An echo chamber of our own

by Henry Farrell on March 21, 2006

Via “Atrios”:, this “Chris Bowers post”:, which I want to take issue with.

bq. The production of conventional wisdom is undoubtedly one of the most important factors in the ebb and flow of the American political scene … When the vast majority of talking heads on television and radio, along with the vast majority of elected officials and high level consultants seem to repeat your talking points and voice your desired appraisal of the political environment at any point in time, in many ways you have won any political battle before it began. … In my frequent talks with other bloggers, and in the immense amount of time I spend reading other blogs, it finally dawned on me last week that the netroots has developed its own, entirely separate conventional wisdom. … Somehow, through all of the blog posts we have written, all of the conversations we have joined in the comments of those posts, all of the email list-serves we have joined, all of the conference calls we have organized, of the link exchanges we have maintained, all of the informal meetings and Meetups we have attended, all of the campaigns where we have worked together, and all that we have done in this four year conversation that just started with just a few of us banging out our own, disparate thoughts on lonely keyboards has somehow developed into a fully-blown counter-conventional wisdom on the direction the progressive movement needs to take. … It was as though we were sharing the same mind. And it was a lot like other pieces that a lot of other high profile bloggers have been writing lately… two sets of conventional wisdom are in active conflict with one another, both in DC [and] in the netroots … Neither “camp” is monolithic, there are of course a large number of variations within each line of thought … Even so, any regular viewer of the political scene can see a number of major disagreements between these two schools of thought being played out on a regular basis … I wouldn’t characterize this as a struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party or the progressive movement, but I would characterize it as a struggle over the strategy of the Democratic Party and the progressive movement.

Well. There’s a lot that I admire about the Kos/Stoller/Armstrong crowd, and a lot in their analysis that I agree with. When they denounce the current Democratic consultocracy as a crowd of self-interested hacks, and the majority of Democratic politicians as jellylike invertebrates, I’m cheering them on all the way. When they talk about the blogosphere’s influence as depending on the extent to which it influences the collective wisdom, I think they’re absolutely right (this is in fact one of the themes of research that Dan Drezner and I are doing). But there’s something more than a bit worrying about the claim that an emerging consensus around a shared analysis is necessarily a strength for left wing bloggers. Isn’t the echo chamber quality of much discussion on the right something that we want to be avoiding, not trying to emulate? It may boost the chances of influencing mainstream debate, but it’s also one of the reasons why some rightwingers in the blogosphere and elsewhere exited normal space and warp-drived into the Gamma quadrant some considerable time ago. A shared mental universe can be a wonderful buffer from the reality based community. As “Cass Sunstein”: argues, there is good empirical evidence that group discussion can lead to pretty serious errors, and failures to uncover important information because it doesn’t fit with the shared consensus (for my money, Cass overestimates the consequences of this problem, but it’s real). Steven Berlin Johnson has a great short “essay”: talking about how similar problems helped do in the Dean campaign.

