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March 14, 2006

Crashing the Gate


Everyone who cares about the impact of the blogosphere on American politics should read Crashing the Gate by Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong. Therein, two of the most powerful figures in the liberal blogs explain what they think the netroots can do for the Democratic party. No doubt the specifics of their plan will surprise many of their liberal, blogging allies. Whether you share their vision or not, you can't fault Moulitsas and Armstrong for being less than forthright about their agenda.

Markos “Kos” Moulitsas created the biggest liberal blog in the world. His co-author Jerome Armstrong helped engineer Howard Dean's internet fundraising juggernaut and founded a successful blogging community of his own. Given the authors' pedigrees, Crashing the Gate says surprisingly little about blogs. I was expecting a crash course on the theory and practice of netroots democracy from two movement pioneers. I thought Kos and Armstrong were going to give concrete advice for ordinary people to increase their influence in the Democratic party through the internet.

The central insight of Crashing the Gate is that small donor internet fundraising can shift the balance of power within the Democratic party. The authors hope that Democratic candidates will be able to wean themselves from DC establishment money by appealing directly to rank-and-file Dems online.

It is ironic that these self-proclaimed populists' main suggestion for improving the electoral fortunes of the Democrats is to revitalize its consultant class. The authors’ all-out attack on the party’s corrupt and antiquated electoral machine is by far the strongest part of the book. Unfortunately, it often seems as if they regard the netroots primarily as a means to end the Democratic establishment’s stranglehold on campaigns rather than as an engine for social change in its own right. Most Democratic candidates rely heavily on the national party for election funds. The establisment's assistance doesn't come cheap. Candidates who take money from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) or the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) also have to accept the "assistance" of D.C.-based political consultants who fly in and take charge.

The authors don't hesitate to point out that these consultants tend to be careerist losers who don't play to win because they lack any structural incentive to do so. They maintain that Democratic campaigns have been hijacked by"an “incestuous” “old boy asshole network" of Democratic operatives whose primary allegiance is to the D.C. committees that will rehire them after their next defeat.

I was shocked to learn that most Democratic media consultants get commissions for advertising. In other words, these consultants pocket 7%-14% of the cost for all the ads they place. This potential conflict of interest should concern all Democrats. Members of the same inner circle also make decisions about how much a campaign spends on advertising, and which of a handful of DC political ad firms get the business. Perhaps the most alarming revelation in the chapter on the “beltway mafia” is the that most campaigns don’t even test their ads before they run them, because (you guessed it) the consultants seldom think it’s necessary.

Kos and Armstrong make a number of cogent suggestions for revitalizing Democratic campaigns: firing consultants who lose, treating political advertising more like consumer advertising, and using the latest information technology and marketing psychology to deliver narrowly tailored messages to targeted segments of the electorate (e.g., Democrats, Republicans, ethnic minorities, rural voters, unmarried women, blog readers, combinations and permutations of the above, etc.).

Despite the merits of these proposals, there’s something missing from Crashing the Gate, namely, the gate crashing. Markos and Armstrong are really selling the fund raising power of the netroots to other people who want to tweak Democratic inside baseball.

To the extent that the book has a larger vision, it’s about how to spend the small donor dollars raised online. The authors don’t seriously discuss the blogosphere as a source of ideas or as a nexus for activism. They seem more interested in the blogosphere as a medium for placing targeted ads than as a new engine for independent news or as a novel brake on the power of the mainstream media and politicians.

Kos and Armstrong devote several pages of a short book to the need for offline infrastructure. They envision a vast network of democratic organizations staffed by well-paid professionals recruited in college and nurtured throughout their careers. I agree that this infrastructure is vital to the success of the progressive movement. The conservative movement is sustained by a vertically integrated system of thinktanks (“idea factories"), right wing media, political strategists, lobbyists, fundraisers, and donors. The left clearly needs a counterpart to compete with Grover Norquist and his K Street cabal, FOX News, the American Enterprise Institute, PNAC, and their legions of allies.

The authors’ outright hostility towards so-called “special interest groups” within the Democratic party has already generated a great deal of discussion. Approximately one third of Crashing the Gate is an attempt to establish that environmental groups, Big Labor, and abortion rights activists are like gangrene on the Democratic party. The book doesn’t provide any real evidence that these groups are harming the party. Obviously the party is in bad shape and special interest groups exist, but we mustn’t confuse correlation and causation.

