The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Jerome Armstrong on the Failure of the Netroots

(This a comment elevated from my post on the failure of the progressive blog movement.  It is written by Jerome Armstrong, not by me. Jerome was the founder of MyDD (Kos’s Blogfather) and co-author of Crashing the Gates, among other things- Ian)

by Jerome Armstrong

I didn’t see Lieberman’s 2006 win in quite as pinnacle a light at the time, and it certainly wouldn’t have been, had we followed it up more often, and won.

Yet I certainly peg the crux of lost movement with the rise of Obama’s campaign. It was an awful place to be in with Clinton vs. Obama, in the 2008 primary. My basic impulse (after Edwards –who had the populist message– imploded) was, like many bloggers (not the masses), to go with Clinton because she at least showed signs of being accountable to the netroots movement, unlike Obama. He didn’t need the netroots for his message and candidate-movement, he had places like Politico to push out of, and was basically an identity-politics cult for many new to politics that flooded the blogs.

But, I view the clincher happening a bit later, with Bill Halter’s loss in the 2010 Democratic primary in Arkansas. That is when it really ended. The whole Labor-Netroots coalition, Accountability Now, the blogs went all-in big (still barely united) with MoveOn and PCCC. Over $10 million to defeat a BlueDog that gave us this crappy corporate ACA debacle. But Obama did all he could behind to the scenes to defeat Halter. Obama dissed Lt. Gov Halter by embracing Lincoln (Michelle Obama once came to Fayetteville and recognized all of the politicians on the stage — Lincoln, and even Republicans — while ignoring Democratic Lt Gov Bill Halter standing behind her). Obama mailers pushed the LR area African-American vote into Lincoln’s camp in the run-off. Lincoln was a rural democrat– a base of voters that Halter took away from her. Obama being just neutral would have meant a Halter victory. But it wasn’t just the Lincoln victory, it was the way that national Democrats reacted to Halter’s message that convinced me the movement was finished. It took the attack site that we put up,, for me to see clearly what had happened.

This rising against the Democrats that aligned with the banks was the defining issue if this was to be a populist progressive movement within the party in 2010. We rolled it out with Bill’s campaign, and it struck her hard. Halter’s numbers soared among  rural Democrats, taking on the banks was the top polling issue. Halter was gaining on the issue, overtook Lincoln, and the Democratic Party backlash against him was immense (it’s when Obama got involved heavily too). Halter buckled, and made us take down the website. A symbolic cave. Lincoln won the run-off by 4 percent.

Another flawed candidate progressives sided with? Sure, but it really didn’t matter in the big scheme of things. When Democrats sided with the banks in 2008, and the progressive movement balked at primary challenges against those bankster-sponsored incumbents in 2010, it was all over.

The night of Halter’s loss, I sunk into a couch at the Excelsior in Little Rock across from PCCC’s Adam Green and Stephanie Taylor. We all just slumped over speechless. So yea, contrast that with the highpoint party we had when Lamont defeated Lieberman in the ‘06 primary in Connecticut– when MoveOn’s Tom Mattzie was busting open the biggest champagne bottle I’d ever seen. This is where we arrived 4 years later. When, after having $10M to spend in a primary against a incumbent that sided with the banks and defeated the public option in the Senate, all it proved was that the sitting Democratic President was against us.

I would agree with your general basis of criticism, that of our movement being non-ideological to a fault, but I am not convinced that is a defining feature of the reason for the failure. First, we just have to recognize that Obama (and Clinton, for that matter) are hugely compromised politicians. Flawed liars, and the most responsible for the failure of enacting a “progressive” agenda. And second, that the Democratic Party as an establishment voice can be summed up pretty much the same way. Wellstone and Feingold are gone, and no one else has stood up.

You know, when Markos and I wrote Crashing The Gates, just when we finished the draft, I had an OMG moment, saying to him–”you know, we haven’t said at all what we meant by ‘progressive’ throughout the book.” I threw in a link in the footnotes to something about it moving things forward, but really, it made me pause to wonder at my faith that they meant what we meant. So, I’ve had to accept the failure to grasp that insight. We thought it was just about using tough tactics and the rest would follow. Because we knew it was the moment for the Democrats to have a massive majority. Fuck, weren’t we naive?

I left the Democratic party after 2010– threw away the whole Gravy Train Democratic consulting gig. Sure, I didn’t like the way that my entire world got dropped. I too put some years into it. As a sort of cleansing, last cycle I went to work helping to primary some incumbents in both parties for a rich Texan PAC, and managing libertarian Gary Johnson’s internet campaign. I felt a lot clearer and cleaner having done the partisan purge. It made me realize that libertarians and progressives have a lot more in common than do either libertarians with the Republican party or progressives with the Democratic party. I’ve also come to believe that this alliance is where the next movement is.  It scares the shit out of the major parties, and the Government as a whole.

Yesterday, I was out on the DC Mall with this alliance. Against the surveillance state. Syria was another moment. SOPA also, and Audit the Fed. It’s a paradigm shifter, and it’s going to happen more and more. It could turn into something even bigger.

The alliance of progressives and libertarians (lets call it that for lack of a particular name for now) isn’t, for the most part, going to attract the purity-partisan types, the Democratic socialites like Tom Watson of Joan Walsh, or Daily Kos (though maybe Markos will get around to writing his “Libertarian Democrat” book and make a sea change there), but it’s going to happen regardless.

The oomph of the Democratic party in the blogosphere today can be summed up with a cursory glance at posts and comments on Balloon Juice, Little Green Footballs and Booman Tribune. They bend over backwards to justify the party bailing out banks, the nation going deeper into debt with global military expansion, and spying on citizens, yet they’ll nitpick that a libertarian is willing to allow abortion to be a state issue. They are more concerned with attacking truth-tellers like Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, and Edward Snowden than they are keeping anyone accountable or demanding transparency. That’s what they are really good at– justifying why the powerful should stay so and attacking the ones who challenge power. And, if needed, providing a handy social lifestyle issue to keep the division. There’s no energy left. Nothing that inspires people that are pissed off and want change. Just finger-pointing at the other team. It’s become pointless and principle-less tribalism.

We saw a big step with the netroots organizing last decade. It was the most exciting thing to happen within the Democratic Party in decades, but I now view it in a wider scope, without the partisan obstacle.I don’t think it’s over. It is dark. The internet is still hopeful for organizing a revolution. What I saw happen with the movement against Obama invading Syria tugged at my attention. Maybe we still could have some real transformational shifts happen, in the US and globally. I hope so. I’m counting on it to keep my sanity from making the traditional American blitz. When things get too tight, picking it all up and moving further west… to some remote pacific island. No wifi, just yoga :)


A brief note on why the progressive blog movement failed


Progressive Blog #Fail: Moral Failure or Demographic Doom?


  1. Dan H

    I agree with Ian that this is enlightening, in that is an excellent example of how stupid we are as a society, and probably as a species. How is the libertarian stance any different from what the average American has ever believed? Bootstraps bullshit. But oh, now TPTB are scared because its revolutionary and going to change things!? LMFAO, can you really be this naive? From a dog eat dog outlook to a dog eat dog outlook, but theres synergy this time! TPTB are afraid that they will have to compete! And we liberals know a bit better but hey, this time well be able to take this energy and meld with it… Progressives and libertarians are united in their delusional idiocy.

  2. Dan Kervick

    These people are still living in 2005: still fighting Iraq War era battles, still obsessed with imperialism and the state despite the US’s rapidly crumbling global footprint and influence, still embracing the “paranoid style” of American politics. They really have no progressive agenda apart from the most half-baked impulses, since they are fundamentally hostile to government. That is why they are falling apart as a potential source of progressive development and change.

    Here’s what it seems to come down to. There are some people who are willing the heart Ron and Rand Paul and other far right laissez faire types, because all they really care about is whether the NSA is inserting electrodes in their brains or reading their emails, and because every issue for them is rapidly turned into some kind of highly emotional conspiracy theory based on a co-dependent blogospheric ranting. There is no real foundation for progress here. It’s just a bunch online geeks stewing in a contemporary style of anti-government, anti-social left Bircherism.

