You gotta love The New Republic. Yes, the magazine that wrote enthusiastically for the Iraq War disaster, the magazine that endorsed Lieberman in '04, the magazine that profiled every Democratic candidate during the primary season except the one who actually got the nomination, has been in steady decline. Yet somehow, they act as if they're still relevant. Amusingly enough, they did have enough foresight to write of their own demise in an article about the great "Netroots movement". For a moment, I thought that they actually "got it", and were going to join the team, but a quick peruse at their blog The Plank made me realize that they are going to cling to their DLC ways until their magazine is shuttered for good.
First take a look at Jonathon Chait's cover article about the netroots, titled "How the netroots became the most important mass movement in U.S. politics. The Left's New Machine". The article is of coursed flawed in various ways, but the larger message, that the netroots is a force to contend with, I think Chait got right.
The most significant fact of American political life over the last three decades is that there is a conservative movement and there has not been a liberal movement. Liberalism, to be sure, has all the component parts that conservatism has: think tanks, lobbying groups, grassroots activists, and public intellectuals. But those individual components, unlike their counterparts on the conservative side, do not see one another as formal allies and don't consciously act in concert. If you asked a Heritage Foundation fellow or an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal how his work fits into the movement, he would immediately understand that you meant the conservative movement. If you asked the same question of a Brookings Institute fellow or a New York Times editorial writer, he would have no idea what you were talking about.
The netroots have begun to change all that. Its members are intensely aware of their connection to each other and their place in relation to the Democratic Party. The word "movement" itself--once rare among mainstream liberals--is a regular feature of their discourse. They call themselves "the people-powered movement," or "the progressive movement," or, often, simply "the movement."
That is absolutely correct, and I think it is what made the difference in '06 with victorious netroots candidates like Jon Tester in Montana or Jim Webb in Virginia being the difference in our taking back the Senate against all odds. Chait also goes in depth in describing the beginnings of the netroots back in 2001, naming such greats as Jerome Armstrong, Markos Moulitsas, Jane Hamsher, and Duncan Black. That's great as far as it goes, but his inability to acknowledge the power of smaller, local blogs like Raising Kaine, for instance, shows that he has only scratched the surface of what has been going on. Still, there were many parts of the article that showed Chait acknowledging what we all know is the huge influence of the blogs on political discourse. But just because you can describe something, doesn't mean you get what's going on. Check out this passage, where he shows an understanding of the fact that Democrats don't join Republicans in attacking Democrats. Ever. Yet he can't quite pull it off, acting like the sin was committed out of "conviction":
For the netroots, partisan fidelity is the sine qua non. As Moulitsas told Newsweek in 2005, "The issue is: Are you proud to be a Democrat? Are you partisan?" What they cannot forgive is Democrats or liberals who distance themselves from their party or who give ammunition to the enemy. The netroots will forgive Democrats in conservative districts for moving as far to the right as necessary to win elections. But they do everything within their power to eliminate from liberal states or districts moderates like Joe Lieberman or Jane Harman, whose stances are born of conviction rather than necessity. This is precisely the same principle espoused by Norquist and other GOP activists. They will defend Republicans who need to demonstrate their independence from the national party in order to maintain their electoral viability. (As Norquist once remarked about Lincoln Chafee, "A Republican from Rhode Island is a gift from the gods.") But deviation by a Republican from a conservative state--say, Arizonan John McCain--is unforgivable.
"Conviction"? No, what it is is a lack of spine and a full out sell out to the Republicans. Sorry, a war of choice on a country that never attacked us is not a liberal value. That one word shows that although TNR is getting the fact that something is going on here, they can't quite let go of their, well, DLC ways (despite their laughable explanation of why they're not DLC. Whatever). Monday's The Plank is a hideous example of how out of touch they still are with the netroots:
Joan Venocchi, one of the best commentators in Massachusetts, had an excellent column in yesterday's Boston Globe that lays bare the unfortunate state of machine politics in that state.
She cites a rather grave statistic concerning the junior senator's popularity among his own constituents. A December poll found that John Kerry's approval rating stood at 43 percent with 53 percent disapproval. Fifty-six percent also believe that Kerry should give up his seat. In most states, these widely-felt sentiments would presumably open up the door for a Democratic challenger. But not Massachusetts, where machine politics die hard. As I noted before, Massachusetts' political class is arrogantly unresponsive to the will of the voters. The state legislature has scuttled the people's will on liberal and conservative causes ranging from public financing of elections to term limits. These know-nothings believe they know best.
Kerry's delusions of grandeur about himself and his role in national politics are not just "John Kerry's Neverland," as Venocchi states, but Massachusetts's Neverland, because both he and Ted Kennedy will hold their seats for as long as they want. At the end of the day, of course, the voters are to blame for reelecting these men time and again. But the Massachusetts machine is so firmly entrenched that it's nearly impossible a Democrat would ever risk his future political prospects by mounting a bid against either senator.
