The Netroots Delusion

I did a post criticizing Big Tent Democrat over at TalkLeft, and commenter Coldtype questioned how I could possibly disagree with his deep wisdom.In the comments thread below the post I criticize, a commenter pretty clearly summed up the Netroots position, quoting what I assume is a diary on Kos (searched, couldn’t find it, links welcome):

“Intuitively, you are saying to yourself, “How can we expand our party by kicking people out.” Sometimes logic is counterintuitive. It’s very simple. These DLC types represent 1-2% of the American people. That’s 3-6 million individuals and yes their votes count. But if we kick these 3-6 milllion people out and show the American people that we will not tolerate bad Democrats who sell out the middle class to special interests, we’ll gain 40 million new voters.”

In a nutshell, that’s the Netroots fantasy – on the Right as well as the Left, I must say. That if only the party can be more pure, if only they will be more left (or more right), the masses alienated from current dirty, impure politics will rise up and back them.

It’s an electoral version of the Vanguard fantasy.

Now let’s go to recent American political history, and see where this has actually worked.

I can pick three elections.

Paul Wellstone, 1990
Jesse Ventura, 1998
Arnold Schwatrzenegger, 2003

Can you think of any others?

Now each of them has particular features that make it different from the others.

But you know, a 66% chance that the mass of alienated voters will break center-right (which is the only way I can describe Ventura and Wellstone Ahnold) as opposed to a 33% chance that they will break left seems like a mediocre bet.

Now I agree wholly that many people are alienated from politics, and I’ll even agree with many of the commentators as to why.

But it is simply and completely a fantasy that if they all came into politics, they’d be standing behind the banner of progressivism (or radical conservatism). There isn’t any evidence at all in the polls that that’s the case.

Sorry about the typo re Schwartzengegger/Wellstone…they did look a lot alike, so I’m sure it’s understandable…

32 thoughts on “The Netroots Delusion”

  1. I’m not sure how you can argue the Governator into that pattern to begin with.

    He ended up in office precisely because the particular circumstances allowed an end-run of the OC/paleocon faction that had been dominating California Republican primaries. And they are still complaining that Ahnuld is a RINO (true in some regards).

    If anything, the Schwarzenegger precedent works directly against the nutroots prescription. He triumphed by doing exactly the opposite – bypassing the zealots and winning.

  2. Tim – that’s exactly the argument I’m making – that the ‘masses’ are orthogonal to the netroots on either side. If that didn’t come through in the post, I may have to do some editing.

    A.L.

  3. Not sure I understand the paragraph describing Wellstone as center-right. Am I understanding the percentages wrong or did you mean Ventura and Schwartzenegger?

    Other than that, I agree with your post. This reminds me of John Ralston Saul’s riff on rationalism in his book The Doubter’s Companion:

    bq. One of the peculiar characteristics of key terms is that the more we apply them to the real world, the more we claim that we are not experiencing the real thing. A dictatorship of the proletariat, once installed, will never be the promised dictatorship of the proletariat. A true self-regulating market will somehow never be true or self-regulating enough. These arguments resemble the rhetoric of medieval scholastics. Those who use them seem to be on a mission to rescue their favourite abstract theory from its latest catastrophic defeat at the hands of reality.

    On the other hand, I think if one is going to insist that one’s theory is more correct than the facts, it’s probably a good thing that one’s theory has the handy side effect of preventing one from gaining any real power or influence.

  4. “This Kos diary”:http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/11/15/212411/47 is quoted in their FAQ, and serves as a sort of manifesto:

    This is a Democratic blog, a partisan blog. One that recognizes that Democrats run from left to right on the ideological spectrum, and yet we’re all still in this fight together.

    We happily embrace centrists like NDN’s Simon Rosenberg and Howard Dean, conservatives like Martin Frost and Brad Carson, and liberals like John Kerry and Barack Obama.

    Liberal? Yeah, we’re around here and we’re proud. But it’s not a liberal blog. It’s a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory.

    And since we haven’t gotten any of that from the current crew, we’re one more thing: a reform blog.

    The battle for the party is not an ideological battle. It’s one between establishment and anti-establishment factions. And as I’ve said a million times, the status quo is untenable.