  3. Jerome Armstrong

    I don’t pretend that this alliance of progressives and libertarians is a cure-all or a new 3rd party movement. I also don’t think that obstacles like money or time or funding are in the way of making it grow and happen. This is available right now. The main obstacle is mental. Can you change your mind to see something different? There were way more libertarians showing up on the mall than there were progressives. Get beyond being a Democrat or a Republican. Trash that, and just be an individual willing to work with others on things we’ve in common. Life’s too short to be evolutionary stuck in partisan tribalism your whole life.

    I’ve an idea for the ones like Matt Stoller, Jane Hamsher, Yves Smith, Justin Raimondo, Matt Welch and Patrick Ruffini. Imagine that 100 of us got together of these different stripes (but want much of the same thing) and figured out 5 concrete things that form an agenda of the alliance. Maybe there’s 10. Make it as much online as offline. What the common legislative agenda, right now. And then make the individuals politicians, Democrats and Republicans, pledge which ones they will back. The agenda won’t satisfy everyone, but it will focus on the big agreement rather than continue to be manipulated by the tiny agenda of the parties that keeps focus away from the things we can change. It would give us a benchmark for knowing who to work on, who to pressure, and who to replace in both parties, on these issues.

  4. Maddy M

    It isn’t just a few social issues that stop us from joining with Libertarians. Although we are on the same page with civil liberties, they disdain everything we FDR type Lefties hold dear. They are the original “if your poor it’s your own fault” faction. We love government programs like SS, Medicare etc. whilst they hate ALL government programs and side with Republicans in wanting to drown then in a bathtub. I have no answers. I too left the Dem Party after the 2004 debacle and do not see any alternative rising. :-/

  5. I don’t see any possibility with an alliance with Libertarians, the party is a front for the Koch brothers. It would be like an alliance with police informers. Nothing tainted by Koch money should be touched. The Koch brothers are trying to destabilize the country. Libertarians do not accept the idea of a social compact, which is the basis of all modern liberalism. I am all for dumping the Democrats, but from the Democrats to the Libertarians is like from the frying pan to the fire.

  6. Libertarians have been trying to assume the “liberal” or “progressive” mantle for quite a long time now. They see such weakness among the Democrats that many of them have seen that Dem extinction is nigh and have strenuously advocated for it.

    But the way the political pendulum is swinging, we may see the extinction of the Rs first.

    As the Democratic Party becomes more firmly conservative, the Rs become more radical and reactionary. A libertarian alternative to to Democrats would likely be even more reactionary than the current R Party under TP dominance.

    Instead of trying to figure out how to align with libertarians, maybe online “progressives” would do better to figure out how to build a better future among and with the remnants of the leftist political interests. Some of them still exist…

  7. Junipero

    I see three basic failures that the progressive Netroots made. First was to go all in on electing Democrats without being more selective about that support. Losing the Lamont and Halter races were a big blow. But just as important were all the bad Democrats, the Claire McCaskills, that the Netroots backed in ’06 and ’08. That strategy might have worked had they been able to save these Dems in ’10 but they couldn’t even do that, ushering in the incredibly destructive era of Tea Party rule in Congress. This eroded their credibility and power just as much as their failed primary challenges. The electoral failures in Wisconsin in 2011 and 2012 also loom large.

    Second and third were their failure to build an infrastructure that could sustain the blogs, or something like it, as a media force, and the failure to broaden their base. These are distinct but related failures. The crash of 2008 destroyed the blogosphere as many proprietors were unable to continue writing without finding a way to pay the bills. Many closed shop and left politics to ensure they kept a roof over their heads. Others had to go get political jobs which compromised their ability to speak openly and honestly. What money did exist went to MSNBC, HuffPo, and other neoliberal outlets, as Stoller pointed out in the other thread. The corporate media is more influential than ever before, speaking to the blogs’ collective failure to shift the narrative for good.

    Part of the reason why they dried up was their failure to reach out beyond their base. The blogs never really broke out into the masses, never were able to reach a bigger audience. Obama was able to do so using the tools that the blogs and Netroots had built. He exposed the Netroots’ basic failure and this was evident in early 2008. Between 2005 and 2008 too much time was spent on internecine arguments within the Netroots rather than building the base. The result was when the crash of 2008 came, the Netroots didn’t have the broad reach they needed in order to survive.

    The path forward will not look the same as it did from 2002 to 2012. The Netroots haven’t really adapted and don’t show much interest in adapting. Netroots Nation has become bland and tiresome, lacking innovation, a strategy, or a sense of purpose and mission. The Netroots orgs that grew out of the first decade are ossified, with stale email lists that have been burned to a crisp through repeated asks for money. They are ineffective paper tigers, reduced to meekly defending a terrible Rube Goldberg contraption that is being passed off as health care reform rather than going populist and using the failures of Obamacare to revive the movement for single-payer.

    No, the path forward will involve a better thought out and more coordinated version of the authentic bottom up actions we’ve seen this decade. The 2011 mobilization in Wisconsin would have achieved something had it not wandered into the same cul-de-sac of blindly supporting Democrats that the Netroots had. Occupy Wall Street might have had some lasting effect had it not been organized as an anarchist project. California is the only place in the country where progressives actually won outright victories in recent years, in large part because labor, community orgs (including ACORN’s remnants), and progressive activists figured out how to broaden their base and support effective policies. The Chicago Teachers Union victory was hugely significant, and the mobilizations around the country for a higher wage could be the spark of a true mass movement to challenge inequality. None of these alone signify a movement at all, but they could well be the raw materials that we use to create one in the coming years.

    Re: progressive/libertarian alliance: there may well be something here, though I don’t think it’s actually in allying with libertarian leaders. The Netroots are letting people like Rand Paul and Justin Amash get away with owning issues that progressives ought to own, like opposition to NSA surveillance. Paul is showing populist acumen in making an issue of it, whereas the Netroots are too locked into reflexive Obama defense to seize the opportunity to use the issue to help rebuild its base by reaching out to the people who are being seduced by Paul because he’s one of the few people to openly, and often dishonestly, take a stand against the consistent erosion of our rights.

  8. Dan Kervick

    I also am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. But I see no foundation for work with people in the Paul, Rothbard, Raimondo, Hayek, Rand etc. camp. In my view, the US needs to move in the direction of greater solidarity, social commitment and national purpose behind an economically pro-active government, pursuing an agenda of strategic economic transformation, state-financed full employment, egalitarian income redistribution and mission-driven public investment. The libertarian camp with its radical individualism, laissez faire economic agenda and all-embracing hostility to government is nearly 180 degrees from where I am.

  9. This libertarian-“progressive” (must have square quotes) alliance sure as hell doesn’t interest a Green leaner like me. (I’ve not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate this century, but I’m not a registered Green.)

    Add in that Jerome admits working for Gary Johnson, and barf. (At least Johnson is a purer libertarian, and a person of more integrity, than Paul fils or pere.)

    And, ally with somebody as … as I don’t know what, but as “something” as Raimundo? Again, no effing way.

    Jerome, why don’t you just help Markos look for those secret librulz in the CIA, instead?

  10. Oh, and I never bought into that Netroots crap and Markos suspended my Kos account (got booted in all but name) for being too progressive and too Green.

  11. Mark Gisleson

    If Bill Halter is worthy of a sidebar, then so too is Al Franken. The Netroots rushed into Minnesota gleefully shoveling money to Al who was, easily, the third most liberal candidate in the DFL primary.

    Liberals could have had Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, a very liberal college professor who would have continued the Wellstone tradition, or Mike Ciresi, a successful businessman, pro-choice Catholic and hard-nosed negotiator. Thanks to Netroots money, Franken was a shoo-in even after Ciresi bowed out to give Nelson-Pallmeyer a better shot.

    For those prone to memory lapses, the Franken-Coleman election was so close the Republicans were able to keep Franken from being seated until June 30 of the next year. Thanks to Ted Kennedy dying earlier in the year, the Democrats never had a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

    Franken was a visibly flawed candidate. Early in his primary run I spotted a YouTube of him speaking to a class of high school seniors in which he clearly said, “What the fuck…” That YouTube was disappeared and, as a prog blogger, I never posted about it. But the Franken campaign made many more mistakes that kept the sleazy Norm Coleman in the race to the bitter end. And, obviously, Franken has not voted as a progressive, giving support to the copyright monopolists and the surveillance state.

