Netroots, it's time to get serious about roots


10 comments posted
Great analysis, mediagirl

Hugo at Demspeak linked here --- I like what you've written. Also, as a side note: I would really like it if Jeffrey Feldman and others would COLLABORATE and coordinate the great work they do, and not keep trying to be a beacon that people first come to them for. I say that because, while I completely applaud his extremely fine work, and I also recognize the effort he's been putting inot brand-building for Frameshop, and the seeding he does at myDD and DK to build his own traffic, I wish he would participate more in Q&A elsewhere. In other words, open it all up and let these discussions flow wherever, and be more interested in getting the word out and people on board than being the brand name. Lakoff did that and it eventually hurt him pretty badly, I would say. If he hadn't tried to be a celebrity himself, I think his work would still be pulsing everywhere through the netroots. but instead, the more celebrity oriented he became, the less weight he carried.

So, while it is all well and good to profess that the netroots need to better organize and collaborate and leverage our collective power, step 1 begins at home. Don't build islands. Build bridges.

This was a great piece of analysis you did.


RH from Demspeak's picture
Posted by RH from Demspeak (not verified) on 3 February 2006 - 1:46pm
Hi, rh, nice to see you here!

I cannot speak for Feldman, but I saw him a lot on Booman before they established a manufacturing-consent policy and drummed a number of people off the site. I left then. I don't know if he did.

I've seen him on My Left Wing, too.

I don't write this to defend him, but to point out that dissent and discussion are less welcome on many of the überblogs than was the case a year or even six months ago.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 3 February 2006 - 6:28pm
I think you need to reconsider
And as long as the largest political blog continues its repeated attacks on liberal values and progressive politics and fails to get over its phobia of standing for something, I don't see much hope for any sort of truly progressive netroots gains in the 2006 elections.

In that post you liked to, Kos didn't say he was afraid to stand for something. What he said was, he didn't want to stand for ONE thing. He didn't want to be seen as leading just another "pressure group" espousing a very narrow agenda.

He and Armando and the rest have time and again supported liberal values and progressive politics. They may not have supported everything you'd like them to, or supported it as vigorously as you'd like, and they may support things you don't like (like Casey), but that doesn't mean they are anti-progressive or illiberal. There's nothing wrong with you crusading against Casey and vilifying anyone who is anti-choice, I have no problem with that (and I imagine Kos wouldn't either); but you have to know that you're fighting an uphill battle if you make this your single overriding issue. What about Social Security? What about Iraq? What about Katrina? Who better represents your views of what a "progressive" position on those issues would be? Kos has to grimace when he puts his support behind Casey, in case you didn't notice; he acknowledges that Casey isn't the ideal progressive candidate. But Casey is far and away the most likely to win the Democratic primary at this point, and it would be much better to have a right-leaning Democrat like Casey in the Senate than 6 more years of 100% right-wingnut Santorum. If progressives take their balls and go home after Casey wins the Democratic nomination, then Santorum just might be able to win reelection. Then not only do you lose on your one issue of choice, you lose a vote on EVERYTHING progressive that might come before the Senate. Do you call that winning? I don't, and Kos doesn't.

I agree with you completely on choice. It's a tragedy that there are people in this supposedly enlightened country who think we need to legislate what people do with their bodies. It's also a tragedy that our government lies to us about foreign intelligence, gets us into wars on false pretenses, doesn't respond competently to natural disasters, gives huge tax breaks to the rich, cuts services to the poor, legislates morality, and attempts to consolidate power in the hands of the executive. Look at it this way, if you can: you've lost that Senate seat on the issue of choice. Game over, not gonna happen. Neither candidate is going to support your position. Now, on all the other issues that you care about, which one supports you on more of them?

Your implication is that we are being given a false choice; it didn't have to be Casey getting the Democratic nomination. What about Pennacchio, what about Sandals? You're right about that to an extent. In a perfect world where "media girl" got to pick who got the nomination, there are many better choices than Casey from the progressive viewpoint. But the unfortunate reality is that Casey is (apparently) the one who is going to get it. So where do you live? The fantasy world where you still get to pick someone else, or the real world where you make the best of a bad situation, bitch and moan about it but support the guy who at least supports some of your positions? Kos and Jerome live in the real world.

liberalrob's picture
Posted by liberalrob (not verified) on 3 February 2006 - 5:45pm
A perfect distillation of the DLC view

"Electability" is the false apology offered for every compromise.

There's no doubt Kos tries to talk the talk. He says "progressive" all the time. But he doesn't walk the walk, not when he pushes regressive candidates like Kaine and Casey.

There's this thing called human rights, liberalrob. Once upon a time the Democratic Party defended human rights. Now they're in full retreat, and Kos is cheerleading all the way. No, I do not respect that and certainly do not agree with that.

Here's the math: You elect more regressive Democrats and you end up with a more regressive Democratic Party.

And I predict you don't win any lasting majorities.

