So Jedmunds has read Markos and Jerome's book. I haven't. I suppose I'll flip through some pages next time I'm in a bookstore that carries it. But having read Kos on DailyKos for over a year now, I don't feel any need to part with my hard-earned money and too-short time to curl up with a tome about how civil rights are "special interests" and how the Democratic Party can win only by standing for nothing except things not (quite) Republican.
The most glaring problem with the Kos/Armstrong approach to â€œreformingâ€? the Democratic Party is their ill-considered assault on so called â€œsingle issue groups,â€? ie unions, feminists, blacks and Hispanics. It may in fact be true, as Kos/Armstrong argue, that the sum of these special interests is no greater than the sum of their parts, however their purported solution is breathtakingly naÃ¯ve. They embrace what they call a broad based, yet completely undefined â€œprogressiveâ€? movement, that will remain outside of the Democratic Party, and like their historical conservative counterpart, â€œtake overâ€? the Democratic Party.
Some problems with this idea are readily apparent. First, it is not at all clear that this progressive movement is itself anything more than the sum of these â€œspecial interests.â€? Sure, itâ€™s lovely that this â€œprogressiveâ€? movement, which has no apparent purpose other than electing people who happen to be Democrats, will be unencumbered by these single issue litmus tests, such that theoretically, a pro-life, pro-business, anti-immigrant, war-hawk can be elected under the Democratic banner provided he gives rhetorical hell to the Republicans. And that would be considered a great victory for this â€œprogressiveâ€? movement.
What I find extremely interesting is how much Markos, and it seems Jerome, have totally bought into the Republican frame of Democratic constituents: "special interests." That puts women's fighting for equal rights right up there with Enron pushing for special regulatory favors. That puts African Americans fighting for equal rights and equal opportunity right up there with the oil and gas industry pushing for less regulation and more tax breaks.
Where Markos and Jerome see "special interests" in traditionally Democratic constituencies, I see citizens. And when it comes to Dick and Jane fighting for their rights vs. Multinational Conglomerates R Us lobbying to be able to dump more toxic waste in the country's drinking water, I don't have any problem seeing a difference.
What I find even more laughable is the idea that you can just glom on to the progressive netroots label with avowedly non-progressive, Democratic Party sites like DailyKos, and figure nobody will notice.
Markos a progressive? Give me a fucking break. How many progressive principles has Kos actively, and often viciously, attacked? How can anyone who labels people fighting for their rights as "roadblocks" to be "pushed aside" call himself a progressive.
Obviously the word is rapidly becoming meaningless, at least in the online world. In fact, the Markos strategy to winning elections is to be for nothing but against anything Republican. To him, being for anything means giving in to "single issue voters" like "the women's studies set," whom his "big tent" ideas have no room for. (Several people noted on "Blog for Choice Day" that Daily Kos was mute on the subject, except for a culture of death diary pushing all the right-wing talking points on reproductive rights. You can accuse Daily Kos of a lot of things, but you can't call them pro-choice -- not when they're pushing candidates who are proudly in favor of forced pregnancy.)
This purported â€œprogressiveâ€? movement would appear to have no ideological goals other than electing Democrats. Seriously. According to Kausâ€¦ err Kos and Armstrong, we need to take over the Democratic Party, just to get the Democratic Party interested in winning elections. If you think about that long enough, when youâ€™re done laughing, youâ€™ll probably start crying. Unless youâ€™re like me, in which case you squelch your emotions beneath a hard, calloused layer of seething and bubbling rage.
But in fact Kos and Armstrong insist that this new â€œprogressiveâ€? movement is without firm ideology, un-united by any single issue except for perhaps opposition to the Iraq war. Yes, indeed, this progressive movement is united in its opposition to a decision that was made almost three years ago. Hahaha. No really, itâ€™s kind of sad. In fact, I doubt many of us are united by little more than an intense and conditioned opposition to the current occupant. And I wonder if Kos and Armstrong ever considered what will happen to this â€œprogressiveâ€? movement, united by nothing more than the desire to bring Democrats kicking and screaming to power, when the current occupant takes the heroâ€™s walk into the sunset. Or maybe more optimistically, when and if the Republicans in general heal their self image which has taken some blows lately. What does this â€œprogressiveâ€? movement do then? Itâ€™s easy to be anti-Republican and nothing more, when Republicans are at their nadir of popularity.
When I look at the strategies pushed on the front page of Daily Kos, I wonder at how they can claim that they're offering anything other than business as usual. Already the Democrats are weak and disorganized because they cannot unite around any issues. Already vast numbers of Democrats vote along with the Republicans on offensive bills like the "Now You Have to Be Rich to Declare Bankruptcy" bill. How is pushing for more "big tent" Democrats (read: Democrats who don't hold progressive values) going to improve things? How is this any different than what the DCCC, DLC and other establishment players are already doing?