And it seems to me that there are some features of Bowers’ emerging consensus that are very much open to dispute. He gives a series of contrasts between the ‘netroots’ view and the ‘establishment’ view of politics, including “Long term fifty state strategy versus short term selective targeting,” “Being a partisan Democrat [netroots] versus an ideological Democrat of some sort [establishment],” “Changing progressive infrastructure [netroots] versus changing progressive policy [establishment],” and “Altering the conventional wisdom [netroots] versus accepting the conventional wisdom [establishment].” If I’m understanding Bowers correctly (and I’m open to correction if I’m not) he seems to be saying that there’s a fundamental division between those who want a more vigorous Democratic opposition, and those who are in some sense “ideological;” between those who want to build an infrastructure, and those who want to change policy; between those with a short term view, and those who are in it for the long game. And this does seem to me to be part of the self-conception of the netroots. But this self-conception seems to me (a) to be built on a set of false oppositions, and (b) not actually to be addressing the long term issues of strategy and of changing the collective wisdom that it thinks it is. There’s no reason whatsoever why a willingness to construct new networks and structures outside the traditional Democratic party is incompatible with looking for serious changes in policy; the two can in fact be complementary (by creating new structures of funding, you might be able to do an endrun around many of the forces that have an interest in maintaining policy deadlocks over health, workers’ rights etc). That the two are seen as being opposed to each other is a sociological artefact, not a reflection of genuine underlying tradeoffs. But the most serious problem with the analysis as I see it is that it misses out on the fact that the battleground over ideas and policies _is_ where the left can be most effective in changing the collective wisdom. This, as I “see it”: is the message that Rick Perlstein was trying to get over in his book on Barry Goldwater, and will be re-iterated, I expect, in his forthcoming sequel on the Nixon era. The reason that the right has been so successful in shaping politics over the last twenty years is in part because it successfully constructed an alternative _intellectual_ apparatus of think-tanks, research institutes, journals etc, pushing out endless policy papers and talking points, and, over time, shifting the center of political debate substantially over to the right. This is something that the netroots can’t do if they see an interest in policy questions and ideology as markers that you belong to the corrupt establishment. Ideas and policy are vitally important to politics – they’re a fundamental force structuring the conventional wisdom that Bowers is interested in. It sometimes seems to me that there are two left wing blogospheres – the netroots centered around Kos, MyDD etc, and the wonkosphere centered around Brad DeLong, Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias and others, with only a few connecting threads between them (Duncan Black serves _inter alia_ as a sometimes grumpy intermediary). One talks mostly about the winning and losing of elections, the other mostly about policy and ideas. This strikes me as a very serious weakness indeed; there’s a lot that these people should be talking about together if they want to construct something real and lasting, but they’re not.

Update: I said “Matt Stoller” when I meant “Chris Bowers.” Corrected.

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03.22.06 at 11:38 pm



David Weman 03.21.06 at 6:20 pm

‘“Changing progressive infrastructure [netroots] versus changing progressive policy [establishment],”’

By changing policy he presumably means going to the right.


Henry 03.21.06 at 6:34 pm

David – if that is what he is saying, it isn’t at all obvious, and I suspect that this is not what he means, given that he uses “changing progressive xxxx” to describe both what the netroots and establishment are doing. Presumably, changing progressive infrastructure doesn’t mean somehow moving it to the right or dismantling it.


schwa 03.21.06 at 6:43 pm

The Kos/Armstrong/Atrios axis and its subsidiaries, especially the ex-Blogging of the President writers (Stoller and the appalling Stirling Newberry) have a long and storied history of mistaking triumphalism for influence and groupthink for wisdom. I’m no fan of the institutionalised interest-group spoils system that is the current Democratic Party, but god help the forces of liberalism and progressivism if these are our new netroot overlords, and frankly, I think by treating rank idiocy like the pullquote you provide as worth genuine consideration, you grant them seriousness and intellectual credibility they absolutely don’t deserve.


Du-Du-Duluth 03.21.06 at 6:55 pm

Thankfully progressive voices and minds only herd at feeding time and even then tend to growl and smack their neighbors. Indeed, the progressive blogosphere are a lot like cats and thus create unique herding obstacles. There’s too much division in critiques and more than smidgen of the anarchist spirit at play. The Koskids and disciples of Atrios are really MOR and would just as soon visit scorn on those to their left as they would to their right.

And haven’t we enough wet dreaming about how the web will save individuality/community/democracy etc. Blogs will marginally affect political campaigns and elections. And mostly the positives that the Koskids trumpet will end up being negatives.


Sebastian Holsclaw 03.21.06 at 6:59 pm

“But there’s something more than a bit worrying about the claim that an emerging consensus around a shared analysis is necessarily a strength for left wing bloggers. Isn’t the echo chamber quality of much discussion on the right something that we want to be avoiding, not trying to emulate?”

This is kind of funny (in a sad way) because this is almost precisely the discussion I had with some of the other contributors at the beginning of I expressed concern that we ought to avoid becoming a mere Republican cheering squad. Tacitus said that we should try to be dKos without the partisan hackery. You can judge the result of that effort yourself.


Seth Finkelstein 03.21.06 at 7:35 pm

Hmm … this is hard to express, and I’m bad at politics, so I’m more than usually aware that I may be spouting nonsense (not that that’s ever stopped anyone before in the bogosphere). Cass Sunstein is a very bad reference point, since his book is in part about how well-educated intellectuals must set the conventional wisdom for the masses, otherwise they’ll drive themselves insane in a feedback loop (I exaggerate a little for effect, but that is part of his idea). The problem is that effective politics really doesn’t correspond to external reality, at least in a simple way – it DOES have a lot of echo-chamber, groupthink aspects to it, in terms of what people believe. This is where you get the famous “create our own reality” quote.

