When Elizabeth Edwards is Speaking at BlogHer, I’m a Conservative

At church I’m a liberal.

I am repeatedly amazed at the complex nuances of personal political identity and the bizarre need we feel to categorize each other along party lines. This becomes confusing because the way I’m categorized changes dramatically depending on whom I happen to be sitting next to. In an LDS Sunday School class, I’m fairly liberal. In the BlogHer organization, I feel like some sort of right wing extremist.

elizabeth-edwardsElizabeth Edwards was the closing keynote speaker for the conference on Saturday afternoon. I knew in advance that I wouldn’t agree with many of her political views but was fascinated to hear her speak. She is an intelligent, strong, candid and passionate woman who has long been involved in blogging and maintains a blog on her husband’s campaign website.

I wanted to hear about how she balances personal opinion with the consolidated public message of a presidential campaign. I wanted to hear detailed examples of how the blogosphere is shaping political policy and how politicians are trying to carve out a niche online. I wanted to hear about her personal struggles with cancer and how she and Senator Edwards decided to carry on with the campaign. There were so many non-partisan issues I wanted her to cover in her speech.

However the questions very quickly turned to policy and much of the time was spent discussing her husband’s platform. The meeting came to feel very much like a campaign stop, with talk of how Senator Edwards’ positions differ from other leading democrats and even a statement that she assumed everyone in the room believed pretty much the same things with regards to women’s issues.

You cannot talk to a diverse room of women about your plan for universal healthcare and assume we all believe the same things. Growing up in Canada, I watched a friend’s mother die BECAUSE of socialized medicine. Although I want everyone to have access to health care, I’m not convinced that John Edwards’ plan is viable.

You cannot talk to a diverse room of women about your views on abortion, the Iraq War, gay marriage and other highly divisive issues and assume we all believe the same things.

Anytime we create an assumption of political consensus in a group of intelligent thinking adults, we’re headed for trouble. By saying, “I’m sure we all agree,” in essence what you’re saying is, “Any sane intelligent person would agree with me,” and I have a problem with that.

So although I vote for various parties at election time, register as a Democrat in the primaries and consider myself an independent, I raised my hand to speak to the fact that the discussion was being dismissive to conservatives. There was time for one more question and Elisa Camahort handed me the mic, potentially annoying several other eager people in order to let a conservative have a voice. I’m very grateful.

I’m not actually sure what I said since I was shaking at the time, standing in front of several hundred people and directly addressing the possible future first lady. The session video was uploaded to the BlogHer site but my question is strangely missing, an occurrence I assume was no more sinister than the video blogger running out of tape at the end of the session, but which strikes me as an odd coincidence.

Basically, I pointed out that the session had been dismissive to conservatives and that since I wasn’t planning on voting for her husband, I’d rather talk about blogging and technology than the specific policy of the Edwards campaign. My question was, “How many people review your blog entries before you post them to the internet?” Her answer was, “ZERO!”

I was amazed. With all the spinning and planning and message management that goes on in a presidential campaign, I am completely blown away that she is given total freedom to express herself on the Edwards 2008 website. Now I’m sure she is in constant contact with John and his many advisors and she’s smart enough to know which way the wind is blowing and where she should funnel it. Nonetheless, it was refreshing to hear this response from her.

Regardless of our political differences, I have great respect for Mrs. Edwards and feel strongly that she is sincerely doing what she feels is right and standing up as a bold force to promote her beliefs.

When I approached her at the cocktail party later that evening, she said, “I was just answering the questions in the room,” and it was true. She was just answering the questions in the room. I had a problem with the whole direction of the discussion, not her responses, and not the fact that she was a Democrat.

A friend (not a conservative, if that makes any difference) came up to me after and said she had the same problem. The whole discussion was too political and party-specific for such a diverse group, especially for the closing keynote of a blogging conference.

She gave the analogy that it was similar to inviting the head of Google to be the closing speaker and then letting him spend most of the time fielding questions about how to use Blogger software.

At the end of the closing session, someone asked me, “If a Republican had been the speaker and the conversation had gone the same way, would you have called her on it too?”

