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                                       politics + culture

Thursday, July 28, 2005

getting to know Grover

Awol points to this must-read interview w/ John Cassidy in the New Yorker online about Cassidy book subject, and GOP behind-the-scenes power broker, Grover Norquist. (boo, hiss, growl). Cassidy's advice at the very end is the not-to-be-missed quote:

"Democrats need to reach out to some of the groups that Norquist targets. As he points out, gun owners, people who don’t like paying taxes, and people of devout faith add up to more than sixty per cent of the voting population. If the Democrats completely write off these groups, their electoral prospects are poor. And the Democrats need to do a better job of exploiting the divisions and potential divisions within the Republican coalition. Social conservatives and libertarians don’t agree about a lot of things, nor do economic conservatives and poor rural farmers, but Norquist and Rove somehow manage to keep them on the same team. Finally, the Democrats could do with finding a left-wing version of Norquist. She or he must be out there somewhere."

Paging Mr. Moulitsas...


  • took me a while to understand... but wait, do I? are you saying markos might be our Norquist?

    no way.

    no no way.

    firstly... I'm probably out of a coalition that is Norquisted together based on my personal constitution... but I'm just me... it could be done.

    But markos? The man is about expressing himself, he's smart... to Norquist requires telling people what they want to hear, getting those social libertarians and social conservatives to look the other way at the key moment so they don't choke each other.

    Markos has a tendency to encourage division. Good for him, actually, be your own person I always say.

    It raises the issue, can the progressive philosophy ALLOW a Norquisting? Or is a Norquist fundamentally non-progressive, anti-freedom, bastard from hell, impossible to have a liberal version of?

    PS: I note when liberals talk about this kind of thing they are always talking about other parts of the coalition accepting that THEY are worth supporting, rarely are they offering to support those they have internal conflict with. So, there is a LOT of talk about needing to do this.

    I think unity among progressives is issue number one, but I don't think it can be Norquisted out of us, I think we need to do the conceptual engineering and cognitive design work to find those ideas that bind us, and to train ourselves to disagree internally in a more healthy way.

    IOW, I don't think a person or organization can hold us together... clubishness doesn't work for progress, it works great for conservatives, we need a philosophy to do that job.

    In fact, I know I'm correct in this, but don't tell anybody as I'm a skeptic and you know, I don't want it to get out that I have knowledge. :)

    By Blogger Pyrrho, at 12:49 PM  

  • Awesome response. Thanks.

    (I love how you make Norquist a verb.)

    You ask: is a Norquist fundamentally non-progressive, anti-freedom, bastard from hell, impossible to have a liberal version of?

    I agree.

    And this passage: I think unity among progressives is issue number one, but I don't think it can be Norquisted out of us, I think we need to do the conceptual engineering and cognitive design work to find those ideas that bind us, and to train ourselves to disagree internally in a more healthy way.

    That's something I believe in too, and, rrg, is actually something I hope to express in all that color coded mumbo jumbo I've been doing here. (One part of me, however, thinks, "unity among progressives?"....when pigs fly.)

    When you write: clubishness doesn't work for progress, it works great for conservatives, we need a philosophy to do that job. I can only nod my head and add:

    We need more than philosophy, we need solidarity with each other. A solidarity that reaches out and crosses borders and breaks down walls. You're right Pyrrho. Expand that. Make it global.

    As for my joke. Take it how you want to. Fwiw, it was meant to make folks think....and grin.

    (I do have a tongue and a cheek...)

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 1:39 PM  

  • I agree, pyrrho. Up to a point.

    The problem is that unity among progressives isn't the issue. It's somehow figuring out how to get the votes of those disaffected folks who are now voting Republican and who AREN'T progressive, many of whom may, in fact, be Zell Miller Democrats.

    To give one specific example, I don't think it makes much sense to target gun owners, per se. I'm a gun owner, and I can tell you from personal experience that most of the gun owners who vote Republican don't do so on the single issue of guns alone. They're more likely to be immersed in the whole panoply of rightwing dogma, with the possible exception of economics, where we have the most strength, but where we have complications - like Democratic support for "free" trade and the split over immigration policy.

    Likewise, as we well know, when it comes to "people of faith," which is actually code for people of a certain faith, the Democrats don't have a lot of room to maneuver without, say, surrendering on reproductive choice, school prayer, creationism and gay rights. Many people of faith are already progressives in this matter.

    Moreover, despite the tons of pixels that have been gobbled on the subject, I don't think we need a new message. We just need to hone two or three old themes that can each be summed up in a soundbitable phrase.

    That's not all we need, of course, because winning back power from the GOP is a complex matter - made more so by foul redistricting of the DeLay model. As for a progressive Norquist being part of our wish list, such a creature, it seems to me, is an anomaly.

    By Blogger Meteor Blades, at 2:14 PM  

  • Seems like there are at least two questions. Do we really share this one-sentence summary of Republican power? Do NRA supporters + "people who don't like paying taxes" + "people of faith" = Republican voters = 60% of the voting population?

    It's certainly a maximalist position: a lot of this locked-up 60% of voters must have strayed away from their pasture in each of the elections that Bush has "won". But what would be the maximalist version of this for Democrats?

    Another question. If 80% of this 60% *is* the Republican voting-block, how is all of this effected by the Iraq war? I haven't read the New Yorker article, but not clear to me that Grover would be all that happy, really, with this disastrous war, at least if he is a creature of these three voting blocks (with his really loyalty, of course, to the tax-cutters).

