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.)