Finally, there was no place left to hide. It was Super Tuesday, and in half the country the ballot box called. Forget the snarky asides and quirky comments and obscure links, it was time for lefty bloggers to decide. Clinton or Obama? Who will it be?
Sometimes it came down to something simple: "So why did I vote for Barack Obama rather than HRC? Because he gives a really nice speech." Sometimes, as in the way it divided young feminists from old ones, it left bitterness (A tasty sample: "Usually when I'm being accused of being some tee-heeing bimbo who is only playing at politics, it's usually by some conservative white dude who can't think his way out of a paper bag, but feels entitled to believe his every thought is gold served up with caviar. Hearing it from a fellow feminist, someone I recall was a brilliant radical feminist when she was my age, is shocking."
But for most bloggers the choice was a happy dilemma, a matter of choosing the better of two goods.
Frequently, the decision turned on policy differences, which sometimes trumped other big factors, like gender. In a post with more detailed reporting than a dozen newspaper endorsement editorials, hilzoy at Obsidian Wings notes that she follows "some issues pretty closely, and over and over again, Barack Obama kept popping up, doing really good substantive things" — on nuclear nonproliferation, avian flu, open government, ethics, technology policy. "I sometimes wonder why, exactly, people go on saying all this stuff about Obama lacking substance."
Ruth Rosen, another wonk, writes that "there is nothing I'd rather do than vote for the first female presidential candidate," but she finds Clinton too ready to join the Bush administration in punishing for poor women on public assistance and insufficiently passionate on ending the war in Iraq. "Before I was a feminist, I worked in the civil rights and anti-war movements. Supporting Obama fits those life-long commitments."
Iraq is frequently an issue but not always defining. In endorsing Clinton, Lambert at Corrente is unimpressed that Obama opposed the war from the beginning while Clinton supported it. "I don't think Hillary's going to get us into a second Iraq (Kyl-Lieberman notwithstanding), and I think she's going to get us out as fast as she can." Weboy argues that "Obama's rookie nature has been most pronounced" when he talks about foreign policy. "By contrast, Hillary Clinton has been detailed, focused, and clear."
Others, like Kevin at LeanLeft, see foreign policy working in Obama's favor. "He was correct about the war in Iraq and he has directly challenged the framing of the security issues." While making no endorsement, James Fallows at The Atlantic prefers Obama's positions and mindset, including his critique of "the current flat-earth idiotic US policy toward Cuba; she has defended it." Writing at Huffington Post, former Sen. Gary Hart notes that Clinton won't say she made a mistake on Iraq and "she permits the impression to grow that 'triangulation,' in matters of war, requires placing protection of political career over protection of the national interest." To Hart, Iraq is a character issue, too.
And it is on the intangibles and unknowables leadership, electability, the value of partisanship, the way real change happens that most bloggers make their choices.
"I know she will be a partisan warrior," writes Todd Beeton at MyDD. "I'm not ready to give up the fight that [the Republicans] started but that we've been waging over the past several years; I'm not ready to give in to the [David] Broders and [David] Brooks's who insist both parties are equally culpable in the havoc that the Bush administration and a Republican congress has wrought and that unity, in and of itself, is the answer."
"Unlike some in the race, Sen. Obama has made the idea of American unity one of the central principles that guide him," replies Oliver Willis. "While I am a fierce partisan, I have never liked the idea of a 50% president. It is simply unhealthy for our democracy to have a leader who acts as if half of the country doesn't exist. Not that he disagrees with them on principle, but actively governs and campaigns as if they are the enemy. Our union does not work with that sort of divisive leadership at the very top."
As George Lakoff writes, "For a great many Democrats, these are the real issues." No wonder they are having such a hard time making up their minds.