Pennywit writes in "Kos Rex":
When they write the history of early twenty-first century politics, Markos Zuniga will certainly merit his own topic, as he was one of the first individuals to effectively turn the Internet into an activist medium. Nobody should deny him that place. But Zuniga -- "Kos" when online -- is still writing his story, and right now that story is a mess, making Kos look less like a visionary activist and more like a cold, miscalculating wannabe political genius.
First, there's the "brand identity" of Daily Kos, Kos's eponymous blog. While the blog occasionally features interesting commentary, it has nevertheless developed a reputation as the home of the least sane liberal ramblings this side of Democratic Underground.
Second, there's Kos's recent "open mouth, swallow Hush Puppies" moment, when he managed to alienate feminists across the United States. It seems that in Kos's opinion, feminists need to give a little bit for the sake of a greater cause. (In the vernacular: "For GOOD of party!")
Finally, you have Kos's latest, cryptic pronouncement:
Two more weeks, folks, before we take them on, head on.
No calls for a truce will be brooked. The DLC has used those pauses in the past to bide their time between offensives. Appeals to party unity will fall on deaf ears (it's summer of a non-election year, the perfect time to sort out internal disagreements).
We need to make the DLC radioactive. And we will. With everyone's help, we really can. Stay tuned.
What's happening in two weeks? Who knows?
But why's he targeting the Democratic Leadership Council? For being insufficiently liberal. For daring to call out the party's extreme elements. For being concerned with pushing a non-radical, center-left political agenda.
I can't speak for Kos, but I know that a lot of us with more progressive views about society see the DLC has an organization that not only has managed to hold sway over the Democratic Party by advocating a losing political strategy -- basically: Be like the Republicans, but only less so -- but also seems quite eager to abandon what shreds of moral values that traditionally have been part of the Dem platform under the preconception that the political center is won through pandering.
But like Pennywit, I wonder what's going on in Markos' brain with these kinds of pronouncements. Setting aside his attitudes about what constitutes "important shit" politically, it seems that he is starting to believe he is netroots personified. Especially when you look at this kind of behavior.
One might question how the proprietor of a website garnering hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from Blogads alone represents netroots. Speaking for myself, I find economic success to be a potential challenge to integrity, but not necessarily a red flag.
But I do find more disingenuous his claims of being just a humble blogger, especially in posts like this:
This is still being portrayed as a us versus them battle, when in fact, that doesn't need to be the case. This last paragraph is exciting to me -- people taking charge of their own backyards, showing local leadership despite what the party in DC may or may not think.
This is one of the issues Jerome and I have grappled with writing our book -- just what role should the national party take vis a vis state parties and the grassroots. There are things the national party can do that the state party cannot, and things that grassroots activist can do that the party (at any level) cannot do.
The trick is finding a way for everyone to play to their strengths, complementing each other's efforts for the greater good. Despite all the talk of conflict in this piece and elsewhere, the reality isn't anywhere near as harsh. We're all after the same goal, and we'll figure out the best way to work together through trial and error.
The first paragraph doesn't jibe with the third paragraph. Are we all after the same goal? What is that goal? "No to Bush"? Well, guess what! Bush is not up for re-election. There are going to be other Republicans running, with different strengths and weaknesses. How is a "No to Bush" campaign going to fly against them?
I think the glue that ties those paragraphs together is the second paragraph. A book about what the national Democratic Party "should" do.
Who are the netroots? Are they -- we -- really all the same? Does Markos speak for all of us?
In a comment to Pennywit's post, The Impolitic says:
I agree that he's heading for a fall though, if he doesn't start practicing a little more democracy at his site. I don't go there enough to have figured out what exactly the brouhaha is about, but all of sudden there's a lot of rules about what is allowed to be discussed and bannings against those who don't follow them. I followed a link to an appalling display of autocratic intimidation by his first Lt. Armando, purportedly on Kos's behalf.
A lot of Kossacks are leaving. He may wake up some day with a lot of officers and no troops.
I don't know if that's true. But it's certainly true that Daily Kos exbloggers are finding themselves at odds with the pronouncements from the non-"gatekeeper." Pennywit observes:
Taken together, a new story of Kos emerges. Not a political visionary. Not an adept political strategist. Let's try this one on for size: Kos is an egocentric "activist" who views himself as the savior of his political party. Because he is the savior, disagreement with him must be punished swiftly. Ironically, the goal is not a greater liberal agenda, but rather electing to power those who will agree with what Kos says the liberal agenda is. In other words, the Democratic Party, he wishes the Democratic Party to become the Kult of Kos, where his words are taken as gospel, or, at the very least, he is the final arbiter of political right or political wrong.
I think real question is whether the netroots can indeed be co-opted into a mainstreamed bullshit parade, as has already happened on television and in newspapers. I suspect it's possible. When the Ã¼berbloggers continue to link to each other, their traffic benefits. And that leads to more attention. DailyKos has an incredible amount of traffic. But does that make Markos himself a political sage?
Some will take issue with the fact that I've been so hard on Kos. I have my issues with him. I think he's a military imperialist, much too much to my comfort level. I think he's a chauvinist, and is way too soft on reproductive rights. I think he's way too focused on party politics, and is blinded by the fantastic idea that any Democrat, no matter how bigoted or corrupt, is better than any Republican, no matter how virtuous or egalitarian. What galls me is his arrogance, his pose as netroots personified, and his shaking fist and waggling finger telling the rest of us to get in line.
"You're either with me, or you're with the wingnuts!"
I say, "Bullshit!"
I don't doubt that the kingmakers will fall -- they always do -- but there's enough ignorance about what the net is, and enough belief out there that if a blogger has high traffic, he somehow has great influence, that what gets labeled as "netroots" in politics may end up having precious little "roots" at all.
Meanwhile the rest of us are out here, collectively with bandwidth that makes Daily Kos seem like an obscure pimple in the greater discourse.