    There are a couple of things you can say for sure about Kos’s vision of the Proggie-Bloggie movement: Their primary goal is winning right now (not educating or building cadres) and their vehicle is the Democratic Party and nothing else – they are rabidly opposed to Naderites and third-party pipe-dreams.

    So far, a vision that is far removed from Leninist splitting-and-purging.

    But when it comes to talking about reform, which he bold-faces, things get schizophrenic. Who exactly gets reformed, and how?

    Like many ideologues, Kos professes contempt for ideology. He has the ancient center-liberal vice of pretending to be miles above it. His ideological categories are almost deliberately obtuse – Howard Dean is a notable example of an ideological centrist?

    Instead, he draws a line between establishment and anti-establishment Democrats, declaring war on the latter. But who drew that line, and where does it run? Since ideology is not the measure of the thing, it would seem that anyone with experience and seniority (i.e., A RECORD OF SUCCESS) is an establishmentarian who is responsible for all the past failures of the party and therefore has to go.

    But of course ideology is the measure of the thing, along with a dose of screw-them-all spite, so somehow Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, and the DLC are the “establishment”, while Kennedy, Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus, and Dean’s DNC are not.

    We’re trying to recapitulate thinking that the Netroots has never thunk in the first place. We’re trying to make calculus out of numerology.

  5. Planter – he certainly wasn’t! No 66% of the “draw new voters in” winners are center-right, and 33% (Wellstone) are ‘progressive’.

    What’s missing is the awareness by the insurgents that the missing voters – the dark matter of American electoral politics – are centrists who are put off by the extremes on both sides and by the lack of pragmatism shown by candidates who must pander to extremes to make it through the primary process.

    A.L.

  6. AL I don’t think you dig deep enough. Politics is the fight to distribute spoils to winning electoral coalitions. Nothing more. “Left/Right” is a misnomer.

    The vast “middle” is the middle class which finds little to recommend itself in the Democratic Party, and marginally (very thin) at times in the Republican Party. Which amounts for Republican victories in national elections post WWII.

    Democrats after FDR largely rejected the idea of forming a coalition based on the economic/cultural interests of the middle-working class and gradually formed into rich white yuppies and various ethnic and grievance groups. To the extent that Democratic candidates can take advantage of Republican miscues, mistakes, corruption, and unappealing personalities while concealing their electoral coalition, they can win nationally.

    Democrats win locally when white middle and working class voters are driven out by high housing costs and collapse of middle-working class jobs. NY, CA, MA etc. would be good examples of this dynamic. Republicans conversely win when they expose the electoral realities of the Democratic coalition and promise to deliver goodies for middle and working class voters: tax cuts, better jobs, less crime.

    Take for example the issue of crime and public safety. Democrats depend on minority votes who wish to empower their gang members against the police and particularly whites. They are also beholden to trial lawyers, various rich yuppie ideologues, and rich white people who want security and to deny it to working and middle class whites. Republicans depend on middle and working class white votes so push public safety, particularly because to do so exposes the Dem’s electoral coalition weakness.

    Kos is part of that electoral coalition. Wealthy white yuppies (and those who work for them as part of the “creative class” i.e. media/wannabe media types), union officials, etc.

    California went Democratic, because defense jobs were destroyed by the “Peace Dividend” and housing prices went sky high. Middle class and working class white defense workers left, were replaced by Asian entrepreneurs, and working class Latinos (Mexicans, mostly). With a smattering of “new economy” hipsters.

  7. The problem is that the “middle class” as a vast group of similar income people with similar culture no longer exists. Most cultural groups are organized around professions nowadays. The old union labor class dropped down into unskilled workers, moved up into yuppiedom, or translated itself into a smaller (for the moment) group of government workers. Immigrants self-sort quickly into laborers, entrepreneurs, or professionals.

    About the only meaning left for “middle class” is a group of people that politicians want to pander to but are neither rich nor poor.

    Self-identifying as “middle class” is tricky too: Obama definitely thinks I’m rich as I’d get nailed hard by his tax proposals, but my 8 year old Camry and 1300 square foot townhouse definitely doesn’t make me feel rich.

    This problem of squishy definition causes political discussion of the middle class to get weird: do I win or lose by this “middle-class-targeted” proposal? I’d lose based on most of them, and so would most of my “middle-class rich” neighbors.

