September 24, 2006

"The Netroots Hit Their Limits."

Says Time Magazine:
Moderate Democrats say it with remorse, conservatives with glee, but the conventional wisdom is bipartisan: progressive bloggers are pushing the Democratic Party so far to the left that it will have no chance of capturing the presidency in 2008.

Or maybe the Netroots aren't all that. Make no mistake, these online activists are having a profound impact on the Democrats and on politics in general. But the phenomenon is in its infancy.
But, according to the article, the total number of readers of these blogs is perhaps only about enough to elect a governor in California (if they were all in California), and the total amount of money they've raised in the last year is less than the amount you need to run for Congress in a single district.
No one recognizes the Netroots' limits more than the activists themselves, which is why they are changing their tactics. First of all, they're becoming pragmatic about policy goals.
They're laying off some topics, like gay marriage, and supporting some centrists.
What's more, the Netroots are, paradoxically, attempting to maximize their effectiveness by going off-line.
There's still, fortunately, the need to get out and interact with people in the real world... or at least to run TV ads and make phone calls. How horrific it would be if the strange folk who furiously type away on computer keyboards all day were calling the shots!

31 comments:

Brent said...

As a conservative who does not want to see the Democrats retake either house of Congress, I confess to being both taken aback and perversely happy that so many left wing "progressive" blogs are obscene and hateful in the extreme. I have often - I know this is naughty - commented my right-leaning views on left-wing blogs simply to see the comment reactions. I have twice had commenters wish me dead - seriously. One commenter said that he would love to meet me so that he could smash my "Bush-kissing face" in. There is simply no amount of foul language usage or threats of violence equivalence on the right. The left wins this one big time.

The major progressive bloggers - Kos, Huffington Post - are prisoners of their crazed commenters. For them to change from the strident tone of their blogs with such a rabid progressive audience is almost impossible for them at this point.

I do, however, believe that it is only a matter of time until several of the more eloquent voices on the left mature in their approach and become more measured and reasonable in their arguing. At that point, the tide will begin to flow a touch more in the left direction.

Here's to hoping that day is still a long way off.

David said...

One of the major strengths of a digital world is the ability to immediately address the false arguments and phony logic presented in open debate!

Simply because believing something to be true, and therefor it is true, may not stand up to the rigors of the court of reason and demonstrable fact/history. Clinton is the latest victim of this game and is arguably the poster boy of malleable facts and history embodied by the extreme left and right.

I recently noted, after careful study, that Arianna Huffington needs to wear a bra when appearing in front of Klieg lights on National Television. Ditto for Babs Streisand. How far out of touch are these people when they can't even dress themselves for television?

They all have one thing in common. They are not to be taken seriously because they are vain, selfish, self-absorbed, and impervious to reality.

Goatwhacker said...

Sort of a strange article, some of the examples they cite really don't support their thesis very well. In the Connecticut primary they note that Lamont got 146,000 votes but there were only 50,000 Moveon members in the state. Bacon interprets this as showing the limits of Moveon, but to me this reflects Moveon's power. Assuming Moveon voters went mostly for Lamont you could make the case Moveon clearly made the difference in the outcome.

Later the article says several "liberal blogs" raised only 1.2 million dollars, then immediately notes that Moveon will spend 25 million on the next election cycle. What is the point? Are they trying to say Moveon isn't part of "netroots"?

Speaking purely from persoanl observation I am not seeing a moderating of positions coming from liberal bloggers. They seem about the same as always.

Gahrie said...

I just saw John from Americablog (one of the bloggers at the infamous Clinton luncheon) basically praise Clinton to the stars and do a hatchet job on the right so bad that even CNN's Howard Kurtz was uncomfortable about it.

He kept bringing up the fact that Wallace broke his promise to spend half the time talking about CGI, ignoring the fact (even when pointedly reminded of it by Kurtz) that every time Wallace tried to go back to CGI, Clinton launched another attack and went back to the terror issue.

By the way, where was the blogger from the right for balance? Debra Saunders was calling John on the worst of his crap, but there should have been a rightwing blogger there also.

dick said...