And you don't win any competition to set the agenda for the future.

Why? Because the Democrats have no agenda except what you obsess about: winning. And that's not enough to get all the undecideds and independents to get in line and vote. People smell bullshit, and that's what the Democrats are wanting to sell more of.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 3 February 2006 - 6:24pm
If you don't win, you don't get to lead

Unless you have a majority of votes in the House and Senate, you don't get to pass laws (or remove those you think are bad) and you don't get to set the agenda for the future. That's the simple fact. And here's another point, which Kos and Armando have made several times: if you have the majority, you get to run the committees. So let's accept the premise arguendo that Casey is reprehensible; nevertheless, he is a Democrat. That's one more Democrat towards getting a majority in the Senate and being able to control what laws come out of committees. Who cares what he personally votes for, as long as we get to control the agenda instead of those other people?

By insisting on 100% philosophical agreement, you are cutting yourself off from those independents and undecideds you are trying to get on your side. 56% of the people nationwide are on your side on this issue; in Pennsylvania, maybe it's only 50% (Survey USA says it's 51-44). If that's the case, are you seriously insisting that not only must 60% of all Americans support you, but 60% of Pennsylvanians and 60% of Philadelphians and 60% of precinct 1700 must agree with you as well or you won't support their representatives? Even if those representatives might give you control of the Congress, whereas your opposition gives control to the 44% who disagree with you?

I don't agree with the DLC on very much, but I do agree that you have to win before you get to make change. It's just the way this system of government works. You call this cynical and talk about how the Democratic Party used to defend human rights, implying that they don't anymore or at best are "in full retreat". I think it's far better to support a side that is in full retreat (and hopefully susceptible to rallying) rather than make it easier for those who never were there in the first place to keep making their agenda the law of the land. A more regressive Democratic Party is still preferable to a completely regressive Republican Party, don't you agree?

I realize that you feel very strongly about this issue and that you refuse to yield a single inch on it. I'm just saying that just as you think it's a betrayal to support someone like Casey regardless of the larger picture, I think any movement based on an uncompromising position faces an incredibly difficult if not impossible task in getting its agenda addressed. But I do wish you success; ultimately on this issue our goal is the same. We just differ on the means.

liberalrob's picture
Posted by liberalrob (not verified) on 6 February 2006 - 11:10am
How do you win by alienating your voter base?

How do you win by standing for nothing -- or taking positions that go against what your core voters believe?

How do you win by avoiding taking a stand?

How do you win when the vast majority of the electorate doesn't know what the heck you're about?

How do you win when you offer no vision?

You talk from the assumption -- and it's nothing more than an assumption -- that Democrats like Casey can win and Democrats like Feingold or Boxer cannot. I say that's nonsense.

The Dems have been doing what you're advocating for at least 18 years now, and they've been losing.

To change the downward slide of the Democratic Party, it needs to engage in the war of ideas and push for a vision of America -- and you cannot do that without values, without taking stands, without taking a chance. That is the true lesson to be learned from the conserative movement. Of course, kids like Kos don't get that because all they've known is conservatism, growing up under Reagan.

Yes, you have to win. How do you win? By taking a stand and leading, not by glomming onto any joker who has cash in the bank.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 6 February 2006 - 12:47pm
How's playing to "our voter base" worked for us lately?

It's incorrect to say that the Democratic Party stands for nothing. It stands for many many things, one of which is a woman's right to control her body. Your complaint is that it isn't ideologically pure, that it doesn't reject the Ben Casey's and Tim Kaine's that ask to be members and doesn't refuse to let them say they are Democrats. You insist that anyone not 100% committed to your position on one issue should not be allowed to be members of your party.

That doesn't work in the real world. That is the very definition of a single-issue pressure group, and they don't get elected to Congress. What is your party's position on Iraq, on the economy, on Social Security, on health care? If you are going to insist on such ideological purity, I submit that your party is probably not going to get very far in accomplishing its goal. While a majority of the people are behind you on your issue, they're not going to be willing to support you unless you address all the other issues as well; and you're going to find that your 56% may decrease quite a bit depending on your positions on those other issues.

Democrats like Casey are winning in Pennsylvania; Democrats like Feingold and Boxer are not. Casey is winning. Pennacchio is not. If Pennacchio were winning, I'm sure Kos would be right there supporting him (and a lot more enthusiastically). So your challenge, or the "netroots" challenge, is to get Pennacchio to beat Casey. It's not too late. But if it doesn't happen and Casey does win, it's counterproductive to our goal of securing the rights of women to then withhold support from Casey. And that's what you're saying you'll do. If the netroots says Pennacchio or bust and goes home if Casey wins, then Santorum probably wins and all the bad things I talked about before follow on.

