Monday, May 08, 2006

Netroots Growing on Limited Acreage?

Via Powerline, I am directed to "Hillary Clinton: Too Much of a Clinton Democrat?" by Markos Moulitsas of The Daily Kos in Sunday's Washington Post. There were two elements of his non-endorsement that struck me as very relevant to 2008.

The first is that the more left-wing elements of the Democratic base don't seem to be all that concerned about how far to the right they can extend their coalition. I got some personal experience with this when the Nonpartisan Social Security plan was released--the most extreme criticism was directed at Jeff Liebman, the co-author who had served in the Clinton administration, for being too far to the right. Here's an example from the op-ed:

Dean lost, but the point was made. No longer would D.C. insiders impose their candidates on us without our input; those of us in the netroots could demand a say in our political fortunes. Today, however, Hillary Clinton seems unable to recognize this new reality. She seems ill-equipped to tap into the Net-energized wing of her party (or perhaps is simply uninterested in doing so) and incapable of appealing to this newly mobilized swath of voters. She may be the establishment's choice, but real power in the party has shifted.
I don't know if the second sentence is an accurate statement. Kos got to vote for John Kerry in a losing candidacy. What success is he claiming?

But let's suppose that Kos is right in the last statement, that the real power in the party has shifted. That means he gets to dictate the Democrats' agenda, but that doesn't mean the Democrats win in 2008. That only happens if the candidate he backs can capture enough of the national vote, the one that includes the Independents and Republicans. The Clinton strategy is to start in the middle (the muddle?) and move to the extreme only as needed to pick up the win. It worked for Bill. Perhaps Hillary thinks it can work for her, too. Kos offers no strategy for capturing a majority. He seems disdainful of even having to try. That doesn't seem like a recipe for electoral success.

The second element of his op-ed that stands out is his accurate assessment of the danger of nominating candidates who cannot run on their recent accomplishments. He writes:
Yet staying away from big ideas seems to come naturally to Hillary Clinton. Perhaps first lady Clinton was so scarred by her failed health-care reform in the early 1990s that now Sen. Clinton shows no proclivity for real leadership as a lawmaker.

Afraid to offend, she has limited her policy proposals to minor, symbolic issues -- such as co-sponsoring legislation to ban flag burning. She doesn't have a single memorable policy or legislative accomplishment to her name. Meanwhile, she remains behind the curve or downright incoherent on pressing issues such as the war in Iraq.
In 2004, John Kerry could not point to a single, substantive piece of legislation that existed because of his leadership, after a legislative career of nearly two decades. Had there not been such a gaping hole in his resume, I think he would have run a more successful campaign. I don't see how a one-and-a-third term Senator Clinton stands a better chance on this dimension. It is not surprising that sitting members of the House and Senate are very infrequently elected to the Presidency. Governors, with records as heads of state-level executive branches, make for more compelling candidates.

So I think Kos is correct about the need to nominate someone with a record to run on, but I don't think he is doing the Democrats any favors by stipulating that the record has to be one that (merely) appeals to his part of the political spectrum.


Anonymous said...

What credentials does KOS have beyond a popular blog (that I have not been reading)?

Why should any party run a Senator with no operating experience? If the Dems want to win they should woo Bloomberg.

Barbar said...

Kos isn't advocating far-left candidates, he's advocating "outsiders." There's something of a difference. For example, when Dean was an Internet darling, the only thing "far-left" about him was his entirely sensible position on the Iraq war -- but this was an outsider position that established Democrats were unable to take. Another guy who got some Internet play was Hackett in Ohio, who was really pretty conservative but seemed willing to be a "fighting Democrat."

I think what really galvanizes the netroots are things like everyone suddenly deciding that it's unpatriotic to criticize the President. Someone like Joe Lieberman is pretty liberal but was quite accomodating to that shift in the political winds, which is why there's a strong push to get him out of office in 2006.

Captain Ned said...

Mr. "Screw them" seems to think that he's the one who will pick the 2008 version of Eugene McCarthy and present him to the adoring masses, packaged and ready for apotheosis. Besides angling for a Cabinet post that's never going to come, he fails to see that it's no longer 1968.

jkas said...

well, they got Dean in his current role. And almost elected Hackett in a red district. For the hapless Democratic party, that is the definition of success.

Anonymous said...

Kos is somewhere around 0-15 when he backs a politician. Dems would be stupid to listen to him, but I can think of another party that would like it.

Dave Schuler said...

That the American people are more "progressive" than the recent results of national elections would suggest is an article of faith with the netroots. I think it's more the other way around, myself.

Van said...

Dave - if you read the book, "What Liberal Media" by Eric Alterman you may change your mind about how progressive Americans really are. Eric does a swell job at making the point that progressives are in the majority, not the other way around. The problem is that the Democrats cannot, or will not, package and sell their ideas like the Republicans will.

The Republicans are masters at organization and marketing.
The Democrates always appear to be two steps behind, disorganized and without leadership.

I think that Thomas Frank summed it up in his book, "What's the Matter With Kansas" pretty well.
He argues that Democrats are not organized and that since the Democrats have gone conservative, why should Middle-America vote for them?
The Democrats do not provide a strong opposition.

The Republicans are incredibly organized, in fact if a Republican goes off the farm - it's a national emergency.

I just hope that we have more to choose from than Kerry or Clinton in 08.

Kyle said...

VAN I think it interesting that you talk about two books both of which in my opinion are very very poorly argued and unconvincing.
The republicans because of their issues would absolutely command the electorate for the next generation if it wern't for the facts that many are corrupt, the administration is incompetant, and many republicans don't really believe in their own issues.

Van said...

Hi Kyle,

Intersting point of view, but isn't it sort of like saying, Repbulicans would absolutely command the electorate for the next generations if only it weren't for the Republicans?

While it's true that Democrats have thier share of problems, it's also true that we are experiencing the logical conclusion of 30 years of conservative influence in DC.

Corporate dominance, lack of democracy, a wealthy ruling class, a permenate state of war, and vast economic insecurity amoung the people.

No thannks.

I mean no disrespect, I just don't see the Republicans as the party which represents the majority of our people.