Answer: It's not any different. And if you want proof, just look at how Kos & Co. push Democratic Establishment golden boys like Bob Casey, Jr., whose radical right-wing views include making women's wombs property of the State.
But they donâ€™t realize that they have the same problem the Democratic Party has: they donâ€™t know what they stand for, because theyâ€™re too afraid to stand for anything.
This is the heart of the problem. Rather than fight for progressive values, Kos and Armstrong advocate more running away from scary Republican rhetoric. Call it the Michael ("I-I-I-I am not a liberal!") Dukakis school of politics.
This â€œprogressiveâ€? movement to take over the Democratic Party is little more than an illusion. Itâ€™s all pretend. A dash of rabble-rousing and a dash of half-assed wishful thinking for a facile ride that anyone can get on and thatâ€™ll never go anywhere. Thereâ€™s no point to it. At all. Thereâ€™s not really even a commitment to grassroots politics. After all, Schumerâ€™s appointing Casey as the nominee apparent in Pennsylvania is to be celebrated, for the sole reason that Casey can win. We not only donâ€™t care about ideology, we donâ€™t even need to care about process. Let the DC Dems decide. Because they know best. Except when they donâ€™t. How can we tell the difference? Well, I guess Kos will tell us.
There is a real progressive movement. It's just not happening at Daily Kos -- let alone being led by Markos. Or, as Jedmunds says,
I suspect that a truly enduring movement needs to be united by more than anti-Republicanism or anti-Bushism. And they need to have some idea of what they believe in, or else they wonâ€™t exist beyond victory. And I suspect, that if a real progressive movement is to emerge in this country, that Kos and Armstrong, like the Democratic Party itself, will be obstacles to it and not leaders of it.
Read the whole thing. The comments in the thread are of interest, too:
Iâ€™m inclined to think Kos & Co. have pitted â€œspecial interestsâ€? against the party, and I donâ€™t think their goals are necessarily at odds. Or, to put it another way, this paranoid fear that advocacy groups turn off the public strikes me as illogical.
Trying to woo [pocketbook voters] away by promising to be Repub-lite wonâ€™t work. Trying to woo them away by promising to be more Repub than the Republicans wonâ€™t likely work either - why should they believe it?
OTOH, the DCCC is just dumb enough to try *either* of those. In which case they will wonder, as they embrace being Evildum to Evildee, why all remaining traces of their old â€œbaseâ€? have evaporated - and pay Al From another half-billion to try to figure it out for them.
Part of the trouble is that the progressives have been trying to take over the Democrats from the outside ever since the Radical Republicans were defeated and the Republicans were purged of progressive politics. Kosâ€™s model is exactly that which has led to defeats of progressive movements over and over again.
the dems and kos and all the rest want a win now, any actual strategy that would allow liberal issues to get implemented would take time, they want cake now, before dinner, and are honestly believe that they wonâ€™t spoil their appetite.
The only people Iâ€™ve seen sell things off and out as quickly and easily as these guys are crack heads, and like crack heads they donâ€™t care who they hurt in the search for the next hit.
Thing is, the mainstream Democrats have largely kept people like me (waaay to the left of the party as it presently stands) in line and voting for them based on, really, the one Big Issue, the one on which they were never supposed to fail us: abortion. And yet, here we go, theyâ€™re about to do just that. And when that happens â€” and I tell you, I am this close to certain that itâ€™s going to happen, oh, in a few days or weeks, when Alito gets confirmed â€” my much-decried special interest ass is going to be looking elsewhere. Hereâ€™s where the anti-choice fundie wackjobs and I are alike: I donâ€™t like feeling like Iâ€™ve been played for a chump by my party. And I really donâ€™t think Iâ€™m going to be alone in this.
Jettisoning ideology and identity politics in order to get nominal Democrats elected to office is the kind of profoundly stupid thing the DLC has been up to for a long time now. And we can see how goddamn successful thatâ€™s been. We are seriously outgunned when it comes to the really big money, the press is largely in the tank, about all weâ€™ve got on our side is this fragile coalition of identity-based progressive groups and individuals, and Kos and Jerome want to marginalize us further? The hell? Why the fuck would I want to get right-wing Democrats elected? Whatâ€™s in it for me? God, yes, Iâ€™d love to see that twisted little shit Rick Santorum driven from office, but by Casey? Why?
This leadership is purposefully destroying the party by their willful and intended ineffectiveness.. now that the party is almost the size of a bathtub the bastards have the nerve to take the base hostage and demand ransoms for them to represent us again. They have made the terms of the ransom very clearâ€¦ Only when you give up your liberal and progressive issue will we then go back to work and represent youâ€¦ however, the fact of the matter is that once we give up our dreaded issues and ideologies and become partisan just for partisan fuck sakeâ€¦ our representatives will actually be representing the GOP they envy so, and not us.
