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

Progressive Blog #Fail: Moral Failure or Demographic Doom?

(This post is written by Pachacutec, not by me. Pachacutec was a long time blogger at FireDogLake, and deeply involved in Netroots Strategy through 2009. – Ian)

By Pachacutec:

I read with interest my old friend Ian’s take on the failure of the progressive blogosphere, or “netroots,” from its beginnings in the early 2000’s until now. Ian and I had a little exchange about it on twitter, and he invited me to blog my take. Bottom line: I think Ian gets it partly right, but oversimplifies what happened.

Ian thinks the problem was essentially a moral failure:

So progressives have no power, because they have no principles: they cannot be expected to actually vote for the most progressive candidate, to successfully primary candidates, to care about policy first and identity second, to not take scraps from the table and sell out other progressive’s interests.

He also thinks progressives are more tribal than Tea Party conservatives are:

Unlike the Tea Party, most left wingers don’t really believe their own ideology.  They put partisanship first, or they put the color of a candidate’s skin or the shape of their genitals over the candidate’s policy.  Identity is more important to them than how many brown children that politician is killing.


The Tea Party, say what you will about them, gets a great deal of obeisance from Republicans for one simple reason: they will primary you if they don’t like how you’ve been voting, and they’ll probably win that primary.  They are feared.

I don’t want to get distracted by this last point, but let me just state my opinion that Tea Party, liberals, and anyone else you can name are all tribal as hell, and just as tribal as each other. What made the Tea Party different in electoral effectiveness was Koch brothers’ money. There were moral failures in the netroots, most spectacularly in the ways that various people responded to scarcity, the dearth of any money to be made and food to be bought out of full time activist liberal blogging. But that’s not the big reason for progressive bloggers inability to translate online passion into raw political power.

My role in the netroots was part activist blogger and partly as a guy trying to find a way to get sustainable funds into progressive blogs. That meant I purchased and paid close attention to metrics of progressive blog audience demographics. One reason we didn’t become a destabilizing political force, able to shape policy and elect politicians, was because we just lacked the demographic reach to do it. We thought (hoped) we could be a populist wave for change. Turns out we were just a current.

Progressive blog audiences mostly reached more educated white boomers, and, with some exceptions, more men than women. Progressive blog audiences geographically reached all over the US, but their very dispersion made it difficult to get anything going on the ground where people of like mind could coordinate together. That limited audience reach and growth that could translate into coalition building and political power.

It’s true, as Ian hints, that our white boomer audiences were still mostly people who believed in institutions. They grew up that way. They were collectively shocked at the direction of the country and the corruption of media and government in the Bush years, but they were not radicals. They still believed in these institutions. Most wanted reform, not fundamental systemic change. They still listened to a lot of NPR.

This is what Ian is getting at in his argument, though I don’t see this so much as a moral failure as it is a lack of educated boomer tribal experience, a function of cohort. These boomers believed in the American Dream, but the next generation coming up is having a very different experience in its formative years. I see this as more of a systems phenomenon, related to how generations learn and form their assumptions, than as a collective moral failing.

Some bloggers tried to get around their weakness in organizing people on the ground by allying with unions, whose whole infrastructure of politics was about people taking collective action locally. But it was an uneasy alliance for tribal reasons: blog audiences were not working class and were far less diverse than the membership of service employee unions.

Without funds to amplify or rapidly escalate their local reach, the way the Tea Party has had, the netroots got bypassed by the fundraising and organizing machine of Obama campaign, which tapped the rising demographic wave ready to be plucked on the center-left: young people, women and people of color.

The 2008 primary wars were the worst time for progressive blogging, because the ugliest sides of latent liberal tribalism between the Clinton camp and the Obama camp were in full bloom. Obama held the netroots in contempt and allied with establishment forces and hedge fund money to suck all the organizing life out of the netroots. That’s what constitutes the “failure” Ian describes, but with hindsight, I don’t think there was any way we could have overcome all of these systemic obstacles. We lacked money, we were too narrow in our reach, too unorganized, and as a result, we could not overcome establishment efforts to beat us back.

We did have a partial victory with Lamont over Lieberman, where we succeeded in creating a local presence. However, as Ian points out, Lieberman won as an Independent. We have, in part, both the Clintons and Obama to thank for this. As validators, they helped Lieberman. Obama travelled right through Connecticut during the campaign and avoided an appearance with the Democratic nominee, Ned Lamont, reneging on a non-public promise. Lieberman had been his mentor in the Senate. None of this was an accident. Bill Clinton talked up Lieberman, in spite of the fact that Holy Joe made much of his name pontificating about Bill’s penis.

Still, the Lamont campaign showed the establishment that the netroots really had to be dealt with. Obama performed the hit, in what we have come to know as his signature Quiet American style. There were no drones involved, unless you want to use the word to describe paid and unpaid tribal attack hacks, rather than flying death machines. Either way, Obama never likes to leave fingerprints or get his hands visibly dirty.

What remains of the netroots is not a movement in itself but a continuing current. Some people came through this very clarifying period for one’s character scarred but with their integrity intact. Duncan (Atrios) and Digby still document the atrocities. Howie Klein fights the good fight for grass roots candidates and against the DCCC. Joe Sudbay works persistently and effectively for gay equality and disenfranchised immigrants. Marcy’s persistent OCD and ability to connect the dots influences the influencers and the debate on the NSA. Ian shakes his fist at us, challenges us and reminds us of things we try not to think about because we just want to get through our day. Even Tom Matzzie, who has left politics, pops up from his embedded perch to fuck with Michael Hayden. There are others as well, I’m just citing examples to make my point.

Collectively, we failed at our most lofty ambitions, though we didn’t fail at everything. But with climate change and the time it will take for a possibly more radicalized youth cohort to effect more radical economic and social change, it may all be too late. Then again, it took decades between God and Man at Yale and Ted Cruz. There is something to be said for just finding a way to hang around and keep the narrative alive. It’s about all we can still do, and below the level of institutions, there are signs the culture may be catching up.


Jerome Armstrong on the Failure of the Netroots


The Bailout Caused the Sucky “Recovery”


  1. Celsius 233

    @ Pachacutec
    Collectively, we failed at our most lofty ambitions, though we didn’t fail at everything. But with climate change and the time it will take for a possibly more radicalized youth cohort to effect more radical economic and social change, it may all be too late. Then again, it took decades between God and Man at Yale and Ted Cruz. There is something to be said for just finding a way to hang around and keep the narrative alive. It’s about all we can still do, and below the level of institutions, there are signs the culture may be catching up.
    IMO, there is no catching up; one must be ahead of the crowd, so one appears to be leading the parade.
    The dissecting and constant analysis is anathema to action.
    Emotion with a brain and intact critical thinking are paramount to action.
    When the crowds and pitchforks are on the streets; change will follow.
    I can’t see anything else possibly making any difference.
    With all due respect; there is just too much bullshit, smoke and mirrors and out right government lies to effect any reasonable, civilized call for change.
    Politely asking just ain’t going to cut it.

