Yearly Kos, The Anti-War Movement and Cooptation of The Netroots

On this weekend of blogospheric celebration, someone has to rain on the parade. And that someone is me. One of our favorites, Avedon, links to LarryE lamenting the state of the anti-war movement:

the real reason that the antiwar movement seems unable to stop the war despite having the support of perhaps two-thirds of the public is that too much of that "movement" to too god damned concerned with its own image. Too god damned concerned with being "respectable," with being seen as "serious," as truly "pro-American." Too god damned concerned with politics over praxis, with positioning over protest. As a result, it has surrendered tactical decisions to the leadership of the Democratic Party and moral leadership to a crew of inside-the-Beltway wannabes both on- and offline who have mocked demonstrations and made Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi the arbiters of the acceptable limits of debate. And that has been a horrendous blunder, both tactically and ethically, with disastrous consequences for Americans and even more - far more - for Iraqis.

I think Larry is right about the anti-war Netroots failing miserably in 2007 but I think he is wrong on the why it is failing. I will explain my thinking on the flip.

I have been withering in my criticism of the Netroots' performance on Iraq. In particular, I harshly criticized the Netroots on the Iraq Supplement:

House Dems and the Netroots seem not to understand how this process has played out and will play out.

The very same pressures that forced the capitulation to the Blue Dogs will force further capitulations along the way starting with the Senate, IF a bill is to be approved. If the goal is to have Bush veto a bill then it was critical to start with as strong a bill as possible so that when the inevitable compromises were made along the way at least at the end Bush would need to veto. The bill, if it emerges, that Bush will see will be utterly toothless. To wit, he will not veto it and the Dems will have funded the Debacle.

Chris writes:

I indicated yesterday that the next fight would probably be engaged over the Department of Defense appropriations bill in late April/early May. However, when this bill--the one we have so agonized over--is defeated either via filibuster or via veto, the fight over the Iraq supplemental will continue. And we will need to work together on that fight. If there is any attempt to cave to Republicans, and pass a bill with no restrictions whatsoever, people on both sides of the current debate will need to join together to help defeat that bill. You better believe I will help whip votes to defeat a straight-up funding of the war. Further, if Democrats decide to scrap this bill, and start over with new legislation, we will all need to work together to make the language stronger, rather than weaker. Yet further, even apart from this bill, we will need to make sure that provisions which were stripped out of it, such as language requiring congressional approval for any military action on Iran, are not only given a vote on the House floor, but passed by the House. In short, no matter what happens, once this bill is passed we will need to continue working together to help bring an end to this war.
That's all very nice Chris, but the "218, best we can get mantra" is now the baseline. Does anyone think you can retrace those steps? Pelosi went down that road. The Netroots went down that road. The Out of Iraq Caucus went down that road. The funding with next to no restrictions is a fait accompli now. . .

Larry's critique is based on worrying about imaging. That was not the problem. The problem was deciding to NOT pressure the Democratic Congress. To instead be, led by Tom Mattzie of Move On, coopted by the Democratic Congress. I do not think the protests against the war worried anyone. It was the criticizing of the Dem Congress that was muted.

On the weekend of Yearly Kos, the Dem Congress is in the process of caving in on FISA. The tug in the Netroots is palpable. They do not want their big weekend ruined with this type of controversy. There is no real spark in their fight.

Writing about the influence of the Netroots, Bowers writes today:

Obviously, I think [Ben Smith of Politico] is wrong about the blogopshere losing relative power and influence. Last time I checked, one the reasons the blogosphere got behidn Howard Dean was becuase he opposed the war in Iraq and favored universal health care, something few other Demcorats were willing to do at the time. Now, I'm sitting in a room where several presidential candidates, including all of the leading candidates, are directly telling bloggers that they agree with both positions. Yeah, we have really backslid in terms of power. . . . In the end, it seems that Smith's means of measuring blogosphere influence is how scared insider and establihsment types are of the blogosphere. Frankly, I think that is a pretty immautre appreciation of the situation. If the only thing we had the power to do was scare people in the establihsment, then the blogosphere would never change from the way it operated circa 2003. However, the progressive blogosphere has grown twenty times larger since 2003, making change both inevitable and necessary. It is almost as though Smith is saying "I liked the blogosphere's earlier albums, before they got popular and sold out."

