Misconceptions about the Netroots

Gordo’s link to Dana’s post about Clinton, Clark, and Daily Kos is a good reminder that although the Netroots’ view of themselves is still the most detached from reality, the right-wing blogosphere’s isn’t far behind. Dana writes,

I never did think that Senator Clinton would do particularly well among the hard left nutroots: while Republicans tend to assume that she’s a hard leftist in disguise (and yes, I include myself in that), her public statements and positions show a tendency to position herself for some sort of centrist campaign for the general election, more than a leftist one for the primaries. I guess that she saw how Senator Kerry was labelled (correctly) as way too far to the left, noting President Bush’s quip that Edward Kennedy was the conservative senator from Massachusetts.


But for our friends on the hard left, her ideological purity is simply in question.

Kos has repeatedly stated he’s not a liberal purist, but a Democratic partisan. Daily Kos has many hard leftists, and many traditional conservatives whose distaste for the modern Republican Party has caused them to plunge to the hard left, but also many moderates. Kos himself has revealed himself to be someone who’s uninterested in any agenda item, and who focuses just on winning.

Before they officially declined to run, Warner and Feingold were Daily Kos’s favorite Presidential candidates. Feingold is the most left-wing person who’d have a chance to win the primary, but Warner is a blue dog whose politics is to Clinton’s right. But they’re also the two people who are the most inspiring and most willing to tackle Republicans, which to the Netroots is what counts.

To see that in action, look no further than Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman’s politics are moderate to conservative, just like the politics of many centrist Democrats. He’s not an iota to the right of Harry Reid. But he’s also enthusiastically pro-Bush while Reid is a diehard Democratic partisan, and therefore Kos raves about Reid while ranting about Lieberman.

The blogs that do engage in liberal purism, for lack of a better word, aren’t part of the Netroots. They tend to focus on the liberal agenda rather than on the Democratic Party. PZ focuses on science policy and religion. Amanda and the Feministing posters focus on feminism and abortion. Pam focuses on gay rights. Ezra focuses on labor and economic policy. Bora focuses on science and ideological frameworks. Lindsay is a generalist but still has a strong focus on the agenda.

None of these liberals is a fringe leftist, but nonetheless, they’re what everyone thinks Daily Kos is: a collection of principled liberals who want to pull the electorate hard to the left.

Kos has little patience for any issue that isn’t part of the party line. He’s repeatedly attacked pro-choice politics for insufficient partisanship, and said that it’s okay for the Democratic leadership to toss out abortion from the list of core issues. He’s against union and environmental politics. At Yearly Kos, he implied that all issues except health care, education, domestic spying, and getting out of Iraq are unimportant.

That line of attack pegs him as even further to the right of Mark Warner and Hillary Clinton in functional terms. Warner opposed getting out of Iraq at least as late as the summer of ’06, but is firmly pro-choice, at least in words; I don’t know what his record on judicial nominations was. In the highly doubtful case there’s even one issue Clinton won’t sacrifice on the altar of power, it’s abortion rights.

11 Responses to Misconceptions about the Netroots

  1. He’s against union and environmental politics. At Yearly Kos, he implied that all issues except health care, education, domestic spying, and getting out of Iraq are unimportant.

    This is one of the biggest reasons why I’m sad Mark Spittle has stopped posting to his blog. I always loved seeing him skewer that self-obsessed sack of shit.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Who’s Mark Spittle?

  3. Dana says:

    It’s one thing to call Markos Moulitsas a Democratic partisan (though one would have thought that a Democratic partisan would have supported Senator Lieberman in the primary), but the website isn’t just Kos: it’s a series of contributors, even more “diarists,” and literally thousands of commenters (many of whom seem to know only one adjective), and, as a whole, the site is pretty hard left.

    If I had written about an article in MyDD in the same fashion, I think your criticism would have been closer to the mark.

  4. If I had written about an article in MyDD in the same fashion, I think your criticism would have been closer to the mark.

    What exactly is off the mark about his post?

  5. Alon Levy says:

    Lieberman was tagged as not a real Democrat because of his support for Bush. Other conservative Democrats like Breaux and Landrieu and Bayh weren’t, because they didn’t repeatedly criticize the Democratic Party for being too anti-Bush.

    Many of the key contributors have attitudes similar to Kos. Kos, after all, picks the frontpagers.

    In terms of dry issues, that is what the Political Compass picks up, the people on the website are pretty hardcore to the left. But the split between Democrats and liberals only imperfectly correlates with degree of liberalism.

    Ezra Klein’s combined PC score is, I believe, -8; however, in terms of his policy preferences, his ability to write about policy rather than horserace politics, his engaging conservative ideas in good faith, and his willingness to wager on candidates who are perhaps less electable but will be better once in office, he’s very much a liberal.

    In contrast, Olvlzl, Echidne’s weekend guestblogger, says that “My American wasn’t built by slaveholders [i.e. the Founding Fathers], but by Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony,” and at the same time thinks that the only important thing in American politics is for the Democrats to win elections.

  6. SLC says:

    Re Levy, Pico

    The notion that Hilary is a left-winger maquerading as a centerist is seriously in error. As I have previously pointed out, her father was a conservative Rethuglican and she was a Goldwater girl at the 1964 Rethuglican convention. She only became a Democrat after her marriage to Bill Clinton, who was a centerist himself. Her current positions are merely a return to her roots, which I suspect she never really left.

  7. Bruce says:

    No doubt exists in my mind that Hillary Clinton’s primary interest is power. This she has with most people who are willing to go through the crucible of the electoral process; it’s easier to push ideology without eating 200 rubber chicken dinners and sleeping in vans and on planes for months or years when you’d actually rather have, well, a life, which you can have running a lobby shop or think than in DC. Or set up a magazine and chat about policy. Or blog (gulp.)

    But if you want POWER you must go get it the hard way. Hillary Clinton is doing that. Ideology and policies for these people is yet another bullshit 3-card Monte shell game to be endured, not engaged.

    Conservatives can count on Hillary to help them achieve their agenda on many, many issues, unless she gets elected with veto-proof majorities in both Houses of Congress, which absolutely will not happen.

    As for the netroots, I would hesitate to identify the netroots as the DKos census. While it is the biggest city in the conurbation of liberal/left/Dem netroots, a lot of activity is going on outside of that site, as this recent diagram visible at MyDD suggests.

  8. SLC says:

    Re Lieberman

    Domestically speaking, Lieberman is not all that conservative; in this regard, he resembles the late Senator from Washington, Henry Jackson. In fact, he is probably to the left of current senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. He only looks conservative because of the state he represents, a strong blue state.

  9. Alon Levy says:

    Ben Nelson is probably the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, at least among those who were in the Senate before the 2006 election.

    On domestic economic issues Lieberman’s a moderate, you’re right. On many cultural ones he’s to Giuliani’s right, though: he hates atheists as much as any Dominionist, and his record on civil liberties is uniformly abysmal even when police power isn’t involved.

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