The authors complain that environmental movement is too focused on policy solutions and therefore ineffective against right wing partisans who are waging “ideological warfare.” Organized labor has rendered itself irrelevant by mindlessly shoveling money to the Democratic establishment while ignoring the need to organize new workers and reposition unions in a changing economy. The authors are right about Big Labor, but the obvious take home message is not that we should all be docile team players. The unions teach us that if you give money by rote without making substantive demands, you’ll get screwed.

Crashing the Gate singles out the reproductive rights movement for a special measure of hostility softened only by dripping condescension. The authors rightly criticize NARAL for endorsing the ostensibly pro-choice Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Islandover promising pro-life Democrat. James Langevin. There is no doubt that NARAL blundered by endorsing Chafee, especially before the Democratic primary and after it was clear that Langevin's candidacy was doomed. Even so, the authors don’t succeed in showing that NARAL’s behavior is systematic of the shortcomings of pro-choice movement.

On the contrary, pro-choice organizations are generally too coopeartive. They have to fight the (well-founded) suspicion that their organizations are extensions of the Democratic party. Basically, choice groups are fighting to prove their independence to the Democratic establishment. They can see as well as Kos and Armstrong that unions, gun control activists, and proponents of racial equality lost out by being consummate team players for a "team” that was more interested in wooing swing voters than standing with its own base.

After slagging the environmental movement for being too wonkish and the unions for being toadies, the authors have the nerve to accuse the pro-choice movement of being too enamored of principle to compromise on “reasonable” policy solutions like 24-hour waiting periods and parental notification. The authors complain that abortion rights activists put people off by marketing their agenda under the larger brand of freedom, choice, and equality. These are guys who never met a Big Brand or an Overarching Narrative they didn’t like. Yet, they deride defenders of reproductive freedom for ignoring the “moral dimension” and the “gray areas” of abortion. I used to think that Kos was a relatively indifferent pro-choicer who supported an empirically misguided but strategically motivated “compromise” on abortion. Having read Crashing the Gate, it’s uncomfortably clear to me that his main interest is on this issue is reverse-engineering his strategic arguments to mask his discomfort with abortion itself. What Kos doesn’t get is how condescending it is to disguise a moral objection to choice in strategic terms. He wonders why pro-choicers get so angry at him. It’s simple: If you think that abortion is wrong, or bad, then say so. Don’t pretend that we should sell out choice to save choice.

At first, it seems odd for Kos and Armstrong to devote so much time to blaming activist groups for the sorry state of the Democratic party. However, upon reflection, this activist-bashing fits well into their general vision for the netroots. Their goal is to overthrow the Democratic establishment and replace the old hacks with slick new consultants who can harness the fundraising power of small donors. Seen through this lens, activist groups present a two-fold threat.

First off, groups like NARAL and the ACLU are competitors for donations from progressives. For example, the money I sent to Paul Hackett was money I didn’t send to Planned Parenthood. Second, and perhaps more importantly, special interest groups are an obstacle to Kos' and Armstrong’s plans for the netroots as a political force.

The power of the netroots depends on large numbers of far flung people lining up behind a handful of carefully chosen candidates. Would-be netroots powerbrokers don’t want donors with litmus tests. They want people who will fall in behind the candidates they choose with their new hightech consulting metrics for electibility.

Often, progressives would be smart to take their advice. The Democratic party needs to start winning elections and the netroots can't help unless we get together. So, I’m willing to make compromises on a race-by-race basis. And if netroots proves its ability to deliver seats, its priorities will get more weight in the party at large. (At least that’s the theory.) I supported Paul Hackett because I thought he offered the best overall combination of electability and commitment to systemic change within the Democratic party. Hackett believed his own rhetoric about citizen legislators and the power of the blogosphere to foment and coordinate grass-roots activism. He inspired ordinary readers within the netroots by looking to them as more than an ATM (to repurpose a phrase).

Crashing the Gate contains a lot of valuable advice for Democrats. However, I was disappointed that Kos and Armstrong are primarily interested in professionalizing the party through think tanks, paid operatives, and a new breed of internet savvy media consultant. I wanted to hear about how new technology might enable ordinary citizens to assert unprecedented influence over politics and the media from the bottom up.