If one is looking solely at the Presidential election, of course the blogs have influenced positions. But in what is happening on issues NOW, the blogs are absolutely toothless. FISA now is a grim reminder. And I believe the main reason is people who simply have decided to not concentrate on issues now, preferring to horserace blog the 2008 race.

Let's face it, the Netroots now is enjoying being showered by attention by the Presidential candidates and getting all sorts of Media attention. It seems clear to me that they simply do not care as much about the issues of 2007.

I heartily condemned the Netroots before for this and I do so again today, on its big weekend.

< FISA: Bush's Vise On Dem Incompetence | FISA: "Tough Guy" Webb On Why He Cowered Before Bush >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Yesterday I didn't expect (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by andgarden on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 06:13:49 PM EST
    to have to post a diary on the FISA capitulation. I had expected that there would have been at least a dozen before me. Instead, I could only find one discussion thread on the ongoing debate. Later, Granny Doc posted something that captured the musty odor of death in the netroots that I sensed myself.

    I hope it was just Yearly Kos, but I fear that it spoke to a deeper problem. More people seemed to be upset about being shown up by Pelosi and Reid than the gutting of FISA. I won't hold that against anyone--I would have been upset too--but the aggregate effect doesn't speak well to the power of the netroots, as you say here.

    It is a much deeper problem (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 06:15:10 PM EST
    I just ripped the crap out of Webb BTW.

    This rings true: (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Compound F on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 06:39:28 PM EST
    They do not want their biog weekend ruined with this type of controversy. There is no real spark in their fight.

    Anti-war Groups Target Democratic Convention for P (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by selise on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:12:07 PM EST
    BTD - have you seen this?
    Anti-war Groups Target Democratic
    Source: University of Florida

    Newswise -- The Democratic Party stands to lose the 2008 presidential election unless it takes a stronger stand against the Iraq war, a University of Florida researcher says.

    The loose coalition of groups opposed to American involvement in the Iraq war, which helped defeat Republicans in the 2006 midterm elections, is considerably less sympathetic to the Democrats and plans massive protests at the party's national convention next summer in Denver, said Michael T. Heaney, a political science professor.

    "We see a very clear shift in the anti-war movement against the Democratic Party just in the last couple of months," said Heaney, who has written an article on anti-war activists that appears in the July edition of American Politics Research journal. "And the basic reason for that is the anti-war forces are very disappointed that the Democrats have not kept their promise to bring the troops home, which was their mandate after the 2006 election."

    No (none / 0) (#7)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:14:13 PM EST
    Thank you.

    I'll blog it later.

    Trying to fugure out if Pelosi is going to put FISa up tonight.


    Get my email? (none / 0) (#8)
    by andgarden on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:20:03 PM EST
    I think it's late tonight.

    After midnight I am hearing (none / 0) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:22:57 PM EST
    yup (none / 0) (#11)
    by andgarden on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:26:56 PM EST
    Debate NOW (none / 0) (#13)
    by andgarden on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:32:20 PM EST
    Reyes is indicating a complete capitulation.

    saying "I told you so" (none / 0) (#16)
    by Sumner on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:55:47 PM EST
    just isn't going to seem very satisfying, in the months to come

    Chicago! (none / 0) (#21)
    by Scarabus on Sun Aug 05, 2007 at 07:58:04 PM EST
    I'm old enough to have seen what happened in 1968 (at least on live television). Anti-war protesters in Chicago probably made the difference between the election of progressive Hubert Humphrey and "If the president does it, then it's legal" Nixon. Humphrey almost overcame the damage they caused, but, alas, not quite.

