I'm telling you this to let you know that a great chunk of the story Eric's telling in Bloggers on the Bus is new to me. Despite all the years I've put into this blogging biz, I'm learning things from the book. Frankly, a lot of what I'm learning isn't very heartening or inspiring. The netroots isn't a gathering of saints and heroes, and I never thought it was. But it's not fun finding out how unsaintly and unheroic some of us have been. On the other hand, few of us rise (or sink) to the level of villains and monsters either. Eric has unabashedly modeled his book on Timothy Crouse's great expose of the national press corps and the 1972 Presidential campaign, The Boys on the Bus , but the fact is that bloggers aren't great fodder for gossip, because basically what we do is stay home and read and type. Not a lot of drama or comedy in that, and very little sex, and what sex there is is virtual and that doesn't make for many steamy sex scenes. Maybe Eric should have waited until after the next election to write his book, when more of us have actually been on the bus and had the same opportunities to misbehave and make fools of ourselves the way the regular press corps does every four years.
On the other hand, it's good to see in print and in one place the story of how the Progressive blogosphere made itself what it is while its Conservative counterpart turned into Bizzaro World.
At any rate, the index lists the usual suspects. You can guess who they are. The Blue and Orange Satans figure prominently, of course. But so do Howie Klein, Chris Bowers, and Jane Hamsher. Digby gets her due, and, nothing against Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein, but I was pleased to find that Susie Madrak is in there and that she rates five pages to their single page apiece.
Four pages, 154-157, are devoted to another blogger I'm kind of fond of and those three pages contain my favorite passage in the book so far:
Hoosier feminists might be a rare breed, but McEwan became one. Raised in the Indiana blue-collar town of Portage by her stay-at-home mom and history-teaching dad, McEwan from a very early age was the kid asking uncomfortable questions and announcing that the answers were wholly insufficient. For instance, why could women at her Lutheran church teach Sunday school classes but not become ordained as ministers? That didn't make sense to her.
She'd been interested in politics from a young age. She remembered sitting in a circle in elementary school at the beginning of the year and kids taking turns telling what their dad did for a living. The most frequent answer was "My dad is laid off." McEwan asked her parents what that meant and they gave her an early primer in Reaganomics. With insight into how government and the choices made by politicians can affect everyday people in Portage, McEwan got hooked. "Growing up in Laid Offville was really got me interested," she told me.
Not bad. But I think I still prefer reading Wev's own work to reading about her.
Here she is on empathy:
Here, then, is the conservative view laid bare: Empathy and reason are mutually exclusive concepts. It is thus never reasonable to be empathetic.
And, truly, if one's worldview is structured principally of self-interest, empathy isn't reasonable, but is, in fact, a catastrophic risk to the privileged beneficiaries of an ideology built upon their informed lack of compassion and their rank-and-file's ignorant lack of compassion.
Empathy is what happens when racist white parents discover their child's best friend at school is black, and they begin to revisit their prejudices. Empathy is what happens when a homophobic woman finds out that male coworker she really likes is gay, and she begins to reconsider all those biases she's held for so long. Empathy is what happens when real life, real people, prove obviously, demonstrably wrong all those conservative bedtime stories about gays and immigrants and castrating feminazis that go bump in the night.
And here is on a conservative's demand that Sonia Sotomayor change the pronunciation of her name to make his life easier and how hard multiculturalism can be on conservative white men:
It makes them have to engage their precious brains for .03 milliseconds when pronouncing ethnic names of national figures—and soon all those .03 milliseconds will add up to one second, and that one second will add up to twelve seconds a year, and we can't be wasting precious white male brains for twelve seconds a year when they need to be focused on important things like discussing their favorite scene in Superbad.
We might not be saints and heroes, but some of us sure know how to turn a phrase.