    No, I’m not a fan of the Netroots either. If you want a Democratic party that will accomplish platform goals, you need to let each state pick their candidates. Progs don’t have a base in Missouri? Write it off and focus on creating a base. But don’t send in out-of-staters to do your organizing or you are literally no better or different than the Tea Party types.

    Out-of-state money should stay the hell out of state primaries unless the choices are stark, or at least Liebermanesque.

  12. JZ

    Dan K misrepresents libertarians in his screed labeling their “all-embracing hostility to government”. Nonsense:

    Dan’s litmus test for the good society is not even remotely plausible. It’s simply naive. It certainly, to my thinking, does not comport with Ian’s view on a new ideology, in that Dan’s vision would be tilted much too far to radical centralized government. Individuals be damned. We’ve seen how that works the past 100 or so years. I’m frightened by his rhetoric, far more than that of the libertarians, whom I don’t much care for either. I prefer a synthesis of great ideas, however they are ideologically labeled, to Dan’s utopian nonsense. I prefer to meet the world I inhabit on where it’s at now, not where I hope it will be some day far in the future, if at all. That means making alliances with those folks whose ideas dovetail with mine, along with the sentiments of the vast majority of Americans too. Compromise isn’t a dirty word. The notion that it’s a my way or the highway, all or nothing proposition is ludicrous. That’s coercion inducing rubbish. Perhaps this synthesis will fall flat, but it’s seems to me it’s well worth a try given the pluralistic state of the nation–read: lack of consensus writ large that isn’t going away soon no matter how much one demonizes the “other side” . Figure out a way to effect change, yes. Discounting cooperation with others because they lack some mythical notion of purity is a certain death sentence in moving forward.

  13. Jerome, check out my comment on the previous post. Wandering in the wilderness here I’ve discovered that i do have some agreements with the right libertarians as far as the Federal Reserve (but not return to the gold standard) and NSA spying are concerned. We differ in our view of “freedom”. They see it as amassing a property and then having to defend it with guns. I see freedom as freedom from subservience; from having a “boss” or a “lord”. That resonates a bit with them. If you still work for a boss, then it is best to have solidarity among fellow workers so that a “boss” cannot get rid of you because he doesn’t like you or he doesn’t like the way you look. Better to not have a hierarchy or bosses at all though. Better to have worker owned businesses. Another argument is since there are still cooperatives here in rural Montana, discussing cooperatives with libertarians creates some common ground. When they privatized Montana Power everybody’s electric rates sky rocketed. So, the more reasonable conservatives do see that some utilities might be better implemented if owned cooperatively. Also we have stream access for fishing. Rights to water is very important, so it too should be held in common. I made this argument about health care being like a utility and was modestly successful.

  14. par4

    What’s wrong with direct democracy. Does the idea of having to trust the common sense of the people scare too many lib/progs? As for “libertarians” I can’t trust any movement that has to steal the name of another much older ideology.(Libertarian Communism)

  15. @JZ
    I think you mean consensus or a synthesis of thesis and anti thesis. I love consensus. It takes opposing ideas and tries to come up with a new idea out of them. In Ron Suskind’s book on Paul O’Neill the first secretary of treasury under Bush, he talks about how he was interested in “the new idea”. So you can see why he didn’t last. I use consensus in my business dealings. It’s coming up with an idea everybody can live with rather than giving up things.

    Right Libertarians hate the state when they see it as “hindering the freedom of property”. Left Libertarians hate the state because they see it “as the bastion of property”. Both right and left do not feel the imperative to organize around something called government. The left like a Kropotkin would have mutual aid societies rather than a bureaucracy called “Health and Human Resources”. The left libertarians would also agree that a “Department of Education” is not needed and that national standards are bogus and there should be no “race to the top”.

  16. bystander

    Ewwwww, L/libertarians have Cooties!

    Or, at least that’s how the resistance reads to me, anymore. But, then, I’ve only been a consistent vote for Democrats for the past 40 years having never been a registered Democrat. In 2012, I voted for Gary Johnson. And, if H. Clinton is the Democratic candidate in ’16, I’ll do it (or, the equivalent) again. There is no earthly way that progressives are going to influence the Democratic Party machine’s agenda without scaring them shitless. The DLC, DCSC, DCCC… will effectively block, neuter or co-opt any truly progressive/populist effort, any grassroots group attempts to undertake under their umbrella, Every.Single.Time.They.Try. And, there aren’t enough aggressive progressives to even get the DLC-DCSC-DCCC’s attention should they try.

    I’ll make common cause with L/libertarians whenever there is an intersection of values, or shared purpose. It might be that civil liberties (red as: surveillance) is the only port of trade. That would be disappointing, but I’ll take it over an empty space. Working towards something beats the hell out of caterwauling over the differences. If progress is destined to be accomplished on a coalition by coalition – issue by issue – basis, it’s going to be a very long road. And, I’m too old to imagine that I’ll ever see more that one successful effort. But, that one is worth working for.

  17. Dan Kervick

    Discounting cooperation with others because they lack some mythical notion of purity is a certain death sentence in moving forward.

    I don’t discount cooperation JZ. If there are a few specific bills that progressives and Rand Paul can team up on related to things like better regulating the NSA, then fine. I’m just uninterested in any kind of broader coalition or alliance with those guys and their comrades, because on 19 issues out of 20, they will be pushing in a very different direction than the direction I favor.

    It’s not about purity. I’m not saying that Ron and Rand Paul are close, but not perfect. I’m saying that I think they are dead wrong on the majority of issues I care most about.

    I’m not happy with center-left neoliberals either. But if they are willing to fight to preserve Social Security against the attacks of the laissez faire camp, then that’s something I would be happy to partner with them on.

    By the way, I had no idea people were still using the term “netroots”. I hadn’t hear that term in years.

  18. JZ


    I want what you want. I really do. I’m just not sure it can be achieved, if at all, absent one hell of a bloody fight. I also don’t want it forced on people. I don’t want another revolutionary bloodbath that has the cure ending up worse than the disease. Thus, I’d much rather prefer it being embraced rather than coerced, with the latter way possibly being the only way before it’s too late, which has me teetering on accepting some degree of the former. On the other hand if the effects of this fucked up way of life start being felt by enough people in the near future then perhaps we’ll find consensus in time. After reading Kunstler today, I sure have my doubts:

  19. amspirnational

    Alliances are fine, as individuals, or groups, but I wouldn’t take alliances too seriously until you have viable third and fourth parties strong enough to contend elections in widespread areas–then discuss what will then be the important issue of party alliances on certain projects.

  20. Dan Kervick


    It would be nice for there to be no coercion, but no significant good has ever been accomplished without substantial numbers of people being compelled to accept it. Social Security, child labor restrictions, working class bargaining rights and wage floors, the destruction of chattel slavery and feudal serfdom, the displacement of monarchic governments by parliamentary ones, female suffrage, high marginal tax rates on the rich, inheritance taxes – all of those things were passed into law and in the face of abundant kicking and screaming from people who were strongly opposed.

    It’s nice to build as durable a consensus as is possible, but in a democratic society, the best one can ask for and deserve is an equal share in the law-making power of the country. If that were ever achieved, it would still be the case that a majority would sometimes succeed in imposing their political will on a minority. The US isn’t a chunk of land filled with 300 million sovereign individual countries. It’s one political community.

  21. amspirnational

    You haven’t considered the possibility that w/o political de-evolution, socialism is unworkable?

  22. former activist

    I had a moment a few months ago where I looked around as an online organizer and asked – what the hell am I really doing? I was on payroll for the one progressive org I’d idolized my entire political career… but we didn’t really care about the work… about winning anything… it was all just about building an email list. After about 3 months of nonstop bitching and being miserable I finally alienated pretty much everyone around me and decided to quit show business.