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» Inside Kos' book from
If you've been curious about Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics, the new book by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas "Kos" Zúniga, Lindsay Beyerstein has... [Read More]

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From Eloquent Thomas on Majikthise: You see, morons, you are morally and intellectually bankrupt. How did Thomas find this out? Because it's true! A few days ago the moral and intellectual credit card company filed moral and intellectual liens on... [Read More]

» How DINOs evolve, how they go extinct from newsrack
SOMEHOW RELATED, 3/16: Lindsay Beyerstein reviews Kos and Armstrong's new book "Crashing the Gate": "...there’s something missing from Crashing the Gate, namely, the gate crashing." [Read More]

» I confess: like all liberals, I am morally and intellectually bankrupt from Seeing the Forest
From Eloquent Thomas on Majikthise: You see, morons, you are morally and intellectually bankrupt. How did Thomas find this out? Because it's true! A few days ago the moral and intellectual credit card company filed moral and intellectual liens on... [Read More]


I feel like there's a certain elitist attitude coming out here. This is one of the major problems of the Democratic party. They don't appear to represent the people anymore. I'm a yellow dog myself and I'm loyal but many people don't feel as if the Democratic party serves their needs.

Average working men and women probably don't know much about NARAL. They certainly don't know how what Daily Kos and MyDD are. One of the aims seems to be going after smaller groups with "netroots." Where I'm from, many people don't utilize their computers for political activities. Many people here in Kentucky for example automatically assume government is corrupt. If they can get the road paved, sure, I'll vote for him. Can you get me a job or bring jobs into the community. When do I get my tobacco settlement money?

I think the two most important, pragmatic things are all politics is local and everything is economic. If gas prices go to $3 or higher this summer or more, people will start getting really irritated and the Republicans will really sweat then, especially for commuters who don't have the benefits of trains and subways. Those are the types of issues we need to focus on too. Give people something they can chew on and make it easy to understand. Abortion is important to some but in many cases, it doesn't affect people. Wiretapping is too abstract for many as are many of the other issues. I firmly believe that local politics is what dictates terms. If Democrats can win the local elections consistently and then start sending people up through the ranks, then we'll win. Until then, we'll be struggling.

That was a wonderful post! I loved reading the summary of that book, and you brought out many valuable things for me to think about in terms of party strategy & ideology generally (I'm a conservative, so I have to work through the ideas presented via analogy). I am most impressed by your ability to stay calm even as Kos rails against NARAL and other 'choice' organizations; I find myself, with those on the Right who I am close to ideologically but have disagreements with, wanting to fight all the more.

A thought: you mention Markos and Armstrong are really selling the fundraising power of the netroots to other people who want to tweak Democratic inside baseball. To what degree might any party - even a populist party - have to accept that this is how business of this sort is conducted? Giving directly to candidates might get rid of the inside baseball, but doesn't it also create the conditions for which the inside baseball will rise again? What would a truly populist party look like, in terms of how it conducted its affairs?


Every political party needs its operatives and its career politicians. I'm not uncomfortable with those aspects of politics. However, as Chris said way upthread, the call for infrastructure isn't original to Kos and Armstrong. These guys are netroots pioneers and yet all they want to talk about is political consulting. What I want is a party where the professionals share power with the grassroots and it's clear to everyone that we're working for shared principles that we hash out democratically.

Why should rich out of touch consultants get fat fees to tell the Dems to sell off my reproductive rights when Noo Skool consultants like Kos are willing to do the same for less?

Kos belongs to a couple of Very Special special interest groups. One is stay-at-home bloggers with very young children and who urge Democrats to advocate against reproductive rights in order to "win" against the opposite No-Choice counterparts.

The other Very Special special interest group is people like Sam scAlito who rush to bar the door so after they've been allowed entry into the halls of power, whether by Crashing the Gate or (as I suggested the title should be) Using the Servants' Entrance.

Dem wonks and armchair Shrum-bums are already pre-excusing poor Dem performance in the midterms by pre-blaming liberals, women, gay activists and voters' rights groups who are angry at being sold off by the Dems and not auto-busting their humps and forking over the jack AGAIN for the Dems.

