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Why Obama And Democrats Don’t Do Much of What Liberals Want (Netroots Failure: Part 2)

2013 November 2
by Ian Welsh

Politicians do most things because someone wants them done who can hold them accountable if they don’t do it. That includes bad things, and good things. Anyone who doesn’t understand this reality doesn’t understand even the most basic part of politics.

In 2008 Clinton reached out to the Netroots, and felt the Netroots (we, not me, I had almost no contact with the campaign) mattered enough to at least listen to. Obama did not.

You dances with the ones who brought you, as Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney once said, Obama won by bypassing the Netroots and lying to Progressives and Liberals: he won without us, he owed us nothing once elected.

The movement, such as it was, was bypassed and lost power. As a result, for example, we could not improve Dodd-Frank, insist on more help for homeowners (which I pushed hard for), improve the shitty stimulus bill, or get any of a number of other liberal or progressive priorities pushed.

Note that gays were originally ignored by Obama as well.  What did they do?  They got in Obama’s face personally, heckling him and they organized a very effective donor boycott.  As a result, they got much (but not all) of what they wanted from him.

Holding someone accountable means “inflicting pain”.  If they don’t do what you want, you must be able to do something to them they don’t like (heckling), or take away something they want (money).

Like FDL or not, the last serious attempt by left-wingers other than gays to hold Obama accountable was when they refused to go along with the Affordable Care Act if it didn’t include a public option.  FDL said “if this bill has no public option, we won’t support it.”  When it didn’t, they didn’t.  You may think that’s not a good red-line, but they had a red line.  Of course FDL, virtually alone, did not have the juice: they could not inflict enough pain or take away enough funding  or create enough bad publicity for Obama to care, especially when powerful interests (read: insurance companies), didn’t want a public option.  (For doing so, FDL was attacked by all the usual suspects on “left-wing” blogs and labelled firebaggers.)

Political power is constituted of getting people elected, getting people unelected and being able to reward or punish people for doing or not doing what you want. If you can’t do any of those things, you have no power.

This is realpolitik.

46 Responses
  1. November 2, 2013

    Political power is constituted of getting people elected, getting people unelected and being able to reward or punish people for doing or not doing what you want. If you can’t do any of those things, you have no power.

    I know it isn’t the first time you’ve posted this. But I’m thankful that you continue to do it. People need to have this burned into their brain.

  2. markfromireland permalink
    November 2, 2013

    Yes that is what realpolitik is. Moreover you’re only as good as your last successful exercising of political power. You get that by being rich or organised, preferably both, but an organised movement or group that can reliably make a lot of noise and cause embarrassment or discomfort to members of the elite* AND get out the vote will go a long way to counteracting the disadvantage of having few or no members that are rich.

    mfi

    * You wrote about this in your posting about why Michelle Obama was a legitimate target for activists to embarrass. I wish it was so obvious that you didn’t have to write about it pointing it out.

  3. roadrider permalink
    November 2, 2013

    All true. And sure to be repeated in 2016 when the “first woman president” thing takes over the narrative.

  4. November 2, 2013

    Such a strategy might have worked if the progressive Democrats had threatened not to vote for Democrats in 2010 and 2012, and had threatened to vote for Jill Stein in 2012. It would have been gratifying to see Stein garner 10% of the popular vote — even if she couldn’t take any of the electoral votes the Green Party could have received Federal funds with which to attain more political offices.

    But progressive Democrats are the most unswervingly loyal of Democrats, regardless of how disdainful and condescending the Democratic Party political class is toward them.

  5. paintedjaguar permalink
    November 3, 2013

    “FDL, virtually alone, did not have the juice”

    You might have mentioned how FDL cut themselves off from potential allies when they tried to suck up to Obama by spitting in the face of anybody to their left, i.e. single-payer advocates.

  6. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 3, 2013

    Yes, well, I didn’t agree with Jane’s communications strategy then or now. But she did have a red line.

  7. LorenzoStDuBois permalink
    November 3, 2013

    On the Gay Rights Thing, Pet Peeve Of Mine WhenPeople Use That As A Model Without Noting The Key Point That There Wasn’tReally A Powerful Lobby OnThe Other Side. Unlike The Rest Of What We Have To Fix.

    SorryAboutTheStyleSomethingIsNOtAgreeingWithMyDroidAndYourBlog.

  8. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 3, 2013

    How many millions of dollars did the Mormons spend on gay marriage? What was the stance of the pope and bishops at the time?

  9. Don Carlos permalink
    November 3, 2013

    The Democratic Party in the US, as well as the Republican, are doing exactly what most “Liberals” want in the US. Liberals need to take a good long hard look in the mirror and note their Political Ideology has its origins in Genocide on 5 Continents(to further “Civilization”) and was the main prop of the global slave trade. Until they come to grips with how odious Liberalism is, they will continue to pine for cosmetic reforms and look askance at the well heeled Liberals sociopaths(of both money machine parties) they continue to elect. Even universal suffrage itself, in an indirect system of representation, is a farce on Democracy.

    Keep up the hand wringing. Liberals like Obama and Hillary Clinton laugh and continue to cash in. Some day goodhearted “Liberals” will wake up and recognize the issue isn’t individuals failing Liberalism(the ideal, not the reality) but Liberalism failing humanity.

  10. November 3, 2013

    That’s not how I remember FDL’s role. I remember them as ringleading a second bait-and-switch scam, the “progressive block”, wherein a faction of congressmen fraudulently promised to vote against and try to block the health racket bailout if it didn’t contain a (amorphously defined) public option.

    This, like the “public option” itself (the first bait-and-switch) was a scam meant to keep people who were uneasy about the health insurance bailout corraled within Dem-approved limits, and in particular to keep people from deciding to demand Single Payer, which was obviously a vastly better, less expensive, and morally just policy.

    Meanwhile if everyone who claimed to want better health care for real people would simply have acted upon that claim, demanded nothing less than Single Payer, and refused to be pushed off that position, we’d easily have had it. But as usual the vast majority of people who claim to want good policy really want no such thing.

    So for me what matters about FDL isn’t what they said after it was all over, but what they did when things were still in play. And so it continues to this day. I’m not hearing of any “progressive” sites which are trying to get any kind of anti-corporatist movement going. And that’s because progressives are corporatists, even if they do weepily yearn to be kinder, gentler ones. The fact that it was even possible for them to support a monstrosity like Obamacare in the first place, almost a parody of the concept that you can’t do anything directly for the people but have to trickle it down from what first goes through a corporate toll booth, is proof of that.

  11. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 3, 2013

    I was involved in some of the backchannel chat with FDL at the time. If that was the strategy, no one was acting like there, or saying it. I believe Jane believed what she was doing was the right thing to do, and trust me, backchannel she was getting a buttload of flack from the “any bill is better than no bill” crowd.

    I say this as someone who was only willing to support the bill with a robust public option – over a 100 million enrolled, as was first suggested, though, of course, Medicare for all was the only truly sane option.

  12. David Shaughnessy permalink
    November 3, 2013

    Yup as to the politics of power.

