The Future

Okay, so maybe it's too early to be thinking about a Democratic President, but David Brooks, William F. Buckley, Robert Novak, Glenn Greenwald, Christy, and, well, me are all predicting a bleak future for a Grasping Old Party that can't get out from under its many epic disasters mistakes.  The Iraqupation is having roughly the same effect on Rebubblican candidate recruiting as it is on military recruiting (and the opposite effect on al Qaeda recruiting), so unless the war ends before the election, or the Republicans start running on the Harry Reid The-War-Is-lost-And-I-Will-Get-Us-Out platform (don't count on it), I don't think it's too premature to start thinking about what comes next.

That is to say, after five or six years as a purely oppositional entity, the liberal blogosphere could very well find itself on the same side of the ideological fence as the White House.  How will we handle it?  Will we cover for our leaders even when they're wrong, or will we hold their feet to the fire to try to keep them honest?

Jonathan Chait believes that we desire nothing more than to emulate the conservative message machine (emphasis added):

The notion that political punditry ought to, or even can, be constrained by intellectual honesty is deeply alien to the netroots. They have absorbed essentially the same critique of the intelligentsia that the right has been making for decades. In the conservative imagination, journalists, academics, and technocrats are liberal ideologues masquerading as dispassionate professionals. Those who claim to be detached from the political struggle are unaware of their biases, or hiding them.


The prevailing sentiment here, however, is not a distrust of pointy heads. Rather, it's a belief that political discourse ought to be judged solely by its real-world effects. The netroots consider the notion of pursuing truth for its own sake nonsensical. Their interest in ideas, and facts, is purely instrumental.

….To [Salon's Joan] Walsh and other journalists, the relevant metric is true versus untrue. To an activist, the relevant metric is politically helpful versus politically unhelpful.

There is a term for this sort of political discourse: propaganda. The word has a bad odor, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. Propaganda is often true, and it can be deployed on behalf of a worthy cause (say, the fight against Nazism in World War II). Still, propaganda should not be confused with intellectual inquiry. Propagandists do not follow their logic wherever it may lead them; they are not interested in originality. Propaganda is an attempt to marshal arguments in order to create a specific real-world result–to win a political war.

I think I may have missed a memo somewhere.  Are we rabidly ideological?  Absolutely.  But propagandists unconcerned about intellectual honesty?  Um, no; I think Chait has us confused with someone else – most of the big-name (and smaller-name) liberal bloggers I know of are actually pretty scrupulous, at least as far as my poor biased lefty brain can tell.  It's kind of our brand.

I would hope that if when the Democrats retake the White House and consolidate their Congressional majorities, we will be just as intolerant of lawlessness and unaccountability in our own party as in the Republican Party.  Indeed, not only could we then tell Chait to go suck eggs, but the occasional friendly kick in the pants may even save the Democrats from the fatal complacency and inertia which loosened their decades-long grip on Congress back in the 1980s.  Perhaps if the blogosphere had started thirty years earlier, the "Republican Revolution" would never have happened.

But my biggest worry is that a Democratic President might decide that because BushCo. has screwed the country over so badly, they need to make use of some of those special Unitary Executive Powers that Dubya grabbed for himself, but they promise to give them right back when everything's fixed.  While a part of me would get a kick out of that, I really do want the Democrats to be the party that plays by the rules and respects the Constitution and the rule of law.

What will make this keep-'em-honest effort especially tricky is that the Republicans and media will supply a neverending stream of fake Democratic screwups, as we have seen already with the bogus attacks on Pelosi and Reid.  So not only will we have to keep the Democrats honest, but we will also have to distinguish between false charges which must be rebutted, and real charges which require words and action on our part.  The good news is, we'll have two years of practice under our belts before President ObamaClintonEdwardsGore takes office, and we're much smarter than the wingnuts.  Hell, I bet the MyDD guys have it all figured out already.

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