Gahrie,

Haven't you noticed yet that when there is a liberal spokesman on the major networks and CNN and MSNBC no conservative is needed. The balance of an offsetting political philosophy is only needed when you have a conservative spokesperson on. Then you will see the balancing political philosophy in action and usually deferred to by the host.

You also might note that normally the liberal is not referred to as a liberal while the conservative is always and constantly referred to as a conservative. Check out when they speak to congressmen. The liberals are referred to as democrats while the conservatives are referred to as conservative republicans with the accent on conservative.

downtownlad said...

Who are these radical lefty bloggers? Surely not Kos, who - while he is anti-war, is a big backer of moderates for Congress such as Casey and Paul Hackett when he was running in Ohio.

Seems to me that the right-wing bloggers are much more on the fringe, calling for the imprisonment of gay people, invading Iran and North Korea while still fighting Iraq, calling for the teaching of Intelligent (Stupid) Design, etc. - all pretty mainstream positions on conservative blogs these days.

Ann Althouse said...

Who's calling for the imprisonment of gay people? Or are you just referring to the fact that some people don't think there is constitutional law that invalidates statutes that would do that? It's not the same thing.

JorgXMcKie said...

I used to (some months ago) appreciate downtownlad on some forums (don't remember which, exactly) as a fairly rational defender of the left of center. Lately, he appears to be more apt to typify one-half of david's description of Huffy and Babs -- "self-absorbed, and impervious to reality."

His most recent post on this thread appears to have no actual connection to reality. Kos is a big backer of moderate Dems? And he offers Hackett as an example? Didn't Kos drop him like a hot horseshoe?

And if he has a single scintilla of evidence for his scattershot blast at conservatives in general, I'd like to see it.

(By the way, I am not a conservative in any real sense, and I wrote one of the first harsh reviews of Behe's Darwin's Black Box, one of the first books in the launch of Intelligent Design. However, ID has every bit as much going for it as Anthropogenic Global Warming. When can I expect downtownlad to begin attacking Algore et al?)

Jason said...

If blogging were such an effective tool at guiding the politicians, why is the anti-pork-barrel campaign so utterly inneffective? Why did McCain-Feingold pass, let alone stay in effect?

Blogging is largely an activity of preaching to the choir. It can change minds, but no more than in any political argument between roughly like-minded people.

Seems to me the move of the left to further left was caused largely by Howard Dean. He was too extreme for the bulk of the democratic activists, so they went with who they knew was the worse candidate; John Kerry. Because they are activists, their interpretation was that Kerry wasn't left enough.

Turn it around and assume that Kerry had won. The republican activists wouldn't have said that that proved they needed a more moderate candidate, but rather a more extreme one! (Do remember that one reason George Bush beat out McCain was that Bush was seen as the more conservative of the two [and wasn't out of his freaking mind.])

johnstodderinexile said...

Most of the bloggers on the left strike me as far from radical in their ideas. In fact, what keeps hitting me when I read them is, "Where are the ideas?" It feels like Kos, Atrios, MyDD, Talk Left and a few others are campaigning for the chairmanship of the Democratic Party, and could not care less about ideological particulars. They hated Lieberman, and are fishy about Hillary, not because they are too far to the right, but because they are too accomodating to Bush.

Smart, thoughtful and sometimes persuasive left-wing commentary is available from Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum. And, for that reason, their commenters are sometimes pissy toward them.

downtownlad said...

Ann - I'm talking about those who consider the repeal of Lawrence V. Texas one of the most important tasks for the Supreme Court to undertake.

Pretty much standard on all conservative blogs.

Powerline Blog actually longs for the days when we can kill gays again.

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/003792.php

downtownlad said...

And jorg - for the 50th time I'm not left, I'm libertarian.

And I although I might be strongly opinionated, I can look at lefty and righty blogs pretty rationally.

Kos is not looney left. Sorry. But you're wrong. You obviously don't read him. You want looney left, then go to the Democratic Underground - which is the lefty equivalent of the right-wing bigot bastion Free Republic. Kos served in the military and used to be a Republican, so he brings an interesting perspective to the Democrats. His views are standard Democratic Party views. How is that a big deal?

