Did We Fail?

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:

Ian Welsh
Jerome Armstrong
John Cole (responding to Jerome Armstrong)
Booman (also responding to Jerome Armstrong)
Scott Lemieux (Responding to Ian Welsh and Jerome Armstrong)

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.

51 thoughts on “Did We Fail?

  1. Oh, you’re also therapeutic for the rest of us!
    I’d have gone insane about 10 years ago, if it wasn’t for you, maha, and some other Liberal bloggers.

    And, with or without Netroots, progressive bloggers HAVE made a difference!

    Take a look at the Senate, where yeah, we lost Feingold, but got Brown and Warren, and a few other Senators.
    Ditto the House. Grayson may be a tad extreme, but he’s NOT alone. There are probably more progressives there, than there have been in decades. And they’ve even forced Hoyer a bit to the left – no easy feat, that.

    And as I echoed maha then, and do now, anyone who thought the default position if PPACA failed back then was Single-payer, was either drunk, high, or had gone insane. And still is, if you think that’ll happen without some epic battles.

    Incremental progress may be incremental – but it’s still progress.

  2. If I may:

    First you hit on something there that really is important – the idea that just by harassing democrats enough they’d move left. Though I can’t say how widespread that idea was, it does seem to have been a factor in some of the Netroots – and the thing is it the real model is what we see in the Tea Party now – a cowed party run by a small group.

    Now, we may think that it’d be great to have a small group of progressives running things and calling the shots. Except for factor two . .

    The Kewl Kids problem. This is something that did infect the net roots, and something I see to this day. There are some who got their big place at the table and now . . . well let’s just say I don’t read them anymore. Though fortunately, I think the Netroots very disunity prevents it from being misused.

    So the real issue? I think the Netroots was a possible antidote to the right-wing noise machine, but there’s a few cases where we could have or did get a little too close to being too much like it. It’s the same thing I am concerned about if the Republicans meltdown and the Democrats end up with a permanent majority – a big Established System eventually corrupts.

    Know what? I’ll take the disunified Netroots and/or its remnants as it is. Disjointed, but I DO see a lot of activism. I do see a lot of good being done. It’s just more diffuse, widespread, and less shouty. But it’s there.

    What is needed to remake things anew is a different model. A new one.

    • “First you hit on something there that really is important – the idea that just by harassing democrats enough they’d move left. Though I can’t say how widespread that idea was, it does seem to have been a factor in some of the Netroots – and the thing is it the real model is what we see in the Tea Party now – a cowed party run by a small group.”

      Yes. However, the baggers have power because they are genuinely feared, especially in primaries. The Netroots ability to swing election results is pretty anemic in comparison. Even at our peak, while Dem politicians were happy to have our support, they were not afraid of not having our support. So the attack from the Left thing was just stupid; we never had the chops to pull that off. And from the politicians’ perspective, if we couldn’t at least be counted on to have their backs (and try to work the media) when under attack from the Right, what good are we?

      And the baggers have power also because they are backed by lots of money and big chunks of the old Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy infrastructure, like the Heritage Foundation. See Athenae especially on this point.

  3. I seem to be a little left of Bernie Sanders, I have been called a “bleeding heart” progressive…??? I’m sure it is a good thing tho…

  4. I Liked it when Scott Lemieux said “If only crackpots with no idea how the government works had the same influence on the Democratic side”..Meee- ooow!

    I kinda got the impression to, that what Ian was saying is he lost some game only he seemed to be playing , because we don’t have a bunch of leftie ted cruz’s. I got the impression he feels bloggers lost because they didn’t create a bunch of mindless drones who repeated your every handed down talking point. I guess it is all in how YOU the blogger, decides to see it.

    But here is how I see it. Because you didn’t create the equal to sean insssanity ‘s army or brigade or whatever the hell it is YOU DIDN’T FAIL. If you want to be that, there is still plenty of room on that sinking trashbagger barge if you wanna jump on board. Your audience on this side of the page are a bit brighter and we already come to the table with basic civics knowledge , we don’t need to be spoon fed bull shit till we are whipped up into a torch carrying frenzy. If by not treating your readers like angry sheep Ian thinks you “lost” , well then I guess by that standard it was an epic fail, but to me not turning into the leftie version of breibart I see that as a win.