    I agree that libertarians and progressives have a LOT in common. It’s that old joke about the CEO, the libertarian and the progressive and a plate of cookies. CEO eats all but one turns to the libertarian and says – that liberal wants your cookie and leaves. We should be working together on a great many things – but both sides have been co-opted by their relative establishments. Though less so on the right.

    I would argue that like all movements our tendency to fund older orgs that have far outlasted their usefulness rather than look at either local or smaller orgs that actually move people and policy is what will be our downfall. We’re spreading money too thin. Do you register voters? Do you GOTV? Do you win elections? Do you train activists? Do you lobby congress? Then what use are you to the movement?

  23. Minimax

    You know, when Markos and I wrote Crashing The Gates, just when we finished the draft, I had an OMG moment, saying to him–”you know, we haven’t said at all what we meant by ‘progressive’ throughout the book.”

    It took Armstrong until the final draft to notice that?


  24. You know, every time a disillusioned American left-liberal proposes an alliance with the libertarians, a copy of the Fountainhead gets its wings. I really have to laugh. Who are you kidding? Y’all have way more in common with the sellout neoliberals Dem elite than you would care to admit. I mean, even in terms of agreed-upon values. And I should hope so!

    Hear this now: there will be no “emergent” party outside the Dem structure until you have understood how and why the voter is driven to vote they way s/he votes. You can poll people for single payer, you can educate them, and all that jazz, but it means squat until you learn to study how people *feel* about it, and feel when they enter the voting booth. Until then, even if eats a kitten live on stage and worse, I recommend now as then that you vote for Obama or HClinton or whatever other neoliberal elected imperator comes to the fore the next times around, until infinity.

  25. Jerome Armstrong

    @Montanamaven, I enthralled in those last few graphs on that other comment, would love to read your book.

    @SocraticGadfly, I’ve worked on and voted for Green party in Oregon, Nader in ’96. I don’t mind voting outside the box with 3rd party. Am supporting Sarvis for Gov in VA this year.

    @Minimax, well, at least I thought of it before Markos. Seriously though, that’s when I threw in a bone about it in the footnotes. That dilemma had been a presence in the blogs since Dean/Clark.

    @former activist Yep. I don’t think most progressives I see comment actually talk to real libertarians.

    @Mandos. See my comment above. Not talking about a new party, but an alliance on specific legislative agenda: Audit the Fed, repealing War Powers Act, rolling back NSA, Homeland Security…

    @Junipero I don’t think its in allying with Libertarian leaders either. See my comment above, second paragraph for an idea. It’s about making an alliance of activists on a specific agenda, and stopping the agenda that we both oppose (ie, attacking Syria, for example).

    @Dan Kervick I’m not interested in a candidate-centric thing here, and just advocate voting 3rd party, whomever. Just seems like a dead end to go that way. But I think we can do something with an alliance around specific issues. An agenda that we can follow up with electorally.

  26. Everythings Jake

    At base, I think Netroots simply didn’t, virtually or in reality, feed or comfort anyone or provide any real sense of solidarity. For the sites that were aimed nationally, I’m not really sure it changed lives in a way that could be felt meaningfully on the local level, or that it seemed particularly interested in connecting with real on the ground movements. That may be more impression than fact, because I didn’t follow it rigorously and haven’t researched the case. I was interested by Move On because I knew one of its early movers and shakers, but it’s general drift was off-putting and it was impossible to keep up with the barrage of e-mails. Once my friend left, I took my name off the their e-mail list, although I had long since stopped engaging with it. Daily Kos always felt remote, cold, and coercive and more interested in propping up a structure I already felt post-Bill Clinton was completely hollow.

    I happen to like this site because it focuses on unvarnished non-partisan truth, and those conversations are hard to come by in any forum, virtual or real, but real conversations over coffee are better. What the Unions used to know, but have largely forgotten, and what Occupy briefly resuscitated, was a sense of real community, that the work of a Union doesn’t stop at the worksite, or that the work of politics doesn’t stop at an internet poll or the voting booth. Suborned to the aim of achieving real in person community the internet could be (and is) a wonderful tool, witness the Arab Spring, and it’s that same partnership that will be needed to overcome the counter-revolution there as well.

    I also think that too many intellectualized political progressive movements, and the Netroots movement seems to qualify, think that arguments based on fact matter, and that just appears not to be the case, we will always lose to the propagandists until the system is so bad, people know for certain (even if they are afraid to say it) that Pravda (or our versions The NY Times) is simply a lie from the very first page to the very last.

    It’s community engagement that matters and that has a far more powerful effect. If those who shape community do so based on factual analysis, so much the better, but organizations like Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood which many might not find to offer a secular humanist democratic vision of the world they might like, win hearts and minds by providing meaningful infrastructure, jobs and social services. In the same fashion that FDR was beloved (not of course by all, but by a very great many) for the perception, largely reasonable, that he lifted the country out of The Great Depression.

    The Netroots movement might have helped with moving a vote on this atrocity (Food Stamp Shutdown Looms Friday), but taking some food to struggling working families, or volunteering to care for someone’s child who’s struggling while working several jobs will always make a bigger impact. Disconnected from that kind of community engagement, the movement withers.

    Fairly, there’s only so much time in the day and the challenge of meaningfully connecting the local to the national to the global has not been exceptionally difficult without the resources of transnational capital, which certainly doesn’t do it in humanity’s interest.

  27. Ian Welsh

    Jake: the point about feeding and comforting is an important one, I agree.

  28. Jose Arcadio Buendia

    Jerome, you is no a ting, bruv.

  29. Faced with the horrible prospect of an “East-West Corridor” transecting the state of Maine, the guys with beards and guns in the woods and the goos goos from Portland somehow combined to help to the farmers whose farms were in the crosshairs of the damned thing, and stopped it. In the face of the corrupt legacy party apparatus that runs the state, I might add. If forces across the spectrum hadn’t managed to rally, the Corridor would have been built, benefiting a few oligarchs and nobody else. The party apparatchiks I can’t talk to at all. The guys with guns and beards I can at least talk to, even if I disagree with half of what they say.

  30. Jerome Armstrong

    John Cole is is a bit tee’d-off with the groupings I made of the blogs above. Which I guess is the sort of thing that happens when you make a comment that turns into a blog post. But as I pointed out to him there, and can be more specific here, the commenters on BJ’s are exactly as I posted, not the posts; on Booman Tribune, I’d say it’s the opposite; on LGF both. Doesn’t it say it all that the most rabid dog partisan site for Democrats nowadays is LGF.

  31. Dan Tomkinson

    I’ve been a member of the Libertarian party since Poppy Bush pardoned the entire Iran Contra criminal enterprise and I consider myself quite open minded. I joined the Libertarians because when I left the republicans, the Dems were just as glad handing to corporate interests as their counterparts. They folded when Reagan fired the air traffic controllers, they gave in when the borrow loophole was put into the SS FICA Tax increase in 86, (I want my 2.6 trillion dollars back God Dammit!), they rode along for the ride when Reagan lauded the Cadillac driving welfare queen, they bent over when Gingrich introduced his list of words…

    In other words, I have a real hard time supporting a party of spineless twits solely concerned with their continued access to the government pay trough.

    So I joined the Libertarian party because even then, they were anti drug war, and heavy civil liberties. But I always drew the line at corporate influence and watched with great sadness as the Koch brother’s money eroded the rational thinkers away from civil libertarians like myself.

    Today, with the prevalence of so much glibertarian think tank bullshit and the unholy alliance with the holier than thou’s there is no difference between the modern libertarian party and the modern republican party. They are misinformed misanthropes who’s concept of macro economics is ideologically forbidden to extend beyond their personal checkbook.

    Today’s libertarian would rather defend an abortion clinic bomber than allign with the caricature of a progressive as it’s so often portrayed by that famous self proclaimed glibertarian Glenn Beck.

    You have no clue what your asking for, and even though many policy positions regarding actual civil liberties may, in fact, be shared between the two…the modern glibertarian would rather shoot a modern progressive in the head and claim “Stand your ground” than be caught in bed, politically, with the reviled and despised progressive.

    It is what it is.

