Democrats, Progressives And The Media

Greg Mitchell asks:

I think that at least the groundwork has been established for powerful, even possibly semi-radical, reform to get a fair hearing from the media, and the public, in the years ahead. What happens after that hearing--who knows?

Not if actual progressive ideas are not championed by Democratic (as opposed to progressive) bloggers. For example, in extolling this Las Vegas newspaper column, Markos misses the Progressive forest for the Democratic trees. Even his mild criticism of the article misses the point in some respects:

And here's one lagging piece of CW that still gets it wrong:

[Dean is] usually associated with the loony wing of the party, the MoveOn crowd and the liberal bloggers. But in reality, he had a vision for Democrats capturing the center, and it’s coming to pass.

Ah yes, us loony bloggers, fighting for universal health care, to protect social security, to keep our government from unconstitutionally spying on us, and to promote a sane foreign policy that doesn't unnecessarily cost us blood and treasure. You know, loony things supported by a majority of the (apparently also loony) American people.

One point that the "loony" bloggers seem less interested in is a woman's right to choose. See, here is the part of the article that bothered me:

Democrats have let their candidates — even encouraged them — to come out against gun control and abortion. That means Heath Shuler in North Carolina and a bunch of other moderates in red states have become an important part of the Democratic majority.

"Letting" them be against a woman's right to choose? "Encouraging" them to be? Let's get one thing straight. Democrats in the Deep South have been anti-choice forever. And likely will be for a long time. Heath Shuler is not the first Blue Dog to win in the South. Gene Taylor, Jim Marshall and a host of others have been anti-choice for a long time. That is where the South is.

The New York Times ran a similar article on Sunday:

The political advertisement that aired in Montgomery, Ala., spoke plainly to conservative voters’ values. As an image of three toddlers in diapers flashed across the screen, a narrator intoned that Mayor Bobby Bright, who is running for Congress, “supports their right to life.” The anti-abortion pitch is standard fare in Alabama’s Second Congressional District, a deeply conservative area that President Bush carried twice and that has been represented in Washington by a Republican for four decades.

What makes the spot unusual is that Mr. Bright is a Democrat. And that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has been pushing hard for Mr. Bright’s election, paid for it.

In fact, Mr. Bright is one of a dozen anti-abortion Democratic challengers the party has recruited to run for the House this year and has aggressively supported with millions of dollars and other resources in culturally conservative districts long unfriendly to the party. That is the highest number of anti-abortion candidates the party has fielded in recent memory to run either for open seats or against Republican challengers, according to party strategists and a leading anti-abortion organization. It is a strategy that that has received little attention in an election year dominated nationally by a grim economic picture and an unpopular president.

There are 435 seats in Congress. the Democratic Party is running probably 180 challengers. About 5%, no doubt all in Ruby Red states mostly in the Deep South, are anti-choice. But this is a news story now.

Why? Because, for the Establishment, progressives must lose even if the Democrats win a landslide.

When the Netroots decided to back Travis Childers, I thought it was a bad idea. Why? Because on too many issues, including choice, Childers held the positions of an extreme Republican.

The Netroots never seems able to focus on the BETTER part of the "more and better Democrats" mantra. Markos wrote:

We didn't rally around Webb, Tester, Schweitzer, Trauner, Brown, Massa, Burner and so many other moderate Democrats because they were little Kucinich clones, but because they were perfectly suited for the states and districts they seek to represent. It's that simple. Howard Dean wasn't an anomaly. He was our ideal.

The problem is the Netroots too often rallies around the extreme Republican-like Democratic candidates. Too often, the Netroots thinks like the DCCC.

This remains the danger for the Netroots - that it is all Democrat, and not much progressive. After the landslide next Tuesday, what then for the Netroots?

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

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    The netroots (5.00 / 7) (#1)
    by TheRealFrank on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:08:21 PM EST
    If the goal of the "netroots" was to become a player, they have somewhat succeeded.

    However, is that "crashing the gates"? Becoming just another source of fundraising, albeit a selective one?

    The netroots are all over the place and not very coherent. Some claim to be "progressive", but this seems to be mostly a label that means being convinced of your own opinions. E.g. deifying Obama while demonizing Clinton, when their programs were not far apart.

    Also, Clinton hatred in the primaries showed that the netroots fall into the same traps that the traditional media does.

    All in all, you can say that the netroots are now on the map. That may be a good thing, but what really makes them special and/or different? I'm not seeing it.