If they're going to chase conservative voters as the Noo Skool wonkabee consultant special interest group is advising, then the election humps should come from that sector.

I think it's bad budo for the Dems to model themselves on Republicans, right down to the policy of using a select few attack queers and look above "the fray" of the rabble.

Yeah, waiting periods. Next time a guy wants sex, we should all tell him, "Come back in 24 hours - oh, and make sure you have your parents' consent, k?

Thanks for taking the time to post this review on Markos and Jerome's book CTG. I appreciate the contrarian view to put the book into proper perspective. I just this moment discovered your blog because DKos linked to it letting readers know not everyone is happy with the effort. Kudos to him for doing that. I naively had no idea there were different factions within the liberal blogoshere that had serious differences with one another. I love the fact I've discovered you as it widens and contributes to my perspective. You will definitely be added to my blogroll and receive frequent visits.

Picking on Chafee and NARAL's support for him seems illustrative of Kos' push for Dems first, issues later.

What is disturbing about Lincoln Chafee to me, a Democrat, is not Lincoln Chafee but how supporting him is supposed to be a no-no for NARAL, according to Kos. I cannot find a single Republican in Congress I would vote for bar Chafee. And I would vote for him over several, no, quite a few Dems. Horrid, rightwing, "partial birth banning" Dems, who I am sure Kos has no problem with NARAL supporting them, just because they are DEMS.

Dem Senator Mary Landrieu (LA), for example, voted for the Bush agenda on the following: tax cuts, Iraq war, Medicare, Class action lawsuits, bankruptcy, Gonzalez, Owens, anti "partial birth," ANWR drilling, and she was the lone Democrat to side with the Republicans yesterday in voting for Bush's latest budgetary/debt debacle. She is the rightwing's Dem go-to-girl to help them get enough votes to kill the Estate Tax. She is a Republican. Period.

Senator Ben Nelson (NE) is another Democrat who is really a rightwinger. He votes like Landrieu does on the above items, exempting ANWR and Owens. But I am sure he takes up the slack and votes with the GOP when she decides to play Democrat on rare occasions, a judge here, an appointee there.

These are but a few examples of the awful, rightwing, corporate-military hacks in our party. It's telling that Lieberman seems to be the official Dem whipping boy of Kos and Co, seems to be their sole and frequent example of bad-Dem-who-must-be-gone, but more due to the senator's pattern of occasional mouthiness in support of Republicans/Bush's positions, or his criticism of Dems than because of his votes on issues. Anti-Dem or pro-Bush talk is Kos' big no no. Senator Ben Nelson, on the other hand, who lays low, zips the lip (why not ... he's got a good thing going, playing Dem, voting GOP-corporate) votes more rightwing than Lieberman, more Bush agenda overall (like Landrieu and others) gets two front page DKos posts over the past year lauding him for NOT mouthing off like Lieberman. His voting record is excused.

I use this to expand on what Ive seen here: perhaps Kos is short on really caring about issues that progressives care about and much more aligned toward being at the hub of the new guard of netroots consultants, big on shining with success as a result of netting (no pun) lots of DEMOCRAT WINS. Winning as long as you have the label of Dem slapped on you takes priority for Kos. He may fall on the progressive side but he is really much more passionate about team wins. He is bright re organizing, innovating, communicating and fund raising via the netroots and he offers a great site for dialogue and debate, but his forte is not promoting and supporting progressive issues or pols, necessarily. I think people often assume this too readily just because he is good in the other ways mentioned.

good review. kos reminds me of a share ramper, tipping a share they bought low and then cashing in once people dive in and raise the price. it is obvious that they are going to be in on the ground floor with their internet consultancies. all people who read kos are doing is propelling these people towards the gravy.

i suppose this is what happens when you form a bridge between a new means of organising and an existing power structure, kos and his pal are going to be the go-to men for the blogosphere.

damn them to hell. i stopped reading Daily Kos after reading their book.

John Emerson:

By now the Democratic Party is virtually helpless, and the pro-choice and environmentalist Republicans are mostly gone -- and the few remaining ones are completely whipped, as we saw with the Alito vote. Twenty years of kissing Chafee's ass got NARAL nothing real. None of the other supposed moderates came through even as much as Chafee did.