    By Blogger awol, at 2:41 PM  

  • Trouble is, Norquist doesn't mean the same thing by "people of devout faith" as we liberals do. For Norquist and the conservacons, that means all and only "evangelical born-again Protestants of a fundamentalist bent." And those people are, almost without exception, a lost cause for Democrats and progressives. There is just literally no way that we'd ever get them to listen to a thing we had to say, simply because it was a damn lib'rul saying it.

    But for people of authentic religious faith who haven't swallowed the fundagelical Kool-Aid, those folks are probably one of our strongest voting blocs. I'm a liberal precisely because, not in spite of, my religious convictions. My faith tells me I have to work for a just society where the poor and the widow and the orphan are cared for, the hungry are fed, the naked clothed, and so on. It tells me that the color of someone's skin, the god they worship, or whom they love, are irrelevant, at least when it comes to civil rights.

    What I think we need to do (or one point on our agenda) is to reclaim the language of faith and values. The Republicans have effectively kidnapped both of them over the last 30 years, and it's high time we took them back.

    By Anonymous musing85, at 3:26 PM  

  • kid,

    progressives and liberals like to let you do your own thing...

    I do think there can be solidarity though... but it's a puzzle.

    By Blogger Pyrrho, at 3:31 PM  

  • meteor,

    insightful analysis (as always)...

    one correction on my position... I don't think we need a new message.

    I think we need to do some conceptual engineering.

    We need to take these older messages (the few you suggest) and use them to engineer more robust idea, robust and condensed.

    That's the cognitive engineering... it's not message.

    If you have the right idea, as Lakoff also points out, the words will come.

    An example, I think, is "relativity" as I've been harping on a bit. We are relativists on the progressive side but we don't know it... and further, people don't understand relativity, they think it means "everything goes" and "everything is equal"... it means neither of those things and actually means the opposite of the latter... relativity says that NOTHING is equal, all things must be compared with something else to be thought of at all.

    OTOH, I do think we could have some short term electoral victory in the near term just finding some conviction for a few of our traditional messages.

    By Blogger Pyrrho, at 3:36 PM  

  • Just back from work.

    It's great to see a discussion here....and good friends as well. MB, pyrrho, awol, musing...good to see you!

    I don't think any of us on the left want to be told want to do, we want to be persuaded.

    Yeah, I put Markos name up there mainly as a jest / jab...but also thinking of his "Dean / Clark" end of discussion cat-herding moment in 2003...(then again. who knows what the future holds for any of us??)

    I know what Markos' answer, and mine, would be... we in the blogosphere already serve as a kind of collective Norquist, and that's the way it should be. Netroots democracy putting pressure on our party, not closed door meetings, and last minute "hold the vote" strong arming.

    As for the discussion centered around Meteor's comment. It's rich. And MB's common sense is profound. Common sense, is something I have real respect for. It's not exactly running through our veins lately in the Democratic Party.

    Imo, people want to know where we're coming from, straight up. They want to know what we're proposing, not who's proposing it.

    I'm a Wellstone Democrat in a great many ways for this reason. Paul Wellstone was a liberal who could talk to Minnesotans as a liberal without BS getting in the way.

    That takes work....but it was a beautiful thing to see in action. Trust me on that one.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 7:11 PM  

  • A collective Norquist!!! Huzzah. I like that. It reminds me a bit of what Billmon wrote about (tangentially) a couple of days ago [My capitalization]:

    That's why Range's little slam at the size of Left Blogostan's audience is so silly:

    "These musings in the left-wing blogosphere may be read regularly by only a few thousand people, but they seep into the intellectual bloodstream of the Democratic Party."

    Seep into the intellectual bloodstream? THE BLOGOSPHERE NOW IS THE INTELLECTUAL BLOODSTREAM OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY -- unless Range is talking about the fatty, cholesterol-clogged arteries of the D.C. lobbyist culture. These once fed oxygen (the long green variety) to the DLC's brand of corporate centrism. But those veins have nearly all been ripped out and reattached to Tom DeLay's mechanical heart.

    A few thousand readers? This blog, admittedly just a tiny dot in a vast sea of electrons, has been averaging almost 40,000 discrete readers a day lately -- without paid staff, without advertising, without subscribers and without DLC-style corporate sponsors. I bet Kos and Atrios easily do three or four times that much daily traffic, or more.

    How many readers, by contrast, does Blueprint have? And how many of those readers would actually pay for the thing, if they couldn't write their DLC membership dues off as a fucking business expense?

    Left Blogostan isn't a threat to the DLC way of life because of its readership, which is still small beer, relatively speaking, or because of its media influence, which is obviously marginal, but because of its independence. For the first time since I don't know when -- maybe ever -- there's actually an intellectual faction within the Democratic Party that doesn't have to go crawling to Big Business or Shrinking Labor for its supper.

    By Blogger Meteor Blades, at 2:13 AM  

  • That last comment paste from billmon, and all the other talk about blogs being the place where the faithful meet to hash things out is spot on. After watching, and participating in the Tom Frank discussion over at TPM Cafe this past week, and after watching the Kos folks jump all over the situation in the 2nd District in Ohio, I have to say the liberal blogosphere is maturing quite nicely.

    In that New Yorker article it says that there is already a weekly meeting on the liberal side, they meet on Tuesdays, it started as a response to Bush's plan to privatize SS.

    One question, sometimes we might need to keep a secret or two from our political foes, so the internet might not be the place to work everything out. A weekly meeting might be a good place to work on strategy. Ok, it wasn't a question per say, but I hope you got my point.

    By Anonymous jbou, at 9:40 PM  

  • I thing we'd be pretty safe if we had our weekly internet meeting....

    in Klingon.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 12:04 AM  

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