    Are we even agreed on what a (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by ThatOneVoter on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:09:02 PM EST
    Progressive agenda is now?
    My top political priorities
    1. A crash program to develop alternative, greener energy sources.
    2. A large infrastructure spending commitment.
    3. Health care

    An energy program isn't really a Progressive idea, per se, and shouldn't be sold as one: it's a common sense, urgent necessity. The same goes for infrastructure spending.
    Health care is definitely a Progressive priority.

    All three are common sense (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Manuel on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 01:21:17 PM EST
    I would expect any competent administration to address those issues.  A truly progressive agenda would include the following.

    1. Single payer universal health care.
    2. Permanent investments (e.g. universal preschool and education funding) designed to reverse the trend in the nation's wealth gap.
    3. A truly new world order that addresses the imbalance between the wealthy countries and the poorer countries.

    Unfortunately, no matter how big a landslide Obama gets, not many people are voting for such an agenda.  Furthermore, as long as the media and the netroots don't focus on the issues in a thoughtful manner, progress towards such an agenda will be minimal.

    I do believe we will get there eventually.  It is just going to take a very long time.  In the meantime, I'll be glad just to get competence.


    New world order? (none / 0) (#21)
    by Fabian on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 01:46:45 PM EST
    I'll think we'll see that, but not in a pleasant way.

    All 3 of those on my list are strongly (none / 0) (#22)
    by ThatOneVoter on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 01:47:58 PM EST
    opposed by conservative Republicans. My point is that perhaps sensible, essential policies should not be called Progressive, if it's not necessary.

    I'd call those sensible and responsible n/t (none / 0) (#37)
    by dutchfox on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 08:50:43 PM EST
    ALternative energy (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by BackFromOhio on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 05:21:15 PM EST
    technology development program can also be a jobs program

    And, how about restoring Constitutional protections?


    I agree completely. Isn't it ironic though, (none / 0) (#6)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:25:12 PM EST
    that the conservatives are asking the same question of themselves at the moment? Just what is going on this year?

    Agreed (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by andgarden on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:17:24 PM EST
    I think we should probably try to think more like to Club for Growth than the DCCC. Problem is: you don't get much access if you act that way. . .

    mcjoan has been great (5.00 / 6) (#4)
    by Turkana on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:19:25 PM EST
    (as she usually is) in promoting true progressive democract jeff merkley, but is he an "orange to blue" selection? has markos promoted him? and as much as markos wants to self-congratulate for obama, the fact is that obama ran without the netroots- he used the net brilliantly, but ignored the blogs. and as much as markos wants to self-congratulate for obama being the triumph of the dean wing over the kerry wing, kerry is actually more liberal than obama. see off-shore oil drilling. see fisa.

    many of us consider meteor blades or kagro x or mcjoan or plutonium page the face of progressive bloggers. markos not so much.

    Markos and JMM are the face of the (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by ThatOneVoter on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:21:08 PM EST
    Andrew Sullivan wing of the Democratic party.

    And why does markos believe kerry is (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:27:29 PM EST
    not a raging liberal? Is AUMF (which I admit was an obvious failure of congress) some kind of scarlett letter now?

    it was a horrible, deplorable (5.00 / 6) (#8)
    by Turkana on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:32:45 PM EST
    and egregiously political vote. and i'm not convinced a senator obama wouldn't have also made it. but kerry's overall record is and always has been strongly liberal. no purple america democrat, kerry.

    Yeah I agree on the Obama possibly (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:39:42 PM EST
    voting for AUMF if he was in the senate at the time. But the way his die-hard opponents tell it, his district is among the most anti-war in the country, so maybe I'm wrong about the possibility and he would have voted against in any case.

    A United States Senator (5.00 / 5) (#10)
    by mm on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:43:14 PM EST
    doesn't represent a "district".

    I meant Obama's Chicago constituency, not (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 01:34:42 PM EST
    his district. My bad!  :)

    Can you imagine the speech he (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by ThatOneVoter on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:43:52 PM EST
    would have given in 2002 if he had been representing a more conservative district? I can.

    Good question. Although to be fair, (none / 0) (#17)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 01:00:40 PM EST
    in Obama's ballyhooed speech he DID say he wasn't against war in general, just this war or "a dumb war". There were conservatives and libertarians against the war at the time, so who knows? It looks like we will find out what Obama is truly made of.