    And as to Gay Rights, the Administration did not merely bend, it negotiated. In my view, Team Obama made a tacit arrangement with the Progressive blogosphere: there would be a push on gay rights if the Progressive Opinion Leaders would accept– i.e., not resist — key elements of the neoliberal economic agenda such as low taxes on the Rich, general austerity and social safety net cuts.

  13. cahuenga permalink
    November 3, 2013

    There is a well known (to Republicans) weakness of the “less of two evils” strategy.

    As long as they continue to move the “center” farther and farther into Crazy Town the Democratic Party will gladly follow.

  14. LorenzoStDuBois permalink
    November 3, 2013

    I think you make a good point: I might have short-changed the power of the church. However, can’t you still say that’s an order of magnitude separate from Big energy, banks, insurance, pharma, etc?

    I’m particularly interested from a War on Drugs perspective, since the popular support trend seems comparable to that of gay rights, but the opposition from special interests looks much more formidable. I think support-wise, we’re ready for full legalization in 2013. But political-wise, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s still prohibition 10 years from now.

  15. S Brennan permalink
    November 3, 2013

    Ian,

    I did not think Obomer was the person to deliver* healthcare. Nor do I think the Americans were, by in large, clamoring for healthcare. As I remember 2006-2008, people were clamoring for an end of wars/torture/domestic spying and in 2008 financial reform. Healthcare was in the mix, but not #1, more like # 6-7…but I could be wrong here. Before he even assumed office, Obomer helped pass bills to in INCREASE/REWARD/PARDON DOMESTIC SPYING and REWARD FINANCIAL FRAUD…and yet, most “liberal” blogs clapped harder.

    I found it odd that Obomers first term was dominated by a subject he hadn’t considered important enough to mention during most of his nomination campaign. I thought then and I do now, that this has been a rather carefully wrapped red herring that offered to distract Americans from where the money was flowing, while being a rather large give away of tax dollars to his largest contributors, 20 million from insurance and 12 million from pharma….oh and FIRE @ 17 Million. Yeah, there was the “STIMULUS”, but lets be real, that was 70% tax giveaway, only a tiny portion was/is being spent on long term projects, most went as re-paving projects in wealthy districts.

    To be fair to Obomer, he did tell his faithful followers that he planned on escalating the simmering AF-PAK to a boil and that he would bring Iraq down to a simmer following Bush’s plan. He did both**, if anyone actually read his speeches [I did], he was clearly the war candidate. Any of his fan club who claim they didn’t support an expansion of Asiatic wars through the election of Obomer is a liar, or ignoramus of spectacular proportions.

    They may claim otherwise, but I live in a “liberal” town and I remember clearly…”liberals” cheering the 8 month long Libyan Bombing Campaign, where Obomer helped racist Al Qaeda Mujaheed, murder 10-15,000 blacks in the take over the African country with the highest standard of living. Why Obama chose to destroy the only place in the Arab world where the negro blooded African had equality goes beyond money and pleasing his paymasters…it must relate to his sociopathic pleasure in killing people. But the most revealing thing of that war, was watching “liberal” Obama supporters cheer and laugh at the news that US supported Al Qaeda Muhajeen had killed Gaddafi by anally raping him with a knife. The Administration let it leak that it was amused by Gaddafi’s death throes and not a word of condemnation was heard from Obama supporters. Blogs just kept feeding the same crap, remember the “once he gets re-elected he’ll turn sharply left” meme…that wasn’t in mainstream media, that was the blogs. As far as I am concerned, many “liberal”/”progressive” blogs have blood on their hands for their quisling adherence to party line dogma.

    * I remember a primary debate where Obama didn’t have any policy what so ever, unlike Edwards & Clinton. Edwards & Clinton.showed clear superiority on the issue, Obomer looked, for all the world…lost.

    ** Well…he did take a year longer than Bush planned, but I at least Obomer said a phased withdrawal, which was line on line with the Bush Plan.

  16. November 3, 2013

    As far as I understand it, the voters turned away from the Republicans in 2008 because 2008 was a year of massive economic downturn, and the economy swings votes. Since the Democrats didn’t really bother to propose a serious solution to the jobs crisis, the tribes separated out into “Democrat” and “Republican,” and that’s where we are today, demographically.

    Human existence is still tribal, today, because the rationalization of thought and discourse about human affairs (and most notably government affairs, but also economic affairs) has not resulted in social utopia (which was an achievable ideal) but rather ground down in the domination of society by capital and government and moneyed elites. What the tribes stand for is not of that much consequence to the tribal faithful when it comes time to wave the tribal flags; thus you have the reality Glenn Greenwald pointed out about liberals supporting drone warfare:

    http://www.salon.com/2012/02/08/repulsive_progressive_hypocrisy/

    I see no reason to see this social picture from the perspective of “what liberals want.” If liberals actually made a priority of what they claim they want, there would be far more of them joining the Green Party and voting for its candidates.

  17. markfromireland permalink
    November 3, 2013

    @ S Brennan November 3, 2013

    Well…he did take a year longer than Bush planned,

    Not in fact true. The withdrawal from Irak took place exactly on the withdrawal schedule agreed between the GZG and the Bush administration in the bilateral agreement imposed on the GZG by America in 2008 in the absence of a Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Under the terms of the 2008 bilateral agreement signed by the Bush administration and binding upon his successor’s administration all US occupation forces were required to withdraw from Iraki territory by December 31, 2011. In fact they withdrew a few days early the last US occupation troops were out by December 18th 2011. Paying large amounts of money to tribal and other forces on the southern route not to attack them. I helped negotiate some of those payments and I greatly enjoyed rubbing their cracker noses in the fact that they had to pay the people they described as ‘sand niggers’ and ‘terrorists’ and ‘ragheads’ not to blow their trashy racist American arses to pieces as they withdrew.

    All American military forces were required to withdraw from Iraqi territory by under the terms of a bilateral agreement signed in 2008 by President Bush. The last U.S. troops left Iraq on December 18, 2011.

    So no he didn’t take a year longer than Bush planned as you put it he followed Bush’s withdrawal plan precisely. The casual way in which Americans, in particular those on the ‘left’, rewrite the history of their country’s wars of aggression is quite staggering*. This ahistoricity is one of the reasons why America goes from war of aggression to war of aggression and never learns an effing thing from them.

    mfi

    * I’m still reeling from the experience of having a liberal commenter on this site presenting this war criminal bastard oops sorry I mean fine upstanding military officer who set up and acted as a judge in the American Kanagaroo courts in Irak as some kind of legal paragon to me.

  18. November 3, 2013

    Politicians do most things because someone wants them done who can hold them accountable if they don’t do it. That includes bad things, and good things. Anyone who doesn’t understand this reality doesn’t understand even the most basic part of politics.

    In our political framework, the key is “who” does the account holding, how it is done, and on what issue. The error in Blogtopia (h/t Skippy) was the insular belief that the blog proprietors were the correct “who” to hold the political class accountable, at the ballot box almost exclusively, and on an issue-by-issue basis that rarely formed a coherent message.

    The political class largely didn’t care, did they?