    Is Ian saying” if only you all were not a bunch of squishes” ??? cause it sounded so ted cruzish to me …naw, we don’t need no stinkin ted cruz’s.

    And also as Scott L said, yeah “real progressives want to restore the articles of confederation , you see” hehe. oh snaps!

    • I’m a former left of center blogger turned paleoconservative.

      I suggest therapy.

      Can ya’ll just read this?

      I don’t disagree with what you’ve written, although I have some quibbles. The political and media establishment may hate the teabaggers, but the teabaggers will still dominate the Right in the next few election cycles, especially in the South and Midwest. They are too big a slice of the GOP base now, and there’s a lot of fear and anger stoking them.

      Progressive voters, on the other hand, sat out the 2010 midterms, and I can’t even begin to calculate how much that set us back. Some of that letdown came from complacency — the dreaded Dubya was finally gone. And with no single lightning rod to attract anger, lefties tend to be more cynical than angry. I suspect another factor was the idiot firebaggers who let it be known that supporting Barack Obama and the ACA was uncool. I still run into people complaining that Obama sold us out on the public option so BLEEP THE DEMOCRATS. But there was never any support in Congress for the public option, and the p.o. was only a tiny part of the ACA, anyway.

      I compare what happened in 2010 to some guy stuck in a pit who puts together a ladder from scraps of material. And then when he tries to climb the ladder and realizes it is too short, instead of making the ladder longer he takes it apart and starts over. People who will settle for nothing less than everything they want right now, or bleep you, keep us stuck in the pit.

  5. “There’s a long conversation amongst leftie bloggers today over the failure of the progressive blog movement”

    A bunch of bloggers wringing their hands on whether they are important or not, some snark just writes itself! Navel gazing anyone? I’ll stick with the mahablog thank you.

  6. Also, the lefty blogosphere’s idea about electing more progressive candidates? Several dKos endorsed candidates ran — and lost. Darcy Burner, for instance. She may be great at policy but she ran for Congress 3 times, the last in a very favorable district, and lost all 3 times.

    To succeed, I think the left — all the left, not just the blogosphere — needs to go back one more step and find ways to make their case to voters.

  7. A bunch of bloggers wringing their hands on whether they are important or not, some snark just writes itself! Navel gazing anyone? I’ll stick with the mahablog thank you.

    Amen, uncledad.

    Jerome needs to buck up. When you use the Tea party as a gage to measure your validity …You’re in big trouble.

    Maha… It’s great therapy!…And you’re the best. I know because I’ve been in a lot of therapy groups… and only one of them was court ordered.

  8. The web, actually, is still a new medium. I think we’ve had a few small successes. And it’s not like it’s a medium the Right is going to grasp any time soon. Their core, old white male racists, is probably still mucking around with AOL on Windows 95, if that.

  9. I honestly didn’t have much love for Obama or Clinton in 2008; Edwards was my preferred choice until he imploded (stupid mothermistressfucker), just because he stressed the poverty issue, which I read as evoking the wealth/income gap issue.

    Never saw much daylight between Obama and Clinton to begin with, and neither one strikes me as being particularly progressive or liberal. In the contest between the black man and the white woman, the black man won…because IMO Obama is simply the better politician and ran a better campaign. Also, his last name isn’t Clinton.

    Apologies if this response doesn’t address anyone’s particular beefs or doesn’t sufficiently articulate my line of reasoning. Not really interested in delineating the obvious flaws of the Democratic Party. Blah 2 party system blargle.

  10. A bunch of bloggers wringing their hands on whether they are important or not, some snark just writes itself! Navel gazing anyone? I’ll stick with the mahablog thank you.

    It’s not about whether they’re important or not, it’s about are they having any effect on the real world, and if not why not?

    Even the various intramural fights, which are really about tactics, is 1) expected and 2) needs to be shrugged off. Just because some people were against ObamaCare because it wasn’t ideal enough, or because some tried to move Democrats to the left via fear – that’s no reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater. All these squabbles over tactics are normal and should be expected. One of the great things about the progressive blogosphere is that it allowed nutty people with nutty ideas to collide and get them worked out. The more positive expression of this, is that it also allowed people with reasonably good ideas and insights to collaborate and refine them, through the neural net, if you will. You can’t have light without shadow.

