Democratic National Convention state blog selection dustup

Initial version crossposted at Pam's House Blend.

When the big announcement of the state blogs that will receive credentials to the Dem National Convention came down this week, there was an immediate buzz about the choices made by the DNCC.

The first controversy is over the unclear representation of minority bloggers in the state blogging corps. Francis L. Holland: Jim Crow Blogging at the Democratic National Convention?

I'm concerned that virtually all of the state blogs selected by the Democratic National Committee to cover Denver are white. Of course, it remains possibly that one of these white blogs will bring a Black person along as a blogger. But, Black bloggers and voters are not willing to wait until we arrive in Denver to find out whether a group of virtually all-white blogs will also send a group of all-white bloggers to Denver. We strongly suspect that we already know the answer, and it is totally unacceptable to us. Do any of these all-white blogs even have any Black bloggers who might participate? That's something we need to know before Denver.

This isn't the first time this issue has been addressed. When Bill Clinton met in Harlem with an all-white group of bloggers, Black bloggers were furious and Clinton's campaign never recovered. The Clinton campaign had insulted and alienated the very Black bloggers corps that it most needed to reach out and round up support from voters in Black communities.

(Also see African American Political Pundit, The 2008 DNC Bloggers Corp - No Diversity! Jim Crow at DNC ??)

On my blog I pointed out that BlueNC will represent Tar Heels, and explained to my readers why there won't be black representation from the state blog at the convention. Some obvious reasons - only one credential was received, and two, Betsy (and Frank Eaton as the alternate) are extremely well-versed in state issues, certainly more so than I, for instance, so it makes sense for them to go. It's kind of sad that you have to state the obvious for people, since it only ratchets up the bad communication we already have between racial minorities and the dominant culture.

It's not that I lack concern about minority representation in state blogs, particularly given the history of inattention to the contributions of black blogs in the broader political discourse in the blogosphere (and that painful Bill Clinton "whiteout" blogger luncheon in 2006 mentioned above), but many of the state blogs are community blogs. It's hard to tell, unless people self-identify, who is a minority.

Now I applied only as part of the general pool because the fact is that community blogs like BlueNC, with multiple contributors of various backgrounds and specialties re: state politics, are more logical choices than a national, issue-oriented blog like the Blend to represent the state. While I blog about NC issues some of the time, usually in the context of LGBT and race issues, that's not the overall purpose of the state blogger slot for the DNCC, as I see it - for whatever that's worth.

BlueNC is the blog most suited to represent NC progressive interests generally at the convention, and as I said, I do blog for BNC, so it's not as if there isn't any minority voice there. The bonus of being a credentialed state blog is that those selected will have floor access to that state's delegation, so a healthy diverse representation on the blogs is not unimportant.

As a candidate in the general pool, which will be announced at the end of the month, I think that list will probably generate even more heat than the release of state blogs, given the volatile nature of the blogosphere "A-List" -- and "everyone else" conflicts that erupt from time to time. I do, however, believe that the list will show better representation by bloggers of color and other groups in the general pool. I hope that I make the cut.

Celtic Diva, of the Alaska state blog chosen to go to the DNCC, Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis, made similar observations to mine about the state blog situation.

You can also see that most of them were very focused on state issues as well as national politics...many having or referring to their state in the name of the blog. The blogs chosen from the bigger states (generally) were the slick, multiple-contributor websites as they are the most-read blogs.

...I don't know how I could authoritatively declare that "there are" or "are not" any "black blogs" in the 50 State Blogger Corps when the ethnicities of many (if not most) of the contributors are impossible to determine based on a one-time or short-time viewing.

Of course, one had to apply or be nominated to be selected in the first place. I know that the two other blogs that applied to represent Alaska were not owned by people of color. Heck, the owners of the most popular blogs in the state...the ones that everyone thought would be chosen...didn't even apply because their work and family schedules prohibited it.

In any case, her last point raises an issue that I haven't seen much buzz on yet -- whether there were political factors that went into the decision of state blogs (outside of race). For instance, if you check out the list (see below), BlueJersey, with its award-winning contributors, wasn't selected to represent the Garden State (Politickernj was). That seems odd to me, given its high profile and progressive politics. Another blog making noise about politics being involved in the selection for Mississippi's blog rep is Cotton Mouth. John Leek:

Cotton Mouth has been the only progressive political blog covering Mississippi's politics at the federal, state and local levels since it started May of 2007. It had more posts than any other progressive Mississippi political blog and had far more original content than any other Mississippi political blog. That content included original reporting on events, analysis, aggregation, original video, exclusive candidate authored posts and a solid and consistent defense of the Democratic Party of Mississippi.

