Saturday, August 26, 2006

Nicco Mele

A couple days ago, my friend Nicco Mele (most famous for being the webmaster for Dean for America, but also known as the founder at Echo Ditto) announced that he was supporting John McCain for president in 2008. Reaction was swift: Markos wrote him off. Zack Exley (formerly at MoveOn, and former tech guy at the Kerry campaign), while saying Nicco’s still his friend, wrote that he should be persona non grata in Democratic circles.

Throughout the day following Nicco’s announcement, I got IMs from friends from the Dean days, a few former Echo Ditto folks, and a couple clients of his who’ve stayed in touch with me over the years. Reactions were in line with Markos’s and Zack’s comments: a combination of surprise, disappointment, and some bitterness. “How could he do this?” and “What was he thinking?” were the most common refrains.

I think Nicco will find it quite a bit harder to get work in Democratic campaigns for a while. Indeed, as Harish Rao, Echo Ditto’s interim CEO, notes — Nicco’s taken an immediate leave of absence from his duties at Echo Ditto. The New Organizing Institute, a progressive group working to train grassroots activists, kicked Nicco off their advisory board late in the week.

That’s not particularly surprising, nor, in the political realm, is it really wrong. But what’s really frustrating to me are the ridiculous suggestions in the comments at DailyKos and elsewhere that Nicco must have dropped everything because McCain threw a pile of cash at him. As has been widely reported, Nicco’s not on McCain’s payroll. And as anyone who knows Nicco would attest (whether they consider him a friend or not), it’s his abhorrence of the influence of money in politics that lead him to think so highly of McCain. Whether McCain’s the right guy to carry that torch, and whether his other positions make him a candidate worthy of Nicco’s support, is an entirely separate matter.

I’ve been proud to consider Nicco a friend for over three years. To those who’ve suggested he’s abandoned his principles to support John McCain, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Misguided? Maybe. A sell-out? No way.

(Disclosure: After the Dean campaign ended, Nicco founded Echo Ditto and I did some paid consulting work for Echo Ditto, as the individual primarily responsible for running the Obama campaign weblog.)


  1. Kos and die hard partisan democrats had best not underestimate the power of McCain.

    I'm a lifelong democrat from a family of lifelong democrats. I run in pretty moderate circles and I know a *lot* of people who voted for Bill Clinton who have said point blank they'd vote for McCain--policy differences and all. Why? Because they have the impression (right or wrong) that he is a moderate who *actually believes* in the positions he takes.

    I have a feeling that to a lot of middle of the road democrats, someone who is honest--or at least perceived as being honest--will carry as much, if not more, weight than someone who agrees with them on all the issues.

    There are so many problems facing America today, finding a candidate that you agree with 100%, hell, even 75% is difficult, neigh, impossible. But it's pretty clear that moderates are tired of being lied to by the current administration and by many incumbent candidates, democrats *and* republicans.

    So if the democrats don't think someone like McCain would be a serious threat, someone that could pull a helluva a lot of moderate democrat votes, even with a few policy differences... well, then they still have their heads up their asses and someone's going to be eating their lunch.

  2. Dave -

    I don't think that's what's going on, at all. If anything, I think that many of the more partisan dems are worried about McCain's potential cross-over appeal (that was, after all, the primary talking point in 2000 when he was running against Bush: that he was appealing to moderate Democrats).

    What Zack Exley wrote about in his post about Nicco was about those "defections" - and the concern that their very presence can help give McCain more coverage as he leans increasingly right in his public persona. It's a savvy move on his part, and I don't think any Democrats are taking him lightly.


  3. I guess my problem is more with Kos (I hadn't read Exley's post, sorry). Frankly, I'm kind of getting tired of Kos. And you know I'm not alone... but that's another post.

    As for Exley's post, I have one problem with it... "threat of McCain winning with false bi-partisian appeal is very real".

    First, if McCain wins because of a swing in moderate democrat voters, the bi-partisan appeal is by definition not false.

    Second, the fact that moderate democrats would consider McCain says a lot. I would consider voting for McCain even though I *know* I disagree with him on some major policy issues. But there are also issues I _agree_ with him on.