  2. Leo


    Thanks for taking the time to write this. Ian’s posted has sparked a lot of conversation, analysis, and debate across what’s left of the Prog blogosphere. I think you hit the nail on the head and that it is important to keep the embers going across the various blogs.


    Thanks for bringing in other viewpoints and prompting the discussion. I think your recent writings on what makes ideology effective and the need to develop a coherent one as antithesis to the neo-liberal and neo-con dominate views is vitally needed.

  3. John B.

    I just want to second what Leo has said…both points.

  4. “There is something to be said for just finding a way to hang around and keep the narrative alive.”

    The closest thing to a narrative that I see on most progressive blogs is, “Let’s pitch in some bucks and get a few relatively liberal Democrats elected if we can” and “Let’s hold the line till demographic shifts rescue us in a decade or two.” These aren’t awful, but when the rest of the narrative is “Climate change, income inequality, and evil conservatives are about to destroy the country,” then hypothetical incremental improvement is a pathetically weak response. If progressives truly believed the dangers facing us were so dire, they’d advocate for radical and immediate countermeasures.

  5. If progressives truly believed the dangers facing us were so dire, they’d advocate for radical and immediate countermeasures.

    How many of the bloggers left are truly radical? I’d wager not very many, if any at all.

  6. Pachacutec

    Just to add a point that I did not make explicit, but which occurs to me as I read comments.

    If change comes, it will come after a lot of damage is done, some of it irreversible. It will come because of mass populations of people who know each other directly are interpreting their life circumstances in a way that comports with the essential liberal/socialist critique of US government and society.

    Bloggers won’t make that happen. It will happen according to its own dynamics and time. It can happen quickly, crystallized by sudden events, once the latent build up, the kindling, as it were, is sufficient. That means people need to live suffering and loss enough to get angry on a mass level. Ian talks about destroying street cameras. I look for mass general strikes.

    The only thing the remnants of the netroots can do is keep a world view and critique current and fresh so that, as the population struggles to find a world view or meaning to attach to its understanding of the sources of its misery, our narrative is coherent, current and adopted.

    But most of the population that may possibly make this switch does not even consume information primarily through the “blogosphere” as we knew it. That was a window in time able to reach a specific demographic, and even that window is gone.

    Bloggers won’t precipitate the radical change that is needed. But we were wrong, in hindsight, to think that we could. Some of the comments here still look for change from the remnants of the liberal blogs, and that’s (in my view) an error.

    To the extent that the liberal blogosphere loosely organized itself prior to 2008, that “structure” has been smashed to pieces. Some of tits members responded to this by eating their own and fracking their allies, but not all did. There has been a diaspora, and while there are certainly sellouts, there are still people finding whatever space they can to do something, around the edges, to try keep a flame alive, according to their own interests and talents.

  7. Duncan (Atrios) and Digby still document the atrocities. Howie Klein fights the good fight for grass roots candidates and against the DCCC. Joe Sudbay works persistently and effectively for gay equality and disenfranchised immigrants. Marcy’s persistent OCD and ability to connect the dots influences the influencers and the debate on the NSA. Ian shakes his fist at us, challenges us and reminds us of things we try not to think about because we just want to get through our day. Even Tom Matzzie, who has left politics, pops up from his embedded perch to fuck with Michael Hayden. There are others as well…

    For years, Duncan had essentially nothing to say about the looming and then the actual economic catastrophe except that bad mortgages and derivatives constituted a “big shitpile.” After the first thousand times, it hardly mattered any more. Of course he did keep Richard Cohen in his crosshairs and that assured that Cohen would be read, so there was that. But as for documenting the atrocities, what’s the point?

    For years, Digby was totally obsessed with Chris Matthews, doting on his every utterance and offering instant criticism and analysis like a stern schoolmarm. She was documenting his atrocities, but what was the point? He didn’t change…

    Media criticism is a fundamental element in online discussion, but the critic is not the actor. Pointing out media atrocities does not correct the situation. The case can be made that the major mass media has gotten worse over the years of blogospheric sniping, so what, exactly, is the point — apart from entertainment for those who like that sort of thing?

    And how many years did it take for members of the “progressive” blogosphere to realize that they were themselves “the media?”

    Most of your other examples are negative, people who are against this or that individual, party, policy, or what have you, focused on denunciation and contempt for whoever is in power, or on marketing neo-liberal bullshit as “progressive.” Such negativity is not something you can build a better future on.

    You repeatedly mention “tribalism” as if it’s a bad thing, when it’s simply human nature to assemble in tribal groupings. Those who are fiercest in their denunciations of other people’s “tribalism” typically are as tribal as those they denounce if not more so.

    ‘Baggers and others — including Obama’s team — figured out how to use people’s innate tribalism to their advantage rather than trying to undermine or destroy it. Surprise, surprise, it worked. Denouncing other people’s “tribalism” doesn’t seem to work very well, does it?

    Criticism, negativity and contrarianism have their merits, but how does one build or sustain a movement on them?

    Progressive used to mean something positive — oh, like progress toward building a better future, through social and economic justice, inclusion, participatory democracy, education, science, technology, etc. It didn’t wallow in denunciations or the documentation of the atrocities of the Other. It just went forward to what was arguably a better future (at least for some).

    If the online “Progressive” Movement we’re discussing here were even half as positive as Progressives of the past, it would probably have been much more successful.

  8. bystander

    @ Ché Pasa

    Seems I’ve been tagging along behind you in the tubes and catching up with your various responses to Ian’s initial sally. Not much to add. Mostly, I agree with your points made here and there. But, given the above, I did want to flag this for you.

    This is something to be said for endlessly repeating some things. It is in many ways how the right has “trained” its followers…and we are all of the human predilection irrespective of the color of the team jersey. I’ve not yet read the whole piece, so I can’t say that I’d recommend it… take it for what that’s worth.

    I guess it’s kind of like some higher orders of “math.” Who was it that said, “You really don’t understand it, you just got used to it.”

  9. par4

    @ bystander, Hate to break it to you but Lib/Pwogs are also of the right. You see they are CAPITALISTS not Communists or Socialists. By the way this hash tag should be #EPIC FAIL because the only success you can point to is several states passing marriage equality laws during the second Great Depression. That is the very definition of epic failure.

  10. Ian Welsh

    Oh, I’ve talked about mass strikes at various points in the past, in particular when I discussed the necessary conditions for OWS style activism to work.

  11. markfromireland

    Question: Progressive Blog #Fail: Moral Failure or Demographic Doom?