...We've had 33 posts so far THIS WEEK. The Natchez blog has had 24 posts so far THIS YEAR.

...Again I would like to point out that we do not hold any ill will toward Casey Ann [of the selected The Natchez Blog], but I think she'd agree that Cotton Mouth would be the choice on the merits.

We've been in contact with people who have told us that we were considered for the credential, but were vetoed by someone in Mississippi's Democratic Party. We are attempting to find out who that person is and why they felt we should not represent Mississippi. Any assistance in the matter would be greatly appreciated.

As you can see, nothing is a simple affair when you're dealing with political parties, and political grudges. The blogosphere has been sucked right into all of that mess.

UPDATE: I was asked over at my pad: I don't know what more we can do to get minority voices represented. I'd love to hear ideas on this. I don't have answers, just observations and suggestions.

I don't agree with Francis Holland that there should be a fixed representation of minority bloggers at the convention based on some kind of racial/population metric -- though I'm sure there are those who will disagree with me on this.

I think there should be more minorities blogging about state issues at those state blogs most likely to be selected, and this issue is avoided altogether. The question is, how are those people found?

I would suggest that blogs interested in "finding" minority bloggers see who's attending Blogging While Brown, a conference that will obviously bring together a lot of minority bloggers who don't show up on A-List blogs. I'm attending this conference, BTW.

There is a also list of the members of the AfroSpear, a community of African/Black progressive minded bloggers (ironically, the Blend is not on it).

There is a flip side to the coin - one state blogger said at a conference he asked some POC attending if they know any POC were writing about his state's issues, and said that he would love to add them to the roster. No one ever contacted him. Perhaps state issues haven't been as much of a concern for black bloggers (as opposed to general interest or national politics), for many on the list, therefore the pool is smaller and harder to identify.

We're talking about blogging state politics, and getting minorities interested in blogging local, not national issues -- how their legislature works, how city government works, knowing candidates involved in local and state races. How many minorities are blogging at that level? I have no idea. Clearly there are plenty of minority grassroots activists, but only a slice of them have the time and energy to devote to developing a regular online blogging presence in conjunction to all the hands-on work they do in their communities. Until those people are Net-activated, you're going to see that gap. Blogging, as I know full well, involves a lot of time, and if you have a day job and are an local activist in the field, I cannot imagine having the time to blog as well.

That's why outreach by state group blogs needs to continue; those with infrastructure for diaries (many on the selected do), make it possible for offline minority activist, pols, and groups contribute on occasion, rather than create a blog infrastructure they cannot keep current.

Here is the full DemConvention State Blogger Corps.


Amazing thoughtfulness

As always. I don't know how you find the time to think and write with such grace. But wherever you find it, I'm glad you do.

This is my first year in my adult life that I have not been a Democrat. As a newly unaffiliated voter, I'm starting to get a small taste of what it's like being a disenfranchised minority. It's a bitter taste, but one I'm willing to live with given the alternatives. I have no stomach for the two-party system any more.

the "problem" of straddling different constituencies

It's interesting, James. I frequently find myself at odds, depending on what I'm writing about, with members of the LGBT, racial minority, non-Southern, and feminist communities, particularly in the Left blogosphere. The bias coming from all angles is interesting, confusing, and frustrating all at once. It's as if I have no safe haven in any of these groups because each is confronted with the fact that my very existence (along with my opinions) challenges biases. I'm not saying I unique in my situation; that's hardly the case - I receive many emails of support from those who lurk, remain silent, and don't want to surface to deal with the BS. Maybe I'm a masochist for taking the arrows, but I just think by putting myself out there, at least people cannot put up blinders and pretend that one has to make a choice about what constituency takes primacy. I shouldn't have to choose.

Pam Spaulding
Durham, NC USA

Pam's House Blend

Pam Spaulding
Durham, NC USA

Pam's House Blend

More On the Dust-Up

Open Left says:

I keep hearing more and more rumors that state parties simply chose the blogs that got credentials for the Democratic National Convention. And the evidence seems to suggest that is the case. I mentioned Michigan as one of the problem cases, so I'll walk you through why the selection seems odd. The blog chosen to be credentialled was Blogging for Michigan, a progressive community blog. It is a good blog. But Michigan Liberal is far older and more established, with 737 RSS subscribers, a large number for a state-based blog. Moreoever, ML has over 2200 technorati links, while Blogging for Michigan has just over 1000.

BlueNC was the obvious choice for us! 8-)

But the issue brings up one of the perpetual dynamics of Party politics. There are always entrenched interests, and they always feel threatened by new people with new ideas.

Scrutiny Hooligans -