How can a "liberal" magazine get so many things so wrong, starting with Joan Vennochi. Here's what she said about Elizabeth Edwards when she found out about recurring breast cancer:
John Edwards ran for the US Senate, then for president, and then for vice president as John Kerry's running mate in 2004.
Elizabeth Edwards had two more children, a daughter and son, who are now 8 and 6. She took on the daunting task of new motherhood in her 50s; they also have a daughter, Cate, 24.
Elizabeth Edwards also immersed herself in every aspect of her husband's political campaigns, all the time thinking how much Wade would have relished the adventure. The Edwardses are building an extravagant 28,200-square-foot dream house, west of Chapel Hill, N.C.
This is not a judgment on the way this family chose to deal with their loss. Still, the memoir reveals a desperate effort, especially on Elizabeth Edwards's part, to fill her life with anything -- speeches, travel, lofty goals for America -- that will fill the void left by her son's death. She never will; no mother could. But she will keep on running until someone makes her slow down.
I don't think I am being hyperbolic by stating that this is the utmost worst piece of punditry I have ever read, striking below the belt in matters that are none of her business even in a presidential race. Hurtful doesn't begin to describe it. To write such a mean spirited column, I can only surmise that Joan is a bitter individual devoid of any sense of decency or decorum. Not to mention the fact that the American people overwhelmingly supported John Edwards's decision to stay in the race. Anyone who thinks she is "one of the best commentators in Massachusetts" clearly has no judgment or insight into what makes good commentary.
Now let's get to the meat of the matter which was TNR's attack on Ted Kennedy and John Kerry as somehow being "machine" encumbents for which the voters are powerless to overcome. No, that's not really what the writers at TNR are saying. Rather, what they are actually saying is that they don't like Kennedy Democrats. Real liberals who stand for progressive values, in direct contrast to DLC Democrats who don't. And, I may add, both of these two great senators are Kossaks, who garner a great deal of support in the netroots for the work they do in the Senate. Kerry and Kennedy have also displayed time and time again the greatest value highlighted in the article: they are team players who always defend their fellow Democrats when attacked by the Right. In addition, I have seen many examples of them pushing the envelope in ways the TNR writers are uncomfortable with. The Alito filibuster, which was in partnership with the netroots, was led by John Kerry and supported by Ted Kennedy, and it was specifically what the netroots asked for in hundreds of comments to Senator Kerry. In addition, the Iraq plan that the president vetoed yesterday was largely written by Senator Kerry in the spring of '06, and is now supported by nearly the entire Democratic party.
For several years, The New Republic, has limped along, as their circulation declined. They have consistently bashed Democrats who stand up for progressive values, and yet insist on being called "liberals". Well, the game is over. Their decline will only hasten as Democrats gain seats in 2008, thwarting all of the TNR "wisdom" that we should somehow be ashamed to be Democrats. This article, acknowledging what we at DailyKos and elsewhere have known for some time, is simply the obit that solidifies the end of The New Republic. Let us raise a glass to toast the end of an era, and may The New Republic and Joe Lieberman go gently into that good night.
I would be remiss if I didn't rebut the brunt of the attacks on John Kerry in Massachusetts. First of all, the new USA Survey poll shows Kerry back at a healthy 54% approval rating (41% disapprove). Secondly, read two posts by the Massachusetts netroots (and these are not Kerry partisan blogs) to get a general temperature of how "the people", not arrogant dinosaurs from the DC elite, feel about their senator:
Columnists all eventually run out of ideas and start recycling old themes at some point, unless of course they are fantasists a'la Mike Barnicle. Such is the case with Joan Vennochi's column today in which she clearly looks back in sentimental glee on the royal snarking she gave John Kerry back in campaign '04. Oh those were heady heady days for Ms. Vennochi, hardly a week went past when she didn't challenge our Junior Senator's manhood in some unsubtle fashion.
Clearly Joanie has an unhealthy thing about John Kerry. It is not hard to see why, he brings out the Junior High School Queen Bee in Columnist Vennochi, By Ghod I think he makes her feel young again!
And this from The Eisenthaler Report after a blogger conference call with Massachusetts bloggers:
sco also noted that Sen. Kerry seemed well briefed on the participants in the blog conference. "I've done a bunch of blogger conference calls in the past and Kerry is so far the only one who had been at all prepped on all the participants." This reflected very good work on the part of the Senator's staff - not surprising since good staff work was one of the reasons that John Kerry almost became the 44th President of the United States.
One other reaction I had to the blog conference is that Sen. Kerry mostly responded to the blogger questions directly and thoughtfully. He largely avoided canned answers that sounded like excerpts from a stump speech - something that not all politicians are able to avoid in such settings. In considering the Senator's directness and thoughtfulness, this observer feels all the more keenly the tragedy that was the re-election of George W. Bush as President of the United States in 2004. This country - and the world - almost had the benefit of John Kerry's directness and thoughtfulness in the Oval Office. If Senator Kerry could approach a discussion with home state bloggers in such a way, imagine how President Kerry would have dealt with foreign leaders - not to mention all of the other stakeholders a President deals with. Compare this to what we have now.