Honestly - the right wing blogs are so extreme - and so hateful to anyone who doesn't follow their group-think that there are very few that I actually read.

So when I want a rational conservative viewpoint, then I read Buckley and George Will, some of the few sane conservatives yet.

There are many more sane conservatives on the political side, such as Dick Armey and John McCain.

There's a reason that almost all of the blogs are read are centrist (Althouse, Sullivan, Kevin Drum, Jeff Jarvis, etc.) It's because at least you can have a rational discussion here.

johnstodderinexile said...

While I think downtownlad mischaracterizes the Powerline post a bit, it is nonetheless a shocking thing to read. Basically, their position is that despite the secular nature of the republic, the fact that so many of the Founders were religious men grossed-out by sodomy should outweigh any other interpretation of the Constitution. That takes originalism pretty far beyond what I thought it was supposed to mean!

And then he goes on to mourn the "destruction of the recognition of the laws of nature and nature's God on which our true rights depend." Huh? My rights depend on what two guys in Texas do with their bodies?

I've read Powerline often, and was generally impressed by it, even when I disagreed. But this post is simply vile.

Fitz said...

I don’t know anyone who “consider the repeal of Lawrence V. Texas one of the most important tasks for the Supreme Court to undertake.” This is another example of gay narcissism and one of the reasons Same-sex “marriage” is being dropped as a topic even on far left political blogs. As a member of the Federalist society I believe Lawrence to be yet another example of poor judicial reasoning and judicial fiat in the realm of activism. Built on a fiction “right to privacy” it is the fruit of Griswold, (& its offspring) Roe, (& its offspring) and a precursor to Massachusetts Goodrich. Like Clarence Thomas & many conservatives I found Sodomy laws to be practically unenforceable & an unnecessary infringement on personal liberty. Lots of laws are like this, yet are not “unconstitutional”.

The worst things about rulings like Lawrence are
#1. They undermine respect for the Law & democracy
#2. They allow proponents to remain “philosophically pure”. Having never shopped their agenda to the American People (or even tried) and gone right to a litigation strategy, they deprive the public of a full debate, any compromise, or the time and process on wich to change minds and build consensus.


Repeal of the Lawrence decisions however; is nowhere a priority in conservative circles. The obvious pressure on current standing precedent from conservative circles is on Roe v Wade.

Simon said...

Downtownlad - one does not "repeal" a Supeme Court decision, one "overrules" it. If that seems like a semantic difference, that only demonstrates that you don't grasp the difference between legislating (laws are made and repealed) and judging (cases are decided and overruled). If Lawrence is overturned, it means that - at a very maximum - a majority in a given state may enact a certain class of laws, not that they can, should or will. Even once the Roe-Casey line is overturned, at a maximum, that will mean that a majority in each state may enact laws on abortion - not that they can, should or will. Many states will not do so. The question in cases like Roe and Lawrence isn't the normative question of whether a state SHOULD do something, it is the very specific question of whether the Constitution or laws of the United States prevent a state from doing something.

Goatwhacker - you say that Lamont's primary victory "reflects Moveon's power" and that one "could make the case Moveon clearly made the difference in the outcome." This is "power"? The power to endanger any chance they have of retaking the Senate by giving Lieberman - who will win the primary with or without the Democratic Party's endorsement - a grievance? If they have a power, they have the power only to repulse the very voters they need.

Simon said...

johnstodderinexile -
Not only does it take originalism a step too far, it doesn't even look to the right era. If Lawrence were decided on a Ninth Amendment rationale, then talking about the laws of Jefferson's Virginia might be relevant, but it was not - Lawrence was decided "by determining whether the petitioners were free as adults to engage in the private conduct in the exercise of their liberty under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution." Hence, the original understanding that is at issue is that of the original understanding of "due process of law" in 1868. It is irrelevant, under Justice kennedy's chosen rationale, whether the Framers of the Constitution or the Fourteenth Amendment approved of homosexuality - the relevant question is, "in 1868, was it commonly understtod that the due process of law included the right to have sex with someone of the same gender?" And I imagine that if you'd asked that question of someone in 1868, they'd be quite surprised if you suggested that there were ANY substantive rights implied in the term "due PROCESS of law," let alone that one.

