Yesterday’s headlines today

by Ted on November 3, 2003

The Blogosphere: Miss two days, and you miss a lot!

I’ve got three really basic points on defecting liberals like Michael Totten, Armed Liberal, and Roger L. Simon (commentary from Jack O’Toole, Greg Greene, Kevin Drum and Kevin Drum II, Matthew Yglesias, Armed Liberal and Armed Liberal II, Roger L. Simon and Roger L. Simon II, Michael Totten… it goes on and on. Big roundup here).

1. Inescapably, I think that they’re wrong, for reasons best expressed by Kevin Drum here. The Democratic Party and its leading presidential candidates have positions on terrorism that don’t sound a dang thing like ANSWER or whoever. Denouncing the anti-war movement for wanting to immediately withdraw from Iraq is fine. But you can’t really denounce the Democratic party with the same talking points. Kuchnich has said that he would withdraw from Iraq. No one else has. On the basis of their positions, these folks seem like they would have more common ground with Clark than Bush.

And yet we get comments like this, from “Captain Ed” on Roger Simon’s blog:

It’s difficult for me to understand why no Democrat except Lieberman understands what’s at stake. It’s as if they believe 9/11 was an aviation accident, the USS Cole blew up on its own, our embassies in Africa were attacked by right-wing militia groups, and Saddam Hussein was a popular autocrat whose peaceful benevolence was undermined by the US. In short, it seems like they live in Bizarro World.

I’d be willing to say that this comment is utterly divorced from reality. It’s about as true as saying “The Republicans want to convert all of Arizona to mole farming.” And yet it got a chorus of Amens. I do not get it.

2. Armed Liberal says, “It’s not a schtick, it’s a movement.” and Michael Totten says that Democrats are in a lot of trouble. Hmm. I strongly agree with the weak version of his point: Democrats have got to come across as strong and credible on national defense in order to attract Democratic-leaning independents and moderate Democrats. No problem there.

But the strong version- “The defection of the aforementioned bloggers is the tip of an iceberg that will really hurt the Democrats”- well, maybe.

Are the Democrats facing a more severe crisis than when Ronald Reagan turned right? Or Michael Kelly? Or Ben Nighthorse Campbell, or Richard Shelby? Or Glenn Reynolds? Or the neo-cons? Or my dad, or (probably) your dad? You get my point: people cross party lines all the time. For as long as I’m aware, people have moved from left to right, for any number of perfectly respectable reasons, more often than they seem to move from right to left.

If these good people decide that they need to leave the Democratic party, I’ll be sad about that. We could use their energy and intelligence. But it doesn’t mean that the sky is falling.

3. I am a participant in a strange, small internet subculture of political bloggers, which has a strong polarizing effect on most people. When I write something especially sharp against Bush or against a specific conservative, I get links, praise and traffic from people I respect. Furthermore, I’m at least as likely to get angry, insulting disagreement as I am to get reasonable counterarguments. It’s enough to convince you that people who agree with you are rational and polite, whereas people who disagree with you are rude, incoherent assholes. You occasionally see parenthetical notes to that effect (“The left sure is angry- you should see my email!”), especially on the more popular blogs.

Invest enough time and energy in blogging, and it’s hard not to respond to that.

I have no doubt that the “liberal defectors” in question are writing exactly what they believe. They all seem like honorable people. But they’re under the same pressure. When they write something critical of the Democrats, they get links and praise from the top-level blogs, a flood of comments, and even occasional paid writing gigs.

I very much doubt that the attention from Instapundit, the Wall Street Journal, Andrew Sullivan, Tech Central Station, etc. has ever made any of these folks say something that they didn’t believe, or write something that they didn’t want to write. But they’re only human, and I suspect that it’s had an effect on what they want to write about.



mal 11.03.03 at 6:24 pm


Armed Liberal 11.03.03 at 6:35 pm

Well, I’m mulling your comments over, and will start with the low-hanging fruit of point #3.

As I’ve oft noted before, I am an “armed liberal”, and my interest in blogging is to try and work though how it is that I manage to contain such apparently contradictory values.

So, sadly, it isn’t all the link love I get from Instapundit that drives me to positions on these issues, it’s that they seem to resonate, sadly, with more of the center-right of the Blogosphere than the left.

I’ve found a number of bloggers (and commenters) who seem to be working through many of the same issues – Matt Welch, Michael Totten, Roger Simon – which suggests to me that it’s not an abberation.

It happens that I blog in a collective blog with a bunch of people more conservative than I am, and so I think there is a kind of negative ‘halo effect’ at work for me at least, there.

But I’m working hard at reconnecting with my inner liberal, and at opening constructive dialogs with liberal blogs. Personally, I’d as soon get attention via Kevin Drum as Glenn Reynolds, or via you folks than Roger Simon. But it hasn’t seemed to work that way, for social-network reasons that themselves might be interesting to explore.

And as a final note, my goal isn’t to leave the Democratic Party. I posted, in response to a link from Instapundit, what my real goal is:

“To Glenn, I’ll comment that while my posts are pretty critical of the DNC establishment, they are critical with an eye toward creating an unassailable Democratic hegemony…so watch out!!”



Matt Welch 11.03.03 at 8:14 pm

Since I’ve now been named, my one cent on the issue is this — the AL/MT/RS/Jeff Jarvis wing are all, “dude, how could you not want to depose Saddam ASAP & confront the Bid Ladenite threat by all vigor necessary?” And the KD/MY wing are all, “dude, understanding the threat & determining the best policy are two different things, and we’re very concerned that the U.S. is failing to build alliances, is putting its neck out everywhere, and basing some of its decisions on faulty intelligence and/or a worrisome ideology.”

It mostly depends on where you stand/stood on the Iraq war, and if you believe in your stance passionately it’s natural to search for the double-secret reasons as to why people who otherwise share many of your politics don’t agree. It’s an interesting debate, but I don’t think any partisan will be persuaded out of his/her position, and I think the tendency to draw Big Conclusions About American Politics is mostly folly. But what the hell do I know?


David W. 11.03.03 at 8:19 pm

Well, as I commented on Calpundit the chief difference between A.L. and Kevin Drum seems to be over the ‘clash of civilizations’ meme. But I could be wrong, of course, and only Kevin D. and A.L. can really settle the matter. Oh well.


serial catowner 11.03.03 at 10:13 pm

I’ve been reading about how the Dems needed to be more centrist to win since 1972 (which seems to be what this is about) and then in 2001 it was all “the Greens are so big now they can split the party”.

But basically it comes down to whether you’re a Scoop Jackson Liberal supporting a military-industrial-corporatist state, or a George McGovern liberal.

And for everyone who thinks everything is different now, take a look at Churchill’s The Gathering Storm, in which, discussing post WW I Germany he touches on many of the issues that are now discussed about Iraq.

But, frankly, I’ve never seen posts with so many names and so few identifiable opinions, so I could be confused. It sure sounds familiar though.


Bill Burns 11.04.03 at 11:20 am

My dad supports Kucinich. Leave him out of this.

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