The Broken Triangle
I concluded that "if the netroots alone can't change the political landscape without the participation of the media and Democratic establishment, then there's no point wasting precious online space blasting away at Republicans while the other sides of the triangle stand idly by."
[Cross posted at Bopnews.com]
The NSA scandal and the Alito confirmation hearings are just two more examples of the left's broken triangle and of the isolation of the progressive netroots. A flurry of activity among bloggers, online activists, and advocacy groups is met with ponderously inept strategizing by the Democratic leadership and relentless - and insidious - repetition by the media of pro-GOP narratives and soundbites. It's slow-motion-car-wreck painful, and most certainly NOT where the left's triangle should be a half decade into the new millennium, as the Bush-propping machine hums and whirrs, poll numbers rise and fall, Iraq bleeds, scandal dissolves into scandal, terror speech blends into terror speech. The landscape is there for everyone to see, to analyze. Enough time has elapsed to make the system transparent. It is dismaying for netroots activists to see the same mistakes repeated despite the benefit of hindsight.
Peter Daou does a great deal of work on blogging, both visible and invisible - he is intimately involved in efforts to get an electronic response network going, and to create channels between the various aspects of communication. His frustrations are not those of someone who can't get things done, but of someone who can, and has, gotten things done.
What he describes is a "loser miasma" that has fallen over the Democratic Party - a miasma in no small part the result of being the party of Liberal Reaganites - a party that nominates anti-choice candidates for Senate in blue states like PA, and a party that is simply not comfortable being progressive.
There is also the institutional side to this, the people who are backing progressive electronic politics think of themselves as social auteurs. They want peons, flunkies and assorted other post on command types. They want people who are cogs in their grand machine. If you aren't rich, they think, you can't be all that smart. The blogging culture is one that promotes people who are not flunkies by nature, and whose broad abilities and command of many subjects means that they are smart - merely they aren't obsessed with making money all the time.
Over and over again I have seen the auteurs looking for creative cattle, and the young guns of the blogsphere wanting to have room to manuever and follow their gut instinct. This same drama plays out in old media - where "the talent" is treated like garbage, and struggles to control its own destiny, and occasionally getting that chance. The difference is that being "the talent" there at least allows you to make a living, sometimes a very good one, where as in the blogsphere, the powers that be want to pay people who are bloggers slightly more than what the person who cleans up my cube at night gets.
The funders are going to have to realize that political operatives are often brash, over-confident and independent minded - that's what gives them the very media-genic qualities that are desirable. There are some people who are willing to post on command and can gather an audience, but there are a lot more who need a great deal more room to operate - combining different ways of getting the message out.
Until the fundamentally pyramid perspective of the pipe people is changed, the Democrats will lose, because reactionaries make better followers and pyramid people than progressives. There is no way that we will all start changing "Together we can do better!" the way a group of Republemmings will.
But there is another component, and it is watching the Alito hearings that I can label it: Democratic office holders have a lack of a sense of self-preservation. Not only are they willing to sell out other people's rights to stay in office, they are willing to sell out their own future. As with the election of 2000 which culminated in Bush v Gore it simply does not seem to dawn on them what it is that they are allowing, and what the cost to them, as politicians, is. I don't really expect a old millionaires' club to understand what is going on in the country - that they are oblivious to the pain of Iraq, Katrina, and a terrible economy I've come to expect. But what about their own power, perks and privileges? What about their own ability to get things done once they do get in to the majority? Do the not realize that allowing a hard core 5 on to the court is the death knell for any ambitions, however modest, they may have? Or do they really want nothing more than to pass symbolic laws that make soccer moms feel safe, while keeping open defense bases in their states?
The fear that they have of being tarred and feathered is real, but the response isn't to shrink down to lilliputian proportions, but to fight back with every weapon at their disposal. They didn't do it this time, they didn't do it last time, and they don't seem to do it often, except in a few obvious cases. A party without a purpose will not be able to wield new tools, and will become, inevitably, a party without power.