What did it get NARAL re Chafee support? Chafee voted against the "partial birth" abortion ban. A good chunk of Democrats did not. Chafee voted AGAINST Alito (your post suggests otherwise), whereas Dems like Conrad, Johnson, Byrd and, naturally, Ben Nelson, voted for Alito.

Great review. I agree with most of your points. But as this review has been linked to from the Kos site, I would recommend that you clean it up. There are a huge number of misspellings and typos.

You hit on a very important point about Kos and crew: their hostility towards "special interest groups". I believe this is caused by the simple fact that there are very few causes, other than seeing Democrats win, that Kos espouses. There are not rock solid issues that Kos will fight to the death for. Over and over again, Markos has folded when the pressure was on: the initial May 05 compromise that allowed three right-wing radicals to join the bench, for instance; the failure to support a filibuster of either Roberts or Alito; the failure to push for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. In each case, Markos saw the issue as a way to attack Bush and gain points for the Democrats, not an issue with an alternate solution.

Kos and Jerome are not activists. They are capitalists. I respect some of what they do, but I think their reputation as "activists" is totally overblown.

Real activists do not worry so much about their popularity. True activists are more concerned with their cause.

"What did it get NARAL re Chafee support? Chafee voted against the "partial birth" abortion ban. A good chunk of Democrats did not. Chafee voted AGAINST Alito (your post suggests otherwise), whereas Dems like Conrad, Johnson, Byrd and, naturally, Ben Nelson, voted for Alito."

But the alternative to Chafee is a liberal, pro-choice Democrat (Whitehouse). The alternative to Conrad or Nelson will look a great deal more like Tom Coburn. I mean, if we could replace Nelson with Whitehouse, that'd be great- but they come from different states, so the comparison is meaningless.
Endorsing Nelson over a Coburn clone makes sense. Endorsing Chafee over someone who would've cast not just a *symbolic* vote against Alito's confirmation, but a *useful* vote against cloture- that also makes sense. Not to mention that when the chamber is controlled by the GOP, the committee chairs etc are GOP, and they won't necessarily be the moderate ones.

NARAL just wants to prove that they aren't a subsidiary of the Democratic Party- shame that they are actually harming a women's right to choose in the process.

NYCee: Chafee did NOT vote for cloture, which was the vote which decided whether Alito would be confirmed or not. The fact that you don't seem to understand that shows me that you are not at all on top of what's really happening.

I am not asking pro-choicers to vote for anti-choice Democrats against pro-choice Republicans. I am not asking pro-choicers to vote for anti-choice Democrats at all.

I am just saying that a 20-year policy of non-partisan single-issue pro-choice voting has contributed to weakening the only party which will ever be pro-choice. Supporting Chafee has strengthened the anti-choice party, and how Chafee votes on a given bill doesn't change that.

There are anti-choice Democrats, but the Democratic Party would not have brought the bill to the floor, and Chafee's Republican Part was sure to bring the bill to the floor. That's the main point people keep missing.

Chafee could have changed that without becoming a Democrat by following Jeffords out of the Republican Party, but he didn't.

Your posts are exactly the kind of thing I was objecting to.

It's not just Kos, either. Jane Hamsher at firedoglake says the same things I do, if anything more strongly.

Kos seemed to have been toying with the idea of betraying the pro-choice voters, and if he really was doing that I do not support him. If he was just venting against NARAL and sending a message, though, I support him.

The Democrats betrayed a lot of their constituents, notably doves and labor (but a lot more), before they even peeped a peep about maybe betraying prochoicers. And while the Democrats were betraying everyone else the NARAL pro-choicers were smiling warmly because they'd won on their own issue. (Betraying labor and doves is basically what "working with the Republicans" means.)

But when the finger pointed in their direction for an isstant, the NARAL people got all righteous.

Pro-choicers who don't want to be Democrats don't have anywhere else to go. This has been true since at least 1994 (when DeLay became speaker). If they still haven't figured this out they're just idiots.

I suspect some of what's driving "CTG" is unresolved anger that Kos and Jerome are harboring from the Dean campaign, when they got pushed out by the "professionals".

I think that the Kerry campaign was much more important. People high up in the Kerry campaign virtually forbid staffers to work with bloggers. This made Peter Daou's life hell, since he was their guy in charge of internet liaison.