    Jane may have had a red line, but on multiple levels she was wrong. It wasn’t just that she became a useful idiot on behalf of a segment of the political class who would gleefully use and discard her with their pretense of support for her preferred (but always undefined) public option, it was also that her red line served to alienate advocates of single payer/medicare for all which you yourself say was the only sane position.

    What the political class understood from the outset, I believe, was that Blogtopia was inherently a small and insular community of ambitious and competitive proprietors, that it neither would nor could adopt and stick to a coherent political position (note: “progressive” still defies definition in Blogtopia), and that it could be bought off or ignored as suited the situation and political convenience.

    This ground truth as it was understood by the political class came right out of their experience with the Dean campaign. It was confirmed with essentially identical experience with the Clark campaign and its blog supporters.

    The political class got the blogs’ number very early in the game and has played Blogtopia like a violin ever since.

  19. S Brennan permalink
    November 3, 2013

    Okay MFI, I assumed this had happened*:

    =============================

    OBAMA TRIED TO STALL GIS’ IRAQ WITHDRAWAL

    “Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops – and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its “state of weakness and political confusion.”

    “However, as an Iraqi, I prefer to have a security agreement that regulates the activities of foreign troops, rather than keeping the matter open.” Zebari says.

    Though Obama claims the US presence is “illegal,” he suddenly remembered that Americans troops were in Iraq within the legal framework of a UN mandate. His advice was that, rather than reach an accord with the “weakened Bush administration,” Iraq should seek an extension of the UN mandate.

    While in Iraq, Obama also tried to persuade the US commanders, including Gen. David Petraeus, to suggest a “realistic withdrawal date.” They declined. Obama has made many contradictory statements with regard to Iraq. His latest position is that US combat troops should be out by 2010. Yet his effort to delay an agreement would make that withdrawal deadline impossible to meet.”

    http://nypost.com/2008/09/15/obama-tried-to-stall-gis-iraq-withdrawal/

    ==============================

    Still MFI, does my getting that fact slightly wrong…in any way…portray what I said, incorrectly? I know from Ian your excitement stems from the fact you were over there, but I do try to get my facts correct and I don’t think I gave an untrue characterization..do you?

    * not my original news source.

  20. Eureka Springs permalink
    November 3, 2013

    I’m sorry, Ian, but I do not remember it the way you do at all. As one who moderated the entire ACA saga at FDL, every post, every thread and with whatever limited level of backstage access a moderator had, I do not recall anything but waiting in shock and occasionally pleading those last several months for a call to abandon support of ACA without a P.O.. The leaders of FDL, meaning Jane and other big posters on the issue, such as John Walker, never ever did so… not one of them.

    Hell, Lambert was infuriating all big fire dogs by hounding, begging, chastising, pleading in threads for them to get a bit of spine in the run up to the House vote! To the point I was nearly afraid to say how much I agreed with his points.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the points you are trying to make in this post about taking stands and meaning it, feet to fire, etc., but FDL was at best wishy washy in the extreme on standing for something from at least October ’09 on thru Jan/Feb ’10, on PPACA. FDL ‘leaders’ sat idle as watchers with an air of resignation rather than be proactive or encourage people to take serious stands against the obvious end results for many many months.

  21. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 3, 2013

    Well ES you were there, and I wasn’t, so I stand corrected. They certainly were talking a good game elsewhere.

    But if true, that’s kind of amusing, considering how much hate they got from the ObamaSphere for opposing the ACA at the end: if they actually didn’t, that’s hilarious.

  22. November 3, 2013

    Ian, maybe the FDL people were kind of frightened by how little support there actually was for their position, and despair set in?

  23. Jerome Armstrong permalink
    November 3, 2013

    I want to get around to making a comment that I am sure Ian will like, about the post, but first on ACA and FDL not going against it strident-hell-bent.

    I realized how hopeless the opposition became once Howard Dean flipped to favor it, and then Dennis Kucinich. It was over and the only thing to do was resign/despair/wtf/galt while watching the cheerleaders pat themselves.

  24. November 3, 2013

    I used to follow FDL back then (or at least I followed Jane, I stopped reading the others at some point after Marcy and/or Jeralyn left and I found quite a lot of polite posts being moderated if they didn’t agree with the poster).

    As I recall they had a little bit of triumph when they seemed to have had a role in getting the so called progressive reps to insist on the public option. After it became apparent the progressive threats were completely empty, it was kind of irrelevant what stand Jane or anyone else at FDL took. I certainly never saw anyone at FDL as “ring leaders” for a bait and switch, and anyone who thought they were that influential was delusional. If they didn’t flip the bird back, I would assume it was only because they fucked over by progressive caucus and didn’t want to call more attention to their shaming. I don’t think it was such a sin that Jane lost patience with the single payer insisters. Obama had sold us out already on that one from the get go and that was just a nonstarter and waste of time and energy to pursue at that point. A decent public option would have been eventual death for the health insurance industry, which was the most important thing.

    And let’s remember this was not a health care issue, as many lefties/liberals/progressives (sorry I can’t follow the nuances of these distinctions, and those posters who rant about Liberals or Progressives would do well to explain what those distinctions mean to them before they start their rants). It is/was a health insurance issue, which is something completely different. Insurance is no guarantee of adequate or affordable health care. If Americans really hated this newest health insurance reform and wanted to resist it, they could all just refuse to buy insurance and pay the little fine (although goverment employees would probably face disciplinary actions, and IRS employees would get fired). If enough people, especially the healthy ones, refused to buy health insurance, it would cease to exist and then we could talk about single payer or some other rational system. Until then, we are just a profit center they will never let go of.

  25. Jerome Armstrong permalink
    November 3, 2013

    Hope Ian doesn’t mind if I just start posting more long comments. I have not been active on the tubes for about 3 years, but for some reason, these posts spark some reflections that I don’t mind sharing, if only for having said it.

    I want to say something about the role of a blogger, just to try and frame the expectations and limitations inherently in place. The blogger is like that first follower in the famous Derek Sivers video, that is: “the first follower is the person that transforms the lone dancing guy into someone leading a movement.” So, when I saw Howard Dean dancing solo among the Democrats, at a Democratic Party gathering up in Seattle in June 2002, I started blogging, ‘hey there’s a guy dancing here’ I’m dancing now too, and so on, and a movement started…

    This is the arena of politics, the politicians are the ones that have to be the crazy lone dancer for there to be bloggers to stand up and dance along. That’s their role. So its not a correct frame to say “FDL didn’t go down with the ship against ACA” in spring ’10, when already, the the only ones that came forward to dance, Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, both stopped, and became supporters. No dance, nothing to follow; the music has stopped.

    As for the modern day (2001-2013) Democratic Party’s politicians. They’ll dance quite a jig during the campaign. When in power, they’ll dance on an populist issue here or there, usually when it’s not likely to have much a chance of passing. Mostly though, they just look busy while holding up the wall.

    And it’s not about ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ but about the politicians moment on the stage. When a leader starts dancing, the early followers jump in, and a movement starts. If the leader stops dancing, that’s when a movement dies. If, however, even in losing, they kept on dancing, that’s a movement that will live another day.

    This is something we see play out over and over on both sides of the aisles, among the populist progressives and libertarians, usually against the old guard. A dance starts, they laugh first, then get pissed, start fighting, charge in using whatever it takes, claim ownership of the floor, and shut down the dancer.