    I’m WAY more interested in how progressive blogging had its moment in the hot dessicating, desperate sun of George W Bush, where nobody really knew what to make of it, or where it would go, and how for that moment, we had the ear of some politicians, but now it’s all settled out and is more known, and Bush is gone. I’m interested in how the phenomenon of blogging changed, and what impacts it had and still continues to have.

    As for therapy or catharsis – this was a huge aspect of blogging when it arrived. It was a virtual community that was essential for hundreds or thousands of people when the rest of the country had gone mad. But I think for many of us now, we’ve had enough therapy, and it’s been more than time to move on.

  11. blockquote>I’m a former left of center blogger turned paleoconservative.

    I suggest therapy.

    and you know what? THAT right there is why I left… “The Left”

    Just the whole hateful invective towards anyone who dares to think for his or herself.

    Screw you and your damned movement…

    and I mean that in the most Christian way I can muster. 😡

    • Just the whole hateful invective towards anyone who dares to think for his or herself.

      You find people who think for themselves on the Right? In what century? The Right hasn’t had an original thought in my lifetime, and I’m old enough to remember watching Elvis on Ed Sullivan. There is more original thought in your average potato.

      and I mean that in the most Christian way I can muster

      As a Buddhist, I wish you metta.

  12. Patrick,
    Yes, because it’s always in the most Christian way possible to tell people to go and screw themselves and their damned movement!
    THAT’S EXACTLY what Jesus Christ would do!

    You might want to check if you fit into the “Pharisee” category – but, that’s just my opinion.

    And pardon us REAL people of the left, from believing that you were EVER really left-of-center.

    We have NO evidence that we can base your claim on.*
    And it’s not exactly like “Concern Trolls” have NEVER claimed to once have been “Left-of-center.”

    *And please, if you have any evidence, present it.
    We lefties, unlike other people, can, and have been known, to change our opinions/positions.

  13. Can ya’ll just read this?

    One quibble; Lieberman won 70 percent of the votes of self-identified Republicans in that election, vs 30 percent for the Republican candidate. (IIRC).

  14. Mas de Jerome:

    I don’t pretend that this alliance of progressives and libertarians is a cure-all or a new 3rd party movement. I also don’t think that obstacles like money or time or funding are in the way of making it grow and happen. This is available right now. The main obstacle is mental. Can you change your mind to see something different? There were way more libertarians showing up on the mall than there were progressives. Get beyond being a Democrat or a Republican. Trash that, and just be an individual willing to work with others on things we’ve in common. Life’s too short to be evolutionary stuck in partisan tribalism your whole life.

    First of all, it isn’t “mental.” That word is overly prescriptive; a better word would be “psychological.”

    Second, Armstrong apparently believes that Democrat and Republican are respectively interchangeable with ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ and then whines about partisan tribalism…citing libertarians in a mall as autonomous creatures.

    Armstrong’s cognitive fail is obvious. He wonders about changing your mind in a throwaway clause; but in reality, it is extremely difficult for people to change their worldview or opinions…largely due to neurophysiology (over time, various ‘circuits’/’pathways’ in the brain become stronger and thus preferred). The brain is lazy: it prefers taking the road most often traveled.

    His use of ‘tribalism’ strikes me as being largely correct (people are naturally intuitive, plus we are social beings and tend to take cues to define our membership within a group rather than some bizarre adimensional assessment of facts via pure reason). But again, his thinking seems to be predicated on the assumption that individuals have the capacity to function as ‘free will automatons.’

    • Monty — good points.

      I would add that the urge for humans to form tribes seems to be hardwired into us. We start sorting ourselves into tribes as soon as we’re turned loose on a playground. Just about any kind of movement becomes a tribe for at least some people. One has to be unusually self-aware to avoid this. Those who are not self-aware easily can be lured into tribes, including tribes of people who say they hate tribes (Objectivists).

  15. Hmmm. Commenter comes to what is an avowedly lefty blog, full of avowedly lefty people, and says s/he used to be a lefty but is now a righty, and begs the readership to read one of THEIR blog posts. Blog host leaves a fairly mild little dig, but otherwise addresses the substance of the post written by commenter. Whereupon commenter blows right the hell up, tells us all to go screw ourselves, implies that we are a bunch of unthinking sheeple, and tries to make us think that all of this is done out of sweet Christian charity.