    And talking about sacrificing for the good of the country doesn’t help much; is the country better served by shoveling more cash at relatively rich seniors? At corrupt K-12 bureaucracies? At fabulously rich universities with their own bloated administrations? If I could actually see that the policies would improve the wealth and welfare of the country, I could be talked into paying higher taxes, but silly “social justice” arguments I dismiss as agitprop.

  8. There is a seismic shift happening in politics. The old coalitions on both sides are straining. There is growing discontent between the base and centrists of the parties, as each is feeling unsatisfied with what they are getting out of the partnership, and partnerships only survive when all sides feel they get more out of it than they spend.

    I think both parties will have to reinvent themselves if they are going to survive. The planks of both parties have been around a long time without truely being achieved. It may well be that we are reaching the point where there is growing realization that the goals they are pledged to will never truely be accomplished.

    I think we will see a major re-alignment in the parties over the next cycle or two.

    StargazerA5

  9. Foobarista I would agree that government workers, academia etc. would not be in the same class as others.

    But … those people are small compared to those who are: homeowners, married with children, etc. The effect and influence in California and NY and MA are magnified because collapse of defense and industrial manufacturing along with high housing prices in desirable areas left only government workers as middle-income people.

    But for vast swaths of the nation, TX, MN, WI, OH, GA, etc. the dominant group of voters on percentage and absolute numbers would be middle income. People well off enough to own their own home and/or have a family.

    And those interests are radically different from that of say government workers or those in the academy or minority groups.

    Take for example, crime. Increasing crime lowers property values and thus homeowners have a direct economic incentive to combat crime in their area. It affects their wealth. While renters can simply move. To the extent that the “creative class” is largely renters who are highly mobile their interests are directly opposed to the homeowners.

    Probably much of Democratic politics can be seen as failure to appreciate the price they pay for siding with renters over homeowners. Particularly as populations mature, homeowning (a prerequisite for family formation) becomes more important and a deciding factor in voting.

  10. “In a nutshell, that’s the Netroots fantasy – on the Right as well as the Left, I must say, That if only the party can be more pure, if only they will me more left (or more right), the masses alienated from current dirty, impure politics will rise up and back them.

    It’s an electoral version of the Vanguard fantasy”
    -A.L

    This is completely wrong on a number of levels A.L. The DLC has to go precisely because they are recognized by one and all as “Republican Lite”, a virtual Trojan Horse in the party. Secondly, the Democratic Party itself is to the right of its traditional voters. Witness its support for NAFTA, bankruptcy “reform” that targeted individuals and consumers yet spared corporations, the Bush tax gifts to the rich, increased funding for our bloated defense industry, and its abject surrender before Big Pharma and the insurance industry regarding systemic reform of healthcare in the US.

    Your application of the Vangaurd theory in this respect is frankly bizarre. I see no connection between the desire of progressives to bring the Democratic Party in alignment with public opinion (or dismiss it altogether in favor of another movement begun at the grassroots level), and Lenin & Trotsky’s destruction of the democratic Soviets during the October rebellion of ’17 (itself a coup against the February Revolution). The highly democratic and participatory worker councils that the Bolsheviks destroyed in favor of a “vangaurd class” of specialist to lead the revolution (to totalitarianism) does not remotely reflect on progressive values which calls for GREATER public participation in political decision making, not less.

    “We happily embrace centrists like NDN’s Simon Rosenberg and Howard Dean, conservatives like Martin Frost and Brad Carson, and liberals like John Kerry and Barack Obama”
    -Glen Wishard (as quoted from Kos)

    Glen this is precisely the problem I have with Kos and many of his ilk. He has no awareness of where the left is in this country. Notice the misapplication of the term “liberal” (read: left) to Obama and Kerry. The term applies to neither man, for both are proud centrist. For many so-called progressives the center is as far “left” as they go.

    “Liberal? Yeah, we’re around here and we’re proud. But it’s not a liberal blog. It’s a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory”
    -Kos via Glen Wishard

    This is quite revealing. He admits that Daily Kos is not a liberal blog (for in truth it isn’t) but, in fact, a Democratic blog as in the “Democratic Party” which is hardly liberal either. His “one goal in mind” is electorial victory (read: power) for his chosen tribe though it is virtually indistinguishable from the Republican Party on fundimental issues of domestic and foreign policy.

