Why Daily Kos is the Left Wing Version of National Review

Harold Ford and Markos Moulitsas debated on Meet the Press last week. Can’t find the link to the episode now–snippets on the Meet the Press site.

Ford represented the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council), the “moderate”/”centrist” wing of the Democratic Party. Moulitsas, of DailyKos, representing the left wing of the party.

Ford was hamstrung I think by having to speak always on behalf of the DLC. It would have been better if were just him. Readers now that I think he is one of the really clearer-thinking and future thinking politicians out there. My views are actually much closer to Ford’s than say Obama’s.

The thing with Kos is that it is a movement group. Which is why I often find them so vomit-inducing.

As Jonathan Chait points out in this (overall right imo) article for TNR, the Netroots’ closest parallel and their most obvious mentors are not 1960s New Left nor 1980s Mario Cuomo and Walter Mondale Liberals, but the National Review, Grover Norquist—-movement conservatives.

Here’s Chait:

The most significant fact of American political life over the last three decades is that there is a conservative movement and there has not been a liberal movement. Liberalism, to be sure, has all the component parts that conservatism has: think tanks, lobbying groups, grassroots activists, and public intellectuals. But those individual components, unlike their counterparts on the conservative side, do not see one another as formal allies and don’t consciously act in concert. If you asked a Heritage Foundation fellow or an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal how his work fits into the movement, he would immediately understand that you meant the conservative movement. If you asked the same question of a Brookings Institute fellow or a New York Times editorial writer, he would have no idea what you were talking about.

The netroots have begun to change all that. Its members are intensely aware of their connection to each other and their place in relation to the Democratic Party. The word “movement” itself–once rare among mainstream liberals–is a regular feature of their discourse. They call themselves “the people-powered movement,” or “the progressive movement,” or, often, simply “the movement.”

More Chait:

The netroots look upon this great right-wing apparatus with unconcealed envy. Traditionally, to the extent that movements exist on the left, they have been dispersed among single-issue organizations–environmentalists, labor unions, pro-choice activists–that mobilize only when their own pet issues are on the agenda. This piecemeal structure leaves each component group fighting solo battles against a large and cohesive coalition. Also, since there are political issues that do not directly affect the single-issue groups, it leaves swaths of liberal territory unguarded.

The netroots are scornful of single-issue liberal groups–or, really, any liberals at all who are not wholly dedicated to the cause of Democratic victory. As Stoller has written on MyDD, “To the extent that I have a political hero, it’s probably Grover Norquist, not Ralph Nader.” The netroots’ dream is of a liberal army of grassroots activists, pundits, policy wonks, and politicians all marching more or less in lockstep.

Actually while I don’t share the same reasons as the Kossacks, for the attack on single-issue Democratic voter-blocks, I hope they are at least partially successful. I’m not a fan of single-issue blocks (e.g. teacher’s unions) and their excessive (and in my view usually negative) influence on Democratic primaries. Particularly Presidential ones. As a registered independent, in a state where you can’t vote in the primaries unless you are registered in the party, then I’m not happy that those bozos end up choosing the candidates (from both parties) I have to decide between.

The key point Chait makes as far as I’m concerned is the following. Movement conservatism allowed criticism from further right but never to the left. You could criticize say Bush on immigration from the right but not say Bush on torture from the left/middle. Not that it’s wrong, but you’re outta the club (e.g. Sullivan, Bruce Bartlett, John Dean).

Same with the Kossacks. You can criticize any of the Democrats for not being liberal enough, but criticize from their right (center, center-left) and expect their fury, derision, and ostracization (Ford).

Because for movement conservatives and liberals, those kinds of criticisms will be used by the other side. Liberals quote Andrew Sullivan on torture against other conservatives to say “not all conservatives follow this policy, so I’m not anti-conservative just rational” for example. Just as every right wing voice (from Bill Kristol on the Daily Show to the Pres) quotes O’Hanlon and Pollack’s op-ed on the surge because they are Democrats.

In the sense that Kos is basically a liberal mirror-image of say Grover Norquist conservatives, then it was a necessary happening. (The Green value system had no political vehicle prior to Kos). It was bound to create its own “bizzaro” Superman, as it were. Like matter and anti-matter. As a pattern and structure in terms of strategies, (ab)use of information, and the rest. Not necessarily political or philosophical complexity/depth.

The think-tanks, boat cruises, media outlets, dinner parties and all the rest of the movement conservatives was (in part) to wall conservatives off. Cradle to grave almost Catholic ghetto like. The key was never to be ostracized. The netroots are busy creating a parallel insular ghetto on the left.

The strongest piece of evidence to support Chait’s claims is the “Bible” of the Kos Universe (to the degree they have any philosophical reflection….not much in my estimation): George Lakoff’s Don’t Think of An Elephant.

A bruising and brilliant critique of the work by RadicalMiddle author Mark Satin here.

Lakoff’s book reduces all American to either of two “frames” (based on childhood experience): strict parent or nurturing parent. Conservatives obviously are from the first, progressives the second. (As if strict parents might not also be loving? Or nurturing parents not too loose with the rules?).

For Lakoff any move to the middle is inherently creating conceptual confusion. The point is to cement one’s base (stick to the left wing of the Demo. Party) and then battle down everything conservative and force the “middle” to the progressive cause. Because just like movement conservatives, Lakoff (with no support) believes America is inherently progressive. The only thing that stops a progressive win is the vast right-wing conspiracy–(just as movement conservatives have their “political activist judges” and “liberal biased MSM” and their repeated claims that the US is inherently conservative).

Lakoff’s simplistic reductionist analysis is the Kos philosophy writ large. And its sad but I guess necessary for it must come forward in a way and then gain some measure of power (hopefully not too much, their Green Inquisition is painful to behold, let alone feel the wrath of) so that they fail (as they inevitably will because their policies and thinking are based on a first-tier system). Once they fail as the movement conservatives have failed, then hopefully the country will be ready to move to a third position. Taking the good points from across the spectrum, jettisoning this all/nothing party mentality.

Published in: on August 15, 2007 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

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