  26. Jerome Armstrong permalink
    November 4, 2013

    I’ll comment more on Clinton, Obama, and the netroots blowout of 2008. First, I will temper it with context (and trivia because this is sorta like an email that I am just making a public comment).

    Campaigns are organizational, and expectations of upcoming campaigns are almost always formed by the ones that proceed in experience. When they are not is when they are revolutionary, and usually at the hands of newcomers to the structure. Hence, for me, viva la vida, it requires stepping back to look at 2003-04 before recognizing what happened at 2007-08.

    In the fall of 2002, I was busy putting together about a 10-page memo for Joe Trippi on how Howard Dean could win the upcoming Presidential campaign. And it had revolution written throughout. Fundraising, organizing, communicating, the whole thing. In that document was laid out the fifty state organizing campaign, how blogs would build the movement around Dean, and how small dollar online donors could become bigger than the John Kerry’s decades-long amassed donor mailing list. Nothing short of revolutionary. If you’ve read Trippi’s book, you’ll see that he gained insight into applicable tactics from the rip roaring 90′s Raging Bull financial commenting site. I was also on those boards (for better or worse– or much worse), so we were both of similar mind when Joe got the opportunity to take over managing the campaign, on the possibilities. We also saw what McCain did after New Hampshire, with online fundraising, in 2000. It was quite fantastic. Heady days. But the point is that it was all revolutionary for the campaign, especially so being the primary for Democratic President. The electricity of the netroots movement emerged right alongside Howard Dean message that was anti-Bush, anti-war, and full-bore partisanship.

    And if you experienced that ’03 campaign, you gained insight into those revolutionary tactics. If you did not, then they didn’t make up what you brought to your next campaign. And the experience didn’t need to be one of being on the winning side either. I have to credit a book that Nate Wilcox had me read for understanding this, by my looking at what happened with TV and how it changed political campaigning, by Ray Strothers called “Falling Up: How a Redneck Helped Invent Political Consulting”.

    So, in 2003, we on Dean’s campaign had a big advantage on the rest of the campaigns. Dean, for the most part, knew the message to use. The campaign knew exactly what tools to use to grow. None of the other campaigns (Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman) could figure the internet part out (save Clark’s nascent campaign).

    Howard Dean’s Strategy

    As we entered the Spring of 2003, the Dean campaign staff gathered together with early bundlers for a strategic retreat in Vermont at the Trapp family lodge. Trippi had always worked on separate presidential campaigns against Paul Maslin. So, wanting to work together, he had brought him on as Dean’s pollster. They put together a campaign strategy that made sense. In short, rely on the internet-based strategy to grow the campaign up to the caucuses and primaries. Dean would lose to Gephardt in Iowa, placing second. Then, followed by Dean winning first in New Hampshire, he’d thereafter steamroll to the nomination. This plan went awry by the Fall though, when public polls came out showing Dean way ahead in Iowa too. Maslin tried to temper Dean’s expectations, but Dean decided a sweep was a must, and the whole campaign strategy was changed. Iowa all of a sudden meant everything.

    Dean For America

    Second, also from that March 2003 Trapp family lodge meeting. Trippi, Markos, Zephyr, Matt Gross and a few others and myself sat out on the front lawn early into the next morning, drinking and talking about what we were in the middle of transpiring. Finally, around 2 am, the staff comes to shut us up for the night, as the other guests are complaining. As we are ending and walking in, I ask Trippi what’s going to happen when it looks like Dean might win. At the point, it was still unfathomable to most, but I could tell it wasn’t a new thought to him, but instead something he’d been mulling quite a bit, and he replied: “the moment when the insurgent becomes the frontrunner is the moment when he either becomes the establishment or…” and just looks at me, like he was waiting for me to answer, but his face gives me no clue as to how to answer. My thought is that, ‘well yea, the insurgent throws down the revolution,’ but that answer didn’t phase the ‘what happens next’ look on Trippi’s face.

    Fast forward about 6 months, I get onto the campaign elevator in the morning, arriving late as usual, same time as Trippi and his wife Kathy Lash. She turns to me and says, “Dean is going to be on next week’s cover of Time and Newsweek.” My first thought was to get them both signed by Dean, which I did later, but I turned to Joe and said to his nodding up, “I guess this is that moment”.

    Well, what came next first is that Dean tried to become the establishment candidate. By November and December 2003, the formal endorsements. First Labor groups, then Al Gore & Bill Bradley, were rolled out. Tom Harkin in Iowa. Dean’s poll numbers grew higher. The fundraising numbers went through the roof, but a funny thing was happening with grassroots internet support. It was coming to a standstill around 600,000. I was running all of the online advertising for the campaign, so I firsthand saw the efficacy and resulting metrics for every ad we put out there. We were growing in fundraising, but the movement wasn’t getting bigger. It got so bad, that Nicco Mele had to fudge up the email signup numbers that were public on the website some days (due no doubt in part to Clark’s campaign which I’ll mention below), and we had to figure out techniques to do more than juice them going higher.

    What Happens Next

    So, when the insurgent becomes the frontrunner, Dean tries to become the establishment and win it all, starting in Iowa. And then we learned what really came next, and what Trippi didn’t even want to give voice too, perhaps fearing the jinx of materialization, or maybe just not having a clue either, but I think he knew what he feared happening. And here, we are talking about 1) the splitting of the movement; 2) the murder-suicide; 3) the dancer’s music being turned off (you have to see the above comment I made).

  27. Jerome Armstrong permalink
    November 4, 2013

    Part of the first is the Clark campaign; part of the second was done by people that included the guys that wound up making up the inner core of Obama’s ’08 campaign; and part of the third was done by the corporate-DC media meme.

    Clark

    Sometimes I wonder if the division is just a feature of the whole thing. The Clark movement is complex. There was a point in time after it was all over, when a scandal formed, by something Zephyr Teachout said about Dean and Trippi having ‘bought out Markos and Jerome’ for their blogging. Zephyr was wrong about that part, but what she was really referring to (and something I fully explained when this came out) was that we’d been talking with Wes Clark about his running for President. The problem was that Markos and I wanted to work together as political consultants. I had ties with Dean, he with Clark, and so we agreed that whomever hired us first is where we’d go. That made the dilemma easy, or so it seemed at the time.

    Back then, in 2002, I lived out in Seaside Oregon, in a wooden log-heated cabin on the banks of an estuary, from which I’d kayak out into the pacific ocean during days when I was free from online trading. I was standing outside on the phone one morning, amidst the chickens, listening to Trippi say, “Look, it’s the moment. I don’t want you to be thinking 10 years from now ‘I wish I would have taken the opportunity’ and not have taken it.” I was thinking to myself, ‘this sounds inspiring but it also sounds like something he might say to everyone he want’s to hire but’… I’m in, and tell Markos I’m heading out, moving the family to Vermont. But Markos doesn’t quite want to give up on the Clark dream, so while we go to work for Dean, he keeps maneuvering and eventually sets up a back room meeting for Clark and Dean.