Fitz said...

johnstodderinexile

“Basically, their position is that despite the secular nature of the republic, the fact that so many of the Founders were religious men grossed-out by sodomy should outweigh any other interpretation of the Constitution. That takes originalism pretty far beyond what I thought it was supposed to mean!”

You misunderstand both what Powerline is saying and what originalism is. At the time of the writing of our Constitution its drafters endorsed a natural law understanding of public & natural order. At no time since then has anyone written a constitutional amendment that undermines this though. There is nothing in the constitution itself that demands that sodomy laws be repealed over the wishes of Democratically elected Legislatures. Yet this is what Lawrence does…Religion or Huck- Sodomy has nothing to do with it.

“And then he goes on to mourn the "destruction of the recognition of the laws of nature and nature's God on which our true rights depend." Huh? My rights depend on what two guys in Texas do with their bodies?”

No your rights depend on something greater than “because the government said so” If the government is the one who gave us basic rights than the government can take them away. The founders understood that one needs to root ontologically “rights” in something greater – Hence the “Creator” non-denominational language of natural law.

When any branch of government can at will overrule the will of the people’s democratically elected representatives with no sound basis in the constitution or clear language (laws that have stood since the inception of this country) That what other rights/laws can they supersede at their discretion.

Hope that clears up the Powerline post (nothing “vile” about it)

Ann Althouse said...

Downtownlad: So you are just referring to the fact that some people don't think there is constitutional law that invalidates statutes that would do that. As I said, it's not the same thing. People who take this position about constitutional law don't (necessarily) think gay people belong in prison. No one prominent in American politics admits to thinking such a thing.

Seven Machos said...

...calling for the imprisonment of gay people, invading Iran and North Korea while still fighting Iraq, calling for the teaching of Intelligent (Stupid) Design, etc. - all pretty mainstream positions on conservative blogs these days.

Sunday, September 24, 2006: Downtown Lad jumped the shark.

Please show me the "pretty mainstream" conservative blogs that advocate any one of these positions, let alone all of them.

johnstodderinexile said...

Simon and Fitz,

There is clearly confusion about "rights" in this country. You're defending the "rights" of a state Legislature as the state's citizen's representatives to enact laws that limit the "rights" of individuals. Which of course, they are entitled to do, up to a point. The argument is over where that point is.

In 1868, perhaps few would have considered the due process of law to include rights for consenting adults to do what they want behind closed doors. But in 2006, I think a substantial number of people think it does.

As for the natural, God-given basis of law: How is an atheist supposed to respond to this? I've always looked at it this way; that natural law is the evolution of thousands of years of tradition, much of which is the accumulated wisdom of both religious and secular philosophy. It is big and powerful, but like a glacier, not a rock. It moves, slightly, with the passage of more time.

From the 1700 and 1800s to the present, one way in which it has moved is in the area of sexual privacy. The rights of any legislature to propound or enforce laws applying to this has changed from then to now -- in part because we've decided, as a society, to become far less hypocritical about activities that our ancestors engaged in on Saturday night then railed against on Sunday morning.

Simon said...

John,
"You're defending the rights of a state Legislature as the state's citizen's representatives to enact laws that limit the rights of individuals. Which of course, they are entitled to do, up to a point. The argument is over where that point is."

That's precisely right. And the answer is that the point is defined in the constitutions of those states, in some of the laws of the United States (I'm thinking principally of §5 laws rather than Federal Preemption), and most of all, in United States Constitution. However, the U.S. Constitution places limits on both WHAT governments can do (substantive limitations), and HOW it can do things (procedural limitations). The due process clauses fall into the latter category: the government can execute you, jail you and fine you -- or in the Constitutoin's vernacular, deprive you of life, liberty or property -- but only if it follows the due process of law. Of course, there are a handful of people who dispute this theory, and think that there is such a thing as "substantive due process." But even if you bought into the idea that so-called "substantive due process" limits WHAT the govenment can do, then, as Scalia explained in his Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe concurrence, “the categorical abrogation of [a] liberty interest by a validly enacted statute suffices to provide all the process that is 'due'.”


