Bloggers on the verge of coming in..?

The Daily Kos is a big blog, even in terms of the US, where there are more than a few of them. But its model is substantially different to the one used by others in the ‘super blog’ class. It has used its commenting facility to garner a readership and commentariat that unapologetically sings from the same hymnsheet. Now, on the verge of the Connecticut Senate Primary, according to Chris Caldwell in the FT, it may find itself (with others) exerting substantial insider influence with a ‘new’ US Democrat party, if their man, Ned Lamont, wins.

The Connecticut primary is exciting Democrats across the country. A lot of people call it “a struggle for the soul of the Democratic party”. But to look at the blogs and the rallies is to realise that the struggle is over. It has been won by Mr Lamont. Or rather, by Howard Dean, whose 2004 anti-war presidential campaign Mr Lamont’s much resembles. In the 17 months since he took over the Democratic National Committee, Dr Dean has been remaking the party in his own image, a mix of populist and patrician. Democrats continue to recruit super-wealthy candidates more reminiscent of the Roman than the US Senate. Their designated saviours are either new-economy tycoons (such as Mark Warner, Virginia Senator, or John Corzine, New Jersey governor) or scions of the 19th-century Wasp, that is, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, ascendancy (Dr Dean). Mr Lamont is both. His personal wealth is $90m-$300m (£50m-£160m) and his great-grandfather was chairman of JPMorgan. His campaign is funded by contributions from Paul Newman, Norman Lear, Barbra Streisand, George Soros and Jackson Browne, and by $2.5m (thus far) of his own money.

Mr Lamont also has a disciplined army of internet users. Veterans of Dr Dean’s “netroots” (internet + grassroots) campaign failed in 2004, nor did they get an anti-Iraq war veteran nominated against party warhorse Sherrod Brown this spring. But the success of Mr Lamont shows they are raising their game. That does not mean that anyone yet has a clear idea of what the netroots want. Technologically, bloggers are a cutting-edge movement; ideologically, they are people for whom 9/11 might as well never have happened. Strategically, they are peace activists; tactically, they believe nothing motivates voters like anger and contumely. Notice the hedging of bets by even the most seasoned Democratic politicians. Mr Clinton has simultaneously backed Mr Lieberman (he will campaign for him in Connecticut next week) and snubbed him (he will endorse Mr Lamont if he wins).

A Lamont victory would show that the mainstream Democratic ideology that Mr Lieberman represents has had its day. A Lamont loss would convince the most energetic members of the left that the party is not a vehicle that will carry them to power. Either way it means a bumpy ride for Democrats. Over time, Dr Dean’s shift in resources will effect a change in party personnel. In will come the bloggers, anti-globalists and peace activists. Out will go the feminists, civil rights activists, unionised labourers and the whole coalition Mr Lieberman represents – whose electoral failings are proving as hard for some Democrats to forgive as the failings of Mr Bush.

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  • Pete Baker

    “A Lamont victory would show that the mainstream Democratic ideology that Mr Lieberman represents has had its day.”

    Hmmm.. I’d disagree to an extent on that assessment, I think a Lamont victory would show that the Democratic party has embraced campaign style over content.. a style the party itself rejected when Dean presented himself as a presidential candidate. Desperation may, however, cause them to clutch at this particular straw.

    “That does not mean that anyone yet has a clear idea of what the netroots want.”

    That’s entirely the problem for the wider electorate.. the netroots [and the closed community that is Daily Kos] have touchstone topics for a campaign – entirely dependent on opinion polls – but no over-arching strategy nor policy objectives beyond taking office.

  • Pete

    I entirely agree that there appears to be no policy outworkings, but there is a very clear, obvious and frankly simple overarching strategy – to make the Democratic Party as lean, loyal and ruthless as they see the Republican Party as being.

    Kos himself has been quite clear that he thinks the ‘Leiberman’ coalition has failed the party, and by extension the ‘progressive’ left, because they are disloyal – they are only interested in their own issue and have no ‘brand’ loyalty.

    It should also be said in Leiberman’s case, that Jo has an extraordinary record in terms of supporting GW Bush, and has threatened to run as an independent if he loses the primary – one wonders if he won’t be loyal to the party, why should the party be loyal to him?

    Note the support for such ‘moderate’ (i.e. centrist) democrats as Tester in Montana, and Busby in California. It’s not a left thing, its a loyalty thing.

    Kos is quite clear – he is not a Wonk, he’s a party Strategist, and the site works in that vein.

    He simply comes to the conclusion that you can’t win with weak party loyalty, so he uses both carrot (a legion of dedicated and excited political ground troops ready to jump, and lots of money making potential) and stick (turning this horde against ‘disloyal’ or ‘weak’ democrats like leiberman) to attempt to make the machine leaner, more loyal and most of all ruthless, all leading to being more effective, i.e. winning.

