You can wait 'til the expurgated version airs on public radio ("will they bleep that on the radio?," Markos inquired) or via podcast, or venture below the bar for selected transcript-style details (and exclusive photos in an update once I find my card adapter USB reader thingamabob), on this waiting-for-the-CA-primary-results kind of day.
- Markos nearly went to work for the CIA but joined the Dean campaign instead because he didn't want to work inside the beltway
- The CIA is really a very liberal place, Markos says, interested in stability, not bombing or taking over governments.
- Venture funds are building the "vast left-wing conspiracy"
- Markos "would love for the rational right to take back their party" even though it would make our job harder, it's worth it "for the good of the country." He's not a fan of third parties - they're "doomed", as conservative efforts in that area have shown.
- Markos is not a fan of Nancy Pelosi's leadership, but "she's getting better"
- Gore is not going to run, according to Markos.
- "What do we do about Hilary?" is the real question audiences are asking. "She really fails the electability question".
- The failed war in Iraq "pisses me off," Markos said, because "it cuts off the opportunity for social-economic advancement" inherent in national service.
- public-elections-funding can be "welfare for consultants." "I have a problem with my tax dollars going to pay for somebody's nasty, sleazy attack ad."
- sustainability (in environmental terms) isn't yet a key issue in elections; Kos sees high prices of organics as an obstacle to widespread adoption of this "lifestyle."
- kos likes the blurring of the line between journalism and blogging: "one of the beauties of this is it forces people to actually think." He is confident in his own lines on the matter. "I have one thing going for me when I blog -- it's my credibility. I'm not going to surrender [it] to something that is unsourced."
- Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is the conservative thinker Markos most respects (he had a couple of conservative friends, but they eventually "flipped," he said. "One worked for Enron.") "McCain wishes he was a really a straight shooter like Hagel is. [...] I respect him. He's unafraid to stand for what he believes in. But that doesn't mean I'd vote for him."
There's already a diary up with a review of the event:
"He was (and I'm sure still is) terrific. [It] mainly was a call to action for the liberals (I guess the word now is progressives). [...] He stressed the importance of individual involvement and said the Democrats need to emulate the Republicans by making politics and political meetings a social affair. [...] His command of the nation-wide political scene was impressive, and in spite of the fact that he sounded like he was in the throws of a head cold, he had an upbeat, organized, clear method of speaking.
For me, the big disappointment of the evening was not being able to show off my "You're Pegging My Logic Meter" T-shirt from the Scotty Show. But that's not what you're here to read about, on this California Primary "waiting for the news" day. On to the juicy bits!
Bizarro World dKos: CIA Front?
The most dramatic revelation (at least to me) came early in the evening, in response to a question about the changing relationship between liberals and the CIA, as it has evolved from loathing (if not fear) in the 60's to a vigorous defense these days.
"A secret I don't think I've ever written about," Markos recollected, was that in 2001 when he was under/unemployed, picking up "a little contract work" to help survive in the "horrible world" after the dot-com crash, he started down a career path that could have led to a radically different dailyKos, or kept it from happening at all.
"I applied to the CIA, spent six months interviewing, and got to the point where I was going to sign papers. It was at that point that the Howard Dean campaign took off. It was going to be a tough decision. Then the CIA insisted that my first duty assignment would be in Washington, D.C.. Six years before I could go overseas. I hate D.C."
I have to admit that learning this set off a whole train of thought that I expect will greet this thread: Maybe he really did take that CIA job, and this whole site is a plot to keep us all busy... but no, MetaJesus intervened, and they wouldn't do that, because the CIA is a liberal place, really!
CIA: Infested with Liberals?
"What was really amazing about that experience," Markos continued, "was that every person I talked to [at the CIA], in six months, every single one of them was a liberal."
(laughter from the crowd)
"They're talking about my website, agreeing with me on everything, saying (post-9/11 and pre-Iraq-invasion) 'man, they're gonna take us to war, the evidence isn't there, it's crazy.'"
His sense of why? "In a lot of ways it does attract people who want to make the world a better place, as opposed to bomb the fuck out of [it]. [...] Are you going to have to bleep that out on the radio?" He doesn't waste any time with trivialities, refusing to restate it, with so much more to say. "I don't give short answers," he said later.
"I think, as an instrument, the CIA is interested in a stable world. I think a lot of conservatives would paint that as evidence that the CIA is out to undermine bush, but ultimately I don't think it' sa very partisan thing to want a calm and stable world."
As far as past hostility towards CIA plots against Democratic administrations, "[that] was before my time, I've never had a problem with the CIA." However, he reminded us "keep in mind I came to this country in 1980. From a modern persepctive obviously things are a little different."
The problem with Dems: They Lose
"In politics one thing matters," Markos said. The Democrats doe nothing but lose. There's no self-reflection, no attempt to clean out the ranks, changing processes to accommodate a changing political and media landscape. We have a closed-in bubble in D.C. These people have their turf, their consultancies, their power bases. They don't care where the world is going."
The corrupted structure is the issue, he re-iterated, in a refrain familiar to readers of this site or the book. It's about "kissing rings": "even in the minority they have a certain amount of power. There is a complete obliviousness."