    I read the Op Ed Joe Wilson wrote in the NYT (none / 0) (#42)
    by hairspray on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:48:18 PM EST
    about Obama and the AUMF vote and frankly, the cirucmstances according to Wilson, were not so simple.  I once believed it was political, but Wilson tells it quite differently and doesn't spare Obama in the telling.

    if kerry had been running in '08 (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Howard Zinn on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:43:18 PM EST
    he would have flopped on drilling as well.  not doing so would have been damaging politically.  mccain coulda gotten the upper hand there, with approx 75% of the population in favor.

    not on offshore oil drilling (none / 0) (#16)
    by Turkana on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:58:16 PM EST
    that's always been a non-starter for kerry. he would not compromise on something like that.

    If we're all so in favor of (none / 0) (#34)
    by BackFromOhio on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 05:23:38 PM EST
    off-shore drilling, why haven't we properly protecting off-shore drilling equipment in the Gulf from hurricanes so many years after Katrina?

    The Nov/Dec issue (5.00 / 6) (#15)
    by lilburro on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:55:49 PM EST
    of Mother Jones has a good article by Kevin Drum that will be made available sooner or later.  Drum discusses how Obama is going to need to actively shape public opinion to accomplish anything.  Here is a few relevant bit from the article:

    In a possibly apocryphal story told by I.F. Stone, FDR once met with a group of reformers who explained at length why he should support their cause. "Okay, you've convinced me," he told them.  "Now go on out and bring pressure on me."

    Kevin goes on to write about how FDR's fireside chats were intended to build public support for his ideas, and how he persuaded Americans to support Lend-Lease by making simple analogies about being a good neigbhor.  Drum suggests that Obama is going to have to sway public opinion in a similar fashion to have the country get behind his energy plans.  Make what we believe to be the right thing to do popular, and it will pass.

    2 issues:  1, polled public opinion suggests that America DOES like what Democrats stand for.  So this shouldn't be the most difficult thing in the world.  2, We don't know yet what form Obama wants to see his pressure in.  He's dissed Daily Kos a few times, his campaign team I believe blew off TPM, and he held up Olbermann as the polar opposite of Sean Hannity.  To win votes, he's had no problem marginalizing these progressive talking heads.  To win on his issues, he may similarly overlook blogs.  I don't think blogs are easy to (truly) dismiss, but Obama has gotten good at dismissing them in public.  
    So I think a new strategy might be required.  And in developing it, it will be important to keep in mind who OBAMA ACTUALLY IS.  Blind faith in Obama as a progressive trojan horse has been proven pretty ridiculous.

    I'm disturbed by any 'progressive' (so-called) (5.00 / 4) (#23)
    by snstara on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 01:52:20 PM EST
    site that would embrace anti-choice candidates.  

    I 'understand' their (false) reasoning: that on all other supposedly progressive issues, the anti-choice Democrat you elect is more likely to vote with other Democrats than their Republican opponent.  Of course, this conveniently ignores the fact that an anti-choice Democrat may choose to vote with Republicans on other issues where they find common cause.

    It was appalling to see people unwilling to support anti-choice Democrats derided as 'single-issue voters' on a certain 'progressive' blog.  When that single issue has to do with the state telling me I am no more than a vessel for a fetus, then excuse me if I can't being myself to vote for someone who finds common cause with Republican social conservatives who will move to further such a 'progressive' agenda.

    that s/b "bring myself to vote..." n/t (none / 0) (#24)
    by snstara on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 01:54:06 PM EST
    The usual (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by OldCity on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:22:04 PM EST

    "We want a progressive!"...no defining of terms, but of course some villification of others on the left that may not agree.

    Universal Healthcare is absolutely a liberal value, a democratic value and a progressive value.  So, frankly, are stronger environmental regulations.  A "new world order" however, is certainly more than a bit amorphous.  What the fsck are you talking about?

    I read that and I wonder how we get around the fact that the US is the most powerful country in the world, that our diplomatic efforts must axiomatically advantage us, that we will fight the occasional war or intervene in conflicts...that means that someone, somewhere is always going to dislike us.  Such a statement blatantly disregards the fact that a "new world order" kind of requires the cooperation of the rest of the world, which is otherwise occupied at the present, squabbling among itself when it's not griping about us.