    Answer: Both


  12. Leo

    I think the most important thing to remember is that positive change can still happen, but it needs to be viewed as ongoing long-term effort that will have tactical defeats along the way. In order for positive change to happen their needs to be a viable ideology with associated concrete policy goals that stem from it to provide an alternative to the current ideological flavors of neo-con/neo-lib. (which is why Ian’s initial forays are so timely and needed)

    The millennial’s and their children are likely to be the flood that breaks the current dam of public inaction. For members of my generation (gen x and older) the social contract still stands though it’s in bad shape and getting worse by the year. As a result Gen X and older members are still too emotionally and financially tied to, and profiting from, the old system to expect widespread public action demanding reform or revolutionary system change. For millennial’s and their future children, the contract is broken and the system not only doesn’t represent their interests but actively, and shamelessly, exploits them.

    So whichever ideology can captivate and gain acceptance in the Millenial and younger generations will shape the overton window of what is considered possible in the coming years. If prog’s refuse to provide that ideology then other groups can and will, as regressive groups are already laying the groundwork for their desired future.

  13. JJ

    Atrios and Digby are lesser evilists. Their job was/is to keep the fuming blog readers in the camp because the hypothetical R candidate is hypothetically worse than the bad (but not worse) D candidate. Of course, the end result is bad no matter who gets elected.

  14. I always thought blogging was about replacing the media, not becoming it. (A friend noted that it took her a long time to understand that “Talking Points Memo” meant exactly what it said. Nobody kidnapped Josh Marshall.)

    The baseline there would be not making sh*t up. (I used to think it was a lot more difficult for Republicans to meet that baseline than Democrats. Now I’m not so sure.) For those of us whose first experience of what we would today call live-blogging was playing whack-a-mole with the Bush administration’s lies on WMD — lies fully supported by a compliant media — not making sh*t up was and is really important. A second baseline would be trying to maintain some level of critical thinking skill and bullshit detection, to avoid the defects of tribalism, factionalism, co-optation, etc.

    To me, the split in the blogosphere began when the Democrats took back the House, in 2006, intensified in 2008, and was completed by 2010, at the end of the health care reform battle. The split was between those who felt whatever their guy did was OK (see under surveillance), and who viewed blogging as a purely instrumental, “say whatever it takes” medium, and those who don’t feel that way. These latter necessarily have big business model and funding issues, but some of the hardier have survived, and in general through persistence and reputation have managed to punch far above their weight: Greenwald and Marcy are fine examples, but there are others in the political economy blogosphere is well.

    For those who like a quantative approach, see Imminent Death of the Blogs Predicted, Except Not, which shows the progress of an idea (the platinum coin) from a comment on one blog, through the blogosphere, to the press, and thence to decision makers — and without any billionaire backing.

    So I’d argue that Progressive Blog #Fail is not a fail of blogging, per se; blogs are all over! Rather, it’s a failure of “progressivism,” whatever that means. As the saying goes, you can’t beat something with nothing, and Armstrong realizing only at the last moment that he and Kos had never defined “progressive” in Crashing the Gates is a telling moment. “Progress” toward what and for whom was and never has been clearly defined by “progressives,” and so #FAIL was inevitable.

    * * *

    On another note, there are plenty of smaller blogs that ought to go on the honor roll with A listers Atrios and Digby: Susie Madrak’s Suburban Guerilla, Avedon’s Sideshow, and Arthur Silber’s Power of Narrative among them. These guys need the hits, so it’s a shame to leave them out of the history.

  15. @bystander

    Has Atrios actually “changed the conversation?”

    Unfortunately it took Dr. Duncan Black — PhD economist extraordinaire — years to get to the point of thinking it might be wise to try to “change the conversation” about Social Security. Some of us were making big honking stink about the need to double or even triple SS benefits (and eliminate the cap) long before he got around to his idea of modestly increasing benefits by 20%.

    And once again, the political class is obsessed with cutting entitlement spending. They are demanding it louder than ever.

    Increasing benefits is not even remotely part of the political conversation, and it is still a fringey topic even in the “progressive” blogosphere.

  16. Pachacutec

    Hey, Lambert, good to “see” you. And thanks for adding those other blog examples to the thread.

    Back when you and I were working on The Roots Project (does that site even exist anymore? I haven’t looked), I took my own stab at defining what “progressive” means. I put a lot of hours and work into it, trying to think and reflect both what I understood to be the common threads of all the people I was interacting with, shaped of course by my own take. I wrote it all and posted it.

    That effort went nowhere, and I don’t just mean “The Roots Project” itself. The fact is, there was no unifying progressive vision to be shared and understood among the many people who become politically connected in opposition to the Bush administration. I’ve seen other people make their own attempts over the years, it goes nowhere, and turns into a clusterfuck of pointless intellectual masturbation and pissing contests.

    (Ok, I just looked for the site. Seems the site is all gone But I digress).

    I’m not sure there’s a consensus today either, if people were to try to reconnect again. Maybe there’s less naivete among many 2008 Obama supporters who have grudgingly, silently come to acknowledge that the DFH’s were right, but there is still space for someone to put forth a positive vision. That will require a successful standard bearer backed by alternative, multi-media megaphones and the kind of think tank stuff Ian is talking about in the development of an ideology.

    I don’t know how we get there, but I don’t regret having been among some good people who really tried. You included.

    Quick side note on my use of the word “tribal” — I’m a psychologist. I’m using the word descriptively as a way to capture human behavior in groups where there is perceived shared identity. I’m not using it pejoratively.

  17. Republitarianbaggers, such as they are, have very few issues with very few talking points/solutions to go with them. And frankly, like progressives, even when they have scores of Reps in the U.S. House they fail far more than not when any significant effort in opposition to what the rich care about is involved.

    Jerome is hardly alone in forgetting to define Progressive in his book. Heck I’ve immersed myself in the progressosphere for years and I could hardly tell a stranger what Progressive means without a lot of caveats and even more laughs. However I do now know without doubt that I am not now nor am I likely ever to consider myself a Progressive or Democrat again. And on that state of my yo I can say why with great specificity, backed up with overwhelming data and evidence.

    We live in an entirely corrupt system. From money rules to the fact citizens are not allowed to meet in public streets or parks and sort through these things without being threatened by the State (both parties) rather than honored.

    Even so there is simply no conceivable method I have ever heard of that could possibly allow two parties, even if diametrically opposed rather than bound by neoliberal kleptocratic plutocracy to represent 320 million people. Our system is designed to not represent. Both parties and their Progs or Baggers within accept this. We need more clans with proportional representation on an equally funded platform of debate among so many things!

  18. “Replacing the media”… with what? Blogs? Hardly.