Absolutely yes. Although it’s hard to imagine that I’d need to. With the number of bold articulate women of the left in that group, people would have been tripping all over themselves to bring the discussion back on track.

I’ve heard Lisa Stone say that BlogHer is a nonpartisan organization and that if you have a different opinion, you should stand up and make it known. I often think those of us with leanings to the right feel so outnumbered that we’re afraid to speak up. I for one do not want to turn my site into a political blog because I enjoy the fact that I have a diverse group of readers and I like DaringYoungMom as a place for us all to come and be silly together.

However I’d like to be more of a catalyst for diverse political discussion among female bloggers in the future, if not on my personal site, then elsewhere.

Julie Marsh has written about this over at The Imperfect Parent and you can see most of Elizabeth Edwards’ interview on the BlogHer site, minus my question at the end. This is cross-posted to BlogHer.org.

This entry was posted in blogher07, elizabeth edwards, get serious, women. Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to When Elizabeth Edwards is Speaking at BlogHer, I’m a Conservative

  1. Azucar says:

    Oh boy, oh boy, do I get the liberal at church, conservative elsewhere life.

    Isn’t it fun to be independently minded?

  2. “I have no idea why the mommy blogosphere is over-run by liberals. Most of these moms stay home, a luxury afforded to them by our capitalistic soceity. They want redistribution of wealth, until they find out that means cutting out luxuries like Gymboree classes for little Johnny and Sue. (Humph!)”

    Some of us “liberals” stay at home because we couldnt begin to afford for me to work and give my boys the care I think they deserve. We give up a lot of luxuries and sometimes necessities because we just cant afford it period. I drive a 7 year old blazer and my hubbys truck is 20+ and runs on a sometimes basis. But we are blessed that he makes enough to cover our mortgage and the blazer will be paid off in 2 months and we fight paycheck to paycheck, but I hear often from others how spoiled I must be to stay at home….yeah I am spoiled enough I am praying with our tax return and the 99 honda my grandma is giving me we might be able to afford a newer car next spring.

    I say I am liberal because in the heartland here I am usually classified that way, I would like to see us offer better healthcare to everyone who deserves it and personally I would like to see our government treat motherhood like some of the European countries where moms are paid a stipend to stay home with their toddlers usually thru age 4. Even if its only 100$ a month, some months that is the difference for us being able to afford the increase in gas prices over the last couple of years.
    I do however totally agree that at a conference such as I am assuming blog her is, politics should have been out of place.

  3. Mom-101 –
    You think children should be healthy and well fed!? Not with my tax money you di-int! HALIBURTON RULES!

    Seriously though. I do think any sane intelligent person would want those things. I appreciate you suggesting that she may have been speaking about basics. Because of the partisan politics that had been discussed up to that point and the fact that it was prefaced with discussion about how Mrs Edwards and Senator Clinton believe most of the same things, I had my partisan hat on and didn’t give her the benefit of the doubt.

  4. Johnathan says:

    Inferring that Elizabeth Edwards was making a politically-laden statement with her “pretty much believe the same things” remark is more reasonable than assuming assuming she wasn’t. If I were addressing a conference of, say, citrus-farmers, and I said “I bet most of you here would like some support when times got tough and to get high prices for your crops”, I suppose you _could_ assume I was making a bland, pointless statement. But if I was the representative of a politician known for advocating federal citrus price hikes and increased farm bailout packages, it would be disingenous to suggest that I wasn’t implying something more specific. Grice’s Conversational Maxims and all.

  5. canape says:

    Clicked over from Jenny, and I’m glad I did. After reading your post, I have much more respect for what you were asking. I have to admit, within the session, I didn’t hear it this way.

    By starting the question with the comment about dismissing Conservatives and being sure to tell her you weren’t going to vote for her husband, it gave it an accusatory slant – like when you put someone on the defensive. When throughout the keynote, she was only answering the questions she was asked, as you pointed out in your post.

    I felt like the tone and wording of the question you asked (How many people review your post before submission) sounded like you were trying to catch her in something. Like you thought you were about to expose a secret that she really isn’t her own person. I totally missed that you were trying to bring the conversation back to technology and blogging. It’s possible that your opening statement swayed my judgment on that though, which brings me to my original point.