  11. ROTF, CT, do you know why Lenin & Trotsky destroyed the soviets? Because they knew the people would be with them.

    If your beliefs were within radio distance of the American people’s, Cynthia McKinney’s vote tally wouldn’t be as close to the margin of error as it’s going to be. You’re delusional. I can poll the American people and get decent numbers for putting puppies in blenders if I frame the poll right and ask the right questions.

    While polling is useful, the reason we have elections is because it’s inaccurate and incomplete.

    So when vegan, bicycle-riding, composting, hemp-clothes wearing pacifists start winning elections (from the very funny quote at Vaderleun’s) someplace other than Berkeley, San Francisco, Portland, and Madison – let me know.

    (the quote was: “I’m sorry, but I thought we were supposed to be fighting against stereotypes? I’m a vegan, I recycle, compost, read books from the library, drink organic tea, ride a bike, etc, etc, and I am not upper class and it has nothing to do with my being white. There’s this thing called individuality.” )

    A.L.

  12. Coldtype:

    His “one goal in mind” is electorial victory (read: power) for his chosen tribe though it is virtually indistinguishable from the Republican Party on fundimental issues of domestic and foreign policy.

    Yes, so it would appear. But if you think that Kos is a poser who would be perfectly content with a Republican-Democratic Party so long as it’s in power, you’re wrong.

    You have to take the power of magical thinking into account.

    There is a deep-seated superstition on the left: There is a certain pre-existing just order of things, in which all of the leftist’s aspirations are fulfilled, and the only thing that keeps this from springing instantly into existence are forceful and unfair restraints put in place by the leftist’s enemies – the evil Right, the feckless Liberal, the Rich, and all the machinations and conspiracies of the corporations and the military. Kos sums all this up as “the establishment”, undefined, but he’s got a list of offenders. One step back for clarity, two steps forward for McCarthyism.

    Once the “establishment” is swept away, and some beautiful anti-establishment figure rides into town with the Netroots in his baggage, all kinds of wonderful things are going to happen, almost by themselves. Ideas are irrelevant to this process, unless they are religious ideas (on the order of a 15th Century apocalyptic Anabaptist). “The People” will decide what happens next, or something like that. But it will all be good, or at least better, or at least different.

    By this line of reasoning, you don’t work to build the country you want. You go after the guy who’s hiding the one you saw in your dream.

    I’m not saying it’s all thought out that way. Not to call Kos stupid, but Kos is not a thinker. (If there are any deep thinkers among the Netroots, somebody point them out.) In keeping with the Soviet analogies, he’s not a Trotsky, he’s a Molotov.

  13. CT is delusional, as can be quickly seen by his odd definition of “center.” That said, I do wish the progressives would take over the Democratic party for a while: it would ensure the marginalization of the progressives and cause an electoral coalition reshuffling that is long overdue.

  14. So when vegan, bicycle-riding, composting, hemp-clothes wearing pacifists start winning elections (from the very funny quote at Vaderleun’s) someplace other than Berkeley, San Francisco, Portland, and Madison – let me know.

    CA-11?

  15. SAO – According to people I know who know more than I about these things, McNerny won based on two things 1) the war; and 2) a demo shift in the district that tipped it to the wealthy Bay Area suburbs in the west half, and away from the Tracy/Lodi inland towns on the east.

    Am I missing something?

    A.L.

  16. CT is delusional, as can be quickly seen by his odd definition of “center.”

    Forget his definition of center, he’d give nuclear weapon launch control to McKinney.

    If the Republican parties recent issues have shown anything, it’s that the real battle for the control over, ideology of, composition, and promotion of the party is over in Congress anyway, not this glorified beauty pageant called a Presidential election.

    Alan is dead right when he said their are more effective things to do than vote in a Presidential election. All politics is local, don’t like your party, get out into the local field. Every time there’s been a ‘great sea change’ in American politics, it’s been because the media got caught napping and missed the 10 or so years of grassroots work leading up to it (or the decay back down from that work).

    I’m afraid that no amount of hunting for the ‘perfect ideology’ candidate is going to cause power to fall from the heavens into your lap.

