Late to the Party
I saw the Paul Bass article in the Hartford Courant yesterday and thought it was quite good. Bass understands and bears witness to something that many big megaphone media types who are busy buying into Hugh Hewitt’s atavistic notions of a "fever swamp" do not: a sea change is at hand relative to the way Democratic candidates position themselves and shape their message on the internet. And Joe Lieberman, he argues, is caught behind the technological 8-ball:
A virus is dogging three-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman. One of its gestation spots is www.youtube.com, a web site where anyone can post a homemade video.
Go there and search for "Ned Lamont." He’s the liberal Greenwich businessman staging a spirited challenge to Lieberman for the Democratic nomination.
Up spring a queue of videos posted by bloggers who love Lamont and despise Lieberman. There’s Ned on WFSB-TV. Ned giving a speech in Southbury. Ned on "Beyond the Headlines." A montage of Ned photos and messages played to the tune of "Rock The Boat."
Now search for "Joe Lieberman." Up spring a queue of videos posted by bloggers who … love Lamont and despise Lieberman. Joe on TV defending the war in Iraq. Joe equivocating on Bush’s illegal wiretapping. A montage of Abu Ghraib torture and President Bush and Joe Lieberman photos played to the tune of "Masters of War." (The fade-out switches to Lamont and "All You Need Is Love.")
The bloggers who spend untold hours preparing these videos also post articles and comments and campaign information all over the Web attacking Lieberman and enlisting supporters for Lamont’s campaign.
They don’t report to Lamont headquarters in Meriden. They don’t charge a cent.
No wonder Lieberman, who months ago seemed the safest of safe incumbents, has been uncharacteristically testy and stumbling lately, getting booed at the Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner, getting into a bizarre confrontation with radio talk-show host Colin McEnroe over the evil of bloggers and The New York Times. (The transcript’s at www.shadowproof.wpengine.com (search: Lieberman).
The man who was so ahead of the political curve when he entered the Senate 18 years ago is now hopelessly behind it.
Over at MyDD, Chris Bowers has what I think is a very enlightened and thought-provoking piece on the far-reaching implications of all of this:
Since at least 1992, the easiest and most likely path to national prominence as a Democrat has been through public acts of Sista Soulja. For the past fifteen years (or more), in order for Democrats to gain favor within the national political narrative, it has been deemed necessary that they castigate and distance themselves from members of their own party in the same manner that Republicans would do so. This situation has proven is untenable for Democrats for two main reasons. First, in order to gain national prominence and a favorable position within the national political narrative, Republicans are never required to castigate anyone in their own party for extremism. Thus, the narrative always forces Democrats to look more divided (and hence, no one knows what they stand for). Second, while it may be to the benefit of individual Democrats to repeat Republican talking points about Democrats, it is entirely against the interests of the Democratic Party as a whole. Thus, Democrats have incentives to make their own party appear extreme, anti-religion, soft on defense, etc. This is how we ended up with a situation in the 1990’s when a popular Democratic President presided over a nation where the electoral fortunes of the Democratic Party were in severe decline. When the Democratic Party leadership was repeating Republican complaints about Democrats, in Peter Daou’s formulaiton, the conventional wisdom triangle closed against Democrats. One only wonders what could happen to the Democratic Party if Hillary Clinton is able to complete her plan of becoming our leader by Sista Souljaing every progressive in the country.
I won’t pretend to be the one who originally observed that Hillary Clinton’s call for a wall between the US and Mexico was an attempt to bait the leftier members of the party into a Sista Souljah moment, but I think it is quite probably accurate. And as Bowers notes, it is the kind of move that is ultimately extremely divisive — it puts the interests of self above party and continues to degrade the Democratic brand, both alienating the base and causing people to scratch their heads and wonder what the Democrats stand for in one clean motion.
RJ Eskow had a similar observation in a very good post on the Hillary campaign the other day:
Hillary wants to be President. And she wants to do it by running to the right of the Republicans on national defense and other issues. Why? Because she clings to the naïve belief that her husband won because he was a centrist – when the fact is he won because he’s a great politician. (If right-leaning Democrats are such a great idea, why wasn’t Scoop Jackson ever President?)
And if Bill really is her chief advisor, then he’s proving that, as great a campaigner as he was, he’s equally lousy as a political consultant. (Remember his advice to Kerry – thankfully not taken – that Kerry endorse the anti-gay-marriage referendums being promoted in 2004?) Whoever’s guiding Hillary these days is giving her advice that makes for poor politics and poor policy. In effect she’s running against her own base while inflaming passions in a powder-keg situation.
There is a ground game going on with regard to the internet that the Lamont campaign has not orchestrated, but it has interacted with remarkably well. I’ve seen absolutely no evidence of any awareness on the part of any of the 2008 campaigns regarding this; they’ve done some tentative outreach but one imagines their consultants, major targets of our rancour, wave them off and consider us "tainted," "dangerous," "uncontrollable" and very much reflected in Hugh Hewitt’s characterization of the "fever swamp."
And that’s just fine. Once they wake up we’ll still be here, but by that time the parade may have passed them by.
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