(revised and updated)
Crashing the Party
The Sunday L.A. Times Op-ed section yesterday was titled ‘Conservative Crackup.” It features several opinion pieces by conservatives lamenting how Bush has abandoned them and their causes, and can no longer be trusted.
Crashing the party
President Bush’s policies have reawakened a GOP identity crisis.
He’s a right-wing ideologue, not a true conservative.
He’s started a GOP civil war over foreign policy.
Bush is losing his base. The Republican coalition is collapsing. This is an opportunity to be exploited by progressives. Seize the moment.
Crashing the Gate
This new book, “Crashing the Gate. Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-powered Politics”, is by Kos of DailyKos and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD. Their thesis is Republicans have taken over the political arena, leaving the Democratic Party as a useless shell that needs to be taken over by activists and then reinvigorated. All of which makes a certain sense, but the way they propose doing it seems simplistic, unoriginal, and doomed to create that which they say they oppose.
For example, they spend considerable time saying Dems should stop arguing, that all those ‘single-issue’ people should just hush up. Well gee, those single-issues are of real importance to many people, why should they stifle it? Plus, their contention that Republicans don’t squabble internally simply isn’t true (the above op-eds clearly show they do) and even if they did, does that mean Dems should be mini-Mes?
They say the Democratic Party needs better “branding”, as if sprinkling magic pixie PR dust will somehow solve things. It won’t. We’re not talking Coke vs. Pepsi here. The issues are real, deep, and can’t be solved by net activism alone, their favorite thesis. That’s the primary point of the book, that the takeover and subsequent reorganzing of the Democratic Party can be done primarily through the web. The Net can spread memes, true. But the real change will come with a radicalized populace organizing for change.
The net is a tool not an end. As one who has helped organize multiple mass demonstrations, sometimes where hundreds of thousands came, I know for a fact that you can not organize solely, or even mostly, through the Net. The real work is done on the ground, with people, working with coalitions, building your movement. The Net can certainly help. But it’s not an end in itself.
That’s my real quibble with the book. They’re so focused on the Net and those who use it that they ignore, and in fact barely discuss, the traditional base of the party; minorities, the poor, labor, and how to organize them. The vital issues confronting this country are hardly mentioned except as for how they can be used against Republicans. Rather, the book seems more about an elite using their shiny net widgets to get themselves installed in power, as say, Senator Kos and Jerome Armstrong as the new James Carville.
Those without laptops aren’t invited and barely factor in their calculations. Without mobilzing the real base of the Democratic Party, not just the elite, and doing so in an inclusive and genuine way that invites participation of all, how is this any different than what we have now? The poor, the disadvantaged, labor, those with multiple jobs, minorities, etc. – that’s the base of the Democratic Party. And they’ve been ignored since Clinton and this book ignores them too. This is not progress.
The problems in the country are systemic with both parties equally implicated and culpable. That’s what needs to be discussed, and that’s what this book dosn’t deal with. They see no real underlying problems in this country, no rapacious capitalism feeding imperialist wars, rather just a rogue President and a sleeping Democratic Party. Thus, their gate crashing is dealing with the symptom, not the cause. Nor do I see how’d they’d do things much differently if they do manage to install themselves in power.
The Democratic Party often functions as a way to channel and co-opt real dissent into the party where it will then be rendered harmless. The authors began as outside-the-system rebels, now it appears they’re becoming just another set of players inside the Beltway. Like I said, the Democratic Party is quite skilled at doing just that.