    I can’t stand spineless democrats, I can’t stand the fascist republicans and now I can no longer stand the Glib Libertarians…

    What the hell is a pragmatist to do?

  32. S Brennan

    Hey Ian, you made

  33. Jerome Armstrong

    @Dan Tomkinson, as a progressive, I went and worked on Gary Johnson’s campaign, went back and forth with him as I drafted out the entire website platform, didn’t hide where I was coming from, and we had disagreements. But mostly agreement. And if you had showed up at the mall last weekend, you would have noticed that the libertarians were in greater number, asking why more progressives hadn’t showed up.

    And as I noted above, there’s not a reason to align with any of the parties. That’s not what the alliance is about– it’s about a legislative agenda.

  34. markfromireland

    @ Everythings Jake@

    October 28, 2013 Suborned to the aim of achieving real in person community the internet could be (and is) a wonderful tool, witness the Arab Spring, and it’s that same partnership that will be needed to overcome the counter-revolution there as well.

    So far the ‘Arab Spring’ has resulted in entrenching the Egyptian military tyranny yet deeper into Egyptian society and in the case of the Copts savage religious persecution, then there’s the vicious treatment of Syrian refugees, to say nothing of the increased suffering of the Gazan population. Things are no better in Tunisia where it all started than they were under Bouteffika – and are arguably worse as tourists have been scared off by reports of political violence. Libya is sliding ever more rapidly into a tribal and failed state that exports violence and weaponry at a phenomenal rate. Then there’s war in Syria the savagery of which is an order of magnitude worse than anything I saw in Irak during the ‘war of the death squads’. Political violence in Lebanon has escalated massively both in intensity and frequency and no it’s not just spill over from Syria. And that’s just a few of the Arabic countries – do you remember the so-called “Twitter Revolution” in Iran? The one where backed by western governments and to loud chorus of approval from western liberals some of the most corrupt politicians Iran has ever seen tried to pretend the election had been stolen? It hadn’t and what had been a mildly reformist populist presidency clamped down savagely.

    The time of the western-inspired ‘colour revolutions’ is over and a good thing too any worthwhile improvement in the Middle-East or North-Africa is going to have to come from hard work and struggle from within broad local coalitions and not from well-fed western-inspired middle class ‘activists’.

    I’d be the last person to disagree with your other points. Community involvement is essential, as both Hizballah and the Ikhwanis can testify. But you don’t have to go to the Middle East for examples the same is also true of Western countries. The cooperative movement in both Denmark and Ireland played a large part in lifting those countries from poverty. The trade union movement/Labour Party in the UK was a communitarian one that, unlike the American left succeeded. There are lots of studies on how it worked and why. If anybody wants some non-academic reading which gives a good introduction to the roots of the Labour/Socialist movement of the period and why it succeeded then I suggest Robert Tressell’s novel The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists which is a fictionalised account that drew heavily on reports and documented accounts. Similarly the Swedish Social Democrats were heavily communitarian and solidaristic providing everything from kindergartens to ‘helping hand’ services to the elderly.


  35. markfromireland

    Oops there’s an unedited sentence for:

    Things are no better in Tunisia where it all started than they were under Bouteffika – and are arguably worse as tourists have been scared off by reports of political violence.

    Please read:

    Things are no better in Tunisia where it all started than they were under Bouteffika in Algeria when he got started – and are arguably worse as tourists have been scared off by reports of political violence.


  36. There were many things that contributed to the failure of the Netroots, but chief among them was the Great Purge of 2008. Suddenly it wasn’t good enough to just be a liberal Democrat, you had to support Obama or you were a racist Republican ratfucker.

    That schism never healed.

  37. Greg T

    Yes, there are issues where libertarian right and libertarian left can agree.

    Rollback of the national security state- withdrawing military bases overseas, eliminating NSA, reducing the CIA to analytical/intelligence functions and curtailing activities of the clandestine service/covert ops divisions.

    Even the libertarian right might agree to an aggressive infrastructure investment program.

    Breaking up cartels , particularly the banking cartel.

    The relationship probably wouldn’t last in the reconstruction stage, but could work in the deconstruction phase.

  38. BTW – It has been a while since I have been here, but I see that some people are still trapped in the idiocy of labels. Labels are just another form of tribalism. They bind us to the wrong people and keep us separated from potential allies.

    After spending nearly 30 years as a self-identified liberal Democrat I am now an independent and my ideology has no name. I refuse to be pigeonholed by labels anymore.

    But my ideals and principles remain unchanged.

  39. Dan Kervick

    Sorry folks. It looks like I’ve wandered into the wrong place. This just isn’t my scene at all.

  40. Everythings Jake

    @ mfi

    I think Mark that you made the point I wanted to. Or maybe not. I meant to make clear that technology is only a tool that might be of service to the real necessary work, which I believe happens in exactly the way of the examples you pointed to. My read of history is that the way to effect meaningful social and economic change for the benefit of more than a few elite has always been and will likely always be long and hard, and for many, it will also be brutal and some will die. Taking Egypt, the case I’m most familiar with, I understood that substantial organizing and strikes by workers on the Nile was a principal foundation on which the “revolution,” which never really seemed to be that and short lived as it may have been, was built (with I think some tinder provided by increases in the price of food?) and that’s where it will likely continue. Technology may have facilitated gathering so many so quickly and in helping to coordinate some actions (and I’m not certain if in Egypt, but in Occupy demonstrations, a way to foil police attempts to corral demonstrators), but the conceit of Western media that the revolution was technological in nature or its origins were technological was I thought a near deliberate attempt to obscure meaningful analysis that very real class concerns were at play. I am not qualified to speak to the degree to which religious division plays a role in Middle Eastern politics of its own accord, except to observe that fanatical groups seems to gain a lot of power when conditions of economic misery are widespread.

  41. Everythings Jake

    By the way, further example of my not making a point clear, by “Or maybe not” I meant not an assessment of whether or not you bettered my point, but simply that I wasn’t entirely certain if I might in fact be making a different point.

  42. Hi Jerome – I see nothing wrong with progressive alliances with libertarians on specific issues – that’s just politics – as long as progressives doing so are clear-eyed about who exactly they are making alliances with.

    That’s just coalition politics. And, how many constituencies can an effective progressive movement throw under the bus ? Remember, the Democratic Party is heavily reliant upon the votes of citizens otherwise known as “women”.

    Thus, if you characterize access to birth control, abortion, and Planned Parenthood clinics as a “social lifestyle issue” and accuse those who oppose the religious right’s decades-long strategy of devolving the reproductive rights issue to the states, you would seem, to my mind, to be discounting one of the biggest demographics on the left.

    And for what?

    The problem with many “libertarians” is that they’re not. Or, rather, the libertarian tendency can be bisected into two main constituencies, secular libertarians, and religious libertarians — many of whom are under the ideological sway of Christian Reconstructionism.

    Ron Paul’s political organizing was one of the two main vectors of the 2009-21010 rise of the Tea Party (the other vector being Koch brothers-funded organizing). One of Paul’s top political advisers – who has co-authored Paul’s new Christian homeschooling curriculum – is Dr. Gary North, who is probably the second most important Christian Reconstructionist theory next to CR founder R.J. Rushdoony.

    Beyond the penchant of North and other Christian Reconstructionists for advocating that gays, un-chaste women (who have sex before marriage), adulterers, witches, idolaters, blasphemers, and rebellious teens be stoned to death, literally with rocks, Taliban-style, an equally significant aspect of the CR program is that almost any and all current government activities and programs are illegitimate, especially because they are funded by an illegitimate “taking” (taxation) that is, in effect, socialism. CR rejects, categorically, all government redistribution.

    Here’s the paradox – it’s fine to make common cause with folks who say they are “libertarians”, on specific issues – anti-interventionism, anti-surveillance, and so on – as long as one is clear that at the end of the (protest) day, Ron Paul will head off to a fundraiser to be photographed with the founder of the white supremacist website Stormfront… and as long as one is clear that there is no better apologist for corporate malfeasance and the current economic corporate regime than Ron Paul, who is opposed to any and all government intervention, regulation, or taxation.