  • Christopher Stalford

    Throw Lieberman overboard an kiss goodbye to about 3% of the electorate of the United States. A lurch to the left is the last thing the Democrats need right now.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    A couple things from the center of things…

    Lieberman is going to win his seat, either as a Democrat or as an independent, barring some wildly unforeseeable circumstance.

    Secondly, The Daily Kos is an echo-chamber… at least when we get rowdy and venomous here, its sincere — there is just trying to be heard over the echo-chamber. Kos referred to Lieberman as “unhinged.” Being called “unhinged” on Kos is a little like having Kim Jong Il call you “strange,”to steal a crib from another blog. http://bullmooseblogger.blogspot.com/

    Lastly, that last great period of Democratic success — remember Clinton? That was in part to Lieberman’s efforts with Democratic Leadship Council. Basically, the net-roots seem to want a looney-left party. Note to the so-called “reality based community” — unless space is left for the “Reagen Democrats” — those blue-collar conservative union workers and the like, then they can kiss goodbye any serious long-term national aspirations.

    TBT: “It should also be said in Leiberman’s case, that Jo has an extraordinary record in terms of supporting GW Bush, and has threatened to run as an independent if he loses the primary – one wonders if he won’t be loyal to the party, why should the party be loyal to him? ”

    You’ve got that exactly backwards — by running an opponent in the primary against a sitting incumbent and not showing party loyalty to a Senator who is popular in the state, would they not have absolved Joe of any loyalty he might been supposed to have?

    All politics is local. As low as the popularity of the American Congress is in toto, most folks like their local guy.

    For more information:

    http://www.lieberdem.blogspot.com/

  • “Throw Lieberman overboard an kiss goodbye to about 3% of the electorate of the United States. A lurch to the left is the last thing the Democrats need right now. ”

    I doubt Leiberman has anything like that level of national support. And the Kos record of loyalty on Tester, Busby et al certainly suggests its not about left-ism; it’s about party loyalty, and empowering local parties.

    It’s not as if GWB’s lurch to the right hurt him, is it?

    “All politics is local. As low as the popularity of the American Congress is in toto, most folks like their local guy. ”

    In which case, the local polls showing Lamont significantly ahead of lieberman among ‘local’ democrats kind of defeats your point, no?

    I’m not a Kos fan, but he has made it pretty clear, as has Lamont that if Leiberman wins, they’ll back him over the republican candidate – that’s party loyalty, surely.

    Lierberman won’t commit to this; his loyalty appears to be Lierberman 1st, Democratic Party a very poor 2nd.

    You can’t show ‘party’ loyalty to a senator, only to a ‘party’. So that point of yours makes no sense at all.

    This is a primary after all, not the election. this is where you’re supposed to argue over party issues.

    And the last groups of polls I saw showed a very large group of encumbants struggling to break the 50% barrier in popularity.

    “Secondly, The Daily Kos is an echo-chamber”

    Of course it is, I wouldn’t suggest otherwise – it’s an inhouse online magazine. That’s why I also tend to look at redstate.org, Free Republic, Mydd.com and Andrew Sullivan among many others. – If you think Kos is harsh and monotonal (and you’d be right) listen to he Freepers!

    “Lastly, that last great period of Democratic success—remember Clinton? That was in part to Lieberman’s efforts with Democratic Leadship Council.”

    Some success! Won the presidency, lost practically everything else. And they won the presidency because of one man. Ross Perot.

    Kos is certainly in danger of replacing one group of single issuers (e.g. union rights) with another (e.g. environmentalists), and I agree on the Reagan Democrat point – but Tester and Busby were examples of people of that hue who DID recieve KOS support, in Tester’s case successfully. In Montana for god’s sake!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    TBT: “I doubt Leiberman has anything like that level of national support. And the Kos record of loyalty on Tester, Busby et al certainly suggests its not about left-ism; it’s about party loyalty, and empowering local parties.

    It’s not as if GWB’s lurch to the right hurt him, is it? ”

    *WHAT* “lurch to the right?” Do you mean the big increase in entitlement spending or education? Or did you mean the guest worker program and amnesty package for illegal aliens he wants?

    TBT: “In which case, the local polls showing Lamont significantly ahead of lieberman among ‘local’ democrats kind of defeats your point, no? ”

    A statistical dead-heat (within the error or the survey) is not “significantly ahead,” per the most recent poll I saw.

    TBT: “Some success! Won the presidency, lost practically everything else. And they won the presidency because of one man. Ross Perot. ”

    They lost everything else because they weren’t listening to the people, but meandering to their own accordians. They created an opening through corrupt practices and fell to a campaign of ideas. They still haven’t expressed the ideas necessary to exploit the Republicans current vulnerability in the general election. Its not enough, in most places to be “anti-Republican” — most of those places already have Democratic representation.

    As for the Freepers — their libertarians — it may be a lot of things, but its not always an echo-chamber — libertarians are a lot like cats.

