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                                       politics + culture

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

the road ahead

We on the blogs did an extremely poor job at defining what a "yes" vote on Roberts would mean. And now the response to those "yes" votes, votes we could all see coming, has been nothing if not counter productive (Armando and Booman).

The strategy, spearheaded by dailyKos, of focusing on NARAL and Lincoln Chafee got us exactly here. (Link to Liberal Oasis.) The trend of blogs attacking the left this last year (and Howard Dean's embrace of "pro-life Dems") now comes face to face with a "yes-on-Roberts" by a wide swath of middle-of-the-road Democrats and a strategic mishandling of one of the crucial votes of our lifetimes. Simply put, when we needed the Democrats to show a fighting unity here...we on the blogs did little to create that unity.

Unity is hard to create when so much energy has been turned to attacking our own.

Markos definined 2005 as the year of the "attack blogs." This attack was defined not by building unity among left Democrats and moving forward together in opposition to the GOP, but by divisiveness and snark against the progressive left: the racial code words of the anonymous Brazile piece, the anti-NARAL stance, the free use of anti-"hippies" and anti-"women's studies" rhetoric, and now a jab at the HRC. Do those stances make sense in light of current defections from Democratic party unity by moderate Democrats...ie. the constituency Markos was valorizing as our party's core? The strategy of questioning the loyalty of progressives, of targeting and scapegoating us, looks neither all that wise nor strategic right now.

Did attacking the left and embracing the right help us define a cohesive approach to Democratic unity against Roberts? I think not. Do the current outraged responses, the name calling of moderate Dems in response to their "yes" votes, the spurs to make angry phone calls do the blogosphere any favors right now, especially in light of this last year? The clear answer is no. In fact, it has the effect of eroding much of the good work we have done and making us look like hypocrites: we on the blogs have divisively attacked both our allies on the left and our friends and partners in the middle. Are we clever or what?

All of us should have anticipated that George Bush would have Supreme Court nominations to make and been prepared. Our job was to define those nominations in a way that moved the discussion to our side, and created a context for winning a true pro-choice, pro-woman, pro-privacy majority, and if that was not possible, defining the vote in ways that positioned us well for battles to come. We could have worked together. By and large, we did not. Why was that?

This is a moment for all of us to answer that question for ourselves. We failed. And now, more than anything, we need to come together and look at the road ahead.

In my view, the lesson learned here is that we need to build coalition with a politics of unity. My take has always been that we build a progressive coalition first...and build out from there. We need to start from a position of cohesion on our side, based on the cooperation of labor, urban Democrats, progressives, gays, women, working families and voters of color. Progressive unity allows us to find strength in standing together and to find flexibilty in picking and choosing our battles because we've been in the same room defining our common strategy from the very beginning. We desperately need the unity that comes from fighting and winning.

We will all have further opportunites to define this path.

We have a mayoral race in NYC, a set of ballot initiatives in CA, including the anti-choice proposition 73, and a further Supreme Court appointment to debate. We need to come together...and push for victories in each of these cases...to do it right next time. Victories mean something, they define coalition. We need to learn our lessons and move on. This failure is an opportunity to stop and rethink, and to find a way to build the real coalition we know is at the heart of our politics.

Yes, the blogs were but one small factor in the Roberts "yes" votes. But what little leverage we had; we squandered. We need to look down the road and get our act together. 2006 is nearly upon us. There are vulnerable GOP House candidates in districts that could go our way. How about putting the focus of our attacks on them? How about building coalition the old fashioned way: by uniting in opposition to a common opponent and winning victories together?

It is clear that current blog trends will not change in weeks or even months. We can hope that the divisive attacks of 2005, the assumption that it's "okay" to cut off and snark members of our coalition will now begin to fade. We need each other, and in 2006 we should build something that we can all be proud of: a functioning coalition determined to win a legislative majority with every last one of us having a seat at the table and a share in that victory...however distant a possibility that now seems.

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13 Comments:

  • Since kos has chosen to demonize the left, I have generally decided to stay away, just looking in occasionally rather than participating

    As you probably know, the left may not now be, or ever have been, a majority in this country, but it is and has been the repository of actual expertise in getting things done in politics, outside of simply buying the politicians. This is still true and will remain true because nobody is going to get folks to work 18 hours a day for very little money and a centrist vision.