Peeking behind the Gates: 'debate' just an act
When Markos went on CNN's "Reliable Sources" show, he was in the green room with Bill Press [sp?], a "liberal radio guy", and Bill Bennett, a "Bloviating Blowhard" ("and they say Michael Moore is fat", Markos commented). In the greenroom, they're all pally-wally, "'hi, how's the kid? let's do lunch!' On camera, they're screaming at each other. Off camera, they shake hands, say "let's hang out". For them, it's a game. They don't really care that their policies and the way they do business has real-world repercussions for millions of people across America."
Dean: A sign of change?
Markos was asked whether the election of Howard Dean as DNC chair was something that wasn't "business as usual", a sign of change, blowing in the wind, so to speak. He was quick to point out that one person isn't going to solve the problem, and that it's a sign of our influence, not our dominance. "He was not elected because of Washington, D.C. It was a coalition of bloggers, grassroots activists, and state party people. There was a lot of real-world politicking by state party chairs that helped Howard Dean."
He spoke admiringly of Dean's resistance to assimilation by the beltway bourgeoisie. "Howard Dean does not in the course of business spend any nights in D.C. That's probably a good thing. He would be assassinated in his sleep, not by Democrats or Republicans but by a covert-ops special team of them working together."
Dean can't go it alone, Markos emphasized. "The DNC is a bureaucracy. Really all the party committees are run by consultants. All the nuts and bolts are run by consultants. The people who get the contracts are going to be running the next party [election] cycle. It's kind of a revolving chair system. Howard Dean is doing what he can. Ultimately it's just part of the process. One of the things we advocate is realizing that we have to take over our state parties' local practices. If we hit at both sides we can eventually clean up the place."
Building the vast left-wing conspiracy
Markos kept saying that we are going to do this, we are going to do that... so of course the interviewer asked the logical question: "who's 'we'?"
"A leaderless amorphous people-powered movement" were the first five words I was able to capture, but the context kept on coming fast and furious, setting the stage for who we are. "It was inspired by Dean, and even Kerry", it's about getting people active in politics on an ongoing basis. After losing yet another election, "people would not think about politics for three years."
Not anymore. "Things are changing. People are getting involved. People are putting money into venture funds to build the vast left-wing conspiracy. [laughter] You laugh, but we ain't got nuttin' [compared to the right]"
Who's making this investment? "It's a lot of the reform labor unions, the SEIU's [Service Employee International Unions] that broke off when they were realizing that labor politics was failing. They realized that the best way for labor to help Dems win is to make more union members.
Agreeing with the critics
"Our critics say we're 'a bunch of bloggers', 'a bunch of left-wing radical whackos', 'they want to purge the party [of moderates]."
"We do, but not in the way they think," he cautioned. The Democratic party infrastructure, consultants, et al that are thoroughly tarred and feathered in Crashing The Gates get the same treatment here. "There's no accountability. That's what we demand."
Third party: The Reform Collapse and Conservative Cacophony as Cautionary Tales
"Why not a third party?," Markos was asked. It's not practical, he responded: "A lot of people have romantic notions of the rise of a third party, because [in their fantasy] it would agree with their positions 100%. However, that would be a third party of one. The notion is actually quite fiction. Look at the Reform party, which broke into Buchanan, Perot, and Jesse Ventura factions. Byt he time they were done suing each other there was nothing left, just a hollow shell of a party."
Could it happen? "Perhaps if there was someone apolitical in many ways, they could transcend party. With the Web, it's within the realm of possiblity. But not probability."
Drive the nail into the coffin, why don't you: "Third parties are doomed. I like to learn from the conservative movement. In 1964, Barry Goldwater was absolutely trounced in a an election, and the Republican party re-established control."
Of course, conservatives then were a little different than the ones we have to deal with now. "Remember, Nixon created the EPA and OSHA.There were vicious battles, a big debate within the conservative movement."
There are fewer intrinsic associations between parties and values these days. "A party today is basically a shell. It does not have [its own position, ideology. It reflects the idology of those who run it. It's easier to take them over and make them your own.
We can rebuild it, better, faster [than the Republicans did]
"When they started building [the new Republican machine] in 1964 they didn't have thinktanks, et cetra. It took them 30 years." We don't have to take that long. "We can build ours in a lot shorter time, because of technoogy, how things advance."
For example: "conservatives have created three brick-and-mortar institutions that look for media bias. They write papers and deliver reports to their media machine, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the 700 Club, Wall Street Journal Editorial board, and so on. That was very effective back in the 80's, 90's, and even earlier this decade."
We can follow a more direct route: "We have Media Matters, one organization. Their pushback is instantaneous. Within an hour of a Rush Limbaugh show, they have rebutted all his points. We don't have to match them institution for institution or even on size and scope. We can build organizations that act more efficiently and get info out more effectively."
Getting beyond single issues, looking at reality
Clearly the interviewer had read "Crashing the Gate"; he lobbed a softball question about Kos' penchant for getting past the single-issue groups that dominate our party's discourse. He responded passionately about the futility of that approach: "On the Left, in the kind of more progressive issue groups, there's this notion you can kind of negotiate with the right. Once upon a time you could."