The current Republican strategy has been extremely successful in constructing these organized group voting blocs, to the point that they’re scaring some old-guard Republicans about the theocratic aspects of the current Republican party.

Many progressives would like to do something similar *organizationally*, and see the Internet and blogging as a way to do it. That was the Howard Dean bubble phenomena. The problem is that it just doesn’t go far in real life, as shown by the Hard Dean implosion. But nobody has much of a better idea.


Gary Farber 03.21.06 at 8:12 pm

“It sometimes seems to me that there are two left wing blogospheres – the netroots centered around Kos, MyDD etc, and the wonkosphere centered around Brad DeLong, Kevin Drum, Matt Yglesias and others, with only a few connecting threads between them….”

I find this a very interesting observation, because I never thought of it in quite those terms before, and it strikes me that although I’ve always had a great interest in and have always closely followed the details of win/lose politics/elections by district, etc., I also feel very much in tune with the latter bloggers but not the former. Of course, the commenters for both seem to sort out into being almost indistinguishable, but, then, the latter group of bloggers certainly don’t stay away from discussing the ins and outs of elections, either, and you’re not, I recognize, trying to draw a sharp distinction, to that’s to be expected.

I don’t know if there’s more usefulness to be squeezed out of this netroots/wonkosphere distinction, or how much usefulness in the first place, but it’s something I’ll be thinking about. (I had an immediate “click,” though, at the observation, that I identify with the latter group, but not so much the former; for some reason I tend to associate the latter more with “thinkers” and the former more with “mob.”)


Seth Edenbaum 03.21.06 at 8:53 pm

Everyone involved here is over-intellectualizing, beginning with Stoller.
The fact is that “the people” -take the scare quotes any way you like- are more consistently angry and frustrated than their leaders, including their self-styled intellectual betters, are willing to admit. The net-roots are closer to understanding that than the DC types but can’t manufacture a mandate for themselves (pwogwessives will never be as calculating and cynical as the stormtroopers of the suburban winglumpen)
It shouldn’t matter whether Feingold’s motives are saintly or not, and I doubt most of those who are are listening and thanking him, give a damn. Things seem to be moving in the right direction finally within the limits of how this country and its culture operate, but idealist yammering is only that.

Feingold seems willing to lead which is rare enough in a democrat, and seems to have figured out that the poles have shifted: he’s actually filling a popular need.
The people are stupid enough to need someone to lead them where they want to go. Feingold’s enough of a politician to understand that, and smart enough for me to be grateful he’s a politician.
My side will never win. I’ll make do.


Seth Edenbaum 03.21.06 at 8:54 pm

-again with the strikethrough!-


Nate 03.21.06 at 9:07 pm

Isn’t the echo chamber quality of much discussion on the right something that we want to be avoiding, not trying to emulate?

You lost me by implying that the echo chamber is a right-only phenomenon.


bob mcmanus 03.22.06 at 12:19 am

“appalling Stirling Newberry”

Don’t be dissing my homie. The netroots just wants to change the players for fun & profit (Kos wants to be Bob Shrum) and the wonkosphere wants radical policy changes without radical process changes and BOP is one of the few places that recognizes the system is broken.

All we are going to get out of the blogosphere is another Clinton, slightly worse than the last, followed by another wingnut, slightly worse. At which point time will be up and silly game ended.


aaron 03.22.06 at 2:52 am

How about looking at things objectively instead of trying to figure out how to best sell an idealogy?


washerdreyer 03.22.06 at 3:02 am

Where does Josh Marshall fall in this taxonomy? Also, does anyone know where (it might even be an earlier post of Henry’s) I’ve seen something like the netroots/wonkosphere distinction? Because I know that I was aware of it before this post and didn’t think of it myself.


Realish 03.22.06 at 3:20 am

I can’t decide what irritates me more, the chest-beating, self-regarding triumphalism of the netroots or the snobby, bitchy, above-it-all disdain shown for them by folks like schwa above.