    The California political consultant industry, very much the model for the nation, came out of the electoral work of the United Farm Workers Union -- very poor people demanding respect and justice. Building the progressive base, probably in local campaigns, creates the training ground for a better future.

    Marginalizing the people and issues that give folks their identity is never going to do that.

    By Blogger janinsanfran, at 2:37 PM  

  • What the fuck are you talking about?

    and Dean's embrace of "pro-life Dems"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:01 PM  

  • "Nobody is going to get folks to work 18 hours a day for very little money and a centrist vision."

    Is so true. Though many will, and many of us have, worked for years building community online only to find that those efforts ran against a tide of "snark", "attack" and "divide" politics.

    You are right on. We need to come together. And from that stand point I am willing to work with all allies...including the self-defined "liberal blogosphere"...but only as progressives and activists extending our hands and our hard work to achieve a common goal, only as full partners at the table.

    We've got too many real political oppponents and too many rivers to cross to be distracted from that.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 3:02 PM  

  • First off, anonymous, you're welcome to post here anonymously, but not to do so and use foul language.

    Got that? Anonymous posting + Foul language = Not welcome here.

    Second, as for Dean's outreach...try this article from Christianity Today.

    Or this passage from a Meet the Press interview last year:

    Howard Dean: I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats.  The Democrats that have stuck with us, who are pro-life, through their long period of conviction, are people who are the kind of pro-life people that we ought to have deep respect for.  Not only are they pro-life, which, I think, is a moral judgment--I happen to be strongly pro-choice, as a physician--but they are pro-life more moral reasons.  They also, if they're in the Democratic Party, are real pro-life.  That is, they're pro-life not just for unborn children. They're pro-life for investing in children's programs.  They're pro-life for helping small children and young families.  They're pro-life in making sure adequate medical care happens to children.  That's what you so often lack on the Republican side.  They beat the drums about being pro-life but they forget about life after birth.  And so I do embrace pro-life Democrats.  I think we want them in our party.  We can have a respectful dialogue, and we have to stop demagoguing this issue.

    MR. RUSSERT:  And if you became chairman of the party, you would actively reach out to pro-life Democrats?

    DR. DEAN:  In my campaign, supposedly this liberal campaign, we had a number of pro-life people.  Our campaign really is a reform campaign.  Now, there were a lot of progressive people, and I believe in progressive issues, but what we're trying to do is reform America. 


    He said that. Is that the position of a DNC chair who knows that this is a pro-choice party. Did he just redefine "reform" as somehow not progressive and not liberal? Further, does this sound like a DNC chair ready for the inevitable Supreme Court nominations of a second Bush term?

    Personally, I don't "happen to be pro-choice"....I am proudly pro-woman, pro-choice and pro-child, and last I checked, I belong to a proudly pro-choice party.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 3:20 PM  

  • nobody is going to get folks to work 18 hours a day for very little money and a centrist vision.

    This reminded me of a recent blog entry I read at Citizen Chris. The author just became a union organizor. Here is the final part of the entry (it's worth a full read):

    I guess what I am trying to convey is the intense and seemingly ubiquitous time consumption that is involved in administrating and maintaining a union. I am sure I sound overly idealistic…it could be a fatal flaw. But when one looks over the economic landscape of this great nation and sees the powers that be…in all of its worn down and stereotyped images the rag tag Labor Movement…in all of the different cultures of the individual unions and all of their little quirks…the Labor Movement is the still only counterweight to the Corporate Goliaths that roam the country and pull the strings of Senators in D.C.

    Read it in full at: http://citizenchris.org/node/187

    By Anonymous Matt, at 4:11 PM  

  • Great link, Matt.

    Here's the hot link to the comment. Worth it.

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 4:19 PM  

  • Hey, building a progressive coalition and moving out from there was always part of Kos' strategy too.

    But when he got there... the Consent Manufacturing Machine pushed back and Kos crumbled to that same weak point they always use... "you don't want me to think of you as a giant puppet wielding hippie, DO YOU?!?!"