    The goal for so many in “Progressive” Blogtopia was to get a gig, as a talking head on the radio, their own podcast, the teevee (on Skype in a pinch) or as a political consultant. Barring any of those options, a gig writing books and articles for the market would do. In other words, make a living like anyone else in the media, doing essentially what anyone in the media would do. Only with “integrity.” Right.

    Quite a few [bloggers] actually achieved their goal. They became media personalities or best-selling authors or Big Media players in their own right. How about that Ezra these days, eh? Some, like Markos, parlayed a idea of “community” that does most of the the work into a pretty decent income stream. Capitalism Triumphant!

    Some still resist. They’d rather have the freedom from market constraints that the blog format provides (cf: Ian as one example.)

    Duncan set out to “change the conversation” on SS, but he didn’t do it on his blog; he had an op-ed in The Big Media — USA Today. It didn’t change the conversation, but at least for a moment he went beyond his “pith” to actual substance.

    “Tribal”has long been used pejoratively throughout “Progressive” Blogtopia; there’s no mystery about it. It’s not used as a neutral descriptive at all. It is used as a denunciation of The Other, often as a shorthand way of saying “mindless.” Whatever The Other does is, after all, by definition mindlessly tribal. Unless of course the goal is to form a coalition with or profit from The Other in which case they are “critical thinkers” at the very least.

    The overriding interest “Progressive” Blogtopia has had in forming coalitions with libertarians and even radical rightists, while rejecting “the left,” has been one of its most problematical and alienating aspects. We see it throughout this discussion, “how can we form an alliance with the libertarians?” It’s the wrong approach if there is to be any meaning to the Progressive brand at all.

    Instead of constantly seeking common ground with libertarians, it makes far more sense for Progressives to seek common ground with the remnants of the actual Left (what little of it remains) — or start anew with the principles of the Left which are not hard to find and which resonate strongly with the public.

  19. 4

    Some people came through this very clarifying period for one’s character scarred but with their integrity intact. Duncan (Atrios) and Digby still document the atrocities.

    Digby came through with her integrity intact? How does purging all the Obama critics from her comment section, lying about it, and then permanently disabling blog comments constitute integrity?

  20. bystander

    Uh, Ché Pasa

    Contrary to what one might imagine, I’m not singing Duncan Black’s praises. I’m advancing the idea that repetition, no matter who pounds the sand, can overcome a bit of inertia. I carry no particular brief for the individuals who see working within the system, chipping away at the margins, singing the praises of incrementalism, as the solution. I also carry no particular brief for those who assert that only blowing the institutions up, burning what can be reduced to carbon, bulldozing the rest into the ground and salting the earth above is the solution. In my experience – humble though it be – it takes both; often working at odds with each other.

    Radicalism is relative. You may be more “radical” than me, and someone else could claim that they are more radical than you. I appreciate radicalism. We need radicals. The louder, noisier, and more attention grabbing the better. But, I also appreciate those who can bang their heads against the keyboard day-after-day repeating an idea that is pedestrian – if not utterly ineffectual – to you but radical to a number of others.

    My point is – whatever idea/concept/agenda/ way to be/ world view you’re trying to sell, if it ain’t the way we did things yesterday, then you have to repeatitandrepeatitandrepeatit until it becomes at least familiar, even if not fully understood. And, the only way it becomes part of some larger conversation is because enough people are repeating it.

    Denigrate the “idea” all you want, but in the same way that humans are tribal they also respond to the familiar. Identify, discriminate, associate… Say what you want about the “idea” but the method of drilling it in is as old as humans.

  21. 4

    Back when you and I were working on The Roots Project (does that site even exist anymore? I haven’t looked), I took my own stab at defining what “progressive” means. I put a lot of hours and work into it, trying to think and reflect both what I understood to be the common threads of all the people I was interacting with, shaped of course by my own take.

    This is quite thoroughly absurd. Terms like liberal, conservative, progressive, etc have established meanings. If you treat them as vague terms of religious affiliation capable of accommodating everyone who ignorantly wants to use them to self-identify, you’ll end up with lunacies–“As a committed left-wing progressive socialist I firmly approve of right-wing death squads slaughtering trade unionists in South America. What? Just who are YOU to tell me I can’t?”

  22. Ian Welsh

    I don’t find anything significant to disagree with here, strangely enough. In fact, I view Pach’s point about cohort psychology as essentially complementary to what I was saying.

  23. @bystander

    You may be misunderstanding me regarding Duncan Black.

    I was responding less to you and more to the story about the good Doctor you linked, which of course not everyone participating here has read, so it may have been unfair on my part to go that route.

    At any rate, I have no problem with the idea of repetition in matters great and small. In Atrios’s case, however, his modus is “pith” and little else. (IMHO) it serves little or no purpose, at best his repetition is serving as a placeholder for the disengaged denizens he hosts.

    That’s his style and choice, and it’s cool, but it’s not something a movement can be built on.

    Integrity? Well, it’s consistent. I’ll say that for it.

    If the discussion here is about the failure of the “Progressive” Blogs, it may be that Duncan’s repetitive pith — without substance — was part of that failure.

  24. markfromireland

    @Ché Pasa October 29, 2013

    Instead of constantly seeking common ground with libertarians, it makes far more sense for Progressives to seek common ground with the remnants of the actual Left (what little of it remains) — or start anew with the principles of the Left which are not hard to find and which resonate strongly with the public.

    Not too sure how strongly those principles resonate with the American public who are fundamentally small ‘c’ conservative. But the first part of your that paragraph is spot on. Libertarians are about many things – chiefly selfishness and greed, lefties (it’s your great strength and I say that as a conservative) tend to be about fairness. Or at least lefties (mostly) try to be about fairness when it comes to domestic American political economy. If you express your principles and the policies derived from them in terms of fairness – that might well resonate with enough of the American public to give you some political punching power. Particularly if you can dress up the concept of fairness in the clothing of enlightened self-interest.


  25. Jerome Armstrong

    Having been on the internet for the long haul since the mid-90’s, I tend to agree with the notion that the change of demographics led to a change with discourse on the internet. And, as many others have noted, one can’t ignore the change of platforms available either.

    Anyway, the people who were on the blogs in 2000-2004 had a moment of time when not even 50% of the people in the US were online. By 2007-8, a completely new generation came online, and it was bound to change.

  26. For what it is worth, my time spent on Proggy Blogs filled my head with so much information that I can hardly stand to hear myself talk. I just can’t stfu. I learned a lot but never knew what to do with the information. I simply became a know it all.

    I wondered then and I wonder now, was I wasting my time? Did it keep me sane or did it drive me around some weird bend that ended up being a blind alley?

  27. RJ

    @Mary McCurnin:

    I wondered then and I wonder now, was I wasting my time? Did it keep me sane or did it drive me around some weird bend that ended up being a blind alley?