Kos has written about this, Hesiod was driven to despair about this, and I had my own first-hand experience with this.

The Kerry people failed to respond effectively to the Swiftboaters, which is one of the main things that lost them the election, and their refusal to listen to bloggers had a lot to do with Kerry's defeat. (Hesiod and I were working specifically on that kind of smear group, starting in March or April, but we were brushed off.)

John Emerson--

While I can certainly understand the Kerry campaign discouraging blogging, I think they missed the boat in a lot of areas, any one of which could have swung the election.

Kerry's cautious approach to the security issue was, I think the biggest problem. He should have crafted a concrete, viable alternative to the Bush approach, and made it the center of his campaign. I canvassed my neighborhood (low income area) for moveon, and almost every person who favored Bush cited national security. Not that they necessarily endorsed the Bush approach, but they weren't sure exactly what Kerry was going to do about terrorism.

Free media like blogs and friendly radio was also huge. Ed Schultz was almost begging on the air to have someone, anyone from the campaign do a phone interview. I don't remember any interviews for Air America. And I think everyone would have liked to see more direct involvement with the blogs.

And of course, there was the decision to let the Swifties bang away for an entire month before even beginning a response. Kerry seemed to think that responding would change the focus of the campaign to the allegations in the ad. Well, if the allegations are false, isn't that exactly what you want?

Great, now you've got me all pissed off again. Fuck Kerry fuck Bob Schrum. They had an opportunity to win the most important election since 1980, and they screwed it up.

"The Democrats betrayed a lot of their constituents, notably doves and labor (but a lot more), before they even peeped a peep about maybe betraying prochoicers."

I read this and I don't exactly feel an outpouring of love for the Democrats. Back in 1968 Tom Hayden described the Democrats as a racist, corporate, capitalistic party bent on imperialism abroad and protection of the status quo at home. Not a lot has changed then, yes?

I think your point is that all the single-issue groups who have no hope of winning affection from the Republicans should unite. Once they've pooled their strength, they can take over the Democratic party and strengthen its resolve to fight for a progressive agenda.

Allow me, please, to play devil's advocate for a moment. If the leadership of the Democratic party can not be reasoned into supporting a progressive agenda, why do you feel the leadership of the various single-issue groups can be reasoned into supporting one political party? Doesn't it involve a bit of circular reasoning to suggest that one of these groups is the obvious starting point for a progressive politics?

Also, and more seriously: If both progressives and the Democrats have been out of power for most of the period since 1968, doesn't that suggest that the return to power must involve an actor other than the Democrats or the progressive groups who've been active during the last 38 years?

The American system is formally biased to two parties. Third parties at the national level function as gadflies and are mostly effective by changing one of the two parties.

Tom Hayden and other said a lot of things in 1968. I supported third parties and other dissident movements for about 35 years before 2001. People who say that working through the Democrats is futile have to look at the futility of third-party politics too.

The point here isn't love of the Democrats, but the Republican / Democrat comparison. The arguments for a third party don't justify neutrality between the two parties.

NARAL voters aren't third-party people, they're people who think that the Republicans are basically OK as long as they're pro-choice. The Democrats have in fact been very good to NARAL pro-choice voters, who are among the famous swing voters, but if the Democrats start thinking of "betraying" NARAL, NARAL isn't in a position to feel hurt because NARAL has never been loyal. And by now, NARAL has noplace else to go because the pro-choice Republicans are almost gone.

"I supported third parties and other dissident movements for about 35 years before 2001. People who say that working through the Democrats is futile have to look at the futility of third-party politics too. The point here isn't love of the Democrats, but the Republican / Democrat comparison."

I have never supported 3rd party politics. I have always voted for the Democrats. I was not suggesting a 3rd party in my comments above. I was thinking that there might be a 3rd actor in American politics, as there has been at times past, that might prove itself free of either party and could restore the Democrats to power by giving its loyalty to the Democrats.

Please consider that the current conservative era began when the Republicans adopted their "Southern Strategy" in 1968. At that time, the South was a solid Democratic base. It took guts and vision on the part of the Republicans to believe that they could convert the South to the Republican cause. At that time, the Republicans were often seen as the party of the rich, and the South was the poorest region in America. The South had gained a great deal from New Deal efforts to redistribute wealth in this country. Who would have then guessed how completely the Republicans were going to capture the South?