    Forgive me if I Doubt.


  16. Patrick is having a bad day. He’s being buffeted by the demons in his head upon the hearing of the word : THERAPY ( that aught to send him into a relapse).

    Check out his blog! He’s so starved for attention he got a little Capaesque sounding link titled: Why I blog. And on that web page he’s got a repost of a comment from a female admirer who strokes his intellectual prowess and sends him off like the Don Quixote of conservatism. I think Patrick is hurting, so everybody please acknowledge Patrick.
    Then he’s got a CBN News video that transitions into a Fox news video in less than 15 seconds… But he’s not being duped. God has put his stamp of approval on that telling of the news.

  17. I just like hanging out with smart people. Compared to the commenters on some of the winger web sites or even the Huff Post, the commenters here and many other places just shine with intelligence. We have such good people writing the blogs and good people reading and commenting. What more could you ask?

  18. Patrick, you left because people were being mean to you in a comment section? Yeah, go disagree with someone at The Corner. Nothin’ but love and flowers over there. I left the church for those reasons, when people who said they were all about Jesus shunned me and told me I needed to re-examine my values because I didn’t think George Bush was a great Christian man. I also found my non-Christian friends treated me better than my Christian friends, and that’s still true. I would never change my core beliefs because someone was mean to me, however. One thing I do know having read this blog and others for nearly ten years, and making occasional comments; don’t bring any weak sauce, you will get called on it. Libs don’t like parrots. Though I will say that Maha runs a pretty tame blog without a lot of flame wars. But if you say dumb stuff don’t be surprised when someone calls you on it.

    Totally OT; how are the swear words getting by the filter? If I’ve got some naughty words in a comment it always seems to get caught in purgatory.

  19. Maha-

    Agree that we are ‘hardwired’ to be social creatures…everyone is compelled to ‘belong’ to some group, or at the very least desires a connection with another person.

    “We start sorting ourselves into tribes as soon as we’re turned loose on a playground.”

    Great example! I styled myself as a ‘science commander’ for ‘our’ kindergarten class during recess, engaged in an ongoing moral/cosmic battle with the ‘other’ kindergarten class…the objective being to control a jungle gym (a space station).

    Hilariously, I armed our tribe with saws…to cut thru “forest fields.” I kid you not. (playground was surrounded by trees, hence the forest/force field confusion)

  20. OT, but I have to share this. And this is true. I’m not making it up.

    My mother-in-law is 85 years old and she spends most of her time watching television. Fox News channel with their lineup of talking heads is a large part of her programing day. Tonight she was telling me about why Obama’s health insurance website was such a disaster…The reason that it is, is because a friend of a friend of Obama’s wife, some kid from Canada who just got out of school was the one who built it. Really?
    How do you even begin to deal with nonsense and ignorance like that? She’s absolutely convinced that it’s true. Her only concept of what is required to build a workable website is that my daughter built one for my brother -in-law using a downloaded from LimeWire version of Dreamweaver. So how complex a task can it be?
    I guess that a friend of a friend implies that Obama was trying to save money and do it on the cheap?

  21. “Incremental progress may be incremental – but it’s still progress.” CUND GULAG
    ” People who will settle for nothing less than everything they want right now, or bleep you, keep us stuck in the pit.” Barbara

    These two statements struck me as pivotal, fundamental and crucial. Anyone who demands everything right now in a democracy is an anarchist, whether left or right leaning. Of course, we don’t have a democracy any more despite the quaint ritual of elections. We have a plutocracy – government by the rich.

    If you want to see the arc of progress bend to the left, take out control by the wealthy and empower the center. This doesn’t build the power of progressives but it decimates the power behind the radical right. Build a wall of separation between big money and government and watch the turn to the left.

    Just as an example, look at the issue which dominates – jobs. Neither party will let any bill out of committee that will create jobs (I’m thinking manufacturing)if that law will hurt the profits of multinational corporations. Both parties. Take money out of the equation – so that candidates can’t profit by sucking up to the rich – before, during or AFTER their time in office. Eliminate the threat to reelection which is the byproduct of opposing the rich. Ideas to stimulate job creation look totally different.

