Markos Moulitsas Zùniga, AKA “Kos” has a great little anti-Hillary piece in The Washington Post. Now granted, I’m hardly one to come to the defence of New York’s junior Senator, but Kos once again proves why he lives in a little world of his own that bears little resemblance to reality. For instance:
But the netroots — the far-flung collection of grassroots political activists organizing online — proved to be a different world, one unencumbered by Washington’s conventional wisdom. Even as the establishment mocked Dean and his supporters (“like a scene out of the ‘Star Wars’ cantina,” laughed a rival campaign aide), his army of hyper-motivated supporters organized across all 50 states. This movement exploded onto the national scene when Dean began reporting dramatically higher fundraising numbers than his opponents. Had Kerry not lent himself millions to reach the Iowa caucuses, and had Dean not been so green a candidate, Dean probably would have been the nominee.
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.
Yes, Dean lost. Actually, no, Dean didn’t lose – he went down in flames. Howard Dean was dumped by the Democrats because he was such a raving lunatic that he was actively turning everyone but the far left off from the Democratic Party. Instead, the Democrats went with the “safe” and “electable” choice of John Kerry – who turned out to be not so electable in the end.
Now, Kos is right that the power in the Democratic Party shifted, and his brand of far-left “netroots activists” have a disproportionate amount of control over the direction and vision of the Democratic Party. And that should scare the holy living crap out of every Democrat.
Dean’s door-knocking sideshow probably did more to turn off Iowa Democrats than anything else. The “netroots” aren’t known for their tact, their moderation, or their sanity. And while Democratic politicians like Russ Feingold are smart enough to see the potential for these donors for finances, getting too close to the “netroots” is like taking a swim at Chernobyl – you’re going to come out radioactive.
Kos veers further into Crazy-Land:
Our crashing of Washington’s gates wasn’t about ideology, it was about pragmatism. Democrats haven’t won more than 50 percent of the vote in a presidential election since 1976. Heck, we haven’t won more than 50.1 percent since 1964. And complicit in that failure was the only Democrat to occupy the White House since 1980: Bill Clinton.
Despite all his successes — and eight years of peace and prosperity is nothing to sneeze at — he never broke the 50-percent mark in his two elections. Regardless of the president’s personal popularity, Democrats held fewer congressional seats at the end of his presidency than before it. The Democratic Party atrophied during his two terms, partly because of his fealty to his “third way” of politics, which neglected key parts of the progressive movement and reserved its outreach efforts for corporate and moneyed interests.
While Republicans spent the past four decades building a vast network of small-dollar donors to fund their operations, Democrats tossed aside their base and fed off million-dollar-plus donations. The disconnect was stark, and ultimately destructive. Clinton’s third way failed miserably. It killed off the Jesse Jackson wing of the Democratic Party and, despite its undivided control of the party apparatus, delivered nothing. Nothing, that is, except the loss of Congress, the perpetuation of the muddled Democratic “message,” a demoralized and moribund party base, and electoral defeats in 2000, 2002 and 2004.
That’s wonderful advice for the Democrats – emulate Howard Dean, not the last successful Democratic politician in the last 25 years. Now, I think Bill Clinton was an amoral scoundrel who was too busy getting Oval Office oral sex to notice the threat of terrorism gathering on the horizon, but if you’re a Democrat it’s pretty damn clear that Bill Clinton was a hell of a lot better than anyone else in the party in the last 25 years.
Clinton’s failures came when he tried to be a “progressive” activist. He created the biggest tax increase in history in 1993, had Hillary try to rewrite the nation’s healthcare system from scratch and instituted “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies in the military. Between that and the House scandals of the early 1990s, it’s hardly a suprise that the audacious and disciplined Republican revolutionaries led by Newt Gingrich took power in 1994. However, the Republicans were unable to take the White House in 1996 and lost 5 House seats in 1998, and then slipped further in 2000.
What Kos doesn’t realize is that “progressive” politics appeals only to “progressives” – and in a country in which self-identified conservatives outnumber self-identified liberals 2-1, running to the left won’t win any elections. Clinton, for all her many problems, doesn’t need the “netroots” votes to win, and would probably be better off without them. After all, Bill Clinton got a lot of respect for his upbraiding of rapper Sister Souljah before the 1992 elections, and Hillary Clinton could easily show her moderate credentials by smacking down the radical “netroots” actvists whose radicalism offends more people than it invigorates.
Kos’ radical “netroots” are one of the reasons why the Democrats are drifting further and further away from the mainstream. Just about the only thing that the Republicans have going for them right now is the fact that their opposition is just as ineffective as they are and filled with an incredibly divisive partisan spirit. Kos may yet save a party – but chances are if he were to get his way, it just wouldn’t be his.