    I agree with you. The pass the mic strategy didn’t work well at all. If they wanted people to ask questions, they should have had them submitted beforehand, and chosen intelligent questions from a broad range of attendees. That way, there could have been equal representation of all the unique people we had in the room, and the session could have stayed more on track without turning into a just a campaign stop without discussion of blogging and technology.

    I am really curious to know why your question doesn’t appear at the end of the video on Blogher.

  6. Kellyology says:

    Really enjoyed this post. I myself live in an extremely conservative state and city, and I am often perturbed by the assumption that people in my area have regarding my religious and political beliefs. I, most days in dealing with other adults in my area, am most often odd person out. And I feel obligated to keep my mouth shut as to not offend people or to avoid getting attacked. It is absolutely exhausting!

    I found it very interesting when reading this entry to find that the exhaustion over and irritation concerning these assumptions go both ways. Because I live where I live, I sometimes forget that not everywhere I am the minority.

    For me this is a great lesson. I hope that all, whether conservative, liberal or somewhere in the middle, enjoyed getting the lesson as much as I have.

  7. Eve says:

    The Elizabeth Edwards interview wasn’t the first time I feared for Kathryn’s life at the conference. I like having a friend that isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right, no matter who may try to steal her under we@r that night!

  8. Reesie says:

    Well, I was psyched you stood up because I’d read a post of yours (about looking good at Target) and nearly died laughing, but then I lost the link to your blog. I could remember it was something about a trapeze, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it. When you stood up, I said (rather loudly I’m embarresed to say),” THAT’S Her! and quickly typed the URL in my browser and book marked it.

    I am a devoted democrat, and have given some thought to voting for Senator Edwards, BUT I was pleased you asked your question. The path of the discussion made me uncomfortable in what I new to be a diverse group. Unlike Canape, I did not take your statement before the question as an attempt to slight Mrs. Edwards. I thought you were trying to bring the conversation back to a more appropriate focus.

    As for the woman from Texas, my recollection was that the questioner said she was a DEMOCRAT from Texas and that is when Mrs. Edwards said “I’m sorry”.

    I lead a group at the unConference on Sunday about future BlogHer events and Jory Des Jardins was anxious to hear feedback. Several of us (from diverse perspectives) commented on the campaign feel of the Elizabeth Edwards keynote, although we acknowledged that she did just answer the questions asked.

    Keep posting my daring friend. You make me laugh and think and I sincerely appreciate people who can do booth.

  9. Jenn says:

    Reesie, just for clarification, I was at the table with the woman who said she was from Texas and after reading this I went to her to ask her words to be sure I was correct in what she said. She specifically did NOT say she was a Democrat. She just said she from Texas which was then followed by Elizabeth Edward’s “I’m sorry!”

    Just to clarify.

  10. Lesley says:

    I am fairly new to your blog and liberal or conservative, I find you truly real and very funny!! :0] Though I don’t know much about BlogHer, I am glad that you stood up and voiced your opinion. I also am glad that you blogged so fairly about your experience. Keep bloggin’ and I’ll be back to ‘visit’ with you again. :0]

  11. I can agree with Jenn. I did not ever identify myself as “democrat.” I make sure never to identify myself politically in situations such as that one.

  12. Barbara says:

    At church, when I go, I’m a liberal. At Blogher, I was a Canadian thinking I would learn about blogging in the midst of a political campaign. Thank goodness for your question or I would have gotten nothing from the session except for the shock of everyone leaping to their feet and applauding as though some star (I’m not good with pop culture, you pick one) had entered the room. I’ll vote Green again – environmental but fiscal conservative – in the next election but be back here much sooner than that.

    Thanks for the question and the post.

  13. Amanda says:

    Why can’t we all just get along? While I love the premise of all this, I just want to meet one friend.

  14. Syd says:

    As a conservative lesbian (I know, go figure), I find myself in similar situations, though on a much smaller scale. Great job of articulating your position. This is an important conversation. Thank you.

  15. Dana says:

    Interesting thoughts….I wasn’t there, but have enjoyed reading about it.

    I was wondering what her speech would be like…coming from someone who has no “leanings” to the right, but sits there rather firmly. : )

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