    The same thing holds with a dozen different issues from energy to the environment to education to agriculture to prisons. Remove the control of big money and the issues all have a new look that generally…. leans left. It won’t give progressives everything fast… it will just trend that way. And such a move would stabilize a government – and a form of governement (democracy) that’s teetering -and that’s more important than ANY of the individual issues.

  22. the commenters here and many other places just shine with intelligence.

    Thanks, Dianne… 🙂 I’ve always said…I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and by golly people like me.

  23. Curious. On what lefty blog were Hillary fans ever considered the kewl kids? I was on kos and considered a bitter knifed during the primaries after moving from Edwards to Clinton. Maybe jeromes’s site but it was always a mess after he let it be taken over by Pumas.

    • “On what lefty blog were Hillary fans ever considered the kewl kids?”

      A lot of the war was going on on listservs like Townhouse and other intra-blog communications, not so much out in public. But beside the FireDogLake crowd there were a number of prominent bloggers, most of them women, who let it be known that anyone who didn’t support Clinton was a bot and a tool who wouldn’t be allowed to sit at their lunch table any more.

  24. Right-o swami! Chicks dig high foreheads and red bowties ! Now how about a mysterious but serene bamboo forest ?
    All kidding aside, I’ll stroke the egos of our hostess and regulars. You are extended family to me, I’m happy to be able to vent and share here.

  25. This should not be taken as a defense of PUMAs, of Armstrong in particular, or of Hillary Clinton’s god-awful campaign. But there was no shortage of pro-Obama dudebros who directed misogyny against Clinton and against her many female supporters.

    • no shortage of pro-Obama dudebros who directed misogyny against Clinton and against her many female supporters.

      Yes, but I didn’t see any progressive bloggers doing that, including me, but we were all punished for it. I was accused of being a misogynist by some woman on the Townhouse listserv. I have blotted out of my mind who it wass, but the groupthink was relentless.

  26. Doug wrote we have a plutocracy. It has become obvious to me that there is a government that we see with elected officials and their actions, a core organism that barely deviates from a set course, and then there is the military. It is in no way a democracy, and it’s getting more malignant. I’m not saying this has anything to do with the president. He presides over the visible arm. NSA, CIA, and the other alphabet soup organizations have a life of their own; then there is the deep core. Happy Halloween.

  27. OT, but relevant today:
    One wonders how many of the (probably modest number) of employers who tossed their employees out onto the ACA markets returned the insurance money they took out of their employees’ pockets to them, or even gave them the rebate checks that the ACA generated from requiring insurers use 80% of the premiums on healthcare-related items?

    I’m sure it varies from employer to employer. Of course, one wonders how many employees even realize(d) that money was theirs – part of their compensation package, and not a ‘generous gift’ by the employer…

    • Dan — that’s a point.

      Reminds me of an absolutely awful woman I used to work for. It was a very small company but we did get health benefits, for which we paid part of the premiums out of our paychecks. Or so we thought. Then one of the employees went to the hospital for a scheduled surgery and found the surgery had been canceled, because the insurance was canceled. We called the insurer (boss lady was away on vacation that week) and found out the premium hadn’t been paid in three or four months.
      Money had been taken out of our paychecks, of course, but it hadn’t been forwarded to the insurance company.

      We tracked down boss lady at her vacation hotel, and sometime that week her husband sent money to the insurance company, and our health benefits were reinstated. We never got a straight answer about what she had been doing with the insurance money.

  28. What you describe is out and out fraud, and actionable (taking your money under false pretenses).

    What I was trying to get at was that both your contribution and the employers’ contributions are part of your compensation package. If the employer suddenly cuts off his share, you are taking a pay cut.

    If the employer doesn’t make good, you have a personal issue with him or her, but likely not a court case, unless there is a contract. Verbal contracts are harder to enforce, of course, but if there is evidence (such as a long history of employer-paid premiums), it will depend on the jury…

    But the overall point is that Republicans always say that when employers save, the employees will benefit. The fact that that has not been the case since the 80s is lost on the Kool-Aid Krowd.

    Can you say “perfidy?” I knew you could.

  29. …Jerome Armstrong, who seems to think progressives should be joining forces with libertarians and Ron/Randbots. Um, no.

    I think it’s less that he’s for it (he may well be), and more that he just sees this happening around him.

