I think everybody is well aware of recent rifts here at the Big Orange. I won't rehash all of that, except to bring up a point Mahakali Overdrive made in her GBCW diary.
Daily Kos is not in the midst of a pie fight from what I can discern. It's in the midst of a paradigmatic overhaul that equates to a hostile takeover. I'm just not down with that. It doesn't represent me.
Now, "hostile takeover" might be strong language and a tad over the top; I think we've all chosen less-than-perfect phrasing in some of our more impassioned moments. But what struck me most about it was how many people expressed agreement with the sentiment in the comments section. So I think this is an important discussion to have.
There were a lot of comments to the effect of "I don't recognize this place anymore."
It is said that one person expressing an opinion actually means that 20 people feel that way, but are just not speaking up. I have no idea if that's empirically true, but I have no doubt that people are sometimes shy about expressing themselves. That GBCW brought a lot of very interesting perspectives to the fore; lots of usernames were unfamiliar to me, but saying things like they've almost stopped participating here, don't comment as much as they used to, stick to "safe" diaries, etc.
A dkos divided cannot stand! Just kidding. But I do believe it's important when a not-insignificant portion of the community expresses these kinds of views. And whatever one wants to believe about how truly representative such views are, I think it's absolutely worthwhile to sit back and examine why people are participating less or quitting altogether.
Yes, dailykos abides, no matter who comes and goes and there will always be plenty of pageviews. The flip side of that survival coin is that Dailykos always evolves. The site is almost unrecognizable, in all respects, from the blog some dude named Markos started so he could vent his frustrations with shrubCo. Teams, memes, trends, groups, cliques, pie fights and themes -- dkos has seen it all.
This (whatever one believes it to be) too, shall pass and dkos will keep on keepin' on. It's survived CT purges and a few rounds of mass exodus. The question of course, is what direction will that evolution take?
Fact: Diaries from years ago in the earlier days of dkos are objectively of higher quality.
(100 comments used to be a Really Big Deal™)
Fact: Diaries on dkos have, at times, driven media narratives, e.g. the Army's use of white phosphorus in Falluja.
Fact: We know members of Congress read this site.
Those last two points are pretty damn impressive. A dkos diarist poking around online broke a pretty big story. Success for the netroots! The blogger revolution will not be televised, it will be pixelated! Which was all kind of the point to the "Crashing the Gates" mindset: Congress wasn't doing its job and the Potemkin Press wasn't helping at all. So bloggers decided to organize political activity and out of that came a whole new breed of pundit.
Lo and behold, it worked! We know we have succeeded in driving media narratives. We know our work, advocacy and fundraising have made a critical difference in several races. In short, we had major fulfillage of goals going on. Boy, were we energized! We rode that sweet taste of victory all the way through to President Barack Hussein Obama.
And then you could almost hear the collective "now what"?
What is the nature of dkos now that "we" are "they"? The dems own Washington and we bloggers are no longer cemented in unison against or for anything. True, such schisms were predictable enough; we are democrats, after all. Cats cannot be herded and we all knew we would not see exactly eye to eye on how to proceed from victory. No problem; disagreement is fantastic and often serves to educate and move the discussion forward.
Over the last year, though, policy disagreement has taken on a whole new character here at dailykos and I think we should examine what that schism is doing to the character of dailykos. By that, I mean stuff like the relentless negativism regarding the administration (I'm not going to lift a finger in defense of one single arsehole in the Senate). And no; "relentless negativism" does not mean that nobody is ever allowed to criticize Obama.
But if your God's honest opinion is that Obama is a sellout and should be primaried, he's just like bush, he came to the White House pre-owned, Geitner himself put the Goldman Sachs tattoo on Obama's ass, Congress sucks, our majority is useless, etc., I do wonder why you are on this site. And when a rec-listed diary is espousing the virtues of losing Kennedy's seat for to teach dems a lesson, Houston, we have a !@#$%& problem.