If you and I tried hard enough, we might think of a dozen such factions now loosely confederated with the Republicans but who might be up for grabs. I think we can agree that right-wing Christians are not the group we'd like to see come (back) over to the Democratic side. One of the more obvioius groups for us, it seems to me, are those libertarians who take civil liberties seriously. Reading over the weblogs of some self-described libertarians, I notice that they hate Bush, hate the deficit, hate govenment spying on its own citizens, hate the war in Iraq, hate the War On Drugs, and support reproductive choice. While they disagree with the average Democrat on taxes, there is an overlap of interests there that can be built upon.

Right now, some Democrats, such as Hilary Clinton, try to prove they are moderates by making concession to the conservative Christians. Hilary's anti-flag burning measure seems revolting to me. If the elected Democratic leadership feels the need to concede things to an opposing group, I'd rather see them make concessions to the libertarians.

I've also been quite impressed with the passion and energy that the libertarians brought to the case of Cory Maye. Maye is a young black man who is on death row in Mississippi. I have a petition up asking for his release:
It is interesting that the libertarians have so far done more to get him free than any other group.

But, jon emerson:

And here is the list of the 19 Democrats who voted FOR Cloture on Alito.

Is Chafee to be singled out because he didnt part company with this humongous group of Dems, never mind the Republicans? Wasnt Alito's confirmation a done deal by that time? It seems so by the # of Dems who were willing to throw in the towel. So whose out of the loop now?

I am sorry, but given the sorry performance of many Democrats on the important issues, and given Chafee's moderate-liberal rating and his statements, I prefer to keep him IN the Senate. I dont feel this way about the rest of the GOP and even their so-called moderates like Collins or Snowe, because they go along with the GOP and GOP-lite Dems more than Chafee does. I go by voting record and by what these leaders say.

Chafee said, publicly, he refused to vote for Bush in 2004, for one. He chastized Condi/BushCo during confirmation for SoS over incendiary rhetoric toward Venezuela. He criticized Bush early (while Dems were distancing themselves from Dean for his antiwar stance and comments on Mid East conflict evenhandedness) and general American "bellicosity" re the Iraq war. Unlike a majority of Dems in the Senate he refused to vote for the Iraq war resolution. He was THE ONLY REPUBLICAN senator to break ranks, and one who distinguished himself from many go-along idiotic Dem pro-war voters. And he was the only one just last week, sitting on the Foreign Affairs Committee in a panel that was questioning Wolfenson, Ross, et al re the Hamas dilemma, to bring up the problem of Israel's unilateral drawing of borders and lack of contiguity for the Palestinians as part of the problem, when not one other person would directly confront Israel's provocative and illegal behaviors. In other words, he actually has the guts to break thru and speak to the progressive foreign policy view that so many Democrats cant even find, never mind support. Conversely, all Boxer, our progressive saint, could do was hammer home alarmist points over Hamas. Dodd was no better. While Naral may endorse Chafee, (much to your chagrin), I am sure AIPAC (the disastrous rightwing Israel-first group that has Congress in its thrall), does not. (Now there's a special interest group for Dems to condemn, but on AIPAC, silence.) However, it is quite happy with a bunch of Dems, including those just mentioned, those who continually support Israel, right or wrong, on policy that is good for us or bad for us, with it mostly being the latter. (See: Kerry, who continuously caved to AIPAC during his campaign.)

To beat up on this guy, Chafee, because he went along with 19 Dems in voting cloture on Alito escapes me. Or because he is a Republican. I, like Naral, have no problem keeping him in the senate. Let the Dems win the majority by supporting progressives who voice common sense progressive policies and unifiying around them. As is, he stands for progressive policy more often than many of them. (another e.g., 12 Dems voted for Bush's tax cuts in 2001, whereas he did not. ) If the Dems can finally have a strong message and back it with action re distinguishing themselves from the GOP on foreign and domestic policy, I am sure they will find a lot of common ground with Chafee come voting time. It is not progressives supporting this lone progressive Republican senator that is the Dem's problem.

To take NYCee's remark and put it another way, if every single Democrat was a clone of Chafee, and voted just as Chafee votes, would the Senate be any less progressive than it is now?

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