    In this country we have liberals, centrists and conservatives.  Most avowed "progressives" seem to be remarkably unrealistic far left liberals, even though the traditional interpretation of progressivism in America is center-left politics...in other words, a more realistic view of the possible, given consideration of the "sitz in leben", the political variables of the time.  

    I don't see those discussed here.  I don't see acknowledgement of the truly complex political dynamic that Obama will face, including a Democratic Congress with divergent (regional) opinions on key issues.

    We've seen the results of eight years of absolutism.  I keep reading posts in forums such as this that advocate absolutist activity from a different perspective, with no appreciation for either the political difficulty (they aren't doing it, so we're being betrayed) or the logistics or the immediacy of other issues.

    It's upsetting to see smart people act with the same zealotry they deplore in others.      

    Incoming OldCity!!! :) (none / 0) (#27)
    by CaptainAmerica08 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:33:19 PM EST
    Seriously though, I thought I was a liberal until I came to this site. Talk about a tough crowd! But I love to be challenged, and vice versa. If Obama, for instance, ain't a big lib/prog then he really is something new instead of the "same ol, same ol".

    I prefer to think (none / 0) (#30)
    by OldCity on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 03:01:13 PM EST
    of Obama as a liberal realist.  

    He's clearly more analytical than anyone that's run for President in a long time.  His "present vote" on the issue of medical help to newborns, which was characterized by the Republicans as equivalent to infanticide...he has pointed out that there was already a law on the books compelling doctors to offer that aid (not discounting the medical ethhics which would have compelled the same); that's illustrative to me of someone who won't waste time on non-essentials.

    I like the fact that he reinforces for Americans the folly of expecting full--on commitment to an idea, even if circumstances change.  I simply can't imagine how someone reasonable enough to admit that decisions must contantly be re-evaluated is not attractive as a candidate.

    What I see here frequently are misappresensions of "progressivisist" ideals and agendas.  I'm not much for non-specific "new world order" type comments or "improved environment" comments.  I want to know what the poster specifically means.  And I want it to be feasible.  

    True progressivism is liberal thinking writ large against the politically possible and pragmatic, with an emphasis on regulation (vs anti-corpratism), envornmental preservation, civil liberties and health and welfare of the population.  But it was and still should be a movement grounded in the possible and the necessity of prioritization.  It's not pie-in-the-sky stuff.    


    I'm not at all confident.. (5.00 / 4) (#26)
    by lucky leftie on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:23:36 PM EST
    There was an article in Saturday's NYT about the 12 anti-choice democratic candidates who are putting republican districts in play.  They have beeen recruited by the party and are being "aggressively supported" to the tune of millions. I could scream!  The party seems to be scrambling to blur the difference between us and them.  Don't they see that people are turning to our party because we aren't republicans, because they're tired of the GOP's failed policies?

    BTD's Money Quote: (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Robot Porter on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 03:53:53 PM EST
    Because, for the Establishment, progressives must lose even if the Democrats win a landslide.

    Watch the MSM tell us in no uncertain terms how we didn't really win.

    In fact, I expect them to spin an Obama win as a progressive loss.

    Just one of the ways they will push Obama to be more conservative.  A Democratic Eisenhower, or some such nonsense.

    Obama win IS a progressive loss (5.00 / 2) (#35)
    by pluege on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 06:16:40 PM EST
    look at his policies on:

    • energy: nuclear and "clean coal" - give me a break
    • healthcare: no mandates, no single payer ever, ask Krugman what he thinks of Obama's healthcare policies
    • Foreign policy: more troops to Afghanistan, invade Pakistan
    • Environment: "clean coal" - give me a break
    • Women's rights: "what?'...non-existent, laughable
    • separation of church and state: against it, more faith based initiative giveaways
    • rule of law: how did that FISA filibuster work out?

    progressives lost before we even got started.

    Women's rights (4.50 / 2) (#40)
    by robert72 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:10:49 PM EST
    are only used as a wedge with the 'new' Democratic party. The abortion issue is used as a threat to keep women in line - it has nothing to do with equality or respect. The mysogeny and hatred the supposedly progressive party has used in the past year have set women's rights back decades. The horrors perpetrated against Hillary and Sarah Palin are absolutely shameful. The final straw is the hanging effigy of Gov. Palin. Where is the outrage? Crickets....... Nothing wrong with that - it's Halloween. It's only a woman - who cares.
    Please tell me. What is liberal and progressive about the Obama party? There is little sign that there will be better health care. Hatred of women.
    Character no longer matters.
    It is all a game. Only winning matters.