    Think of it as potential energy stored up. Every so often you share it with others, impart some of the energy to them. Maybe, one day, it will be converted into kinetic energy and lead to something better. No guarantee, but at least there’s a chance.

    For my part, I’ve been reading progressive blogs since ~2003 and have learned a lot. I’ve been reading for most of the lifetime of the blogosphere (other than the very early years) and have learned so much that I’m sometimes worried my head will explode. I hope to take this knowledge and do something good with it in the future, but its not clear what/when. For now, I keep reading, fiddle around with hobbies, try not to let my day job take over my whole life, and occasionally jot down ideas and plans for the future. No guarantee, but at least there’s a chance.

  28. jeff wegerson

    One of the factors of the sixties success by DFHers was that we were the first TV generation and understood a level of co-optative potential by us of the political scene that the elites did not yet understand. Very much as bloggers on the internet used a similar understanding head start. So am I saying that the oughts failed like the sixties. Oh I suppose but…

    Unless we develop a social medium that allows, first, us to organize ourselves around and then second to create links to non-radical tribal members, and then further links beyond that circle then I don’t see any peaceful ( and especially not any sort of warful ) revolution collaring the rich elites through our actions.

    But there is another disruptive technology now above the horizon that will have an even greater disruptive effect than television and the internet and that is clean and dispersed local energy sources. Created and funded by elites in order to combat global warming (as well as opposed by other elites) the disruptive potential is barely understood. At the moment coal is feeling the pinch as coal plants all over the world are being mothballed because they can no longer compete. Now granted it may be widespread yet it is very thin and merely a small percentage of the total coal generation world wide. But the point is that coal elites very much see the hand writing on the wall.

    Oil may be seeing it as well. How much of the Saudi freak out is potentially sub-conscious recognitions I have no idea. But it’s possible. Keep in mind that Germany is currently supplying about 22% of it’s own energy via wind and solar.

    When this classic paradigm shift becomes an energy race then you will really see sparks fly quickly.

    But here’s the thing. There will be political shifts occurring beneath it all. The dispersed nature of clean energies means dispersed power as well. It means that smaller political units like Iceland for example can begin to safely create local democracies that can become really democratic and independent of global corruption. Done right such social/political units will become successful competitive alternatives for ideological change as Ian correctly identifies as necessary.

    Not mentioned in the pantheon of blogger heros mentioned here at Ian Welshland is Juan Cole. He has influence and it can be wrong headed. Look at his support for the Libya invasion. But we all get things wrong. What he gets right though is following the clean energy shift. I don’t know that he sees the political affects that such an energy change will effect though. That is not his forte. But it is ours.

  29. RJ

    The dispersed nature of clean energies means dispersed power as well.

    I see the potential for it to go either way, dispersion or increased centralization of political power. Much of it depends on how good energy storage becomes. If small scale energy storage can be done economically, then dispersion of political power is a real possibility as states, cities, towns, and maybe even neighborhoods get in on the act. But if storage must be done expensively on a large scale (think pumping water into high elevation lakes, massive heat capacitors, etc.), then centralized political power will be the result.

    For example, its possible to power virtually the entire East Coast with very little energy storage by installing offshore wind platforms from Maine to Florida, since the wind is always blowing strongly somewhere along the coast. If storage ends up being inefficient or expensive, then you’re going to get continental-sized coordination of grids so that energy surplus in one place can smoothly move to places with a deficit. This implies institutions capable of acting at that scale. Likewise, if storage is expensive then I can envision only national governments or large multinational corporations footing the bills. Frankly, even if good storage is possible, national and continental smart grids will require institutions to manage them at the appropriate scale. Maybe those institutions could exist outside traditional state structures, but since they’d control the power infrastructure they’d exert a lot of influence themselves… I’ll need to think about this some more.

  30. Mahalo, Pach, and congrats…!

    Mahalo, Ian, and all the commenters…!

    Let’s all reflect upon the old idiom that ‘United We Stand, Divided We Fall’…!

    In that, we all collectively have suffered significant losses in the Class War, the Transnationals have us all, globally, over the proverbial barrel, but, if we get off our collective duffs and educate, engage, and/or interact with your neighbor et al., ‘we’ just might win…! 😉

  31. Not too sure how strongly those principles resonate with the American public who are fundamentally small ‘c’ conservative.

    You are incorrect. The U.S. isn’t conservative, at least not economically, and probably not anymore on social issues. You’ve seen the polling on marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage, right? It’s sad that you believe TradMed garbage/propaganda.

  32. If the discussion here is about the failure of the “Progressive” Blogs, it may be that Duncan’s repetitive pith — without substance — was part of that failure.

    We get it! You don’t like him. Not every blogger is going to float your boat.

  33. Compound F

    Che’ Pasa, One can only assume you’ve never read JM Greer’s views on “progress,” e.g., Not the Future We Ordered, which points to a larger, more comprehensive failure on the part of humanity, irrespective of politics.

  34. markfromireland

    @ Phil Perspective October 30, 2013

    The complacency and dilettantism of what passes for the American left never ceases to amaze me. By all means continue to delude yourself. The fact is that Americans have consistently elected right-wing to very right-wing governments starting with Ronald Reagan.

    An extreme right-wing movement has a significant hold on one of the two main American political parties and can and will bring government processes to a crashing halt whenever they feel like it.

    Another extreme right-wing movement – the Libertarians are rapidly occupying the political space that should be occupied by the left. The right-wing are the ones setting the intellectual agenda and the terms of the debate and what passes for the ‘left’ have ceded the terms of the debate and now can do nothing more than react.

    Coupled with that the militarisation of American government in general and law enforcement in particular is accelerating while at the same time both economic and civil liberties are increasingly for the top tiers of society alone. To compound this access to means of communicating with the public are increasingly a right-wing and ruling class monopoly.

    As to same-sex marriage and marijuana and similar issues they’re an absolutely excellent distraction. They’re worthy causes in and of themselves but they have nothing to do with breaking the American ruling class’ stranglehold on economic and political power.


  35. Celsius 233

    markfromireland PERMALINK
    October 30, 2013
    @ Phil Perspective October 30, 2013
    What an absolutely excellent dissection of America today.
    All of it; just excellent. I need add nothing…

  36. @ markfromireland

    Regarding how [small c] conservative Americans are… yes and no. It depends in part on where you are. This is a big country, way too big in some ways, with such a wide diversity of political interest and opinion that generalizations about how ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ Americans are don’t really work. Certainly our anachronistic and unrepresentative political and governing system isn’t a fair reflection of the public interest[s] and it can’t be. But I never saw what passes for “Progressive” Blogtopia get into that issue more than tangentially and superficially.

