But bottling the lightning of blogger authenticity is not easy. Many blogosphere activists suspect anyone signing on with a campaign of selling out. And in the era of drum-tight message control, campaigns are not inclined to tolerate the independence bloggers need to maintain their credibility.
Getting the marriage between campaign and blogger right is probably more important for Edwards than for any other Democratic candidate. The former vice-presidential candidate is moving hard to the left to differentiate himself from Clinton and Obama ahead of next year's primary contests. The blogosphere, with its surfeit of Democratic base voters, is a natural target audience: almost a third of the estimated 5 million daily political blog readers identified themselves as strongly liberal in a George Washington University study published last October.
The least tangible, yet most important, asset that bloggers bring to a campaign is their credibility with their fans, which is earned over years and gives their endorsement of a candidate real weight. Joe Trippi, who as Dean's campaign manager in 2004 employed up to six bloggers, says that letting the bloggers operate freely while on the payroll is crucial: he remembers cringing as he read Moulitsas' criticisms of Dean even as the campaign kept writing $2,500 monthly retainer checks.
Honesty requires biting the hand that feeds you when it's screwin' up.
Marcotte's pre-Edwards blogging oeuvre may have been provocative and profanity-laced, but it was still not far from the mainstream of the blood sport that is political blogging. And there is a welcome wonkishness to Marcotte, who, unlike some star bloggers, is not afraid to parse policy with her readers. Those qualities helped earn Pandagon, which will continue in the care of other bloggers while she's gone, a dedicated and sizable fan base. Marcotte has made it clear to her fans that working for a campaign requires a change in tone. "I know how the game works," she wrote in a recent post. "I'm more interested in helping my candidate win than anything—luckily we see eye to eye on most issues."
I think that last sentence says it all about why she quit so quickly. She wants Edwards to win and if bailing out to try and tamp down the uproar is required, so be it. I respect that.
If we liken the whole blogosphere to High School, which ain't that much of a stretch, I'm perfectly content to watch the BMOC and the jocks and the soshes run for student office, vie to be valedictorian, and stab each other in the back for whatever adolescent reason. I'm happy as a clam out here in the parking lot, sneaking a smoke and selling them their hubcaps back.