    Not sure what will change (5.00 / 3) (#32)
    by mmc9431 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 04:24:09 PM EST
    Obama isn't and has never been a progressive Democrat. He is a very cautious politician that looks at every thing in terms of votes not principles. He's demonstrated that with his FISA vote, off shore drilling, gay marriage, and UHC. I'm amazed when I hear my friends still believing that all this will change after the election.

    As we saw with the various Iraq votes,the premise that any Democrat is better than a Republican, is not always true. The blue dogs blocked any chance the Democrat's has at pulling Bush's fangs. What makes anyone think things will be different in January?

    Very interesting that y'all (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by dutchfox on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 08:57:19 PM EST
    are having this discussion now about Obama, less than one week before the GE!

    Why? (none / 0) (#46)
    by sj on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 09:15:35 AM EST
    This is far from the first time that this has been discussed.  These concerns have been raised for months.

    Tester? (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by WS on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:29:11 PM EST
    Why is Kos so proud of Tester?  He's basically a Republican.  I'm glad he's another person in the caucus but he can't be counted on to fight or vote for major progressive pieces of legislation.  

    The Democratic Party's method of using (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by hairspray on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 09:59:33 PM EST
    the caucuses which disinfranchise voters more than cleansing the rolls ever did to annoint a president is another reason to look at the values of this party.

    When the Dems abandon (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by Cream City on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 11:01:20 PM EST
    public financing of campaigns and the Repub sticks with that -- and has his name on the bill for it, and when the Dems abandon their own rules, and when the Dems attack the working class (please ignore the d*mn plumber, Biden), and when the Dems pick pro-abortion candidates, and when the Dems . . . oh, what's the use?  When the Dems are the ones who will do anything to win, what will they have lost?

    As the republican party dissipates, (4.80 / 5) (#18)
    by pluege on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 01:01:22 PM EST
    the republicans have to go somewhere. The only other game in town right now is the Democratic Party. To republicans more interested in power than party identity, it really doesn't matter what they are called (republican or Democrat) as long as they get to the levers of power. This is a serious corrupting influence that will stifle, distort, and mutate Democratic and more accurately Progressive values, i.e., Blue Dogs and other republican deserters becoming Democrats is a serious threat.

    markos proved himself during the primaries to stand for nothing but winning, i.e., he is a wingnut by nature, only one hailing from the left (even though he knows and cares nothing of what it means to be "left"). The result of the markos approach is replacing one crap governing group with another (which even includes many of the same players form the old group) and no actual progress is made.

    Absolutely (5.00 / 3) (#28)
    by sj on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:40:41 PM EST
    Blue Dogs and other republican deserters becoming Democrats is a serious threat.

    I see less and less open support for unions, affirmative action, choice, early intervention, etc.

    I said this more than once during the primaries:  Now I know how moderate Republicans felt during the corrupting of their party.


    Well, as far as the topic of this (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by dk on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 02:54:59 PM EST
    post goes, you don't have to look any further than Kos himself.

    Do y'all think... (none / 0) (#38)
    by dutchfox on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 08:54:25 PM EST
    that McCain may just want to throw this election; i.e. lose it so the Palinistas can regroup and really go after Obama? Just curious.

    I don't think so (none / 0) (#45)
    by sj on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 09:12:31 AM EST
    Not McCain personally.  He's wanted to be President for too long.  As to the GOP power brokers?  They are no doubt planning their next moves.

    five run homer? (none / 0) (#13)
    by wystler on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:53:04 PM EST
    Watching the public and TM adapt to a new take on liberals and progressives will be slow and painful. Even in 2004, the progressive vision was trailing by a large margin.

    Gotta keep choppin'. Patience must be one of our virtues. Far more progress will be available is we finesse that gate-crashing.

    Right now - finally - the public fears something more than brown people. They have, for the most part, connected the dots back to the GOP policies of trickle-down, along with the free market's woeful inability to sufficiently self regulate.

    One must remember, though, that FDR was not the radical voice in 1932. Norman Thomas failed to get much support, but the romantic notion of the far left was blunted by Roosevelt's campaign.

    edit (none / 0) (#14)
    by wystler on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 12:54:22 PM EST
    Far more progress will be available  if we finesse that gate-crashing.

    Excellent. (none / 0) (#36)
    by oculus on Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 07:43:57 PM EST