    In the meantime, Maslin revs up a focus group to run the possibility of a Dean-Clark ticket. One night, as the campaign is shutting shop, Trippi asks me to stay on in his office and watch the 3 hours of tapes. Alone in HQ’s late into the evening, the future seems to be laid out. The possibility of teaming up an anti-war Doctor that’s Governor, and a 4-star General that’s progressive, just wows the dozen or so democratic primary voters assembled for the group.

    Once Dean gets the gist of the focus group results, he decides that he will break convention and, months prior to the voting, ask Clark to be his VP. Markos and I buy DeanClark.com and dream of 16 years. Clark agrees to meet with Dean but won’t decide on the VP role for sure. It goes back and forth but the meeting is on. Trippi told me later that the day of the meeting, Clarks’ guy called and asked that Dean not ask the question. But when Dean is set on something, I am pretty sure it went down with Dean asking, and Clark not committing. Only those two were in the meeting. Dean left the meeting saying it’s not on. Later, Clark would claim Dean asked him. I’m sure he did.

    The second part of this involves Hilary and the Clinton’s. In the fall of 2003, Armstrong-Zuniga, as our nascent firm was called, got a call from Patti Solis Doyle, about interviewing for Clinton. I had known of the Clinton’s since going to school in Arkansas in the mid 80′s. And despite one of my close friends being the president of the College Republicans, and having a girlfriend that worked on Clinton’s Little Rock Gubernatorial campaigns, I couldn’t be bothered to even vote. But in 1986, I walked into the election-night hotel room full of campaign supporters the night of the election, as the couple was going on stage, and I didn’t even notice Bill up on the stage, just being taken aback at the radiance around Clinton. I will digress and mention that it’s also the night I stepped out onto a balcony to share a joint, and walked back into the hotel penthouse amidst a small circle of guys that were spittin’ tobacco juice onto the carpet floor, saying crazy-ass militant and reactionary shit: a Tommy Robinson suite and crew. WTF, I thought, if this lunatic is a Democratic rep, we are doomed.

    I digressed to talk about the origin of the Tea Party, and now return to Hillary Clinton and the Fall of ’03, when AZ went to DC and met with Patti Solis Doyle. We were ‘chosen’ with two other firms for her new media operation, and it awaited finalization. Only much later did I learn that Clinton wasn’t just making a plan of setting up a team for her ‘standing committee’ or whatever, but instead was putting together a team for jumping into the ’04 presidential campaign. Damn, naivety strikes again. But anyway, when that didn’t happen is when Clark decided to make it a go. And Clark was supplied with plenty of former Clinton-Gore staffers and Arkansas funding to make it a go. Not all, mind you, as there were definitely grassroots operations leading the way. Without that, Clark was nothing. It was just as electric at times for Clark as for Dean. But without a doubt, coming about for whatever reasons, the division of the netroots here had succeeded. It wasn’t nearly as nasty as ‘08, but a feature, not a bug, perhaps.

    Obama Team

    Axelrod was the main strategist on Edwards entirely Iowa-based campaign; Gibbs started out as the communications director for Kerry, before moving to become the leadership of a PAC that played a big nasty role in Iowa; Plouffe led Gephardt’s Iowa political effort. They were on the opposite side of Dean in 03-04, and so they learned the revolution the hard way. And no doubt hated it, for that matter. Every single snide remark that was made about Dean’s campaign, the bloggers and the netroots, originated from their campaigns. It was Robert Gibbs that placed the quote, “Some of these Meetup events look like the bar scene from Star Wars.” Gibbs did much worse damage with the anti-Dean TV ads he helped get funded and air in Iowa. The Gephardt campaign went nuclear on Dean in Iowa. Totally committing suicide with heinous and suicidal accusations to bait the Dean campaign into a fight. Those items are well documented. I noticed something else though too, which happened late in the Iowa campaign, and deserves mention. This was the makeover that Axelrod performed on Edwards campaign. Most believe, that if the ‘04 Iowa caucus had been a week later, Edwards would have won it. I think that’s true.

    The week prior to the caucus in ‘04, I flew out to Iowa and just drove around, attending events of the candidates and taking it all in. I’d report back to Trippi what I was seeing. Trippi, hilariously to me, had a seemingly 24/7 video camera person trailing him everywhere, even with private conversations. I would wear the orange beanie and meet deaniacs from all over the country in Iowa for the caucus, hang out with Matt Stoller, Annatopia and other bloggers, attend the other candidates events, and break bread with all the DC gravy train consultants and reporters hanging out in Des Moines. Three things were clear to me. First, the Dean campaign was in glorious shambles on the ground. Second, Edwards had stolen the campaign’s ‘change’ message. Third, Dean was not very fun to listen too, being way too hot on stage.

    Seeing the public poll numbers for Dean slip from a month prior, everything was tense. Trippi had been freaking out over all the mismanagement happening at the organizational level, so a few weeks out hired as many old hands as he could to try and salvage the caucus operation. A significant structural problem for the campaign was that Iowa and New Hampshire were run in-state, separate from the national internet campaign’s efforts. That wasn’t as big a deal for NH, as it was just a few hours drive to Manchester from Burlington, but Iowa was isolated.

    It was a massive miscalculation to change the strategy to making it all about Iowa, but what capped it all off for me was seeing Edwards had changed his campaign slogan to “Change for America”. I had thought, based on my results from online advertising, that part of the explanation for Dean’s fall off in appeal is that the hardcore support behind the “You Have the Power to Take Back Our Country” message just wasn’t widespread enough to win an election. I had begun testing slogans like “Let’s Change America” and the like, and found them more having more widespread appeal as the elections neared, but Howard had just not learned how to handle the energy created by the crowds, got into a bubble, and every time I saw him speak, as the campaigned progressed toward the Iowa caucus, he became more and more strident. Edwards was mellow (quite the contrast with ‘08) and had the appeal for those tuning in late. I remember standing at the back of the audience at one of Edwards events, next to a reporter whom pointed out Axelrod to me, muttering, ‘damn, that guy knows how to mold plastic’. As far as I was concerned, Edwards nailed it, just too late. Having Edwards become branded as the ‘change’ candidate in Iowa, rather than Howard Dean, was quite an deft accomplishment.

    Anyway, this trio, Plouffe, Gibbs, and Axelrod, all saw what was revolutionizing political campaigning firsthand in ‘03-04. And after that, Axelrod and Plouffe would go into MA in ‘06, and embrace a pre-Obama, decentralized online-offline campaign for Deval Patrick. Contrast this with Clinton’s top team. Solis Doyle, Mike Henry, and Mark Penn. The campaign organizational leadership for Clinton. They had no experience at all with the ‘04 Presidential race. I’ll come back to this later.

    Dean’s Takedown

    The Scream. Ugh. Right after the Iowa caucus, I went and spent a week in DC. I had planned it being an event of transitioning to something great. It turned out to be a ‘what’s next’ sort of thing as the writing on the wall meme took hold. Not that this was my take, I saw right through it and believed that Dean would transition to win NH and be right back in it. But then, I’d meet with people in DC that viewed it and were already talking about the Dean campaign in the past tense. ‘Oh, that was terrible how the media destroyed his campaign… now that it’s over, can you help us with our internet strategy?’ These were DC people that just prior to The Scream had Howard Dean pegged to win it all. Ahh, dammit.