Gary Farber 03.22.06 at 6:41 am

I suspect one thing that bugs me is that I’m not sure what the term “netroots” means (yes, I know what it’s supposed to apply to, sort of), but insofar as it’s self-congratulatory (hey, we’re the true, authentic, roots on the net!), I hate self-congratulatory self-applied labels.


schwa 03.22.06 at 7:31 am

realish, I spent over a year in the diaries and comments sections of Daily Kos during the height of Deanomania, trying my best to stand up for halfway intelligent thought and against insipid triumphalism, while at the same time supporting Dean. I’ve more than earned the right to have any opinion I please about the netroots without any smack about it from you or anyone else, so kindly get bent.

bob, I will continue to diss Sterling Newberry until such time as his principal output ceases to be sophomoric pseudo-intellectual triumphalism and a towering sense of his own cleverness.

To your more substantive point, the idea that “the netroots” (a phrase which I would break my free-speech principles long enough to make a hanging offense if I ever had the opportunity) are the only ones who “recognize[] the system is broken”, quite aside from being exactly the kind of smugness that sends the Kos-hordes into a frenzy when Joe Lieberman does it, simply does not survive contact with the extensive work done on delousing American politics by a vast array of respectable liberal and progressive organisations. And I stand by my earlier point that while I’m no fan of the status quo, I am every bit as disturbed by the thought of what the BOPers et al would remake politics into if they had a chance.


Charles S 03.22.06 at 8:00 am

I don’t think netroots is supposed to be a self-congratulatory term (although the people who calls themselves that certainly are self-congratulatory). Its just a concatenation of net-based and grass-roots, a legitimate popular movement heavily based in the net.

Oh, and while folks are talking about DKos, why was there really no noticeable condemnation of Kos when he delinked Pandagon after Amanda wrote a negative review of his book? Is that sort of thing really viewed as acceptable behavior, or just not worthy of mention?


ben alpers 03.22.06 at 10:46 am

re: the netroots / wonkosphere distinction

I think you’re on to something here, henry.

But I’d add an additional (IMO disturbing) dimension to it: the bloggers you call “the netroots” are, as you note, arguing that “the left” (and those are pretty hefty quotation marks) needs to focus on winning elections and changing strategy, not on policy and ideology. Your “wonkosphere,” on the other hand, is pushing policy and ideology. What you don’t note is that the wonkosphere’s notion of policy and ideology — as represented by Josh Marshall, Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum, and many others — is pretty consistently a little to the right of even where the Democratic Party stands today (which isn’t that left to begin with).

Those of us who feel that American politics needs to move decisively to the left thus have nowhere to turn in the mainstream “left” of the blogosphere, where only the more conservative elements are really interesting in talking policy and ideas, and the supposedly more progressive elements just want to bury ideological hatchets and win elections for folks with “D”s after their names, regardless of what they actually stand for.


Thomas Nephew 03.22.06 at 10:52 am

To me, one very visible consequence of the “political semipro” dKossacks and myDDers is precisely their *own* dismissal of alternative voices. A case in point is myDD/dKos deciding not to support Chuck Pennacchio vs. Bob Casey, Jr. (Joe Lieberman II) in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary for the Senate, despite the “counterCW” Bowers writes about. And once that decision is made, nothing more about Pennacchio — it’s all about trying to sail into battle on their little blog PT boat, firing a few $1000 here, a few $1000 there. Pop. Pop. And much of that was frittered away on the Rodriguez-Cuellar race — which Bowers figured out on election night was an open primary that let Republicans help determine Democratic candidates.

Bowers says it’s about ideas — and I agree with that. But what dKos/myDD are really trying to do is become political players with $ power. (Bowers may differ with Stoller and Kos about such things, I don’t know the score there.) Fine, good luck to them — but they’re mistaken so far, I think, if they think they’re really kingmakers now, or even that they would be particularly good at it. On the whole, the blogosphere does more as an opinion cultivating tool than as a fundraising tool: it can raise up the visibility of ideas and candidates.