There are many other comments, but eataTREE offers the lame-ass counter-argument:
You donâ€™t have to vote Democratic. Itâ€™s a free country. You can vote third-party or stay home if you like. But the upshot of your doing so is twofold: a) more Republicans are going to be elected (and yes, that will actually make a difference to policy decisions regarding the issues liberals care about), and b) Democrats will tack even further to the right, since theyâ€™re no longer getting votes from the left.
This is the regularly-employed tactic. The only problem is that we're talking about the Democratic Party, and who's leading it and best representing the voters. Casey apologists and others like to jump ahead to November, but we're entering primary season. There are no official Democratic nominees to Congress and the Senate yet.
And yet these right-wing faux-progressives claim that only their boys can win. I think the past two decades have proven that that's not true.
I don't know, but to me these folks seem like they're so driven by fear that they figure the only Democrats who can win elections are Republicans, or at least Democrats who look as Republican as possible.
Which is kind of like lighting a fire in the hearth on a really hot day, and offering the rationale that at least it's our heat, and not from the sun.
Finally, from Lorenzo's comment:
In short, think tanks were used to legitimate their ideology.
*DING DING DING* Finally, someone who gets it.
The problem with compromising your ideology instead of fighting like hell to normalize it is that you normalize the other guyâ€™s ideology.
Liquidating ideology for partisanship ultimately only serves to normalize the oppositionâ€™s ideology and thus to keep getting them elected. The entire point of the conservative movement since the 70â€™s has been to normalize their ideology to make themselves into the center and thus to increase their electoral fortunes.
Update 2:40pm EST: See also eugene's review of the Kos/Jerome book at MyLeftWing:
While the chapters on consultants and infrastructure may garner the book attention among established Democratic circles, it is the chapter on the single-issue groups that I bet will be best received by the blogosphere. This was the case in an earlier review of Crashing the Gate
published on ePluribus Media by Aaron Barlow
. Barlow commended the authors for taking on the single-issue groups who peddle special interests and pet issues (frames that are Republican in origin and generated to discredit Democrats; Markos and Jerome repeatedly adopt such frames - one wonders if they read their Lakoff that closely), and opens his own review with the familiar tale of an anti-war protest that saw a series of speakers take the podium to exhort the audience to care about their own cause.
For Markos and Jerome, such instances are perfect examples of how these single issue special interests have ruined the Democratic Party brand. I find that difficult to believe, particularly since in the case of antiwar protests, they would not have existed at all had it been up to the Democrats. Antiwar activism has routinely been denigrated by the Democratic establishment. To blame antiwar activists for Democratic failures, then, is to me simply appalling. Had Democrats either taken the lead on opposing the war, or done their jobs and not voted for it in the first place, the single-issue approach the authors find so frustrating wouldn't have happened at all.
One has to be careful to not allow an attack on specific groups and organizations to slide over and become an attack on people who take those issues seriously. While neither Markos nor Jerome explicity makes such an attack on people, their use of language - speaking of these matters as special interests (a Republican frame) and as pet issues (another Republican frame) can have that impact, especially if this book is uncritically used to frame the discussion. Democrats take issues like the environment and abortion and labor rights and ending racism and health care and peace extremely seriously, as well they should. Any Democratic strategy must also take them seriously.
What we do want, and what the authors seem to desire as well, is for these groups to craft a strategy that is holistic in nature. To come together to support candidates who share all values (The authors suggest that the 2004 Colorado elections were a good example of this approach). And to come together to explain to Americans why their core issues of concern are not separate, but are fundamentally, even inextricably, linked - why you can't have successful labor organizing without addressing racism, why you can't fix the environment without talking about foreign policy, why you can't provide universal health care and at the same time say it's OK to deny women abortions, as someone last weekend tried to convince me you could.
In short, that strategy needs to directly address what is routinely derided by Markos and Jerome in this book: ideology.
The American political landscape is littered with the bodies of Democrats who believed you could build a governing majority without worrying about ideology. Pat Brown, Lyndon Johnson, even Jimmy Carter to some extent, found out the hard way that as a Democrat, you ignore debates over ideology and deeply-held beliefs of your voting base at your peril. Ideological splits cannot be forestalled by appealing to party unity or by trying to silence dissent - they can only be resolved by working through the issues themselves, rather than ignoring them and allowing them to fester.
Markos and Jerome's dismissive attitudes of ideology are more than politically shortsighted. Their attitudes, I would suggest, stand in the way of a reconstruction of a progressive message. To the authors, ideology is a term that is always defined as a negative. Ideology divides, never unites. It alienates, never amalgamates.
There's much more, well worth the read.