Hillary Rolls On: Are Netroots a Paper Tiger?
Hillary Rolls On: Are Netroots a Paper Tiger?
As a longtime progressive tired of ineffective protesting, I've watched in glee as MoveOn has amassed political power by Webbing a few million of us and our dollars together. I'm a proud MoveOn member, even though I disagree sometimes with its leaders (mostly over too-cozy relations with top Democrats).
And as a longtime proponent of independent media, I'm gleeful that liberal/progressive bloggers have seized a new medium to mobilize millions of activists and confront a Democratic elite that seemed unwilling to confront and beat Team Bush.
Given my glee, it's difficult for me to have to pose this question: Are the Netroots a paper tiger - more roar than bite?
Despite being overwhelmingly opposed to the nomination of Hillary Clinton, the Netroots have so far done little to slow down her coronation. Boosted by celebrity-worshipping corporate media (and a maximum donation from Rupert Murdoch himself), Hillary Clinton keeps rolling on - allied with the corporate lobbyists and [http://www.realnews.org/stories/2007-06-01_25dconsultants.html Democratic insiders] loathed even by moderately liberal bloggers.
In an April straw poll of MoveOn members following a virtual town hall on
The reality is stark: While it's hard to find a MoveOn leader or respected progressive blogger who supports
Several factors may explain why most Netroots leaders are not taking stronger action:
1) They "misunderestimate" the potential hazards of another
While progressives desperately want a Democratic president, the last
The toughest brawl Bill Clinton was willing to wage (besides saving his own hide from impeachment) was against the Democratic base: for the corporate-backed NAFTA. Through the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Bill brought us far more media conglomeration than George W. He pardoned well-connected fugitive financier Marc Rich, while leaving Native American activist Leonard Peltier to rot in prison despite [http://www.freepeltier.org/peltier12.htm pleas from Amnesty International] and others.
Hillary's contribution to Clinton I was her botched healthcare proposal, [http://www.jeffcohen.org/docs/mbeat19931124.html a corporate-originated "reform"] that would have enshrined a half-dozen of the largest insurance companies at the center of the system, and was so convoluted it never came up for a vote.
What we've seen of Hillary Clinton in the Senate and on the campaign trail suggests that Clinton II would indeed be a sorry sequel. Today she's winning the endorsement of Republican CEOs, after having had Murdoch host a benefit for her at the Fox News building in 2006. Just as Bill Clinton's spine achieved a rare firmness while battling for NAFTA, we recently observed in Hillary a rare passion and firmness on a single issue: her YearlyKos defense of lobbyists, including those who [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5njRbQIJt_s&eurl= "represent corporations that employ a lot of people."]
Like Bill campaigning as a populist and governing as a corporatist, Hillary's stump speech proclaims she'll end the
In too much of the liberal blogosphere, history begins with the
theft of 2000, and events before that time seem ancient and irrelevant. There is insufficient grasp of how the
2) They want to be Democratic "team players."
Matt Bai's new book on the Democratic Party, "The Argument," has a passing reference to Hillary Clinton's courtship of MoveOn leaders in private meetings: "Her charm appeared to have paid off: while MoveOn's members remained furious at Clinton for voting with Bush on the war resolution, its leaders refused to criticize her publicly."
In truth, MoveOn leaders have gone beyond refusing to publicly criticize Hillary Clinton - actually finding bizarre excuses to praise her on some of her worst issues, like [http://www.antiwar.com/solomon/?articleid=10808 Iran] and [http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2006/08/10/2006-08-10_chill_hil_no_ones_declaring_war_on_you_h.html Iraq]. During the 2006 Democratic Senate primary in
With MoveOn avoiding criticism of
Netroots leaders seem almost mute today as Hillary Clinton makes full use of old media/old money advantages. Bloggers who loudly championed the Dean insurgency are oddly quiescent as the candidate of the party establishment gains ground. Have these young insurgents become Democratic Party elder statespersons - team players first and foremost? Has the courtship by Party insiders quieted them?
What animated the meteoric growth of MoveOn and progressive blogs was a crucial insight: that the Democratic establishment was too spineless or clueless to stand up to the Bush agenda. This insight has never been more relevant than now - with Bush an unpopular lame duck and Democratic leaders in Congress offering "little other than one failure after the next since taking power in January," in Glenn Greenwald's words.
Ancient history, from 1993-1994, teaches us that loyalty to party should never come before loyalty to principles - and that which Democrats hold power can be as important as whether Democrats hold power. I was a young(er) columnist when Bill Clinton entered the White House and Democrats controlled Congress. We didn't get promised campaign finance reform; we didn't get promised investment in the cities; we didn't even get a vote on healthcare - since the
And soon - inevitably and predictably –we got the Gingrich counterrevolution.
3) There's no Dean campaign to unite them - just "Edwama."
In the last three months of [http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/8/30/105054/302 DailyKos reader polls], Edwards and Obama have combined for more than 60 percent of the vote - as against only 8 percent for
Despite being [http://www.alternet.org/story/52764/ hammered by corporate media], Edwards retains deep Netroots support as he pushes a progressive, [http://pdamerica.org/articles/campaigns/2007-08-25-11-38-06-campaigns.php populist message] that evokes Bobby Kennedy's 1968 campaign. Fueled by Internet fundraising, Obama has inspired a huge grassroots following, especially among youth and people of color. Both are tagging
Were Edwards or Obama to drop out of the race today, Netroots support would likely galvanize behind the other. The current 63-8 percent "Edwama" edge over
The reality is that neither Edwards nor Obama is dropping out. There is no Dean candidate at the moment.
But that should not prevent Netroots leaders and progressive bloggers from speaking out loudly and clearly about their objections to
Reporting the results of his July straw poll in which Edwama outpolled Clinton 7 to 1, DailyKos founder Markos gloated that he was among the 5 percent who voted "No Freakin' Clue": "I'm enjoying the campaigns without any emotional investment in any of them. It's quite liberating. I wish more of you would give it a shot."
Here was a key Netroots backer of Dean sitting on the sidelines four years later, encouraging a laissez-faire attitude over who is the 2008 Democratic nominee.
If 2004 taught anything, it's that it matters mightily who the nominee is. Despite all the organizing, fundraising, phone-banking, canvassing and concertizing, it's hard to beat even a discredited Republican with a Democratic candidate who comes across as a vacillating and calculating
I was never prouder to be a MoveOn member as when, after Kerry's defeat,
In a bit of hyperbole, Eli proclaimed on behalf of grassroots donors who'd given $300 million to Kerry and the Democrats: "Now it's our Party. We bought it, we own it, we're going to take it back." But unlike owners, Netroots leaders today act more like field hands - deferring to other powers the selection of the candidate.
And they'll be ridiculing the Netroots as a paper tiger.
[http://www.jeffcohen.org/ Jeff Cohen] is a media critic, author of [http://www.amazon.com/Cable-News-Confidential-Misadventures-Corporate/dp/097606216X/sr=8-1/qid=1157854253/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-3269566-1435014?ie=UTF8&s=books "Cable News Confidential"] and an advisory board member of [http://pdamerica.org/