    The actual Left has been essentially expunged from American consciousness, no less so among so-called “Progressives.” It is almost at the point of being seen as something altogether new and largely correct. Marx is being rehabilitated, reconsidered, and even recognized by self-proclaimed conservatives as someone who understood capitalism and its inherent self-destructive tendencies better than just about anyone. American Democratic Socialism must be nigh! It may be closer than many of us realize, though I’m not ready to place bets.

    What I was getting at is that the continuing efforts of “Progressives” to align with libertarians — while rejecting the Left — is a dead end. Libertarianism leads nowhere but backwards toward feudalism and worse.

    If the “Progressive” Netroots movement failed, part of the reason may well have been the widespread blogospheric proprietary interest in making common cause with libertarians — rather than trying to find common cause with remnant social democrats and other actual lefties. And then some of the proprietors and their adherents allowed themselves to be bought off and subsumed in the increasingly conservative Democratic Party apparatus. There was nothing particularly progressive about this. Those who may have seen hope in the Progressive Netroots were to be sorely disappointed, though hope springs eternal, doesn’t it?

    @Phil Perspective

    I get it, you don’t want to hear it.

    @Compound F

    I have read it.

    The point I was making was that it’s difficult or impossible to build a better future — or build a movement to build a better future — by focusing largely on what you’re against, or on negativity and/or denunciation of the Old Order. Old Line Progressives, for all their many faults, rarely considered the Old Order (in public at any rate) and they spent little energy trying to tear it down or denounce it or hold it up to ridicule; they simply went forward with their own image of what the Better Future should be.

    On the other hand, you might want to examine aspects of Old Line Progressivism such as its deep-seated authoritarianism, elitism, racism, classism, sexism, imperialism and so forth and compare and contrast those aspects that led to some of the problems and ultimately the collapse of Old Line Progressivism as it used to be and what’s come to be called “Progressive” today.

  37. jayackroyd

    1) Money. Pach’s right, of course, that the well-funded Tea Party movement, like the other elements of the conservative messaging apparatus has a huge advantage over a collection of bleggers. As Che Pasa notes, getting a gig as a left of center blogger entails compromises that conflict with taking down Lieberman. Or as Ian has noted in other contexts it’s really difficult to avoid working for the Man. Just, for instance, look at all the nyms. Or consider that most of the prizes entail moderating (or in the case of staffers of elected officials) suppressing one’s views entirely.

    2) “Progressives” It’s worth reading Kevin Murphy’s Uphill all the Way. Liberals and progressives overlap to some degree, but the technocratic centrists that currently lead the party are in the progressive tradition, relying on the private sector and technocrats insulated from democratic processes to just get things done. I really think it’s a good idea to embrace the liberal label and contrast it with the anti-democratic elements that lead the party. Not to mention contrast the far more successful liberal policy regime with the horrible track record of progressive centrists or the big government conservatives.

    Many thanks to Ian for his first post, and for front paging responses.

  38. Pachacutec

    Just a quick note to thank Ian for prompting me off the sidelines for a post. It’s been a long time from blogging for me. I do tweet at @pachacutec_, but it’s half politics, half aimless diversions and wisecracks, nfl football, etc.

    And also a thank you to all the commenters, those that liked the post and those who manifestly did not. Heh. Special shouts to old friends Jerome Blogfather Armstrong, Jay Ackroyd, mark from Ireland, eurekasprings, ctuttle, Phil Perspective, Celsius 233, Mary McCurnin. . . heh , pretty much everyone. Ché Pasa, I’m not sure if our paths have crossed before or not, but thanks for your dissenting take as well.

  39. David Shaughnessy

    Well, I spent some significant time crafting a comment on the blog: “A brief note on why the progressive blog movement failed.” I posted the comment and went out. Now I can’t find it. Because I did put some effort into my comment, I am reposting it here where it is perhaps less relevant but still not irrelevant, I hope.

    I am not and never have been a professional blogger. I have participated in blogs for many years, including Glenn Greenwald’s pre-Salon gig at Unclaimed Territory. I have also commented and posted diaries in Firedoglake, Daily Kos and many other Progressive blogs, generally using pseudonyms. This is my view.

    Progressivism is in crisis today for one main reason: Barack Obama. That is not to say that Progressivism was flourishing pre-Obama. Conservatism reached its apex under Bush but then began a rapid decline that was snowballing into full collapse. Wall Street had destroyed the economy, causing enormous suffering for the American People. Conservatives were overreaching floridly on issue after issue. The time was right for an alternative ideology to supplant Conservatism. The country was ready. The American People were eager. Obama spoke like a Progressive and gave ringing endorsements to Progressive values and solutions. This was the Progressive wave Obama rode into the White House. It was, of course, a mirage, or subterfuge to be less charitable.

    Once Obama was inaugurated, he immediately abandoned Progressivism. He refused even to prosecute those responsible for the greatest economic crime in history. The outrage the American People felt was denied its vent and the Tea Party — a brilliant tactical construct devised by the discredited Conservatives — arose to fill the void. That set the Washington political dynamic for the Obama Presidency, one that endures.

    Progressives did succeed. We pushed the Corporatist Hillary Clinton aside for the — so we thought — more Progressive Obama. We got a president elected. But we were betrayed and deceived and we have not recovered. Why we haven’t recovered is explained in Mr. Welsh’s piece. Much of the reason, I agree, is Obama’s race and the place of identity-politics in the Democratic Party. Beginning with Jimmy Carter, the Democratic Party moved Right on economic matters until Bill Clinton effectively sold the Democratic Party to Wall Street. On issue after issue, the Democrats lurched ever more Rightward until identity politics was all that remained to meaningfully distinguish the two major parties. Since the two parties are really just corporations now, this is really nothing more than brand differentiation. The Democratic Party today stands for two things: 1) identity politics; and 2) not being Republicans. That is what the party has been reduced to.

    And one must recognize the sensitive role played by African Americans in the Democratic Party, both as base voters and as an historical symbol. The plutocrats could not have chosen more wisely than Barack Obama, who is effectively immune from intra-party attack due to his race. And the crowning achievement of the Tea Party was to (more-or-less) successfully cast Obama as a radical Leftist, making Progressive criticism appear ridiculous. These two factors — Obama’s race and the misconception that he was a Leftist — staved off any mainstream criticism of Obama from within the Democratic Party. Certainly, there would be no party rebellion no matter how much Obama betrayed the party and Progressive principles. So we have embittered Progressives within the Democratic Party stewing in frustration and feuding with party loyalists and those who defend Obama based upon racial solidarity. It is a mess.