Henry 03.22.06 at 12:54 pm

ben – I’m not sure I agree here. Yeah, Kevin and Matt are both centrists. But they’re centrists who support labour rights and universal health care. One of the most interesting features of the centrist wonkosphere is that it’s _way_ friendlier to labour than is the traditional centrist punditocracy. Perhaps for strategic reasons – an analysis that the Democratic party can’t do well without the troops of the labour movement – but still, it’s a real improvement. Marshall I think is to the right of the Democratic party, at least on foreign policy issues (on Social Security etc he played a very valuable role in stiffening backbones). My sense is that if, by magic, the traditional punditocracy of the Democratic party (the Elaine Kamarcks and the like) were suddenly magically replaced by Drum, Yglesias etc, this would be a good thing for the left. But perhaps I’m wrong – convince me otherwise!

Charles – I hadn’t seen that about Pandagon. At best pretty childish.

thomas – agree with you wholeheartedly on the blogosphere’s comparative advantage being in opinion forming not fundraising.

Sebastian – I’m genuinely sorry that Redstate didn’t become more than it is, and I suspect that there is a long story behind that, which I hope someone tells someday. It’s a weird site at the moment in many ways – I don’t like the mixed incentives of some of the people dominating it at the moment.

washerdreyer – I think I’ve said some of these things before; I’ve been trying to think this through for some time. On Josh Marshall – I originally had him in there, but he’s a little complicated. My guess – he is _read_ by both camps, but doesn’t belong to either (he clearly wants to disassociate himself a little from mere bloggery). But I would really have to do a proper network analysis to find out – which I hope to do someday.


Quentin Crain 03.22.06 at 1:23 pm

Henry, I am not sure I like this:

But there’s something more than a bit worrying about the claim that an emerging consensus around a shared analysis is necessarily a strength for left wing bloggers. Isn’t the echo chamber quality of much discussion on the right something that we want to be avoiding, not trying to emulate?

Would science and the scientific community be an “echo chamber”? Are you worried about science in the same way?

And, of course, the scientific community has shown throughout history to BE an “echo chamber” so …

Any community can become an “echo chamber”, so (shrug) I am not sure why this is any more worrisome.


ben alpers 03.22.06 at 1:45 pm


I’m not sure we entirely disagree. You essentially reframe the issue by asking whether Yglesias and Drum are better or worse than non-blogosphere Democratic centrists like Kamarck. Well, if that’s the question, I agree with you. They’re marginally better.

But my problem was that they are still centrists. Truly left voices — within the Democratic Party or without — are all too rare in the blogosphere. And to the extent they exist, they fall solidly in the “netroots” camp and focus less on ideas and policy than electoral strategy.

Finally, I don’t really see JMM as an intermediate figure here (as Atrios is). He’s solidly in the wonkosphere camp, so far as I can tell. His activism around Social Security (which might nudge him in a “netroots” direction in your terms) was very impressive, but also rather atypical.


schwa 03.22.06 at 2:51 pm

Kevin and Matt are centrists? What on earth do you define as “[t]ruly left”, in that case? Absolutely they’re not particularly good European-style social democrats, but then they’re not supposed to be, and pining for the lack of social democracy in American politics necessarily immplies turning a blind eye to the realities of those politics.

They may be pragmatists, and maybe even push beyond that into incrementalism-for-its-own-sake, but that’s an entirely different barrel of monkeys. This is a good example of why I think conducting debates in terms of the old left/center/right gradation is even more useless in the context of American politics than it is in other countries.


Steve LaBonne 03.22.06 at 3:00 pm

pining for the lack of social democracy in American politics necessarily implies turning a blind eye to the realities of those politics

Or could it be, maybe, that tamely accepting this aspect of the status quo instead of fighting it guarantees that this reality will never change? There’s a fine line between pragmatism and defeatism. I for one have seen more than enough defeatism on the liberal side, and I’m sick of it.


schwa 03.22.06 at 3:29 pm

There’s a fine line between pragmatism and defeatism. I for one have seen more than enough defeatism on the liberal side, and I’m sick of it.

Oh, god, not this again.