    To force an agenda, without self-reflection or adjusting strategy to accommodate changing conditions, is naively counter-productive. To cower in fear of attack is worse than counter-productive. The rational, constructive approach lies somewhere between.

    Easy to say. The hard part is negotiating the ground between uncompromisingly going down in flames of self-righteousness on the one hand, and elevating one's snoot in uncompromising ideological triumph on the other. Either extreme is both morally easy (for the unreflective extremist, right or left), and socially irresponsible (for anyone).

    Democracy is about negotiating our differences, seeking win-win accommodation in the interest of the commonweal. At a more sophisticated level, it means developing sufficient trust to grant advantage to others in confidence that in future  others will allow us the advantage. That's moral, social, political maturity.


    This is it in a nutshell (none / 0) (#3)
    by Lora on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 06:29:38 PM EST
    Let's face it, the Netroots now is enjoying being showered by attention by the Presidential candidates and getting all sorts of Media attention.

    Rep v Dem is superficial (none / 0) (#10)
    by mijj on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:24:21 PM EST
    as a passive observer, I should say that it seems like the US has a dictatorship where' every now and then, the people can get to select from two colour schemes and styles.  The substance, however, is not theirs to influence.  They may influence the way in which the choices are presented to make it seem as if their preferences are being attended to - but it doesn't stand up to any kind of scrutiny.

    It looks like the democrats would like to have a go at pulling the strings and have their particular set of friends at the trough.  But i wouldn't bet on anything being substantially different.  Their electorate isn't the general public, it's the mass media and their current set of paymasters - they're the ones who get to dictate the substance.

    There needs to be a very substantial change in which politics is funded, and the media is regulated before there's any chance of democracy in the US.

    Til then the whole Rep v Dem thing will be entirely superficial.

    Rep v Dem is nearly irrelevant (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by janinsanfran on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 08:18:51 PM EST
    The scholarly term for what we have here is "poliarchy."

    From a talk by Rahul Mahajan:

    This democracy is a debased polity named by the scholar William Robinson "poliarchy." In poliarchy, democratic forms become a sort of play acting rather than an exercise of political power. Elites rule, enlisting the masses of people only as extras in their dramas.
    Seems about right.

    Polyarchy (none / 0) (#20)
    by joejoejoe on Sun Aug 05, 2007 at 09:49:09 AM EST
    Thanks for the link and earlier post on your blog about "polyarchy". I had trouble finding more on the topic in a Google search until I realized the spelling had a Y not an I, not something you would have known sitting in on a speech. I think what you descibe fits exactly what we are seeing in our system of goverment, theatre and not respect for their oath to uphold the Constitution.

    I was saddened by what took place last (none / 0) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:29:31 PM EST
    night and heartily agree with you that the netroots is risking toothlessness right now even before old age.  I suppose it is part of the growth though that people who have worked so hard take a time out to feel good......not very mature though to want to feel good while the Congress is giving away our civil rights during the party.  Why hasn't the antiwar movement been more successful?  I think you nailed the blogosphere portion of things.  I also notice though a lull from the military sector as well right now and I won't say it is so much as hoping the surge works as holding out hope for a change in strategy that won't leave an Iraqi blood bath on America's record and hands.  The soldiers are taking this personally and seem to be very focused on what can be done to prevent Iraq falling into dismal chaos and endless genocide and civil war.  They are so busy focusing on that they haven't even really had time to get fully pissed at that Loser and his Loser friends who did all of this to us and got America into this nightmare!

    my french revolution thing (none / 0) (#14)
    by Stewieeeee on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:32:32 PM EST
    i've always expressed it with too much glibness.

    but there's something to be learned there.

    i know maybe some might not agree with the idea that the blogosphere began as a revolution, but it certainly seems to me as the arc of this story is playing out that the same tensions apply.

    while the great orange satan parties avec les girondins the people still go hungry.  or in this case, their rights erode even further than anyone ever thought possible.