"In 1868, perhaps few would have considered the due process of law to include rights for consenting adults to do what they want behind closed doors. But in 2006, I think a substantial number of people think it does."

Even if, arguendo, it were relevant what a majority thought today (and I think you're wrong), you would need to find a way that determined what the majority thought in an appropriate forum. And the only forum that would seem appropriate is what a state legislature thought. So if the state legislature enacted the law, ipso facto, the community has NOT developed such a consensus.


"As for the natural, God-given basis of law: How is an atheist supposed to respond to this?"

You need to find a source of those rights which takes the place of God - one which is external to society and which is capable of granting rights in some positive sense but that does not essentially boil down to "do whatever you want."

Simon said...

"From the 1700 and 1800s to the present, one way in which it has moved is in the area of sexual privacy. The rights of any legislature to propound or enforce laws applying to this has changed from then to now"

As Robert Bork has put it, I don't dispute the existence of a natural law, I deny the power of a court to strike down society's laws based on its idea of what nature's law requires. Hence, I flatly disagree with what I take to be the import of your statement - that the intrinsic power of state legislatures to pass certain laws has changed through time. It has not; certainly, their power to pass certain laws might have changed in the sense of changing Constitutional restrictions on them, and certainly their ability to sustain certain laws might have changed (today, as in 1791, the principle restraint on legislative action are not the rights-bearing clauses but the structural provisions: if the electorate has changed their minds about the acceptability of a given law, they will not long tolerate its persistence on the books).

johnstodderinexile said...

But doesn't the body politic's essential acceptance of Griswold -- in place for almost 40 years now -- imply the same thing as a state legislative vote, practically speaking.

I'm not a lawyer, and I'm pretty moderate politically, but it just seems to me that Griswold, limited to the facts of that case, would earn agreement from a huge majority, and that the rest of the laws & decisions that flow from it are simply a matter of equal protection; what the foes of all this "progress" would call a slippery slope, and what people like me who are okay with it would call "what's good for the goose is good for the gander."

When this country is ready to enact a Constitutional Amendment overturning Roe v. Wade, I'll know that I'm wrong. But I don't see that happening in my lifetime. It doesn't mean gay marriage is implicitly legal; I agree, that would have to be an affirmative legislative act to expand marriage to gays. (One I would favor, by the way.) At this moment we are hanging in between these two poles: sexual and reproductive privacy on one side, but no right to expand the definition of traditional institutions like marriage. It's a rough kind of justice, but it's what the majority seems to be willing to accept.

Simon said...

John,
I think the problem is that most of the body politic thinks about these question in terms of the abstract, Brennanite "small c" constitution that public schools indoctrinate kids with. Most of the public, like "Justice Breyer[,] proceed[] on the erroneous and all-too-common assumption that the Constitution means what we think it ought to mean. It does not; it means what it says."

A few months ago, Leno was testing the knowledge of random people on the street. The results were not encouraging. Back in March, a survey showed that most respondents could not tell you what the first amendment protects (most could name free speech, some could name free exercise, a few talked about establishment, almost none made it further than that).

If you ask a random member of the general public whether they agree with Griswold's holding that the Constitution protectss privacy, in the abstract, then sure, they might agree. Ask them to say which amendment protects it, and they couldn't tell you any more than Justice Douglas could (Griswold never actually says where this supposed right comes from; it rests it on "penumbras" emanating from various parts of the Constitution). Moreover, if you ask someone on the street to explain their opinion of the constitutionality of the exclusionary rule, they will answer that question - if at all - in terms of whether they think the exclusionary rule is a good idea. If you ask most liberals about whether abortion is protected in the Constitution, they will yell at you about choice, not the text where they think that right is protected.