    It's the curse of a new flak machine that it subjects itself to the filters in order to play the game.

    we were supposed to break the Propaganda Model, we've joined it.

    Roberts gets EASILY confirmed, with little fuss... it's insane thinking.

    Kos has created a great business off of which he makes a well deserved living as a web publisher focussing in political content.

    But as netroots fails.

    It's accomplishment was Dean's accomplishment, the left aligned with the centrists.

    That was demolished on purpose.

    It was stupid politically, if politics is even the point, I'm not sure any more.

    By Blogger Pyrrho, at 7:47 PM  

  • We will all have further opportunities to define this path.

    All those that you mention are important, but let's not forget that there will soon be a Ms./Mr. Next Nominee to replace O'Connor. We're fools if we abandon that fight just because some Dems are voting for Roberts.

    Indeed, we need to turn the strategy embraced by many of these Dems back on them. i.e. the keep-our-powder-dry idea that it's OK to vote for Roberts because he's unlikely to be more of a rightwing hole than Rehnquist. So, since the Next Nominee is likely to be far to the right of O'Connor, we should be able to demand of Leahy and Baucus and the Nelsons that they offer much more scrutiny in the coming hearings and much more skepticism when they vote the Next Nominee up or down.

    By Blogger Meteor Blades, at 8:34 PM  

  • Re: MB and:

    let's not forget that there will soon be a Ms./Mr. Next Nominee to replace O'Connor. We're fools if we abandon that fight just because some Dems are voting for Roberts.

    I concur. (...and, actually it might be a cool idea for us in the netroots to see our opinions as overlapping, like SC justices do, not just agree/disagree.) I think highlighting the "O'Connor" angle is essential. Both in terms of gender and in terms of moderation. We must brand Roberts as Rehnquist, and demand a nominee who speaks for all Americans, not just Bush's cozy coterie.

    I created twitters when I suggested we needed to be prepared to filibuster Roberts. Of course, if we don't set the terms of the debate, others set it for us. Hence....we need to be prepared to filibuster Bush's next nominee, and every Senator must know that before the name comes out.

    re: Pyrrho and

    "you don't want me to think of you as a giant puppet wielding hippie, DO YOU?!?!"

    Amen. Isn't it like that? (and god forbid you've ever socialized with left wingers)

    And what happens when we actually need to go the wall on something? Well, to do that, we need to stand together. Which was my point all along.

    thank you both for the comments!!

    By Blogger kid oakland, at 9:21 PM  

  • Reflections on Dkos in Light of this Thread

    By: An Insomniac

    The smallest among us are midgets
    And the bight shining vision thing has grown dull and greasy having been pawed by too many hopeful and grasping hands

    Our community, like each human thing, is peopled by we who have each in our life balanced on a porcelain toilet grasping our watery and aching stomach
    as diarrhea poured from our asshole, half scared and half proud of the stench and the torrent we have created.

    We are led by a leader who in his venality will not lead us but who would take our money. Sometimes he provides succor, but mostly he mocks our motley procession
    blind to the toilet paper trailing from the bottom of his shoe. If we had a lover half so inconstant, we would have dragged him onto Jerry Spring by now.

    But the tallest among us are also midgets. And though the vision has grown sharp and gritty we eat it. And sometimes it tastes like toilet paper stuck to the bottom of a shoe and sometimes it tastes like the sweating palms of praying hands. But we eat it because we must to feed our belly and the fire within.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:58 AM  

  • First off, anonymous, you're welcome to post here anonymously, but not to do so and use foul language.

    Got that? Anonymous posting + Foul language = Not welcome here.


    Glad to see you're focusing on the truly important issues.

    Get bent.

    By Anonymous dave, at 6:24 AM  

  • Yeah -- the fight never stops. Sometimes the terrain changes. Tiring, but true.

    By Blogger janinsanfran, at 11:35 AM  

  • The hypocrisy of those that expouse the big tent and yet show no tolerance for opposing views or the single issue is the crux. A microcosm of all that wrong, when ambition is trumped by utilitarianism. It is now referred to as a brand, and it moves like McDonalds too. Can't you see it, it is a ruse now and the motivation is far from pure, moral pragmatism.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:11 PM  

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