    Back in 2008, when Ron Paul’s presidential bid was gaining lots of press (and raising lots of money) the libertarian magazine Reason attacked Paul by dropping the bomb that his political career had been built with heavy funding from neo-Nazi kingpin Willis Carto’s mailing list, for Carto’s publication The Spotlight. The long knives were out – the Koch-funded wing of the Tea Party wanted to squash Paul because they couldn’t control him (Paul and the Kochs have a long history, FYI — he was chairman of their group Citizens For a Sound Economy back in 1984.)

    And what did the Tea Party-backed politicians do when they got into office ? Well, they proceeded not only to unleash a flood of anti-reproductive rights and antigay legislation, but they also moved to crush unions, de-fund public schools, cut corporate taxes, cut programs for the poor, and generally seek to erase the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    But the 2010 wave was just a replay of the 1994 Gingrich-fronted wave, powered by the Christian Coalition and backed by Koch money, that rolled into Congress and proceeded to — hello ? — shut down the government.

    The new right and the religious right have been running strategic and tactical circles around the American left for decades. The people I encounter who seem, to have the most acute understanding of what’s going on are those who have bailed out of the Republican Party over the past twenty years.

    Meanwhile, I leave, for your consideration, Paul Weyrich’s Teaching Manual For The New Progressive Movement –

    Cheers, Bruce Wilson

  43. Jerome / Montana,

    It only takes ONE solid policy progressives and libertarians can agree on:

  44. Egypt Steve

    Heh. Alliance of progressives + libertarians = gay, dope-smoking bankster gun-nuts. Not gonna influence or change a damn thing, and in many ways make things worse. The Democratic party is an imperfect vehicle but it is the only vehicle for any sort of progressive change, however incremental and erratic.

  45. So aren’t libertarians just groovy with the coming cuts in food stamps? I’m not.

    I’m seeing a sort of grasping at straws. “We’ll organize an alliance between group X and group Y and group Z and it will somehow magically stand up against the big boys.” Libertarians who want “small government” and greens who want a World-War-II-style initiative to get the world society out of the fossil fuel business before global warming fries Earth to a crisp don’t mix.

    Do you need a philosophy? My recommendation is to start here:

    “Our task at hand, then, is to expand human versatility to the extent possible (and I don’t mean legally possible), in wait for the moment at which it will cause a revolution in human thinking, and in the case of its success the capitalocene will be brought to a screeching halt.”

    So, yeah, let’s start there. Food stamp cuts are inhumane and reduce humanity’s versatility. We should fight them.

  46. markfromireland

    @ Everythings Jake October 29, 2013

    Yes I think we were making complementary points with the proviso that the tool can be used both by the forces of revolution and those of the counter-revolution. Egypt and Iran being very good examples of exactly where that was done. (Iran particularly where the organisers of dueling demonstrations used exactly the same methods. There’s an idea in the West that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a Conservative and the ‘Greens’ were somehow ‘liberals’ or reformers. Ahmadinejad’s party Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran is a populist party small ‘c’ conservative party. And he represents the generation that fought in the war with Irak, being populists they did a fair bit of redistribtion/subsidisation. The ‘greens’ are economic liberals in the 19th century sense and some of the most corrupt and plutocratic figures in Iran today – such as Rafsanjani, stood behind them).

    I’ll add a further proviso which is that that smart ‘phone in a demonstrator’s pocket is also an instrument of social atomisation and that an atomised population are far easier to delude, distract, and control.

    It can also be an instrument of outright repression – but that’s a topic for another day.

    At to Egypt, religion and religious divisions play an important part in politics in every country here, in some countries it defines that country’s primary political activities. That’s not the case for Egypt which is overwhelmingly Sunni but Coptic Christians have always been the subject of social suspicion not least because they’ve tended to be both literate and better of than the peasants (Fellaheen) in the countryside and rural towns and villages and the displaced peasants who make up such a large proportion of Egypt’s urban poor. [Egypt’s Shi’i community is miniscule but they too have been attacked since the Ikhwani government was overthrown]. Copts (and Shi’i) make very convenient scapegoats and both have been scapegoated by all sides recently as have Syrian refugees and Gazan Palestinians.

    Yes Egyptian unions have been campaigning and will continue I suppose but they’re not all that significant a force. If I were organising a demonstration I’d want the ‘Ultras’ on my side and would be indifferent about the unions who are at best peripheral, it’d be nice to have them but not important. You’re right about the western perception of the technological revolution, Egypt is a (failing) agricultural economy that also has a large tourism sector. The twitterers and facebookers are a very thin veneer on top of that. It remains a peasant society albeit one with several large cities and one of the cruelest things that has been done to the peasantry has been the repeal of the land reforms of 1952 and the driving off the peasantry from holdings that were theirs and that were viable. The beneficiaries of this has been the army and their friends. The ‘revolutionaries’? Those nice middle class kids with their lazer shows? They don’t give a shit about the misery of either the fellaheen or the displaced landless peasants who’ve flocked to the cities. Who did care about them were the Ikhwanis who were trying to bring back the 52 legislation. Not going to happen now.

    Yes poverty and lack of opportunity can help breed fanaticism – which is one of the reasons why I was already pessimistic about Egypt’s future it has lots of young men with no future and no prospects and they’ve just been taught by experience that those people who said that the promises of democracy were a pack of lies were right.

    The heartbreaking thing about all of this is that inept and hamfisted as the Ikhwani were they did deserve support for one thing. And that was that they tried to do in Egypt what was successfully done in Turkey to force the army back into its barracks and under civilian control. Of course it took a long time in Turkey and there were massive setbacks along the way but for the present at least the Turkish Army and it’s ideology of Kemalist nationalism is under civilian control. They may hate and despise Erdogan and his government but they obey them. Morsi tried to do the same but neither the circumstances nor his character were favourable to the task. This is a crying miserable shame, civilised societies keep their military under control. The ones that don’t wind up barbarous. There was a chance to disentrench the military in Egypt from their control of the economy but that chance has now been blown – with the active connivance of the ‘democrats’ and ‘liberals’ this is unlikely to end well. What I suspect we’ll see in the near future is a revived security state in the cities and Sinai, and Bangladeshi levels of deprivation in the countryside it’s enough to make you weep.


  47. pk scott

    Progressivs and Libertarians? I don’t see it. The Libertarians are NOT social liberals they just hate the Federal government but they are states rights people all the way and unfortunately that is too often code for racism, (cough Civil War cough) and I say this as a Southerner who hears the dog whistles just fine. I also note that they have no problem with the States outlawing pot or abortion or curtailing your rights as a gay person, so really the only intersection I see is in the addled mind of young pot heads who hear “legalize marijuana” and do not hear the rest of the Libertarian message. While the idea of “personal responsibility” has merit it requires a level playing field and is suspicious when the people spouting it are sitting on top of a mountain of white male hetero privilege, just saying.

  48. markfromireland

    Incidentally I’ll add that I predicted much of this when the first Tahrir ‘revolution’ was taking place I said then and repeat now that the little fluffy bunnies in Tahrir square were the catspaws of the Egyptian army and that they’d be jetisoned the moment they’d served their purpose. I was publicly assured by every single American ‘lefty’ I know and quite a few I don’t that I was wrong and that I was anti-democratic, anti-freedom, a militaristic bastard, and quite a lot of things even less savoury. One of the most miserable failings of the American left is their adamant refusal to consider any model other than a Eurocentric one starting in 1848 (not saying the European left is much better mind you).


  49. Tess

    This past just doesn’t make any sense to me.

    How someone can be pro-libertarian and still complain about a public option being defeated by a market-based solution is simply beyond my ability to understand other people’s sophistry.

    And although I utterly dislike the big banks, I have to say that anyone who thinks that the bank bailout was just about the banks may simply not have an understanding of macroeconomics that’s adequate to understanding the issue. Even the crooks in the Bush administration wanted to let Lehman fail. And if they could have, both parties would have been happy to let the same happen to all the other greedy Wall Street Robert barons. The problem would have been cascade failure rolling through the economy and costing us many millions more jobs, most not even in the financial sector. Do some reading on the Paradox of Deleveraging sometime. Remember: FDR bailed out the banks, too.