    I’ve advised local Repubs unhappy with the direction of the national party to jump into the local party. When the states look the way you want them to, the national party will follow naturally.

    Of course that involves work, and a lot of it. It really is much easier to just stand around and wait for a miracle.

  17. “While polling is useful, the reason we have elections is because it’s inaccurate and incomplete”
    -A.L

    What you call “elections” A.L are, in truth, beauty pagents completely devoid of substanitive issues–particularly those issues in which public opinion is at variance with the status quo.

    “I can poll the American people and get decent numbers for putting puppies in blenders if I frame the poll right and ask the right questions”
    -A.L

    This of course is sheer nonsense and your dismissal of polling data very closely correlates with that of the elite class running our society. These are the people who truely believe in Lenin’s vangaurd theory which holds that the public has no role to play in the political decisions that effect their lives. This goes a long way towards explaining America’s vast democracy deficit and resultant voter apathy.

    “CT is delusional, as can be quickly seen by his odd definition of ‘center.'”
    – Jeff Medcalf

    Am I really Jeff? So the “left” in Kos-speak supports the issues I highlighted in my last post?

    “…if you think that Kos is a poser who would be perfectly content with a Republican-Democratic Party so long as it’s in power, you’re wrong”
    -Glen Wishard

    I’m not sure what to make of this Glen. We currently have in effect a Republican-Democratic Party in charge as it is. Team Bush’s agenda, both foreign and domestic, has had strong bi-partisan support. For example, after the mid-terms of ’06 there was never going to be a push by the recently empowered Democrats to end the US occupation of Iraq though they were given a clear mandate to do so by American voters. When Bush announced the “surge” in January ’07, the Democratic majority offered no objection and voted with him though this flew in the face of what their voters desired.

    Both of the remaining candidiates on the Democratic side fully embrace neo-liberalism at home and abroad as well as continued American militarism.

    This all begs the question: what fundimental changes do Kos and the like-minded expect with a Democrat in the White House? Immigration “reform” will not take NAFTA into account, we will be in Iraq until the Iraqis throw us out–we’ll never leave voluntarily, we we still have the least efficient healthcare system in the industrialized world, and we will continue hemorhaging jobs in the manufacturing sector and elsewhere as our corporations compete with one another in their race to the bottom for regions with minimal to non-existent worker protections or environmental regulations. Anyone who thinks that a Democrat in the White House will be any different than Democrats in majority positions of both houses of Congress is only kidding themselves. Magical thinking has nothing to do with it.

  18. There is one problem I have with this post, and only one. Namely, to suggest that what happens at TalkLeft is indicative of the “netroots”. The netroots, as such, is a big, diverse, and unwieldy coalition.

    And, pretty clearly, what happens at TalkLeft (unfortunately) is a lot of illiberal “holier than thou”, leftism, and quick on the trigger faux outrage.

    I attempted to post on there for awhile – me being who I am, within the space of 10 comments, my posts were getting deleted quicker than I could hit refresh.

    At any rate, while a shame, as Jeralyn and BTD are good thinkers – if I needed that type of hackish cultism, I could always read Hugh Hewitt (the right’s version).

    One thing that has been made painfully clear, is that the hackishness and “hypocrisy ruling” that is so easy to bag on, on the right – such as Michelle Malkin, Hugh Hewitt, Anne Coulter, etc – does exist on the left as well, and I’ve seen it show up, at MyDD, TalkLeft, etc.

    But heck, even Hugh Hewitt, he for the most part doesn’t delete comments. You can read a thread of his, and, sometimes, you get 50 comments in a row, pointing out how absurd a column might be – and these don’t get deleted.

    OpenLeft still seems a place that is intellectually honest, for the most part. DailyKos, you can get rated into oblivion, but there are honest conversatives that post there, and often make it onto the recommended diaries.

    But TalkLeft? That’s one of the worst offenders to free speech of the bunch. Who knows how many – 100, 200, 300 comments a day, deleted? In a 10 minute span, on a controversial Obama post, I saw 15 deleted comments, none of which were deleted for any “real” reason. It was absurd.

    MyDD is more like Hugh Hewitt, in that it’s biased, but for the most part, you can comment and criticize the bias, as long as you aren’t vulgar about it.