    This isn’t all Obama. This could not be done without the complicity of the Democratic Party Establishment. But, as seen, the Democratic Party has sold out and no longer holds Progressive principles. Even so, Obama was given the Progressive mantle at a moment of historical inflection and he betrayed us. Obama had the control in his hands when he got elected and he chose the Conservative status quo rather than change. I see scant evidence anything can be done other that to fend off Obama’s assaults until his presidency ends. I’m not sanguine. I know that Obama is pathologically determined to cut the social safety net. Perhaps the remaining Progressive Democrats in Congress will be emboldened to resist Obama’s efforts but I doubt it.

    As for the union between the Tea Party and Progressives, I recall many years ago when Glenn Greenwald — while at Unclaimed Territory – seemed to attempt such a thing. Unfortunately, Greenwald’s efforts failed because they were directed at the economic libertarians, not the civil libertarians and populists. Economic libertarians are simply the GOP version of the Democratic Party neoliberals: they are all Corporatists who are implacably opposed to the people organizing and acting collectively. I do think there are legitimate populist elements within the Tea Party movement with which Progressives can find common cause, if not perfect harmony.

    I think this kind of frank exchange and recognition of failure is vital for future success. Thanks for writing and for letting me comment.

  40. wendy davis

    The subject has largely been ‘Progressive blog #Fail’, by which almost everyone has referenced ‘influencing electoral politics’, i.e. winning seats for ‘Lefties’ or something.

    The many dissenters to making common cause with Libertarians, even on certain *issues* seem to be thinking electorally, not in terms of movement politics, which many of us see as likely to leading toward a) more sustainable communities, including horizontal decision-making, and eventually to nonviolent revolution.

    There’ve been so many erudite comments, and the vast majority of them are quite intellectual. The many barbs aimed at ‘Libertarians’ consist of tribal accusations, imo, and nowhere did anyone mention that we are all human beings, and as Uncle Albert said, believing we are separate is the biggest illusion of all.

    No one here seems to have any faith that we are on the cusp of the revolution of consciousness that the Indigenous see, and MLK said was a requirement, including a revolution in love and values, which would arguably include all the good stuff that ‘Lefties’ purportedly believe in, and aspire to for the 99% around the globe.

    ‘Lefties’ used to be Labor, and Wobblies, and Strikers; ya know, working people. And the oppressed ones on Turtle Island: the Indigenous, in the main (and we are becoming they more every day), and African Americans. How many ‘progressive bloggers’ blog about the valiant protests First Nations’ people are waging against the extractive energy companies, fighting them right where they live, in order to save their water and soil? How many intellectual bloggers fail to really feel connected to those fellow human beings and their struggles in any deeply personal way, not just as statistical fellow travelers, or something.

    How do we change minds *but by* inter-connection, listening to those in different ‘tribes’, and offering our own stories to them? Persuasion, and on a larger scale: statesmanship, as in: the power of ideas to rule the day, week, or year? By allowing folks to imagine a better world, one underpinned by reverence to the planet, each others’ welfare (justice of all sorts), than by making those connections? Yes, people have been propagandized into greed, into selfishness, and the circus of a two-party, one Oligarch, system.

    What scares the PTB isn’t a Leftie ideology, it’s when we decide to ally on issues, and build what better communities we can, and many are doing so very well. I live in one of the most conservative counties in the US, I reckon; almost no sacrificial idiots even run as Dems anymore. And yet, when we Occupied Mancos, Co, we found loads of agreement when folks stopped by to find out wtf we were standing on the corner in aid of. The R’s and L’s and T’s were easier to persuade on big ticket items than the Move-on Occupiers who’d stop by and advise that reversing Citizens United was the only worthy issue to push, and they wasted all their time on that one.

    Anyway, the limits on this discussion have saddened me. No, there isn’t much of a coherent Left any longer, and most blogsites are Dem gatekeepers; but it’s a class war now, and we all need to recognize that, and reach out to those we label as *so other* that they can never join the movement that must become a tidal wave toward change: anti-war, constitutional and economic justice for all, sustainable energy solutions, and all those good things.

    @ David Shaughnessy: A virtual friend in Prague and I were discussing the ‘the golden days of blogging are over’ meme; he said exactly what you did: the election of Obomba killed them. 🙂

  41. markfromireland

    Nice to ‘see’ you again Pach – and indeed quite a few ‘old faces’.


  42. @ markfromireland

    [If Ian comes across the other other — long — post I did this morning that went into moderation hell, feel free to discard it]

    Re: American small c conservatism. It depends a great deal on where you live in this vast country. Parts of the country (mostly rural) are very conservative. Other parts (mostly urban) not so much at all. But our anachronistic and unrepresentative governing system makes it seem like the whole damn country is pre-fascist.

    My point was that actual Leftist policies and programs would probably have a much broader appeal — across political lines — than the constant attempts to hook up with libertarians and their policies that online “progressives” have been undertaking for years. Part of the failure which has been under discussion here may have to do with that misplaced desire for coalition with libertarians.

    @Phil Perspective

    I get it. You don’t want to hear it.

    @Compound F

    I’ve read it; thanks for the recommendation.

    You might want to consider the nature of Old Line Progressivism — its authoritarianism, elitism, racism, sexism, imperialism and on and on — and compare and contrast that nature with an honest assessment of today’s “Progressivism.”

    As flawed as the Old Line Progressives were, they were in my view far more focused on positivism, progress and the Future That Could Be than they were on denouncing the negative aspects of the past and being against this or that. I argue that’s an important factor in their success. Yes, they got lots of things wrong, and I wouldn’t want to re-capitulate their errors.

    But if this discussion is about [success and] failure, we might want to consider some of the reasons why Progressives back in the day were so successful, despite the odds, whereas the “Progressive” Netroots hasn’t been anything close to as successful.

  43. Oh. I see now my other post has been freed from its captivity. Oh well, what do they say about “repetition?”

  44. David Shaughnessy

    Yes, Wendy, your comment reminded of something I forgot to include in my post. The reason the Democratic Party is a wreck and in no position to clobber the lunatic GOP is due to the Obama betrayal.

    All presidents have enormous power, especially within their own party. Once Obama revealed himself as a neoliberal ideologue, the Progressives who supported him were first shocked and then appalled at the treachery. Instead of attempting a rapprochement, which Obama could easily have done, Obama instead unleashed attack dogs like Rahm Emmanuel to savage the Left. That was a signal to Obama’s most loyal supporters — the ultra-partisans and the African American community — that it was open season of Progressives. That’s exactly what happened in the blogosphere: Firebaggers, purists, fools, Leftards, etc. It got very ugly but Obama’s tactic worked and Progressives were marginalized within the Democratic Party.