    Political realignments happen from time to time – recall that it was Lee Atwater’s genius who brought the religious right into the Republican party a generation ago, which completely changed the game. Previously the GOP was, for decades, the exclusive club for high-church people. Buddhism 101: Change is the only thing that is constant.

    I can see libertarians aligning with progressives – young people who are turned off by the anti-science, anti-women, anti-reality, pro-theocracy stance of the GOP – young people who are all about progress and solving the country’s problems, instead of just saying No and pretending they don’t exist. Unfortunately, this would likely produce a young vs old split – “new” Demorats vs old style liberals.

    I tend to think we’re about due for a realignment, as the GOP has pretty much boxed itself into a corner.

  30. WAY OT but, Ruh-roh Rastro!!!!
    TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) free-trade deal, coming in under the radar, with a neutron bomb for American jobs:

    If Thom Hartmann is right – and he usually is – then this thing will make NAFTA look like a carefully crafted tariff policy, designed to keep cheap American goods in America, keep cheap foreign products out, and insure livable wages for our nations workers.

    This free-trade agreement, from what people have been able to glean, seems like it was written by ALEC’s for international consumption – and corporate power and profits!

    Nothing says lower wages, job insecurity, and unemployment, quite like “free”-trade. It only frees Americans of their jobs, homes, savings, and futures.

    In other TRADEPOCALYPSE!!!

    Say it ain’t so, President Obama.
    Please, say it ain’t so…

  31. I can see libertarians aligning with progressives

    Well, except for the fact that pretty much all the libertarians I’ve ever heard from are anti-woman and anti-reality. Also rabidly pro-gun. So any alliances don’t last long.

  32. all the libertarians I’ve ever heard from are anti-woman and anti-reality. Also rabidly pro-gun

    It’s the ones with money and ideas who aren’t. Think west coast venture capitalists.

  33. I wrote that too quickly. What I really meant was all the people doing various startups, Silicon Valley is the most visible example, but they’re in any center with enough creative people. It’s the young creatives who are often libertarian and very much far removed from the pro-gun, anti-woman crowd. And who roll their eyes at the whole conservative schtick.

  34. Moonbat, I think with age and experience– no matter one’s role in business or any other part of American society– comes an understanding of the irreplaceable function of government. I’m not sure what age group still thinks the Reagan administration was superior to that of Bill Clinton, but it’s certainly not young people. So, you take away the rabid anti-reality, anti-woman, and finally the anti-government sentiments, and they aren’t libertarians. In fact, take away the rabies and they aren’t libertarians. If they still call themselves libertarians, they just aren’t paying attention.

  35. I wish someone would write a book about this era, beginning with the election of 2000. It’s been a very strange ride. Alas, there’s still a lot of work to do. It won’t let up for many years to come, even if Democrats win the next two or three elections.

    Maha, you have good judgment and a good sense of what’s going on. And good readers whose comments need wider circulation. Keep the Mahablog going.

    For many people, there’s something about being a somewhat successful blogger that goes to people’s heads and their judgment slips. But even columnists do that at times. I used to read Richard Cohen a lot more until he sided with the neocons (his opinions started slipping on other issues as well).

    It’s ironic in the end that Hillary Clinton may also become president. Both Obama and Clinton are moderate Democrats, a fact of life that somehow got overlooked by many of the more passionate progressive bloggers and their supporters (what does it say that it’s hard to find truly capable liberal Democrats?). I’ve always felt the key is actually getting lots of Democrats into the House and Senate and keeping them there. For me, the practical issue has always been to get more movement to the left. Grand leftist bargains are simply not going to pass in this era. The conditions that made FDR and John Kennedy possible no longer exist. But, wow, there are absolutely crucial issues that need work.

    Ironically, Obama in his odd, wonkish, working in the background way has made enormous progress on three critical issues: global warming, alternative energy and the growing brittleness of fossil fuels (despite Fracking, the fossils are having major problems; we can’t cheer too much because we need a functioning economy to make a swifter transition that will still take 20 years). He’s done more on these issues than any president before him. We all wish he would do more. And yet a reaction from the left to anything Obama does could saddle us with Tea Republicans for years to come. We got a taste of that in 2010. There are dozens of ways for progressives to make progress on issues and dozens of ways to hold Democrats accountable without undermining the future of progressivism. I don’t want to get in a fight with hardline progressives, but it’s important to stay away from grand bargains while recognizing that liberal bloggers and other progressives can still accomplish a great deal. And have already done so.