We're not that far apart. I agree with you that it would be a great thing if the progressive movement grew large enough to either recapture the Democratic Party or start a viable third party. I agree with you that it would be a good thing if Democrats started taking more forceful stands on their core values. I agree with you that Democrats have done a lousy job coming up with a consistent message on what those core values are, and a pathetic job in explaining them to the public. But I disagree with you that part of being a vibrant and active party is insisting on ideological purity and expelling anyone who doesn't agree with 100% of our agenda, or even 80% or 60%. As long as someone agrees with over 50% of our agenda, I think they should have a place in our party, because on those 50% they will help us and those 50% are still important to creating a good society.

liberalrob's picture
Posted by liberalrob (not verified) on 6 February 2006 - 4:16pm
Democrats like Casey are winning in Pennsylvania; Democrats like Feingold and Boxer are not.

I seem to remember Boxer winning. Hmmm....

What I find very interesting is the notion that the Democrats have been playing to their traditional base at all. Here they've dropped the ERA, they've dropped advocacy for the poor, they've

"Ideologically pure." You toss around the right-wing buzzwords pretty well for claiming to be a "liberal." You talk about my rights as "ideology." I humbly ask you to go fuck yourself. I can pretty damn well predict what your reaction would be if the Democrats started pushing for mandatory castration of men who rape, or any other kind of invasion of the male body. That you find women's fundamental human rights as "ideology" is quite revealing of your own politics -- your own ideology.

What is your party's position on Iraq, on the economy, on Social Security, on health care?

That's just the problem: The Democrats have no position on any of these things, because they don't want to take a stand. In fact, the Democrats are unable to take a stand on any of these issues because they cannot agree on any of these issues.

You want to go on and continue the watering-down of the party that the Dem consultants have been doing for two decades, go right on ahead. But if you want people to vote for you, you have to stand for something.

Right now, you stand for nothing but "getting elected," and that stinks. People smell bullshit, and that's what you're offering.

Tell me what you stand for, and I'll consider voting for you. Tell me you're for forced pregnancy and breeding laws, and no, I won't vote for you. Tell me you're for stripping civil rights from gays and gutting assistance to the poor and restructuring the legal system to disempower the people, then no, I won't vote for you, whatever your party affiliation.

"Democrat" means nothing right now. No vision. No leadership. No ideas. And THAT is what is killing the party, not a bunch of "single issue interests" that the Democrats have been ignoring for 20 years anyway.

You are the one who needs to wake up.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 6 February 2006 - 8:25pm
I like the spirit

Being fired up is great. Obviously you misread my post; of course Boxer won, but in California, not Pennsylvania. That was what I said. Incidentally she was on the Colbert Report last night to promote her new novel, and was totally flustered by him; it was pretty funny. I think she's a great Senator.

Of course I talk about ideology, which apparently is a dirty word for you, and do you deny that your position is calling for ideological purity? It's not a "right-wing buzzword", it's a definition of a position that calls for 100% agreement on all issues as a condition of membership in a group. I recognize that you put women's fundamental rights as outside of any ideology; but that in itself is your ideology. I'm a political science major, and that's how I look at things. Sorry if that disqualifies me to be in your club.

Taking me to task about how would I feel if X and Y and Z unpleasant thing were proposed by Democrats is counterproductive and pointless. They are not going to propose any such things, if they did I would obviously be against it, and it's irrelevant to the discussion. I would also be against it if they decided to adopt Sharia law or if they decided to propose stoning of adulterous women as prescribed by the Bible. None of those things have been proposed by Democrats either, nor are they likely to be; so why bring them up? I consider myself to be on the side of women's rights, regardless if you think I am committed enough for your liking, and I politely decline your invitation for me to go fuck myself. Telling people to go fuck themselves isn't in the book on how to win friends and influence people, FYI.

In fact, the Democrats are unable to take a stand on any of these issues because they cannot agree on any of these issues.

This is an interesting point. Let's accept that they can't agree on the issues. Why do you think it is that they cannot agree?

I think that as you expand your "tent", the spectrum of ideologies that you allow to be members of your group, it becomes harder and harder to reach a consensus on which ideology should be dominant. So the question becomes, how big does your tent have to be in order to get enough influence to get your agenda implemented, and which "core values" fall by the wayside due to lack of consensus while you're doing this? Obviously the Republican right has figured out that you can win by cheating, lying and dissembling; can it be done on the up-and-up? That's what I see as the next challenge for the "netroots"/Progressive movement.

Right now, you stand for nothing but "getting elected," and that stinks.

Sure it does, but if you don't get elected, you don't get to implement your agenda. Do you deny that? The key is to find a way to get elected and stay true to your principles. We're still trying to figure out how to do that.

People smell bullshit, and that's what you're offering.

How so? Go to's Agenda page, and tell me what on that page is bullshit.

liberalrob's picture
Posted by liberalrob (not verified) on 7 February 2006 - 10:51am
I have a fuller response in a separate blog post

Also please look at Matsu's blog posted here today. She gets to the heart of the matter.

More to come in the coming days, too.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 7 February 2006 - 2:42pm