Lookit: there is a broad, bright line between talking about what is and talking about what should be. You may not (clearly don’t) like the pragmatic liberalism which Matt and Kevin represent, and that’s entirely your right. But that doesn’t mean you get to push them out of the broad church of the left, any more than Chris Shays gets a free pass on sharing a party with Tom Tancredo. And you may not like the fact that the American electorate demonstrably has no appetite for a great social-democratic transformation, but that doesn’t mean those of us who want to achieve the achievable goals first and build towards the more difficult ones, rather than trying to reach straight past the low-hanging fruit and flaming out in the process, are “defeatists.”


Steve LaBonne 03.22.06 at 3:44 pm

Right, all this realistic Clintonian triangulation has gotten us the wonderful benefit of… seeing our country taken over by the looniest of wingnuts. Sorry, we have seen the future that comes from giving up on the game before it even starts, and it doesn’t work.

Here’s a free clue, you don’t decide in advance what people have an “appetite” for, you get your ass out there and try to PERSUADE them, instead of conceding all the Republican talking points in advance. And you don’t give up after one year, or one election cycle. Your way got us Bush- how can we do worse?


schwa 03.22.06 at 4:18 pm

Oh, god…

You’ve just given a perfect demonstration of why I bailed out of dKos, and why I’m so deeply pessimistic about the supposed transformative power of the “netroots.”

If you’d stop fucking screeching at me and get down off your high horse for a minute, you would see that (1) you are putting words in my mouth, and (2) I’m merely trying to argue that there are more good guys in blogosphere and party than are dreamt of in Kos’ blogroll.

I didn’t say word one about “Clintonian triangulation.” In fact, if you’d bothered to read my previous comments, you would have noticed that I was a Dean supporter.

My comments address two separate and basically unrelated themes:

One, that I think the ‘promise of the netroots’ is so much hot air. That’s my opinion, and while it could change, spittle-flecked sanctimony isn’t the way to get it to.

Two, that whether the netroots is hot air or the greatest advance in democratic empowerment since the secret ballot, the various factions of the Democratic party have enough common goals and concerns that they ought to be able to co-operate. I said this to people who sang from Al From’s songsheet and I’ll say it to people who sing from Markos Moulitsas’s.

Honest to god, I quit dKos to get away from having to write posts like this all the fucking time.


Steve LaBonne 03.22.06 at 4:40 pm

You’re in your own echo chamber, buddy. I have no use for dKos myself- others have succinctly explained why above. But by all means go right on talking to your mirror, or fighting the last war, or whatever…

I don’t give a rat’s about the “netroots”. I’m just sick and goddamn tired of lazy assumptions about what the public has an “appetite” for, when we all know that what they think they want is largely the result of massive propaganda campaigns from the right, “countered” for so many years now by cowering, navel-gazing, and preeemptive capitulation on the “responsible” left. (Which helped get us this lovely war, among other things.) This is a sure losing game- it’s past time to try something else.


David Weman 03.22.06 at 7:40 pm

Drum and Yglesias are both leftiss not centrists. But they shouldn’t e lumped together. Yglesias favors a Rick Perlstein type stategy, Drum doesn’t, is more cautious perhaps, though he doesn’t favor dlc stategy either.

Yglesias holds various unorthodox views, some rightish, some leftish, along w general TAP orthodoxy. Drum is more conventional, and less wonkish or “intellectual”. Drum is very resistant to the idea of widespread right wing bias in the media, he identifies w political journalists, despite never having that beat when he was a journalist (I think). Yglesias doesn’t do atrios style media criticism, but he doesn’t disapprove of it as far as we know.


David Weman 03.22.06 at 7:57 pm

A taxonomy of progressive bloggers, based on focus and how they relate to each other:

election junkies/activist enablers: daily kos, mydd, swing state, myleftwing, booman, etc

media critics/activism enablers: atrios, digby, greenwald, avarosis, crooks and liars, firedoglake.

news commenters/reporters: drum, benen, marshall, tpmuckraker, progress report, (less a distinct group than the others)

wonks: coffee house, yglesias, tapped, klein.

wingnut mockers: poor man, tbogg, lots of others.

I don’t think my categories are random or arbitrary, though they’re not based on anything but my judgement.

Would be interested in a new analysis of linkage, would there be no other patterm than hacks, wonks, and atrios as intermediary now?


David Weman 03.22.06 at 7:59 pm

Washerdreyer, it was based on research, an analysis of interlinking from 2004, I think.