    So what is Exley's point? Is he saying that a moderate would be a dupe for considering McCain? Then the dems need to step up and find a candidate who isn't a chump. I'm hopeful, but so far, who are my choices? Hope only goes so far.

    Or is he seriously trying to claim that McCain would perpetuate the current level of partisan bickering? I'm sorry, I don't buy that. Like him or not, McCain has reached out across the isle enough times to convince a moderate democrat like me that McCain means it when he speaks of bi-partisainship.

    I think it's fine (and probably sensible) for democratic organizations like NOI to distance themselves from Nicco. However, the reaction seems to me to point once again to the democrats addressing a symptom without working to cure the disease.

    Is the problem really that Nicco might support a *gasp* moderate republican candidate? Or is it that the democrats *still* haven't found a way--or a candidate--to appeal to the moderates in their own party?

    They'd better. That's what will cost them the election if they don't.

  4. Which honest and moderate Sen. McCain are we talking about?

    The one who recently said of Americans disgust with the occupation of Iraq, "They were led to believe this would be some kind of day a at the beach."

    Or the Sen McCain who had this interview with Chris Matthews on "Hardball:

    Matthews: Do you believe that the people of Iraq, or at least a large number of them, will treat us as liberators?

    MCCAIN: Absolutely.

    I guess that is what now passes for honest moderation in the Republican party today.

  5. "Austin Mayor"--

    As much as I am loathe to support anyone who supported the war in Iraq, that would rule out 98% of the potential democrat candidtates, too.

    And I think that being a _moderate_ means that there is more than one issue facing America right now, and I'm not likely to make a decision about *any* candidate simply on one position.

  6. It's not about supporting the war, its about cheerleading for the Bush invasion and then then pretending that someone else was responsible for our being up to our necks in Iraq.

  7. And to make the point--I supported the war more than most Democratic members of Congress and A-M and I get along fine.

    Of course, I admit I was a giant doofus for listening to this administration and thinking they had the competence to handle Afghanistan let alone Iraq.

    The difference is some people see the mistake (see Chris Shays) and others continue to deny there is a problem and give cover to the worst President in the history of this country.

    I've only met Nicco once and he's a nice guy. I tend to think Rick is write--he isn't selling out. He's horribly mistaken if he thinks packing the court with more Alitos and Scalias is going to help campaign finance reform, but everyone makes policy mistakes. See above.

  8. [...] But among bloggers who know Mele personally, fellow Dean alum Rick Klau stood up for him and identified as a concerned friend: To those who’ve suggested he’s abandoned his principles to support John McCain, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Misguided? Maybe. A sell-out? No way. [...]

  9. Why would they write him off for supporting McCain? McCain is as Democrat as they come.

    I predict a McCain/Lieberman ticket in '08.

  10. TRm,

    I understand that you right-wingers are incapable of understanding this, but I must remind you: the adjective form of "Democrat" is "Democratic."

    And now that Mr. Lieberman has been forced to run for Senate as an independent, it is clear that McCain and Lieberman are now equally Democratic, i.e. NOT Democratic.

    -- SCAM

  11. One more thing about the honorable Mr. McCain and then I'm out. From the AP:

    'U.S. Sen. John McCain riled Bob Jones University leaders in South Carolina’s nasty 2000 GOP presidential primary by criticizing the Christian fundamentalist school - known for its ban on interracial dating and its anti-Roman Catholic views - and George W. Bush for speaking there.
    'Now McCain says he would consider speaking at the school himself.
    '"I can’t remember when I’ve turned down a speaking invitation. I think I’d have to look at it," he told The State newspaper.
    'McCain, R-Ariz., says he would have to look at Bob Jones University’s latest policy statements. "I understand they have made considerable progress," he said.'

  12. "I understand that you right-wingers are incapable of understanding this, but I must remind you: the adjective form of “Democrat” is “Democratic.”"

    Thanks, but I know the difference which is why I intentionally say Democrat. There's nothing "Democratic" about the Democrat party these days.

  13. No, I just know that the left wing party is not democratIC and hence, shouldn't be referred to as such.

    But thanks for playing.

  14. [...] Then during the 2004 cycle, I worked as the webmaster for Howard Dean. This cycle (2008) after a false start, I’m excited to be working on [...]