  36. In fact, take away the rabies and they aren’t libertarians.

    Joan, Nice way of putting it.. I was struggling to express that concept to explain the libertarian ideas that I find myself in agreement with. The only labels I feel comfortable wearing are a registered independent and a liberal. I would assume that those two labels make me a progressive by default.

  37. Craig, I think for a real understanding of the era, you have to start way before 2000. I think people who are young enough that the 2000’s is all they really know don’t understand the fact that for almost sixty years we were living a slow motion war that we all knew very well could and probably would end with us all suddenly dead in an all-encompassing nuclear conflagration. It’s hard to communicate what that felt like unless you lived it. And then, late eighties-early nineties, that was just, like, gone… We spent most of a decade thinking that we were, at long, long, LONG last, finally safe. I think you need that as background in order to understand how George Bush got enough votes to almost win in the first place, and to understand part of why 9-11 was so shattering. We thought we were safe, but it turns out all along we weren’t. The old war we thought we were done with had some kind of horrible mutant baby and now we had a whole new war.

    Of course to anybody with eyes to see and a brain to think, it was obvious that the new war was wholly unnecessary. But sadly there were far too few of those types.


  38. The only labels I feel comfortable wearing are a registered independent and a liberal. I would assume that those two labels make me a progressive by default.

    I think that’s just silly. Labels, gah!

    WRT Maha, I am fast approaching some kind of zone of being where I have virtually zero tolerance for self-labeling. Every human functions at the behest of various forms of self-ignorance, myself included. The best we can do is to be aware of our cognitive limits and adjust our ‘rational thinking’ accordingly.

    …and suck this, libertarians and free will advocates.


    I would also say that the ‘self’ (self-identity) is merely a kind of GUI that is hard-coded in our brains that serves to preserve an individual narrative that serves to maintain individual memory & learning functions.

    Or maybe not.

  39. Ian, you raise some good points. But I clearly remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and yet I stopped worrying about the bomb around 1979 when word about some studies came my way that showed how difficult it would be for either side to ‘win,’ whatever that meant. I take nuclear weapons very seriously but frankly, after 1962 (except for a couple of bizarre ‘hiccups’), we were more vulnerable in the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union and weapons very loosely guarded in the various ‘-stans.’ I’m not a pacifist and maybe that allowed me to see that there was a background to the war in Iraq, lame-brained though it was. Initially, I was more concerned about nonsense like unilateralism, the principle of pre-eemptive strikes and using nuclear weapons as bunker busters. I found myself scratching my head a lot, muttering “What the f***?” I don’t like making an issue of it, but I believe initially Bill Clinton supported the war and even encouraged Tony Blair. Democrats need Bill Clinton but it’s important to be wary. That’s the nature of coalitions. Sometimes we have to bite our tongues because really stupid things can happen if we don’t.

    A bizarre uh-oh moment in the Fall of 2002 was Colin Powell pointing out that the Bush people had no Plan B when Saddam Hussein said yes to U.N. inspections (the other day, I looked closely at the statue of Colin Powell in New York holding the bottle of some imaginary biochemical weapon; he’s now our best source of that fiasco of a surreal crowd that never seemed to have a good Plan B in any circumstance—except for dirty campaigning).

    Ian, I see you as an ally, but allies don’t always have the same perspective. I’m a progressive and feel options have become much more constricted since 2000. But I’m a believer that there’s a path forward for progressives.

  40. First of all I love this blog. You have a unique way of tying many stories together to present a cohesive picture of an issue. So brava to you.

    I don’t know what the objectives of most of the progressive left are or were, but I think we have done very well. I look at lots of small, middle sized and big successes and i am not unhappy. I’m not overjoyed all of the time, but over all it has been good. I never imagined that we would effect a big giant coup and be able to sit back and relax for the next decade.

    Here in West Palm Beach Florida we turned out the vote in a huge way and elected Obama twice. We sent 4 new Democrats to the House in Washington in spite of overwhelming odds and we ousted Allen West.

    We also sent many new Democratic State Representatives to Tallahassee. They are working hard to overcome the Republicans there and trying to put a stop to some of the more nasty legislation.

    All of that is just a drop in the bucket I guess, but I define it as success.

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