One problem with the echo chamber of the liberal blogosphere is that minor ideas get overly amplified. Bloggers pick a position and then the echo chamber convinces them this is the only sensible course. They fail to realize that the consensus reached in the liberal blogosphere represent the views of only a tiny percentage of voters. All too often, variation from this consensus is branded as moving toward the center or failing to take on the enemy, failing to see that poor strategy reduces the chance for success, and rephrasing the message is not the same as changing the underlying principles.
We’ve seen this with the IWR vote, as some bloggers confused this with support of the war, weakening the anti-war movement by falsely labeling some opponents of the war as pro-war. We are seeing a repeat of this wasted effort and conflict over Russ Feingold’s proposal to censure Bush.
Virtually nobody in the liberal blogosphere believes that George Bush does not deserve to be censored, and most would prefer impeachment. There is also agreement in the blogosphere that warrantless wiretaps of Americans should be stopped. A majority of voters agree with the second (opposition to the warrantless wiretaps) but less support censure. Undoubtedly support for censure would increase should full hearings be held on the wiretaps. The party which supports privacy rights and rule of law can win in November. The party which screams for censure will be more loved by the blogosphere, but reduces its chances for victory.
It would seem to make the most sense to concentrate on demanding hearings on the wiretaps. This, not censure, is the actual issue. This is where we have the support of the voters. All the talk of censure is just noise which is distracting from the main goal and would be more appropriate after all the evidence against Bush is laid out.
Matt Yglesias wrote in support of censure, asking “So how about a column by someone — anyone — trying to explain why the president does not, in fact, deserve to be censured for his lawbreaking ways?” The point is that virtually no liberals disagree that Bush deserves censure but some do question the strategy. As Kevin Drum responded:
I agree with Matt that Feingold’s censure motion probably isn’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but his post also highlights my biggest problem with the whole affair: it’s not increasing public awareness of the NSA’s domestic spying program. All it’s doing is increasing awareness of Russ Feingold’s censure motion.
I’m sure someone can point to an exception somewhere, but so far every single column or news story I’ve read on the subject has been about (a) Feingold the maverick and whether this helps his presidential chances, (b) the disarray his motion has caused in the Democratic party, (c) whether the censure motion was politically smart, or (d) Republican glee that Feingold has shifted attention away from all the things that were hurting them.
Is this really helping convince the public that Bush deliberately and repeatedly violated the law when he approved the NSA program? I’m not seeing it. Political theater is only useful if it actually shines the spotlight into the dark corner where we want it shined, and Feingold’s censure motion doesn’t really seem to have done that. Instead of pinning our hopes on yet another bright and shiny silver bullet, maybe there’s a place for all those boring hearings and investigations after all.
It doesn’t really matter if blogs devote space to censure as space in the blogosphere is virtually unlimited and such discussion doesn’t prevent discussion of the underlying issue. Space in the mainstream media is more precious. The media will ignore stories of consequence for the political horse race every chance they get. By turning the story into one of Russ Feingold’s political prospects, George Bush is getting a break he does not deserve.