Kos waxed nostalgic for the golden years of the Reagan era! "There was a time the republican party was interested in what was best for the country. In his first year in office, Reagan made the largest tax decrease in U.S. history. In his second year in office, they saw it wasn't working, and did the largest tax increase in U.S. history. It was an administration interested in looking at reality, and adjusting its behavior accordingly."
Quite a contrast from what we've got now: "This administration is interested in one thing only: ideology." He cited several examples, "Mission Accomplished" and so on. "There's no desire or willingness to look at reality. They're not interested in reality, only ideology There's a well-developed conservative noise machine that makes it easier to live in that bubble."
It almost defines who we are: "That's what it means to be progressive: evolve with the times, times change."
The problem comes when we try to negotiate: "Now they are interested in one thing: the destruction of everything we hold dear. Even though they're a trifecta (controlling all three branches of government), why are they so angry? Because we still exist. The fact that we exist pisses 'em off."
In this context, there's no room for negotiation, compromise. "In that kind of environment, there' s none party that will stand up for what we agree on, and one will seek to destroy it. They're both big-tent parties.
They're not all evil
"You have people in the Republican part who are not horrid on choice, the environment, et cetera," he pointed out. "What matters at the end of the day is the leadership of the party in charge."
For this reason, single-issue voting is ineffective. "You have [PA-Sen candidate] Bob Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat. If he wins and he helps us win back the Senate, we will have a party in charge that will prevent anti-abortion legislation to begin with. The issue will never come up for a vote."
So it's important not to be too ideological. "We're not going to get perfect Democrats up and down the ballot. Because we're all individuals, we all think for ourselves. We're not gonna let a leader tell us what to believe. We're gonna disagree at times," he predicted, on issues like free trade, "a lot of things. We have to be cognizant of that and tolerant of that."
So why should single-issue groups be looking at the bigger picture? "There's a party that will protect these things in the aggregate. The NRA does not endorse Democrats at the national level. Yet our groups continue to think that if you reach out you can create bipartisan support for our positions."
Here's an example: "Chaffee is a pariah in his own party. Yet he's voted for every single Bush judge except Alito, and there he voted for cloture which is all that mattered."
yKos: Energize America as Dem Energy Platform?
My question ("longtime kossack, increasingly less-frequent lurker, thanks for getting me active") and one that followed (from Abendigo of SustainLane) were about energy and sustainability, whether the Energize America plan developed here and to be presented at yearlyKos would get adopted as the Democratic energy policy. "I know they're looking"
As far as organics and eco-whatever, Kos was cautious about the costs. "I don't know how much of a winner it is as a political issue." To me, this sounds like an opportunity for anyone who feels otherwise to diary about why they feel otherwise. "The problem right now is cost. A sustainably-built home could be a lot more expensive, solar power isn't cheap. A lot of the components of living sustainably are still out of reach of the average American. I don't think you can mandate those."
The real value could be in terms of collective identity. "As a philosophy, it helps people feel better about themselves [...] Like anything else cutting-edge, the barrier to entry can be high. As more farmers use more sustainable practices, obviously market forces come into play, make it more affordable. I don't think anybody hates recycling, or at least nobody who would say so publicly."
The exception? When government threatens the lifestyle. "It's more a lifestyle change than a political/ballot box issue except when the FDA tries to weaken organic standards. That's where it becomes political. As more people get into these things, it's gonna get tougher and tougher for those efforts. It's like efforts to regulate the internet, it's one of those things... we need the government to protect what we have, and not have the telecommunication companies impose roadblocks on the issue.
Blogging "vs." Journalism
In explaining why he joined the amicus brief in the Apple-vs.-blogger case over the right of bloggers to protect their sources, he applauded the blurring of the line between journalism and blogging: "There's so much fixation on blogging. It's counterproductive. It's a tool like a word processor, just the internet as a much bigger communications tool."
"In the political world we talk about 'netroots'," and even in a world with sites with lower standards, no fact-checking, insufficient attribution, it's all good: "one of the beauties of this is it forces people to actually think." He is confident in his own lines on the matter. "I have one thing going for me when I blog -- it's my credibility. I'm not going to surrender [it] to something that is unsourced."
He specifically named the current controversy around TruthOut as an example. "Jason Leopold wrote that Karl Rove was already indicted." He wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot pole. "It would turn out to be true by coincidence rather than knowing what he was talking about."
You can't conclude a bloggers-vs-journalists thread without attacking right back: "In journalism, there may be ethics on the books but nobody follows them. It's a cesspool, full of ideological biases."
The advantage of the 'net is the scrutiny it provides: "Now people are watching what [Fox news is] doing. It makes it a lot harder for them to peddle their stuff as fair and balanced when it clearly is not. I don't have a lot of respect for traditional media in that sense."
He does have sympathy for journalists in the trenches. "A lot of problems are what big corporations are facing: years of layoffs, the newsroom is decimated. It used to be that people wrote two stories a week, now it's a piece every day or two, they don't have the time to do more than writing warmed-over press releases or accepting right-wing spin."