    Like My LeftWing, TalkLeft hangs out in that section of the left, that is in love with it’s own outrage, narcissistic in it’s beliefs, and intolerant in any dissent.

    Of course, let’s not forget, this applies as much or more to the right – similar experience of deletions at RedState, and at FreeRepublic.

    Actually, that’s a good analogy.

    In ‘functional’ terms, TalkLeft is very similar to Redstate, in terms of deletions, as well as in terms of function, and having main posters that are at least intelligent and thoughtful.

    a. A high level of blog control over what stays, and a low level trigger for dissent, before the deletions and bans get going.
    b. Similar sized audiences?
    c. Posters like Erick at RedState, or Jeralyn at TalkLeft, are intelligent people. But the “range of conversation” at both blogs, is proscribed.

  19. hypo – I think that if you define the ‘netroots’ as both right and left – with the left being far more effective – you’re not far from wrong in defining it as ‘big and unweildy’ which inherently makes any single statement incomplete. But I do think there is a useful distinction between folks like me and those folks who (left and right again) know that if only the candidate was purer – more extreme – people would come out of the woodwork to support him/her.

    Good analysis of the sites, BTW.

    A.L.

  20. Important point- we don’t have a government run by polls for the same reason we dont have a government run by democracy. The people are fickle and prone to the tyranny of the majority. Our Constitutional Republic was specifically set up as protection from just what Coldtype is advocating.

    I’d equate it to polls about what people look for in a mate. The questions and polling bears little (if any) resemblence to what people actually choose when given the choice. In other words, we Americans talk a big game but ultimately behave differently.

    It may feel great to tell a pollster I advocate my taxes being raised so Hillary Clinton can give us all a eutopia of free healthcare, but when I’m in the polling booth thinking about the DMVesque waiting rooms i’ll be lined up in for my mandatory physical under HillaryCare, my hand might just punch the ‘wrong’ ballot. Just by accident of course.

  21. Coldtype:

    Anyone who thinks that a Democrat in the White House will be any different than Democrats in majority positions of both houses of Congress is only kidding themselves. Magical thinking has nothing to do with it.

    “Magical thinking”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_thinking is kidding yourself.

    All you’re doing is stating that you don’t agree with the Netroots; they believe in the efficacy of the Democratic Party, and you don’t.

    But here’s what you have in common with them: You both expect politics to effect some radical or revolutionary change on the country, and neither of you is satisfied with anything less. They think the Democratic Party can accomplish this, and you don’t.

    Given the expectations both of you hold, I’ll admit that your position is more realistic. If you want to take the country apart and put it back together again, te Democratic Party will never do it so you might as well chase after the Green Party and at least be consistent in your futility.

    Of course, you’re both wrong in those expectations. Take away the rhetoric, and the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is not radical or profound. But it is significant enough to care about. Like it or not, it’s the only game in town, and if it’s limited in effectiveness, that’s because we like it that way. America doesn’t want to be turned upside down, and we’re not waiting for the right bunch of politicians to come along and save us from ourselves.

  22. _We currently have in effect a Republican-Democratic Party in charge as it is. Team Bush’s agenda, both foreign and domestic, has had strong bi-partisan support. For example, after the mid-terms of ’06 there was never going to be a push by the recently empowered Democrats to end the US occupation of Iraq though they were given a clear mandate to do so by American voters._

    I disagree that there was a “mandate.”:http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2007/05/what_mandate.html The Democratic leadership picked a number of issues the party would emphasize in the midterms and Iraq was conspicuously absent to the consternation of some. The leadership didn’t want to jeopardize its chances in swing districts or give Republicans a target. The exit polls showed that most voters were upset about Iraq and then the Democrats claimed a mandate. Nevermind, that they had not coalesced on a position that was favored by its legislators or its constituents. The Democrats still had swing-district members and still had the problem that complaining about Bush policy in Iraq is easier than stepping up and presenting and defending an alternative position.

  23. _But TalkLeft? That’s one of the worst offenders to free speech of the bunch._

    IIRC TalkLeft was given prominent blogroll status here as representative of “liberty,” until its comments policy led to its ouster.

    I read it when a prominent criminal issue is out there, but otherwise not and never read the comments section.