    The Scream was covered in CTG and elsewhere, and the only other thing I’d add is that the wound was entirely self-inflicted. The Dean sound guy running the feed to the networks isolated Dean’s voice, instead of opening it up to hear the crowd and context. Anyone that listens to a feed with the crowd can hardly hear Dean’s voice, and it certainly isn’t a sole scream. It’s funny to think that such a seemingly small tweak set off a meme that derailed a historical campaign, but such it is.

    The way a meme comes across in DC was explained really well by Dylan Ratigan recently, saying in effect that, “everyone in power, and the political system as a whole, knows that the solutions to reform the system already exist, yet pretending we don’t know the solutions exist is the easiest way to maintain the current system.” The Scream was an easy way to pretend DFA never happened. The plug playing the music was pulled. The moment had arrived, and the candidate did not become the establishment. Instead, he was utterly destroyed by his campaigns isolation of the dancer’s voice from the followers screams, and the replaying of this scene, over and over again, across America’s TV’s.

    So, I’ve laid out the 2004 context, to review 2008 next comment I hope. The main point being: Expectations of upcoming campaigns are almost always formed by the ones that proceed, and the implications that had for the 2008 campaign. To me it explains a lot about what I understood about Obama that was much different than nearly all the bloggers, and most of the netroots.

  28. Everythings Jake permalink
    November 4, 2013

    I don’t think my community of gays & lesbians really extracted much from Obama. He managed to look like he was at the front of the parade, but he let much of the lifting be done by others. Moreover, I don’t think you can minimize the impact of how far the Republican party had come on the issue, largely because so many Republican insiders were gay (yes, Harry Hay rolls in his grave). Whatever Obama ceded was not done without the cold calculus that is was safe to do so. Even Christian fundamentalists are having to move on. (For now, anyway. I keep reminding friends that life looked pretty good in late Weimar before the crash too).

  29. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    November 5, 2013

    With suspicion, look at the make-up of the finance committee of the Democrat(ic) Party (a handy way of distinguishing the present party from the historical FDR party, thanks GOP). Chances are, DLC orbiting interests are overwhelmingly represented on that committee as opposed to representation from FDR coalition influence. There must be a rule about looking at any political crime – follow the money.

    When Barry Goldwater drove the disbelievers from the Republican Temple, they came to the Big Tent put up by the Democrats and quietly, assiduously, stealthily eased the moribund hands from the controls of that party. Democrats didn’t change, their party did while the Democrats dithered under some delusion or another of being efficacious against the post Nixon Republican onslaught to regain political power at any price. Rarely are the children of the great able to carry on the programs and policies that made their parents great, their parents shadow falls heavily upon their children’s future, the comparison never abates (The last Democratic Party power broker passed with Tip O’Neill’s retirement; none of equal stature since, this is not an age for giants).

    It is not surprising then, that those who now style themselves as the liberal inheritors of the party made by the FDR coalition find themselves in the cold, outside the great tent. Their inheritance was purloined from them whilst they were napping, daydreams of past greatness overwhelmed their wakeful watch on power and now others have and will not loosen their grasp on that power – power being a zero sum game, still, and will allow few to become its master.

  30. Hugh permalink
    November 5, 2013

    As long as we are reminiscing about FDL and the great healthcare debate, it is worth remembering that Jane Hamsher didn’t just have a bunch of her regular posters promoting the ACA and the public option on the frontpage, she installed a paid flack from HCAN, Jason Rosenbaum, in as editor of the section of MyFDL or whatever it was called at the time where anyone could post. HCAN was essentially a Democratic party front made up of lapdog unions and lapdog orgs like MoveOn. It looked pretty much like Jane Hamsher was trying to ram Obama’s healthcare plan (which I will refer to as Obamacare although I don’t think we called it that then) down the throat of her commentariat. Some of us thought it was part of her attempt to become a Democratic player, sort of like Markos. This all backfired for a number of reasons. Jane misread her commentariat which was both more progressive and less easily herded than she thought. Jason was a tone deaf propagandist who quickly made himself an object of derision. The Amazing Disappearing Public Option was playing out exactly as some of us predicted it would. My memory is that it got so bad that some of us started to warn her that if she continued to support Obama’s healthcare she was going to lose all credibility. And yes, she went into opposition when Obama abandoned the public option, but by that point and for some time the PO had only existed as a few whiffs and tatters. But then she turned around and did a lot of damage to herself anyway by attacking the single payer advocates (even as she was claiming always to have been a single payer advocate herself) and being angrier with them for being right than with Obama and the Democrats who had played and betrayed her.

    It was a strange situation. It was really the moment that she should have broken with the Democrats, a break though which as far as I know she has never made some four years on. But she had boxed herself in. A lot of her frontpagers were loyal Democrats. And it was kind of bizarre because she still had Jason Rosenbaum spouting his pro-ACA bilge over at MyFDL. I don’t think the site or Jane’s standing ever really recovered. I stuck around another six months but left after a run in with some of the site’s Democratic censors.

    I think FDL’s big problem was Jane Hamsher simply refused to listen to her community. She was a great one for the cause du jour, but they were always the ones she chose. She never seemed to have any overall progressive vision or even any great commitment to progressivism as such. She was a big supporter of OWS and Manning, but she never broke with the Democratic party. And more importantly she never used FDL to organize progressive alternatives to the Democrats. This accords with Ian’s thesis. Sites like FDL had a chance to threaten the Democratic party by creating an alternative to it. But they didn’t do it. So they were no threat. So they could be ignored and were.

  31. dkmich permalink
    November 5, 2013

    “You dances with the ones who brought you, as Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney once said, Obama won by bypassing the Netroots and lying to Progressives and Liberals: he won without us, he owed us nothing once elected.”

    Obama lied to everyone and about everything: unions, women, wars, and not giving the keys to the guys that drove the car into the ditch. He held no one accountable and now he can’t quit pushing cuts to Social Security.

    I am glad someone led me here. I can’t stand the alternate universe and fantasy community dailykos has become.

  32. BDBlue permalink
    November 5, 2013

    Obama was, I think, as honest as most politicians are about who they are. Heck, in many ways he was more honest about who he is (and isn’t). It’s just that people didn’t want to hear it. At all. Prior to his election in 2008, here are things that were easily known about Barack Obama:

    - He routinely praised right wing ideas and leaders;
    - He routinely used the BS history as told by the MSM of the last 20 years of politics to frame his argument
    - He was “not” a liberal;
    - He had sold out to the health insurance industry by watering down a single payer plan in Illinois
    - His campaign was paid for primarily by Hedgies and Wall Street with some wonderful energy companies thrown in;
    - He was routinely dismissive of women;
    - He refused to be any kind of leader on gay rights and, in fact, used language so similar to the right that I got robo-called in California on prop 8 by listening to Barack Obama;
    - He supported charter schools;
    - He lied about wanting to repeal NAFTA (and got caught when he told the Canadians the truth);
    - He had no real environmental plan and had ties to “clean coal”
    - He voted for FISA immunity

    I could go on. Obama ran to the right on domestic issues of every other Democrat in the primary with the possible exception of Joe Biden (hmm, wonder how he got to be VP?). Didn’t matter. He was still going to be the great lefty savior. Here’s one of the more embarrassing “I have no idea what Obama is going to do, but I bet it will be awesome” by Matt Stoller – http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=4009

    Stoller has done some good work since, but this kind of let’s make no demands and hope for the best crap surrounded Obama at the time (and still does to a degree).