Most of the public could name more members of the cast of "Lost" than members o the Supreme Court. We are, for better or worse, bound to accept the judgement of the ignorant when they express it at the ballot box, and not otherwise.

Lastly, the problem with your argument that the failure to adopt

demonstrates the fundamental assymetry of the problem. Neither supporters of abortion nor its opponents have managed to amass the supermajority support required for a constitutional amendment, while the Supreme Court cut through that process and imposed legalized abortion on America for the price of seven votes. Seven. SEVEN. On the power and authority of seven old men, they flat-out made up a new right which found no support in the text, structure or traditions of the Constitution or constitutional jurisprudence (getting from Griswold to Roe is an immense step: even if there WERE explicitly a right to privacy in the Constitution, it would not protect a right to obtain an abortion), and they imposed it on this country, igniting a political firestorm that has lasted - and worsened - over three decades.

Simon said...

"At this moment we are hanging in between these two poles: sexual and reproductive privacy on one side, but no right to expand the definition of traditional institutions like marriage."

Just because the Constitution of the United Staets protects neither right doesn't mean that you can't obtain it. Even before Roe, some states had legalized abortion, and even before Lawrence, states had eliminated sodomy laws. And if you don't like the laws in Texas, there is no law against leaving. The point is, you can legalize gay marriage any time you want - you just have to pursuade enough of your fellow citizens to support it. And that's the real problem with the pro-gay marriage folks' argument: they want gay marriage, they know most Americans don't, and since the democratic process doesn't serve their goal, they're trying to pursuade the courts to make up a new right, obviating all that opposition and going AROUND the democratic process.

downtownlad said...

People who take this position about constitutional law don't (necessarily) think gay people belong in prison. No one prominent in American politics admits to thinking such a thing.

You are wrong Ann. In fact, I'll give you "one" prominent person who thinks that gay people belong in prison.

George W. Bush.

"Gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush on Friday promised he would veto any attempt by the Texas Legislature to remove from the state penal code a controversial statute outlawing homosexual sodomy. Bush, a Republican, was asked about the sodomy statute shortly after speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Ladies Auxiliary.

" 'I think it's a symbolic gesture of traditional values,' he said."


http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A54318-2003Jun30?language=printer

And let's not forget that Bush DID imprison gay people. Lawrence V. Texas was from Texas after all. And Bush favored their imprisonment. "Symbolic" or not. These guys did spend the night in jail.

Bush has NEVER repudiated that statement. The conventional thinking that he endorsed civil unions in the 2004 campaign is simply not true, as anyone who looks at what he actually said would understand.

Bush still favors the imprisonment of gay people. And if he were to repudiate that, he would be abandoned by the religious right.

By the way - Rick "beastiality" Santorum favors the imprisonment of gay people as well.

downtownlad said...

By the way - I don't really think that Bush really favors putting gay people in jail.

But his public statements speak otherwise. And please tell me why I should give him the benefit of the doubt? No thanks.

Simon said...

He's not talking about imprisoning homosexuals qua homosexuals, he's talking about upholding the law and jailing people for engaging in certain kinds of proscribed conduct. It you're a pianist and your state bans playing piano, you wouldn't be put into jail for being a pianist, but only if and when you play the piano.

downtownlad said...

Simon - You just proved my point, i.e. that most conservatives think it is perfectly acceptable (in fact they openly advoate for) imprisoning gay people for having sex.

Simon said...

I think it's perfectly acceptable for a governor to advocate upholding the law, which is part of his oath of office, yes. Whether the law should be on the books is a completely different matter.

I thought your point was that the Supreme Court should ignore the law and overturn laws on the basis it doesn't agree with them, not that candidates for a job wherein they are explicitly required to uphold the law should advocate not upholding the law?

Fitz said...

Downtownlad

You’re being hyperbolic – The laws you state have nothing to do worth “gayness’ but engage in the act of sodomy. Many states make it a criminal offense for Male/Female as well as Male/Male. Even a husband and Wife could be convicted under these statues.

You undermine your own argument when you make these rarely enforced & difficult to enforce (4th amendment) laws some kind of Blanket provision to “imprison gays”.