  24. “Here is Big Tent Democrat ‘On the Netroots'”:http://www.talkleft.com/story/2007/5/1/12326/40803 from last May. He nitpicks a Jonathan Chait article about the Netroots in TNR (some good points, some just nit-picky) but he commends this portion of Chait’s article, saying “Chait understands what the Netroots, in matters electoral, is about”:

    For the netroots, partisan fidelity is the sine qua non. As Moulitsas told Newsweek in 2005, “The issue is: Are you proud to be a Democrat? Are you partisan?” What they cannot forgive is Democrats or liberals who distance themselves from their party or who give ammunition to the enemy. The netroots will forgive Democrats in conservative districts for moving as far to the right as necessary to win elections. But they do everything within their power to eliminate from liberal states or districts moderates like Joe Lieberman or Jane Harman, whose stances are born of conviction rather than necessity.

    That’s perfectly clear. This is the Netroots version of PATRIOTISM. My party right or wrong, love it or leave it.

    The ideological diversity of the Netroots amounts to nothing more than the concession that it’s okay to be a right-winger so long as you’re also a hypocrite.

  25. Don’t we have a nation built on polls? Isn’t that how political language is determined? Candidates poll for the phrase or argument that best resonates with voters, and then only refer to that argument with this terminology?

  26. “All you’re doing is stating that you don’t agree with the Netroots; they believe in the efficacy of the Democratic Party, and you don’t”
    -Glen Wishard

    No Glen, I don’t believe in the efficacy of the Democratic Party or its Republican counter-part for they are, in fundimental ways, identical. I fear that I’m not being clear. America does not have a two party system in any meaningful sense Glen. We have one party, let’s call it the Business Party, with two wings: one is Center-Right, the other Right. That’s all. My issue with the “Netroots” (if we’re including Kos in this category) is their refusal, either through ignorance or artifice, to recognize what plainly stares us all in the face.

    “But here’s what you have in common with them: You both expect politics to effect some radical or revolutionary change on the country, and neither of you is satisfied with anything less. They think the Democratic Party can accomplish this, and you don’t”
    -Glen Wishard

    Not quite. The Democratic Party will never effect radical change in America for the reasons I’ve already stated and only a fool would think otherwise. As far as what I believe will be necessary in turning our country around, you are greatly mistaken if you presume that I pine for a political savior. No, I accept that only organizing on the grassroots level and consistent agitation for policies that positively impact our lives will bring about real change. Pulling a lever every four years for our favorite beauty contestant will only bring us more of the same. Think of any fundimental change that was brought about in this country, or any other for that matter, that came to fruition from the voting booth alone. Abolition of slavery, women’s sufferage, the Civil Rights Act, the 8 hour work day, the end of US aggression in Indochina, all came about via mass movemnents that began very small and grew into something that could no longer be ignored. Change, real change, often comes from below.

    I fully acknowledge that, barring a deep and prolonged recession/depression (a distinct possibility) or major setback upon one or more of our many battlefields (yet another) the process of fundimental change in America will likely take decades if not generations. I happen to be of the opinion that our current system and the policies that nurture it is unsustainable in its present form. So I’m betting on sooner rather than later, but time will tell. In the meantime I’m not sitting about waiting for a savior to tell me what to do.

  27. _We currently have in effect a Republican-Democratic Party in charge as it is. Team Bush’s agenda, both foreign and domestic, has had strong bi-partisan support._

    And they’re all wrong I tell you!! All of them!! (Just ask me.)

    What we have now is the TYRANNY OF DEMOCRACY—don’t deny it; you CAN’T deny it. It’s a FACT.

    PERFECTION IS OUR GOD, AND CHOMSKY ITS PROPHET!!
    PERFECTIONISTS OF THE WORLD UNITE!!
    GO RALPH, GO!! (Your country—unsafe at any speed—needs you)

  28. This discussion underlines the simple fact that ‘Left/Right, liberal/conservative, and similar attempts to describe philosophical/political views must have a starting reference point to give them meaning. And that starting point is most likely akin to the old saw about knowing when the ‘other fellow’ drinks too much. The answer to which is of course, when he drinks more than me. We ‘know’ we are the center, the true course, the correct balance of diametrically opposed views.