  33. BDBlue permalink
    November 5, 2013

    dkmich, that wasn’t meant to be aimed at you, so I hope you don’t take it that way. I just find it very dis-empowering when people throw up their hands about Obama and say essentially, he was a liar, what could we do? Because the answer is to pay more attention and do a better job vetting, but this seems to not be the lesson a lot of “progressives” learned from 2008. We can debate why that is, but it drives me crazy.

  34. November 5, 2013

    Anyone paying attention could have read Obama like a book during his multi-year campaign for the presidency. He was running to the right of Hillary and the entire Dem field, and he was not hiding it. This was clearly his political strategy, he figured it would pay off, and it did. He ran to the right of Hillary and the Dem field, but through clever marketing and by saying soothing things in soothing ways about his rightist positions, saying things that people wanted to hear, and presenting himself as a kind of redeemer after the collapse of the Bush regime’s credibility. He won. There was little mystery about it. From a political standpoint and a marketing standpoint, it was all very straightforward and very effective.

    What’s always puzzled me is that so many who should have been onto his strategy and should have recognized from the outset that he was no “progressive,” that his policy positions would be in line with standard neo-liberal, corporatist, imperialist, warmongering concepts, now say they were bamboozled, lied to, deceived, etc., even some of those who are pretty astute marketeers themselves.

    How could they not have known what Obama was about? If they really didn’t know, what does that say about their political insight and instincts.

    We can go all the way back to the Dean campaign and ask how many of his supporters understood that he was essentially running as a Rockefeller Republican, though that position was being marketed as “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

    Was Dean lying, bamboozling and deceiving? I was campaigning for him, and I didn’t think he was. He was pretty up front about where he stood. If people paid attention, they knew he was no Big Liberal, but he was more Progressive in the original Old Line Republican sense of the term. But his marketing tried for a different image, eh?

  35. markfromireland permalink
    November 5, 2013

    @ sbrennan

    Still MFI, does my getting that fact slightly wrong…in any way…portray what I said, incorrectly? I know from Ian your excitement stems from the fact you were over there, but I do try to get my facts correct and I don’t think I gave an untrue characterization..do you?

    * not my original news source.

    You did not get your facts slightly wrong as you put you got them completely wrong. It would have taken you at most seconds to get your facts right but you didn’t bother. It was well known both in America and Irak that there was no possibility whatsoever of Irak signing a SOFA that gave the murdering scum in uniform occupying the place legal immunity. None. It was also well known that Grand Ayatollah Sistani had warned the GZG that he would openly preach against both them and the US occupiers if a SOFA was signed. Al-Sadr of course was already doing this and al-Sistani feared rightly in my view that the Shi’i would abandon the Hawza.

    I got excited as you put it because have this curiously old-fashioned notion about truthfulness and the duty to get your facts right. When it comes to Irak Americans get no leeway from me whatsoever – none, you’ve just given an example of why.

    mfi

  36. Hugh permalink
    November 5, 2013

    I agree with BDBlue and Ché Pasa. Back in 2008, most Americans were sick of Bush and Cheney and looking for a change. A ham sandwich probably could have beaten whomever the Republicans nominated that year. A lot of the left blogosphere was still caught up in the “more and better Democrats” mantra and failing that, lesser evilism.

    Obama was never a progressive. The closest the Democratic field had to a progressive was the heavily flawed Edwards. His “Two Americas” theme was powerful, but I don’t think he ever really fleshed it out or produced a convincing blueprint/platform about what to do about it. If he did, I never saw it anyway.

    I know I bought into some of these arguments and supported Obama for about 6 months in 2008. I tried to rationalize for a while his conservative, bipartisan rhetoric as pragmatic campaign BS, but I split with him over the FISA Amendments Act. That wasn’t rhetoric. It was real, and it was a clear instance of Obama flat out lying on an important issue.

    And it wasn’t just Obama. In 2008, there were many districts where again a ham sandwich could have beaten whomever the Republicans were running. But people like Rahm Emanuel weren’t looking for the most liberal candidates that could be run for those seats but the bluest of the Blue Dogs for them.

    It is amazing how long the Democrats have been able to run their powerlessness con. In the Bush years, they always had enough votes in the Senate to filibuster and stop legislation that supposedly they didn’t like, much as McConnell has done for the last several years. But they said no we’re powerless. We need more Democrats. So they win the House. And rather than run with that they say no, we’re still powerless. So in 2008, they win everything, but does anything change? No. They have selected a conservative President and a bunch of Blue Dogs, closer to the Republicans than their own base. And of course, they keep the filibuster. So nothing changes. None of this was secret. It was all done out in the open for everyone to see. The real kicker is how many chose not to and continue not to.

  37. wendy davis permalink
    November 5, 2013

    @ Hugh. I enjoy your comments and posts at Naked Capitalism, and have even kept couple of your quotes.

    It’s interesting to read your take on FDL over time, and I have to agree that it was a poor decision, even *business* decision to avoid third-party alternatives. After folks clamored for it for a time, she did allow Kevin Gosztola to an interview with Jill Stein, and I tried to cover the rest of the field with interviews, yada, yada, at My.fdl as a public service.

    She wrote a post explaining why she wouldn’t endorse, but that’s perhaps a different issue. ‘Mind-reading’ was the theme, and several folks got banned over the course of the thread. Site participation is down to just over half from this time last year, and if you peek in, it’s no small wonder. Loads of new diarists covering what I reckon they’d call ‘progressive pop culture’, DD’s gone, Marcy’s long gone, and not many even comment on Kevin’s posts.

    But your point about not listening to the community is spot on, imo, although only she knew who the large contributors were, so there is that to consider. But FDL may prove the reason behind the theme that ‘the golden days of blogging are over’. To say that the site’s moribund would be putting it mildly, and most folks comment on a daily series called ‘Over Easy’, with topics of the day, apparently.

    Anyway, I enjoyed reading your perspective, and you and many others were great losses to the place.

  38. November 6, 2013

    How much does it cost to run a site like FDL? I know it takes SOME money, but I’d be surprised to be told it needs so much that one’s likely to become beholden to big contributors.

  39. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 6, 2013

    More than you might think. 4 or 5 full time paid staff when I was there (Jane, two editors, an administrator, one back office), maybe more. Every regular contributor got a few hundred a month, and the mods got something too.

    Of course traffic was better then. When I arrived, 60 to 70K a day, when I left (after the election, but after the post-election traffic die-off) it was 110 to 120K a day. Now it’s about 40K. Also though the ad market started collapsing in 2006/7, it’s collapsed much more since (thanks Huffpo and Google!).