    And as far as picking a partisan side goes, the Democrats are the only group with actual power that will fight for me and my rights. Being able to walk away from them if they don’t do things just like you want them to is a straight white male privilege: the rest of us *need* the Democrats.

  50. @Jerome: If John Cole isn’t teed off, u r doin it wrong.

  51. John Casper

    mfi, great comment.

    Always in your debt for how much you have helped me, others understand the Middle East.


    IIRC, Jane Hamsher’s point has always been that the low hanging fruit for a left-right coalition is pot legalization (Big Pharma), Wall Street, and pulling back from foreign military bases (Military/National Security/Industrial complex which includes Google and the rest of Big Data)

    I think @MasaccioFDL says it really cleanly here.

    I would strongly encourage you to follow @StephanieKelton , @wbmosler , and other proponents of Modern Monetary Theory. Libertarians love it, because it calls for lower federal taxes. Liberals love it, because it calls for increased federal spending. Their key insight is that demand-pull inflation is the only fiscal constraint on federal spending. We can run out of potable water, safe food, sustainable energy, metals, and minerals, but we CANNOT ever run out of currency.

    Another issue is the interplay between state Democratic parties and the National Democratic party. I would argue the former is more important, although certainly flawed. Here in Wisconsin, corporate Dems are playing “identity politics.” They’re running a pro-choice Republican (Mary Burke, Trek Bicycle) who will be good on GLBT rights (Mary Burke, Trek Bicycle) . Since she’s early 50’s, never married? no kids?, everyone will assume she’s lesbian. Low information voters will think she’s a liberal, and then she (I’m afraid) will just continue Walker’s union busting.

    Not sure how a candidate can be pro-choice and anti-collective bargaining. What good are abortion rights if women can’t afford health care, contraception, and an abortion?

    I had no problem with swing state voters who voted for Obama. The only difference I saw between Mitt and Barack was voting rights, but that’s a really big issue.
    I see no daylight between HRC and Obama.

  52. Everythings Jake


    As always, thanks for the detail and perspective. I’m not sure if you have read Michael Perelman’s The Invention of Capitalism, which you may find interesting. Although, you may not need to read it, as it sounds like you are a front line witness to the worst aspects it addresses. Your analysis of the repeal of the 1952 land reforms shares much in common with one of the book’s central themes.

    Completely agreed on your point on technology. I started to add it last night, but did not want to run on. One concern I have is that implementation of the modern Panopticon, locally, nationally, globally, and a para-militarized police force armed with modern weaponry such as the “Active Denial System,” not to mention the lethal weaponry, are the tools needed for the elite to achieve, in Michael Parenti’s analysis, a fascist state resistant to all challenge as a final solution to class conflict in their favor. I take some hope, I guess, that resistance is possible as the U.S. lost in Iraq and is losing and will lose in Afghanistan. On the other hand, if we lost, who won (Iran perhaps) and how exactly do you measure the victory when the entire country seems left broken, shattered and littered with depleted uranium?

  53. 4

    There were many things that contributed to the failure of the Netroots, but chief among them was the Great Purge of 2008.

    There was far more than just a single purge. Daily Kos is such a desert now because what’s there is mostly just the very hardest core of Obama supporters, the major Obama critics having been driven off in the first wave of bannings, and the insufficiently reverent devotees taken out by the later ones.

    (Not that a site that makes it official policy to automatically ban anyone who openly refuses to vote for a Democrat, regardless of how odious the Democrat in question might be, was much for freewheeling discussion in the first place. With a policy like that instituted by his comrade-in-arms, Armstrong’s complaint that the Netroots were undiscriminating in their support is disingenuous. Simply to make that argument was, at the time, a bannable offense.)

  54. 4

    When, after having $10M to spend in a primary against a incumbent that sided with the banks and defeated the public option in the Senate, all it proved was that the sitting Democratic President was against us.

    Armstrong doesn’t mention the comparable amount spent by the Democratic Party to defend Lincoln, and the mopey tone of this remark almost dovetails with the attitude of the Party establishment at the time, mocking the “lesser people”‘s temerity in thinking they could have some influence on their choice of candidate. Hah! The nerve of those losers!

    Frankly all the garment-rending and wallowing in shame I see above makes no sense to me. The conclusion I draw from the Lieberman and Lincoln debacles isn’t that the Netroots “failed”–I really don’t see anything else they could have done that would have been meaingfully better–it’s that the U.S electoral system is so thoroughly captured by insiders that it can’t really be characterized as democracy.

  55. Tbogg hates this post, so the chances are good that it’s excellent and insightful. Well done.

  56. Logan


    Hope you’re still following the comments.

    When looking back at the 2008 primaries, do you have thoughts on how to better deal with that situation, given the high likelihood that the Democratic party will see similar situations in the future. I was drawn to Obama because, unlike Clinton, he seemed to have seen how ill-advised the Iraq War was before going into it. Even though I realize there probably was no perfect progressive option in the primary, with hindsight, I can’t help but wonder what was a better course of action.

    This week, the House of Representatives will be voting to roll back the anti-derivative provisions of Dodd-Frank that Senator Lincoln introduced because of the pressure from the Democratic primary. Given that many New Democrats are strong advocates of the repeal, do you have any thoughts on operating within a party in which Wall Street has such a strong foothold?

    If I’m interested in working with libertarians and progressives, which I am, what online community can I turn to?

  57. wanderindiana


    What happened?

    Simply put, an organic backlash against Bush-Cheney devolved over a four-year period, 2003-2007, BY DESIGN.

    We were told by A-list bloggers that we had to change the system from within, and they controlled the movement and the message, deciding whose voices were worthy and circling wagons.

    Obama for America co-opted what remained, used it, then killed it. All moves were telegraphed to big money and entrenched political interests and our government institutions.

    Everything that happened from 2008 forward, including ACA/Health Care — death throes. OWS killed itself by going to the blogs.

    What remains is a joke.

  58. Jerome Armstrong

    @Lambert Strether

    Check out this graph on page 7, go through it and see where you find yourself. Chances are, you’ll find yourself with a 5-4 or 4-5 breakdown.

    @John Casper, Jane is way ahead with this, always has been. There’s an easy 10 issues to make a legislative agenda.

    @Logan, I don’t think it will ever be the same again. It was unique in that we had a movement formed when about 50% of the US was online, and the blogs were relatively new, and the place for social action.

    My guess, like Lambert and others believe, is that we are only seeing the beginning of the Democratic Party becoming the de facto corporate agenda majority party in the US in its leadership, as the Republican party becomes more populist and libertarian. At least through this decade.

    Yea, that bill in Congress is being pushed now by the Democrat Hines, who is fresh off his career at Goldman Sachs. And I had forgotten about that being the law Lincoln put in when she started feeling the heat we laid on her.

    There’s not a blog out there that is writing from this POV (working with libertarians and progressives), but this place is good, as there are many bloggers mostly open to the alliance. There’s a lot of hostility, especially on the progressive side, to making it work. But I have been surprised at the number of people that have reached out to me about trying to get an alliance based on a legislative agenda off the ground.

  59. Ian Welsh

    Lambert: I have a similar rule about Martin Longman. Fortunately he hates my original post, so it must be headed in the right direction.

  60. wanderindiana

    More concise analysis:

    My view has not really changed.

  61. RJ

    Tactical alliances with libertarians on particular issues sounds like a very good idea.

    Taking a larger view, I’m concerned that Libertarianism does not have a theory of political economy capable of running a 20th century state, much less a 21st century one. In particular, the capability to invest in the technologies and institutions necessary to adapt to/mitigate climate change, avoid critical resource bottlenecks, clean up and further automate the production system, avoid likely downsides of robo-nano-biotech, avoid economic instability through stabilizers and regulations, purposely target and develop necessary productive economic sectors, develop global policies to help lift billions out of poverty in both the 1st and 3rd worlds, transition “Green Revolution”-era agriculture to a sustainable basis, redesign cities to lessen energy intensity and make them more productive/liveable, and establish permanent self-supporting space habitats. In my opinion, this must all be done or moving well along within the next 50 years if we want the future to at least range between “ok” and “very nice” for more than the global top 0.01%.