    At both extremes of political ideology we have the idealists who have bought into some simple view of the human condition which believes that with the strict adherence to a few simple rules, society will achieve their version of paradise. The world I live in is composed of _individuals_ similar to be sure, but never quite the boredom inducing sheep that either end of the political spectrum would require for their vision of a _perfect_ society to eventuate. Just how much similarity or difference we find comfortable varies from one of us to another and so we are often at odds with our fellow citizens, and are constantly defining and re-defining the rules under which our society operates. As a method of self governance democracy attempts to steer a centrist course most closely approximating the will of electorate, it will never please all of the people all of the time. In fact, if that day ever comes, I for one will really start to worry.

  29. Well said, Ian. I was also thinking today that when blogs form that really are about reformation towards the center, you’re off to a better start (which is why I post here, and not at daily kos). If we have learned anything over the last 20 years of pundit coverage, it is much easier to enflame than it is to find dialogue, compassion and possibly enlightenment. And of course blogs, like water, typically run the path of least resistance.

    I always thought that the formation of extreme parties might center democrats & republicans. For example: the green party for democrats and a Christian-Right party for Republicans. This would pull out some of the yahoo’s and allow the the parties to relax to some extent. Instead, the media attention & focused energy of the extremes has pushed both parties away from the center, creating a black hole where reasonable legislation is no longer discussed.

    Air America had an on-again off-again fling in Phoenix. Randy Rhodes suprised me one day, when she insisted that maybe we should consider voting out ALL INCUMBENTS, and keep doing it until politicians realized that the public has a voice again. It’s an interesting thought, I wished blogs spent more time thinking outside of political games than wrapped inside them.

  30. Air America had an on-again off-again fling in Phoenix. Randy Rhodes suprised me one day, when she insisted that maybe we should consider voting out ALL INCUMBENTS, and keep doing it until politicians realized that the public has a voice again. It’s an interesting thought, I wished blogs spent more time thinking outside of political games than wrapped inside them.

    I think the fact that Randi Rhodes suggested it ought to give you pause ;)

    Seriously, as long as I can remember there has always been some pseudo-populist with a loud voice saying “throw them all out” and it’s invariably the sort of person who when they talk about politics, they talk about it in terms of the personalities and scandals rather than actually giving any serious debate about issues or policies. They may occasionally talk about the issues but usually their depth doesn’t go beyond the political games of “my guy is righteous because he supports X and yours is bad because he supports Y.” Eventually, because those are the people who are lead by their emotions rather than their brains, they’re usually the ones who become frustrated and fall into overly-simplistic “solutions” like “throw them all out.”

    It may make for entertaining theater for some but for those of us who are involved in politics because we care about public policy, not so much.

  31. Coldtype, it’s funny. I actually see the political process as badly encrusted with special-interest barnacles. I think that the political Left is as captive as the political Right, and that both sides are more interested in “Skyboxes”:http://www.armedliberal.com/2002/05/are_there_any_liberals_in_the.html than anything else.

    So I share a lot of your populist sentiment.

    But I break completely with you in two areas: first, and foremost, I know for a fact that the American people aren’t radical, and that a radical project to empower them would mean that we would make political choices as a nation that you’d (and to some extent I’d) be damn uncomfortable with; and I know that as deeply flawed as the political process we have is – it is far and away the best one that has ever been, and I’ll aggressively fight against those who would tear it down for some radical fantasy rather than do the hard, slow work to clean the barnacles off.

    mark “is absolutely right”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/the_unity_shtick.php#c19 when he says:

    I have long been frustrated by many of my fellow liberals and fellow progressives for their inexplicable failure to acknowledge that our point-of-view — however valid, however objectively and verifiably correct — is, for all that, a minority point-of-view. And that the reason for that is not because the great bulk of middle America has been deceived by or hoodwinked by the right, or the system, or the establishment, but simply because they do not agree.

    And here’s where I get to break out another of my favorite Schaar quotes:

    “Finally, if political education is to effective it must grow from a spirit of humility on the part of the teachers, and they must overcome the tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-pity which set the tone of youth and student politics in the 1960’s. The teachers must acknowledge common origins and common burdens with the taught, stressing connection and membership, rather than distance and superiority. Only from these roots can trust and hopeful common action grow.”

    …a lesson we all could learn from…

    A.L.

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