    As of now, I don’t know who gets paid what, but I believe the mods are no longer paid (that was being subsidized by a big donor, I believe, who no longer does). Marcy has left, TBogg has left, David Dayen (who I’m not a huge fan of, but who did solid work) has left. The managing editor I hired to replace myself (that was amusing) has moved on as well, not even sure who does the editing now.

    Anyway, running a blog that puts up as many posts as FDL, edited and moderated, is not cheap, at least if you want the people doing it to not starve. When I was there, many weeks (especially when I was the only official editor after Dave Neiwert left) I often put in 60 to 70 hour weeks, especially as, in addition to the editing (which was more assignment editing than copy editing, but included both) I was writing about 3/4 of the financial collapse coverage and pinch hitting other subjects when needed.

    Frankly, given the work, I wasn’t being paid enough (that’s not a dig at Jane, she paid an excellent salary given the constraints she was operating under and I’m grateful for it.)

    Even here, check the word counts on the articles I publish. On days when I write, I usually write a couple thousand words or so: if you had to pay for this, I would want at least a couple hundred bucks per article (and that’s cheap, imo..)

    Different blog sites have different models. Some hardly pay contributors at all (or not at all), some do. At least one major site I knew of (no longer operational) got most of its money from a political consultant, who got netroots cred in exchange (that sounds more cynical than it is, the op didn’t post horrible stuff and didn’t interfere with the content, so it was a decent enough exchange.)

    Say I posted every day, could I fundraise 3K a month or even 2K? No idea. But a site like FDL needs much more than that.

  40. Celsius 233 permalink
    November 6, 2013

    @ Ian Welsh
    November 6, 2013
    More than you might think. 4 or 5 full time paid staff when I was there (Jane, two editors, an administrator, one back office), maybe more. Every regular contributor got a few hundred a month, and the mods got something too.
    Of course traffic was better then. When I arrived, 60 to 70K a day, when I left (after the election, but after the post-election traffic die-off) it was 110 to 120K a day.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Holy crap!!!
    I had no idea. So, this isn’t a dedicated crew, just doing for the good of humanity.
    That’s not intended as a slam against you or anybody else, just a reality check.
    But it does bring forth the question: Does this mean, that anything meaningful and effective must have huge resources (money) behind it?
    If that is the reality, then it would seem to seal our doom; no tickee, no laundry!

  41. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 6, 2013

    People gotta eat and pay rent. Over my career as a blogger, if I’d put the time into being a burger flipper at McDonalds, I would have been better off. No one was getting rich. Even at FDL, given a wage of $10 an hour, with the same # of hours worked, I’d have been better off doing something else.

    However some blogs run on much more volunteer labor. C&L for example, I understand, spends much less. Of course that means contributors earn much less.

    This stuff doesn’t come for nothing. The posts I make are the result of thousands and thousands of hours of reading and learning and experience writing. On top of that FDL pays for real coverage of events: they had one of the only full time reporters at Bradley Manning’s trial, for example and paid for reporters at Scooter Libby’s trial, the Dem convention in 2008, etc…

    But if you assume that out of 120K a day you’ve got a few hundred thousand people who read you a month, a buck a piece and you’ve got your budget and more. Heck, if everyone who read me a month paid me a buck, I’d blog every day, it’d be worth it.

    You get what you value enough to pay for (ok, I haven’t asked, maybe they would, one day I’ll probably find out.)

  42. Celsius 233 permalink
    November 6, 2013

    @ Ian;

    Wow, I didn’t know. I wonder how many others don’t know?
    Thanks for that reply; it will forever change my perspective, really!

  43. November 6, 2013

    Yes, thanks for the explanation. I was thinking in terms of the site itself, not counting salaries. But I can see how, if the goal is to perform at a professional level, the people doing it would need to be paid.

    My own website idea wouldn’t be as extensive in magnitude as FDL, but would be similar in terms of how it’s organized.

    It’s the same as with NGOs – to keep the thing on target and doing its real job, the funding needs to come from the actual membership and constituency, not from “funders”. (Even having to go after funding is exhausting and pathology-inducing, and that’s prior to any actual quid pro quo required.) So how do you get people to pay for what’s supposed to be theirs? It’s difficult even in the case of things like FDL or many of these blogs, where enough of the readers presumably can afford it.

    Although that in turn gets back to how it seems like most blogs don’t actually want to organize as activism centers toward specific operational goals, but rather to vaguely talk about a range of things. In that case it’s little wonder if few people feel any pressure to pony up. In lifeguard training you’re taught that you don’t shout “Call 911!” into the air while a crowd of people stands there. You look someone in the eye and directly tell that person, “YOU call 911!”

  44. Ian Welsh permalink*
    November 6, 2013

    Well, again, let’s take FDL. Funelled a lot of funding down to the primary against Blanche Lincoln, and even sent a couple people down, not just to cover it, but to work on it. Other blogs like MyDD did put operatives in the field against Lieberman. There was a movement, and it wasn’t just about funding. There was also message coordination (not as much as the conservatives thought, but more than a lot of lefties thought, we did talk behind the scenes quite a bit. Virtually all of that has gone away, to the best of my knowledge.)

    Was there as much as I’d like to have seen? No. I’d have like to have seen coordination of feeding people and providing healthcare, that sort of work is both good and builds a constituency. But we had trouble raising enough money for what we did already.

    Many bloggers also see themselves as writers first and activists second and not at all. Right now I’m not an activist, I’m a writer. I hope that my writing helps and informs activists and makes a difference (and I think people who think intellectual work means nothing are fools) but I’m not organizing anything beyond this blog right now.

    Still, people pay for magazines and newspapers. The NYTimes has, what, 770,000 online subscriptions now? What is FDL (if you’re a fan) or DKos, or this place, or whatever your favorite blog is, worth to you to be able to read? Because ad rates have just collapsed, it’s very hard to run a blog off ads (though not impossible, with very good SEO. Because of all its backlinks, for example, the Agonist apparently makes money for its current owners, who are SEO specialists, and even pays a small (I believe small really is the operative word) to its managing editor.)

  45. Eureka Springs permalink
    November 6, 2013

    Yes Ian, It was the anti-ACA commenters who garnered the firebagger name, no doubt. Certainly not the main posters. Of course those who use a slur don’t care if it’s suggestive /all inclusive.

    And thanks to Hugh for mentioning Jason Applebaum. I knew I was forgetting someone. Boy was pushing that fellow upon the firedogs for months on end like sticking a shiv in ones readership.

  46. Kerry permalink
    November 7, 2013

    As someone on the organizing side (and formerly on the publishing side), I see potential for partnerships between the netroots and activist communities. What I’m hearing in this discussion is that progressive bloggers don’t have the capacity to move electeds. Progressive bloggers are really good at engaging progressives and independents, though. Likewise, organizers suffer from a lack of capacity in communications — in my coalition in Florida, having a dedicated comms department is a luxury that few orgs can afford. Some can contract with indie marcomm professionals, but it’s pretty damn special when those funds are available.

    We have reach and resources to move people to action. You guys have access to large numbers of people who can be engaged. It’s almost as if we need a match.com to connect netroots publishers with boots on the ground. 2014 could provide a great testing ground for such a model.

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