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FDL Sunday Book Salon: Crashing the Gate, Week 1

zuniga_markos-20060427.1.gif

(This is the first week we’re devoting to Crashing the Gate.  Next week the authors will be joining us  for a discussion of the book, once again at 2pm PDT/5pm EDT.)

That the book Crashing the Gate by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga would have an impact well beyond the blogosphere became quickly apparent when it wound up on the cover of the New York Review of Books .  Since the dominant narrative regarding liberal blogs had heretofore been shaped by people like Jim Brady, Deborah Howell and Hugh Hewitt whose agendas involve deflecting criticism of their own weaknesses by focusing on what they perceived as "incivility" in their critics, it was refreshing to see that there was finally a new and much more perceptive way to talk about the blogosphere.  Speaking about Daily Kos, the article observes:

Obsessed with developing strategies for defeating Republicans, the site was much involved with the campaign of Howard Dean for the presidential nomination and carrying on his forthright opposition to the Iraq war. Its sophisticated technological structure, assembled by Moulitsas, has allowed its viewers to raise money for favored politicians, rethink and debate issue positions, harass lazy or ideologically biased journalists and commentators, and even help break stories that the mainstream press managed to overlook. In doing so, it has explicitly tried to chart a new future for the Democrats—the subject of the book under review—and implicitly suggested new possibilities for the American political system that might help it break free of the grip of big money. It also raises large questions about the future of journalism. In my view, nothing more interesting has happened in American politics for many years.

The book is light years ahead of anything else out there in terms of analyzing the current political landscape and the growing role of the netroots.  Today I’d like to focus on the first half of the book, and pose three questions which strike me as important topics of discussion:

1)  The book starts out by confirming what is only too painfully obvious to most observers — rather than go on the attack, leading Democrats are content to sit back and wait for the Republican party to self-destruct.  It’s a dangerous strategy.  But the GOP is not monolithic, and as Kos and Jerome break it down, it is a loose coalition of interest groups that include Corporate Cons (whom they typify in Halliburton and Joe Albaugh), Theocons like James Dobson and Pat Robertson, the Neocons such as Perle, Wolfowitz and the members of the PNAC, and xenophobic Paleocons like Pat Buchannan and Robert Novak.  

If the Democratic party were actually to take an active role in promoting wedge issues that split one group or another off from the consensus, how would it best be achieved?

2)  There has been much discussion of the failure of interest groups to support a long-term agenda for a progressive movement as they focus on short-term goals while their causes steadily lose ground.  Their description of Karl Rove’s tactics in Texas to push conservative judges onto the bench for lifetime appointments shows just how frightening is the long game of the Republicans, and how glaring the failure is of Democrats to catch up with what is happening.  As Rove saw it then, and clearly sees it now, the country can be permanently inoculated against changing political tides that the Democratic leaders seem to rely on for regaining power by stacking the judiciary:

[It’s less important to be a majority party in Congress or control the White House or state governments than it is to have a society that has been reengineered to reflect conservative dogma.  The longer Republicans can forestall their inevitable fall from grace and power, and the more judges they can place in the judiciary, the closer they come to that realignment of American society.  While legislators mark their terms in two, four, or six years, and while presidents come and go every four or eight years, federal judges are appointed for life.  The grand conservative vision includes an overhaul of the Constitution, and to do that, the holders of this vision need to place relatively young conservative judges on the bench, ensuring that long after voters finally oust the Republicans, their political interpretations of the Constitution continue to impede progress.

The failure of interest groups to come to terms with this fact is consistently staggering as they argue about the voting record of people like Lincoln Chafee and talk about how "pro-choice" or "pro-environmental" he is, without taking into consideration that most of the votes he casts on behalf of those issues are largely symbolic and he never deviates from the party when it counts, and certainly not when it comes to keeping dangerous judges off the bench.  Yet these interest groups continue to give progressive bona fides to these candidates and block the efforts of true progressives to get elected.  In that respect they have become downright dangerous to the causes they espouse.  

How can these groups be either changed or neutralized in the current political landscape and keep them from at least doing further damage to the causes they have so hopelessly failed to defend?

3)  There were two paragraphs that jumped out at me regarding the netroots and the working class.  One with regard to the odd coalition of big business and working class voters:

Of the twenty-eight states with the lowest per-capita income, Bush carried twenty-six.  Republicans have convinced some of these poorest of the poor that government is powerless to improve their economic situation, thus they focus on "values" issues instead:  Terri Schiavo, abortion, gays, prayer in school, the Ten Commandments in public spaces.  The promotion of these "values" becomes the government’s top concern, even as the economy suffers and wars rage.

And a bit later, they make what I believe to be one of the most profound observations of the entire book:

While it might be easy to get caught up with the emergence of the netroots effort, and think the internet holds the answer to everything that ails Democrats, it’s currently difficult to reach a large chunk of working-class Americans without labor’s help. These union members are not engaging in politics online, or are not engaged at all, and can be swayed by the Right’s culture-war attacks on Democrats to the detriment of their own economic well-being.

If labor unions can begin to build alliances with the rest of the progressive groups and begin to articulate their concerns in the language of morality and basic human rights — a living wage, access to health care, workplace protections, and so on — they can be a major force in helping revive the progressive movement, and the Democratic Party as well.

Kos and Jerome note that the unions are uneasy about Democrats because of the unchecked negative image sketched by media blatherers, but I’ll also add that many people within the netroots (as well as many of the working-class voters) have equal misgivings about labor unions due to the powerful negative narratives sketched by the right-wing noise machine about them, too.

If there is value in joining with working labor unions into the progressive effort (and I believe it is quite imperative), how can they work together?  And what is the best way to overcome the endemic fearfulness that keeps them apart?

Book SalonCommunity

FDL Sunday Book Salon: Crashing the Gate, Week 1

zuniga_markos-20060427.1.gif

(This is the first week we’re devoting to Crashing the Gate.  Next week the authors will be joining us  for a discussion of the book, once again at 2pm PDT/5pm EDT.)

That the book Crashing the Gate by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga would have an impact well beyond the blogosphere became quickly apparent when it wound up on the cover of the New York Review of Books .  Since the dominant narrative regarding liberal blogs had heretofore been shaped by people like Jim Brady, Deborah Howell and Hugh Hewitt whose agendas involve deflecting criticism of their own weaknesses by focusing on what they perceived as "incivility" in their critics, it was refreshing to see that there was finally a new and much more perceptive way to talk about the blogosphere.  Speaking about Daily Kos, the article observes:

Obsessed with developing strategies for defeating Republicans, the site was much involved with the campaign of Howard Dean for the presidential nomination and carrying on his forthright opposition to the Iraq war. Its sophisticated technological structure, assembled by Moulitsas, has allowed its viewers to raise money for favored politicians, rethink and debate issue positions, harass lazy or ideologically biased journalists and commentators, and even help break stories that the mainstream press managed to overlook. In doing so, it has explicitly tried to chart a new future for the Democrats—the subject of the book under review—and implicitly suggested new possibilities for the American political system that might help it break free of the grip of big money. It also raises large questions about the future of journalism. In my view, nothing more interesting has happened in American politics for many years.

The book is light years ahead of anything else out there in terms of analyzing the current political landscape and the growing role of the netroots.  Today I’d like to focus on the first half of the book, and pose three questions which strike me as important topics of discussion:

(more…)

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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