Jedmunds 03.22.06 at 9:56 pm

Oh, and while folks are talking about DKos, why was there really no noticeable condemnation of Kos when he delinked Pandagon after Amanda wrote a negative review of his book? Is that sort of thing really viewed as acceptable behavior, or just not worthy of mention?

I wrote that review.


David Weman 03.22.06 at 10:11 pm

Funny, he linked to the reviev.


Jedmunds 03.22.06 at 10:32 pm

True dat.


anon 03.23.06 at 12:56 am

I prefer David Weman’s taxonomy to Henry’s. The name of my blog bookmark folder containing mydd, dkos and such is “Horse Race”. I don’t think these bloggers have a single ideological slant, they simply are focussed on short and long term electoral politics. I think they are not farther left than the “policy wonks”, who do not seem to share a single outlook on issues to me. The “policy wonk” bloggers may share their views on process in part or disagree, but they are simply not talking about the same aspect of politics.

Take DeLong … while he is clearly a wonk (after all he’s an econ professor — naturally he has detailed and well-informed views on economic policy issues) … I don’t see him as disagreeing necessarily on electoral process issues with dKos. He doesn’t usually adress those topics.

And schwa seems to conflate the dKos commenters with Kos himself. He has provided a gathering place for people to argue and bullshit about politics. The dynamics (extreme views, invective, etc.) in the comments has nothing to do with the politics. Read SlashDot or any old usenet group (on technical topics unrelated to politics) if you don’t believe me.


abb1 03.23.06 at 9:35 am

What Ben Alpers said. There are netroots hacks trying to get Democrats elected, wonks trying to turn them into moderate Republicans and the rest who don’t care much about the Democrats.


W.B. Reeves 03.23.06 at 4:31 pm

An interesting exchange but one I find curiously detached from the realities of US politics.

In a Democratic society, defined by universal franchise, the motive force for change and the source of political legitimacy are presumed to be the voters. In a society as large as the US the voters are going to be a varied and contentious lot. National political victory will go to whomever can forge a viable coalition of varying interests, energizing their base while demoralizing that of their opponents, a strategy that the Right has had great success with.

From the perspective of institutional privilege, this strategy works best the smaller the pool of actual voters is in comparison to the mass of eligible voters. The narrower the electoral base required for taking power, the easier for partisan formations to dominate the process. Likewise, the easier for centers of institutional power and influence to dominate the parties. This breeds an aversion to popular enthusiam except where it may be safely channeled through existing political institutions, thereby posing no challenge to the status quo.

For me, the motives of individual members of netroots/wonkosphere debate, are largely irrelevant. What matters is the sources that they draw on for their political strategy and appeal. In the case of the “netroots” you have the beginnings of a structural alternative to the status quo institutions of the Democratic party. It is fueled not by the personalities or ambitions of particular bloggers but by the accumulated frustration and disgust that people have for the Democratic party establishment. In this they are simply mirroring a more wide spread resentment that the Right has effectively exploited for over two decades. Anyone seriously interested in elevating policy above the Yahooism currently prevailing can’t afford to ignore this.

The Democratic establishment has responded as one might expect to being told that they are the problem. Something in between the sky is falling and the barbarians are at the gates.

I think that this the real dividing line in the debate. On one side you have an insurgency against the institutions, on the other a squeamishness about the vulgarity inherent in mobilizing popular sentiment combined with an attachment to the institutions themselves as vehicles for policy objectives.

The Democratic Party today is faced with a choice similar to the one facing the GOP over 30 years ago: standing pat or breaking with the status quo. The GOP made its choice and we are living with the consequences. Whether we continue to live with those consequences depends on the direction the Democratic Party takes. The Democrats cannot be the party of change if they fear and oppose it in their own ranks.


Seth Edenbaum 03.24.06 at 2:59 pm

All this is talking about talking about thinking about politics.
Politics is decision-making. This is a decision.
I agree with it.


David Weman 03.26.06 at 3:07 pm

CT doesn’t have a ‘recent comments’ list, but I want to go back to this old thread anyway, and note that my new guess about what Stoller meant by changing policy is this.

In any event I’m sure he’s talking about the riht way to win elections, rather than what Henry thinks he means.

One could mail and ask him, but I can’t be bothered.

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