    Then again, the current crop of people running the show don’t understand most of this either. But I’d prefer that the new boss not be the same as the old boss on issues of political economy and technological development–they’re just as important as surveillance and civil liberties, and it all relates together.

    If someone could make a convincing argument that a libertarian approach can effectively address much of what I list above, I’d be game for more than just a tactical alliance. Otherwise, I think its time for an entirely new movement that cuts through most of the existing categories. Use the new movement to bring aboard people from all over the place.

  62. Logan

    The hostility toward libertarians and progressives working together is what really gets me, and it’s been an issue since I got involved in politics, blogs, and all that jazz back in 2003 during the Howard Dean campaign.

    I remember trying to help a libertarian candidate who had joined the Democratic Party to run for Congress in 2006 work with the local DFA chapter and get a cold shoulder simply because of his background, even though he emphasized social issues, the war in Iraq, and the need to cut back subsidies to oil and gas companies in his campaign.

    I’ve also worked for what I firmly believed was a strong progressive candidate who, because they deviated on one or two issues, was viciously attacked by some members of the progressive blogging community.

    It’s not just hostility towards libertarians, it’s hostility towards progressives who don’t measure up on all issues. There’s litmus test after litmus test, and often not on something big like “Oppose Social Security Cuts!” but “Sign this letter that shows you oppose Social Security cuts in using the language that I prefer but maybe you wouldn’t use.”

    And then there are the failures. Ann Kuster in New Hampshire ran as a progressive, twice, received significant support from the PCCC, and is now one of the worst New Democrats in Congress. How can you avoid that in the future? There was also the David Gill race in Illinois, where the PCCC upset the established Democratic pick in the primary, only to sit on their hands in the general election and watch Gill go down to defeat.

  63. Formerly T-Bear

    If an external perspective of the times being recalled may be of service, this period being cited may be considered the dawn of the age of the sovereign opinion, all other opinion being lesser, subjected to some opinion held by the person (and the tribe of likemindedness they inhabit). Not to fear, we’re now firmly encouched in the golden era of that age, the survivors will likely never enjoy its like again, the fortuitous conditions that gave it birth will never coincide in the same way.

    Opinion is a state of perception that defies definition, its constituent parts ephemeral and about as catchable as the pot of gold at rainbow’s terminus; it nonetheless has displaced fact and knowledge as currency of the political realm (political here defined as the art of gaining persuasion, influence or power over another). This environment is the likely outcome of the direction given by the system of education where the apparent purpose is to know more and more about less and less. The discount given to the utility of a general education has eliminated that species entirely from the curriculum, only the scions of great power can afford such educational luxury – guess how they shall use such knowledge, if you dare.

    Is it coincidence that the world power with the shortest history also has the shortest term memory of its affairs, or the lessons learned from their experience? One can also add the most myopic understanding of external experiences, as if all of the species hard earned experience was disposable rubbish, cluttering the living-space of their desires and beliefs, which like flags upon the wind changes direction on the variation of the prevailing breeze, magpies searching for the momentary glister provided by the hour’s light to occupy their attentions. These, far from the solid rock upon which to build their abodes, endlessly construct their ever changing villages, expending vast energies and resources to the tasks required of whim. That cannot last, that will not last; that is the zeitgeist of this time.

  64. Libertarianism is highly unpopular in this country, almost as unpopular as anarchism or communism. The main problem with libertarianism in the United States is that it is so backward-looking, almost neo-feudal.

    Progressivism still has somewhat of the aura it had when it was the standard operating system of governance in the United States and it was focused on progress. But those days are gone, and the notion of “progress” itself has almost become a curse as so much of what “progress” meant has turned nightmarish. If fracking is “progress,” or the ACA is “progress…”

    We’ve seen over and over again that “Progressive” in the context of blogs has no definition in any case. An alliance between undefined “Progressives” and libertarians of some stripe ought to be a natural, then. It might even gain some political clout. But I doubt it would resonate much beyond the practitioners and would likely be as loathed by the public as the current crop in Congress are.

  65. markfromireland

    Wow, just wow, it appears that for a short-term tactical gain a significant number of people styling themselves as ‘left’ or ‘progressive’ are willing to make a gift of the strategic resource of political legitimacy to their deadly enemies.

    I’d point out what happened to the German conservative parties who did just that during the 30’s but no doubt somebody would chastise me for breach of Godwin’s law.


  66. markfromireland

    @ Ché Pasa October 30, 2013

    Yup to all of that.


  67. Maybe that “hostility” you perceive as coming from progressives is actually an objection to the forthcoming dismantling of important government programs under austerity planning (you know, things like colleges, the Post Office, important research, food stamps, and so on). I can’t imagine why libertarians would oppose austerity planning — it seems perfectly compatible with the “small government” agenda.

  68. Colin Kalmbacher

    Most of the progressive left disdain for libertarianism relies on outmoded stereotypes and caricatures which are, of course, furthered by right-wing statists who run on (steal) the language of libertarianism while enacting and supporting views that are actually inimical to what most libertarian-minded people actually believe.

    Luckily, here’s the Public Religion Research Institute to the rescue:

    Of course, I’d caution (and wager) that even this exhaustive study gets quite a few things wrong. The “Libertarian Orientation Scale” is far too moored to conventional discourse and definitions. But, the trends are pretty clear: young white people (mostly men, but a substantial number of women) are increasingly libertarian and are very much tuned into their world and involved in it.

  69. lambert strether

    The austerity policies imposed by both legacy parties seem designed to decrease life expectancy over time, a la Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Therefore, both parties, along with their owners, are my “deadly enemies.” Literally.

  70. Question: is my thinking that libertarians do not object to austerity planning an “outmoded stereotype”? Are the libertarians all secretly believers in taxing the rich so the poor can have food stamps?

  71. @Jerome

    There’s not a blog out there that is writing from this POV (working with libertarians and progressives),

    There are a few attempting to advocate for such an alliance. An open source effort at to bring the right and left into a dialogue. Libertarianism occupies a broad left-right spectrum along an anti-authoritarian axis.

    One question to be answered is which is the greater LOTE in this political picture, the Dem party or right-libertarians; some proclaiming themselves to be “bleeding heart” ones.

    The way I see the neoliberal,corporatist Dem party is more as a neo-libertarian party using big government as a totalitarian tool to advance the interests of the 1%, without offering any of the redeeming (coercion/anti-war/pro civil rights) values at the heart of libertarianism, whether socialist or right-wing.

  72. Is being a libertarian really “pro-civil rights”? I thought the point of being a libertarian in the South was so that property rights could trump the 1964 Civil Rights Act and we could go back to the era of segregated restaurants, bathrooms, and so on.

  73. Cthebear

    Well, you’ve alluded to it in the posts on ideology and the government shutdown. “The Tea Party protesters have guns, so Republicans are scared to death of them.” If there was a loud chorus of Progressives with guns, you’re damned right that liberals would be aiming to pass things to please us.

    The other point on the netroots, they were felt to be largely made up of a white collar, uppity upper middle class sect which sought to regulate the lifestyles of those blue collar, lower castes and largely treated them with disdain. You include the blue collar class by really addressing their economic lot, and including them in the discussion. I stopped reading sites such as those largely because I felt they had no real compunction to change the system, only to change who had the reins of power. Power is what corrupts any social force.

  74. If the progressives had guns, the FBI would be doing to them what it did to the Black Panthers.

  75. Cthebear

    The FBI and police do that without Progressives having guns. Also, the Black Panthers were instrumental in bring about needed change. The good cop/bad cop routine works both ways. It wasn’t only MLK. They also got tired of needing to deal with all of the violence, so change was brought about to end the violence.

  76. markfromireland

    Cthebear November 1, 2013 @

    Well said. Politicians will do what you want if they know that failure to do so will have consequences they won’t enjoy.

    The other point on the netroots, they were felt to be largely made up of a white collar, uppity upper middle class sect which sought to regulate the lifestyles of those blue collar, lower castes and largely treated them with disdain


    And that is why they failed.



Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén