Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Is The Netroots Left, the New Right?

Jonathon Chait has a long article in the New Republic about how the netroots left is changing the debate and dialogue in the country with the democratic party and the media. Chait's thesis is that the netroots are the historical heir to the new right that sprung up around the Goldwater campaign in 1964. It's actually a pretty good analogy.

Movement conservatives got tired of being shunted aside by wishy-washy Rockefeller Republicans who would get to Washington and cave to the common mean as soon as they arrived. This was often encouraged by the media who if they have any bias as a group is to institutional continuity. Radicals upset the system, and the media is "conservative" as a whole in that regard in their lack of trust for anything that rocks the boat too far in any direction.

You can see that whenever a scandal breaks. Somebody is trotted out as the guilty party, but the system itself is never challenged. Was Ollie North the only guy really doing crooked things in Central America? Doubtful. But, he was paraded in front of the cameras, so we could all say, that was the guy, and move on.

In a way, the party centers are in a triad with the fourth estate in that regard. They are pretty comfortable where they are in permanent residence in D.C. Radicals of the right and the left threaten that power. The netroots are less ideological than the New Right, however they have the same disdain for the system, moderation that rallied the Goldwater movement.

Chait was a bit self serving when he discussed the net roots' dissatisfaction with TNR and the DLC. Marty Petetz has been horrible on the war. He also is virulently racist against arabs. It's not just a minor quibble. Matthew Yglesias came up with some examples of Peretz doing his thing. Spencer Ackerman who used to work at The New Republic states without equivocation that Peretz is an unrepentent racist.

That aside, Joe Klein from Time is also mentioned in this article. He is one of the four staffers from Time who post at the blog Swampland.Klein was very diffensive, insulting to critics on the left when he started, but just as pressure from conservatives tilted reporting to the right with continual pressure, Klein has actually stopped reflexively bashing liberals, likely because they now have a place to scream right back at him.

Chait does see this in context. One of the key moments that grew the left blogosphere was the Florida recount in 2000. Conservative activists went into overdrive. Congressional republican staffers went down and posed as angry citizens demanding the recount be stopped. Roger Stone led a communications team in a RV sitting in a parliament, while mainstream democrats contemplated how they should follow the Queensbury rules so they would keep their dignity.

The GOP activists fought for ballots that were cast illegally in their favor such as the military votes that were late, as the democrats conceded on these issues to appear "reasonable" as they are apt to do.

The netroots has changed this reality. It is not perfect, but it is necessary. The conservatives have been gaming the politicians and the press with bare knuckled tactics for so long unopposed, that is seems like a punch in the gut to get this treatment from the left. Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh were spilling out red meat long before a dirty hippy on the left adopted the same vitriol in their tactics; with a difference.

Perhaps I am biased as somebody somewhat left of center, but I do believe our side is also interested in the truth as a whole, and not just winning. The Limbaughs and Coulters just make things up out of whole cloth. Many of us in the blogosphere would just be happy having the truth out unvarnished and letting the chips fall where they may, because we believe that lack of information in addition to timidity is what costs us elections.

Newt Gingrich last month wrote a scare article in the partisan GOP press basically trying to scare people making $30,000 a year that their taxes were going to go up $3,000 "on average" if those evil democrats had their way. His numbers are cooked of course. On average, Oprah and I are worth $500,000,000. That is the math Gingrich is using to deceive people. Too often the press just doesn't do an effective job countering this garbage. The democratic party in D.C. are apparently too busy doing something to aggressively challenge such nonsense, so the economists of the blogosphere debunk nonsense like this.

Politics and the media are changing as a result of the netroots. There is no doubt of that. I am not that crazy about Markos Moulitas Zuniga's positions on everything, yet I have other blogs to visit where my views are more adequately represented. In the end, the netroots if it ever grasps the power of the 1964 right, might have the same problems. Power for it's own sake can lead to what we see going on in the Bush administration. Nixon would literally blush at some of what has transpired. But, as long as the system is gamed this way, it is suicide not to play the game by the rules that are out there.