This is a Democratic blog, a partisan blog. One that recognizes that Democrats run from left to right on the ideological spectrum, and yet we're all still in this fight together. We happily embrace centrists like NDN's Simon Rosenberg and Howard Dean, conservatives like Martin Frost and Brad Carson, and liberals like John Kerry and Barack Obama. Liberal? Yeah, we're around here and we're proud. But it's not a liberal blog. It's a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory. And since we haven't gotten any of that from the current crew, we're one more thing: a reform blog. The battle for the party is not an ideological battle. It's one between establishment and anti-establishment factions. And as I've said a million times, the status quo is untenable
So sayeth the mighty dkos FAQ. The site's mission, indeed its reason to exist, is to elect more and better democrats. The "more" giving us the breathing room we need to find "better." And yes, "better" does mean "progressive." But this is not a progressive blog. It's not a third-party blog. It's a democratic blog, committed to electing democrats, even yucky ones if needed for establishing majorities.
Fact: Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid > Speaker Boehner and Leader McConell
Fact: 60 Senate votes > 59 Senate votes
I am not saying that it is wrong to criticize Obama or Congress. I recognize the absolute validity in believing that political corruption is endemic and the system is rigged against we the people. I don't even hold it against anyone if they believe that it's all an empty charade and nothing will ever change. Rock on with yourself; just please stop trying to share your pessimism with others. Plus it's a little counterproductive to rail against dems on a dem blog and is rather akin to visiting a friend's house and subsequently moving them out.
And no; "pessimism" does not mean taking an accurate look at the challenges we face and recognizing that we have a tough road ahead of us. The party in power historically has problems at this point in the bigger election cycle, conditions out in the real world are very, very tough and we truly do have a lot of work cut out for us to retain those majorities through 2010. And the last thing we need at this point in time is to be demoralized.
Which brings us back to the nature of this blog and what it means in the bigger picture.
We know blogs drive media narratives.
We know the media likes to make hay out of, well, anything.
We know they have never met an anti-dems story they didn't love.
There is a lot of talk here about moving the Overton Window and influencing debate; do we really want to be moving it in the direction of "dems suck, too corrupt to do anything, Obama is a failure," et cetera? Like the media needs any prodding to run with the old "Dems in disarray" stand-by.
Am I saying that this site should refrain from criticizing Obama and Congress? Of course not. But we should do it with an eye towards its impact beyond the web browser and fellow Kossacks. Part of this starts to get into neurolinguistic programming, which is a hella wonky, abstract realm of psychology and linguistics, obviously. In a nutshell, it encompasses and explores the idea that the words we choose affect their effect, on ourselves and others. A really clear example is the difference between "Don't forget to pick up milk" and "Remember to pick up milk!" One is negative; one is positive. Guess which one gets a better response?
On the more trippy-dippy-hippy side of things, thoughts exist, but only have power when you give voice to them. So choose wisely which ideas and thoughts you empower. In bumperstickerese, the concept loosely translates as:
Think Good Thoughts
Be the change you want to see in the world
Create Your Own Reality
The professional psychological community calls it "self-fulfilling prophecy." And any developmental psychologist will tell you that maintaining a negative narrative is not healthy and does not lead one to fulfillment, personal, professional or otherwise. Think of Stuart Smalley and his daily affirmations; who wants daily affirmations of doom and gloom, it's hopeless?
I am not saying let's get all Pollyanna and pretend things are perfect; things are pretty fuckin' far from ok, let alone perfect. But I know one thing: bitching rarely accomplishes much. And that's the point, I think: are we being effective?
I would say that it is not effective, it does not further progressive goals and it does not deliver good legislation to constantly carp on failure and shortcoming when there really is a whole lot of good coming out of this Administration.
Sure, on the big, sexy topics like war and healthcare there is legitimate concern and criticism to be had and it's important to speak up. But there is so much day-to-day governance that has already improved by leaps and bounds with this administration. And in the long-term, it's all those arcane and obscure divisions, offices and guidelines that really affect the nature and quality of government. We don't have a back-up president or Administration warming the bench; we only have Obama.
Your humble narrator's opinion is that elevating the negative above the positive is damaging in the long-term, to all our causes and goals. Pounding on the Obama administration with little-to-no strategy for resolution only weakens him and his power as a policy advocate. We all know just how much perception matters; the "lame duck" status of a last-term President is downright legendary for just that reason. And do we really want a lame duck our first year out?
Dkos is one hell of a megaphone; use it wisely.