    Re Yrly Kos:Today's AP story and the interviews on (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Sat Aug 04, 2007 at 07:37:09 PM EST
    NPR this afternoon didn't include any mention of FISA legislation and/or defunding. Just as I suspected, a unique opportunity was wasted.  

    this is just too ridiculous (none / 0) (#18)
    by cpinva on Sun Aug 05, 2007 at 01:40:13 AM EST
    stop deluding yourselves into thinking that the "blogosphere" has any material impact whatever, on anything, it doesn't. don't believe me? fair enough, why should you take my word for it, my name isn't jeralyn or BTD?

    tell you what, prove it to yourself, with a very simple, easy to administer survey:

    1. make a list of the 5 most famous/influential bloggers you can think of.

    2. go out and ask 10 people of voting age if they've ever heard of any of them, either by blog name, or the blogger.

    i can guarantee, with almost 100% certainty, that, if you're lucky, 1 out of those 10 respondents will have heard of any of the named blogs/bloggers. simply put, you'd be fortunate to have a 10% recognition rate. myself, i don't believe it's even that high, maybe 1% of the voting age population is familiar with you, maybe.

    take heart though, all this means is that you've not been around that long, not that you don't contribute positively to the collective debate. in ten years, this all could change, and those numbers be reversed. assuming we're all around in ten years.

    the reason the anti-war movement hasn't gained traction is simple: only a teen, tiny % of the US population is directly affected by events in iraq, with respect to the actual combatants. again, maybe 1%, maybe.

    the source of motivation for the anti-war movement during vietnam was the draft. absent that, and i seriously doubt you'd have had all those protests on college campuses. without the draft, middle and upper middle-class kids didn't have to go in the military, if they chose not to.

    you want to give the anti-war movement a kick-start? no problem, reinstate the draft. i can guarantee, with no hesitation, that within a year of its reimplementation, there will be riots on college and high school campuses. you put everyone's son/daughter at risk, you will engender a greater response.

    My theory that the Netroots is just another (none / 0) (#19)
    by Geekesque on Sun Aug 05, 2007 at 09:35:59 AM EST
    self-promoting interest group seems to get more confirmed the more we go along.

    That's not to say that it doesn't achieve some good things, but the notion that the Netroots represents the progressive, principled ideal of political activism is bunk.  The Netroots represents people who talk about politics online.

    My theory on the FISA cave:  They figure there's only so much harm Lame Duck can do.

    My two cents (none / 0) (#22)
    by LarryE on Mon Aug 06, 2007 at 05:44:24 AM EST
    Larry's critique is based on worrying about imaging.

    Sorry this is so late, probably too late for any reaction, but I haven't read the site for a couple of days and I just came across this now.

    My concern was not about "imaging," which makes it sound like I was talking about PR, but with the sense the "leaders" of the "movement" have of their own image, which is not the same thing. In fact, I see what you call the problem - "deciding to NOT pressure the Democratic Congress" - as the result of that concern with image, not something apart from it.

    That is, too many of the leading lights - such as MoveOn - felt and feel pushing for stronger measures on the war, such as the one we agreed on (don't pass an appropriation), would brand them as "too radical" and therefore as not "serious," undermining the image they've cultivated. It would cost them access - and access is, as a lot of MSM reporters will confess (once they've retired), a powerful narcotic, both soporific and addictive.

    Ultimately, they have sought "respectability" in the halls of power - and have, as have so many before them, wound up entangled in the web of limitations that status weaves and so have lost the ability to speak truth to that power. That is why they have failed.

    We have failed by standing by and not acting on our own apart from that failed leadership.

    Related to that is that yes, demonstrations did bother some of those same forces. For a post I was writing some time ago I started to compile a list of Big Name Bloggers and other "leaders" who either dismissed, advised against, sneered at, or even attacked various demonstrations. I threw it away because I decided what I wanted to go after was an attitude, not particular individuals. Clearly, I should have kept it. It would have proved useful.