There’s a long conversation amongst leftie bloggers today over the failure of the progressive blog movement. My initial reaction was
1. There’s a progressive blog movement? (Well, yes, there was; see commentary below)
2. If we failed, precisely what did we fail at?
Much of this conversation was initiated by Ian Welsh, and let me say that Ian is a smart guy who, over the years, has been right about a few things that I misjudged. So I don’t want to be unnecessarily snarky here. If this topic interests you, here is the conversation thus far, by author, in sorta kinda chronological order:
With the caveat that I’m under big-time deadline pressure right now and don’t have time for the long and thoughtful post I’d like to write — A lot of good points are made by all authors, with the exception of Jerome Armstrong, who seems to think progressives should be joining forces with libertarians and Ron/Randbots. Um, no.
There was a time during the Bush Administration that progressive bloggers did seem to be a kind of movement, that we called Netroots, but this era of relative solidarity did not survive the 2008 primaries. Unlike others, I do not blame Barack Obama for that. It’s true that he did not cultivate the A-list bloggers as much as other candidates, such as Hillary Clinton, did, but he did speak at the Daily Kos convention in Chicago in 2007, so he didn’t ignore us entirely. I remember at the time there was a lot of buzz that the DK convention goers didn’t support him, but his break-out session was the first one to fill up. Lots of bullshit already was in the air, in other words.
What really killed the movement for me was the dismissive attitude of the kewl kids who were determined to make Hillary Clinton the nominee. Anyone who questioned their elite judgment was attacked as an “Obamabot.” I realize a lot of the Clinton supporters caught grief from the more rabid Obama supporters, but my impression was that the worst of the anti-Clinton snark was not coming from other bloggers. I found it impossible to have anything like a rational conversation with anyone, and even some actual fleshworld friendships did not survive the rancor. By the time the dust settled I considered myself out of the Netroots. I dropped out of the listservs and stopped cross-posting on other blogs. I also didn’t have the money after that to travel to conventions, anyway.
And as far as I’m concerned, that’s what ended the “movement.” But anyone who thinks Hillary Clinton represented True Progressivism and would have listened to us after she became President was deluded, IMO.
Now, is it true that we accomplished nothing? We did not become kingmakers, that’s for sure. But some of the candidates supported by large chunks of the blogosophere — Howard Dean and John Warner come to mind — were in most ways even less progressive than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. So if the point was to elect more progressive candidates, even if we had succeeded, we would have failed.
I do think we helped make it possible to get a few progressive voices on national media. The biggest reason I started blogging in 2002 was that progressives were entirely absent from television and radio and mostly absent in print media as well. I was either going to yell at the television or blog, and I decided to blog. Now we have some presence in media, such as Rachel Maddow and Melissa Harris-Perry, and I think in an indirect way the strength of the progressive blogs helped made that possible. If nothing else it demonstrated that there were lots of people out there who were hungry more a more progressive perspective. Of course, news media still mostly suck.
There were many conversations back in the day of how the Netroots should relate to the Democratic Party. There was a general consensus that we must not be captured by the Democrats, but instead support more progressive candidates and work to push the Dems in a more progressive direction. In many ways the party has moved left at least a tad. There is much more robust support among Dems for reproductive rights, marriage rights, and economic populism than there was a decade ago. And I think progressive bloggers played a part in bringing those issues into our national political discourse.
However, I don’t blame Dems for wanting to keep us at arm’s length. More than anything else I think stunts like Jane Hamsher’s very visible and very hysterical anti-ACA campaign in 2009 and 2010 demonstrated that we couldn’t be counted on to support realistic and incremental progressive reform. Instead, too many of the A-listers harbored a completely fantastical notion that if we attacked the Democrats enough they would be scared into becoming more progressive.
In short, that was insane. And I still find it unfathomable how anyone bright enough to tie his own shoes could think that if the ACA had failed to pass, Congress would have opened its arms to single payer. Not on this planet.
So here we are, talking to ourselves, not influencing much of anything. I keep this blog going because I find it therapeutic, and I think some of you do, too, but I’m not kidding myself that I’m part of a movement any more.
Well, I’ve already gone on longer than I intended. Of the comments linked above, I second Athenae most of all. So for all the stuff I’m thinking and leaving out, read her.