  • Dread

    “It’s not as if GWB’s lurch to the right hurt him, is it? “

    *WHAT* “lurch to the right?” Do you mean the big increase in entitlement spending or education? Or did you mean the guest worker program and amnesty package for illegal aliens he wants? ”

    I mean the clear lurch towards a right wing position of social conservatism; as an aside, the education issue is far from clear cut.

    Libertarianism is not the only right wing possibility. So is Statism, and social reactionism. Economic Neo liberals think they invented the right wing! Really, they’re just fellow travellers.

    “A statistical dead-heat (within the error or the survey) is not “significantly ahead,” per the most recent poll I saw. ”

    Rasmussen (a centre-right, but reliable pollster). 7/20/2006.

    Likely voters. MoE 3% (6/12 results)

    Democratic primary

    Lieberman (D) 40 (46)
    Lamont (D) 51 (40)

    You were saying?

    “They lost everything else because they weren’t listening to the people, but meandering to their own accordians. ”

    Hey, a second ago you claimed Clinton era democrats WERE successful, because of Jo! Either they were or they weren’t, Dread. Pick a story and stick to it.

    “As for the Freepers—their libertarians”

    You’re kidding right? Economic free marketeers some of them they may be, but on a whole range of issues that don’t involve dollers, they are anything but libertarian!

  • Dread Cthulhu

    TBT: “I mean the clear lurch towards a right wing position of social conservatism; as an aside, the education issue is far from clear cut. ”

    You worry about what he says — I look at what he does. He’s created a huge new entitlement program, he wants to give 10 million illegal aliens amnesty, he increased education spending whilst getting only minimal accountability standards — he’s *not* conservative, at least in practice, regardless of what he preaches.

    TBT: “You were saying? ”

    The Quinnipiac Poll for 7/20/06

    Jul 20
    2006

    Lieberman 47
    Lamont 51
    SMONE ELSE(VOL) –
    WLDN’T VOTE(VOL) –
    DK/NA 2

    Primary has a 3.8% margin of error.

    Now, YOU were saying? Of course, the only poll that really matters is the one they have on election day.

    TBT: “Hey, a second ago you claimed Clinton era democrats WERE successful, because of Jo! Either they were or they weren’t, Dread. Pick a story and stick to it. ”

    No, I said that Lieberman was successful in setting the table to get Clinton elected, beating what appeared to be unstoppable GHWB. Yes, Perot helped. Clinton, btw, had a pretty good table to at which to sit. Democratic majorities in the House and Senate should have given him smooth sailing. Instead, Bubba suddenly lurched to the left, making a pass at socialized medicine and bollixed Somalia by turning a “meals on wheels” relief program into playing favorites among the warlords, just for starters. After his first two years, he lost both his House and Senate majorities.

    TBT: “You’re kidding right? Economic free marketeers some of them they may be, but on a whole range of issues that don’t involve dollers, they are anything but libertarian! ”

    Not every libertarian is a “legalize pot now!” fruitbat, TBT. The are conservative, yes, but very libertarian on a number of issues and certainly aren’t “orthodox” Republicans. The Kossacks, are also not “orthodox” Democrats. Primaries are usually hostage to the “tails” of the ideological curve for each of the respective parties, whilst general elections are more representative of the population as a whole. If the state, as a whole, favors Lieberman, why should he not run?

  • “You worry about what he says—I look at what he does. He’s created a huge new entitlement program, he wants to give 10 million illegal aliens amnesty, he increased education spending whilst getting only minimal accountability standards—he’s *not* conservative, at least in practice, regardless of what he preaches.”

    But we are talking about election strategy here, and GWB strategy very clearly appeals to, and is meant to appeal to, the social conservative base – that he may not be honest in projecting himself as a conservative, does not stop it being true that he is so projecting. So while he may not follow through, as a matter of election strategy, he lurches to the right.

    Perot didn’t help Big Bill. He won him the election period.

    And if you think Clinton EVER tacked left, you’ve a very odd view of left and right; Clinton was as centrist as centrist can be.

    “Not every libertarian is a “legalize pot now!” fruitbat, TBT”

    What is it about “fruitbats” and “wingnuts” – these words aren’t useful, or all that funny, guys.

    I accept that some libertarians might halt at legalising drug use (though many would not). But you cannot be a strident social conservative on issues like abortion, recognition of gay partnerships, and seriously call yourself a libertarian – that sort of social intervention is anathema to the whole ‘idea’ of libertariansim!

    Now the guns issue, yes thats libertarian; and interestingly plays far better in the square state plains than in the southern base.

    I’m sure some of the freepers would like to think of themselves as libertarian, but they just ain’t – their first and foremost, in the main, social conservatives, bordering on social reactionaries, second, statist on military issues and a fairly distant third neo-liberal on personal tax and spend policies.