    The strategic political problem for the Democratic Party is that Progressives provides the party with its philosophical core (albeit honored more in the breach today) and much of its energy. Without that Progressive component, there is nothing for the Democrats to offer other than — as I mentioned before — identity politics and the Lesser-of-Two-Evils. The more acute electoral problem was that the American People WANTED Progressive solutions and, when the Democrats failed, the voters responded by punishing the Democrats in 2010 and, really, ever since. When one considers how repugnant the present Republican Party is today, it is astonishing that it even remains a viable enterprise. The GOP has the Democratic Party Establishment — and most especially — Barack Obama to thank.

    One last point: We have not failed. We were deceived. We were tricked by the ultimate trickster. We must vow not to let that happen again.

  45. BlizzardOfOz

    There’s an article in Salon today entitled: “Libertarians are even whiter and wealthier than the GOP.” (the horror!) I remember when Digby used to take time from her round-the-clock Sarah Palin coverage, to denounce Rand Paul’s denunciation of drones.

    The prospect of left/liberal tactical alliance really seems to touch a nerve with the worst of the Democrats’ water-carriers and shills. Is that alone not a good reason to pursue it further?

  46. grayslady

    @David Shaughnessy
    You make some excellent and brutally honest points. I agree with all of them–except one. Being from Illinois, I knew darn well Obama was a nobody–just a phony with a fancy resume. Some of us in the blogosphere tried to point this out in the run-up to 2008, but most frustrated Dems wanted so desperately to believe that Obama embodied all their liberal views that they didn’t want to hear the truth, probably because they were frustrated by the alternative candidates that seemed to be heading for the finish line. Heck, Black Agenda Report had Obama pegged well in advance of 2008; but people didn’t want to hear the truth. Maybe they just didn’t want to be duped one more time.

    In all of the commentary here, I can’t help being reminded of the classic remark by Edward Snowden when he was first interviewed by Glenn Greenwald. Asked why he hadn’t acted previously, Snowden said: “I kept waiting for a leader.” Once he realized Obama wasn’t the kind of leader he had envisioned, Snowden said he came to understand that a leader is simply the person who is willing to step forward first. Progressives, liberals, whatever you want to call them, all keep waiting for that mythical “leader”. Ned Lamont was one of the few who decided not to wait for a leader, but to step up to the plate. Of course, he also had scads of money to fund his own campaign. Not so easy to run at the national level without deep pockets if you want to blow off the campaign committee fundraising of the legacy parties.

  47. markfromireland

    @ Ché Pasa October 30, 2013

    The desire to ally with right-wing extremists is not only misplaced it’s downright dangerous.

    My point was a simple one which is that if the American ‘left’ wants to undo some of the damage done by a generation’s worth and counting of centre to extreme right-wing government (arguably two generations if you take Nixon as your starting point). Then it will be expedient to present and argue for their policy proposals in term of fairness and enlightened self-interest.

    The reason is very simple. Terms such as ‘socialist’, ‘left-wing’, and ‘liberal’ are now quite simply politically toxic. If you’re going to describe either yourself or your policies as any of those things you might as well try to garner political support by uploading videos to YouTube of you laughing maniacally as you drown puppies in a bucket. If on the other hand you talk about fairness that is likely to resonate with your target audience.

    Politics as a very successful politician once remarked ‘is the art of the possible’.


  48. Ian Welsh

    When I was at the Agonist I warned Obama was a wannabe Reaganite. At FDL such primary posts were verbotten.

    The epitome of Obma’s suckiness is this: he did not fire Bush’s USDAs. He was the first president to not get rid of most of his predecessors USDAs if that predecessor was of the opposite party. He did not purge the bureaucracy of Bush appointees at all. Just fuckin’ pathetic. Say what you will about Clinton (and I am not a fan) she would have purged.

  49. markfromireland

    PS: There’s nothing wrong with Marxism as an analytical tool. Marxism essentially reduces everything to a simple question:

    “Cui bono”.

    Some of the purest not to say purist Marxist analysis around is that which goes on in corporate boardrooms. Asking ‘who benefits, how, and by how much’ is to ask some very good questions. Thus Marxian analyses should be part of any policy analysis toolbox. Where Marxism (and its various derivatives) go pear shaped is in its prescriptions.


  50. David Shaughnessy


    Yes, I realize that not everyone was tricked by Obama. I was. Many others were. And enough were for Obama to achieve critical mass as a Progressive. Undoubtedly, many — myself included — were so desperate after Bush that we saw what we wanted to see. I think that Team Obama — and the plutocrats who sponsored his candidacy — saw this desperation and exploited it quite consciously. And Obama is the best liar I have ever seen. He lies from the very core of his being. When Bill Clinton lied he was almost ridiculously obvious. Obama is a magician.

    Ian, when you say Obama didn’t fire Bush’s “USDAs,” are you referring to the United States Attorneys? If so, I recall reading a news article from shortly after Obama’s 2008 inauguration. There was a hearing in Federal court, I believe in California, in one of Bush electronic surveillance cases (FISA?). The Bush DOJ lawyers had been their presenting their best John Yoo authoritarian rationales. When the Obama DOJ lawyers showed for the hearing after the election, the judge sort of chuckled and said, “Well, I imagine the Department will be revising its position now.” When the Obama DOJ lawyers said the Department’s position was the unchanged, the judge was shocked. Another dupe, I imagine.

  51. Ian Welsh

    Yes, I mean USA’s.

  52. Mary McCurnin

    Voting for FISA before being elected president was the big clue. I knew we were screwed. I voted for him anyway. I regret it now.

  53. Awesome thread. So many distinguished commenters with (‘Net-time) historical cred.

    But I see that there’s something new “upstairs”…

  54. someofparts

    I take every opportunity to complain about the injustices I see every day. Never in a million years would I dream of using terms like liberal or conservative. ( And I don’t use the words Democrat or Republican for the same reason I don’t go around saying fuck fuck fuck all day – one tries to avoid using profanity in public when possible.) Why shoot yourself in the conversational foot right out of the gate by self-applying a label that makes normal people immediately write you off as an opportunist and liar?

    I’m a fairly well-read secretary working for a bunch of engineers. My job gets done and my work is bearable because of the survival network I share with the other secretaries. Fuck age, race or any of that shit. Those things exist, but don’t matter as much as you might think they would in my world. Every day I watch the engineers preen and play their depressing games to jockey for whatever advantage-du-jour they cherish in their horribly foreshortened little hearts. I watch me and my administrative colleagues do the work and then watch the fucking engineers really, I fucking kid you not, really believe that they were the ones who got it done.

    Can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m a foot soldier in an economic class war.

  55. S Brennan

    “Once Obama was inaugurated, he immediately abandoned Progressivism”

    TARP, FISA preceded inauguration, Obomer spent his first hundred days making sure that any FDR policies “were off the table”,

    The sad truth is, Obomer’s effectiveness has been his ability to fool enough of the people, enough of the time. It’s his “dead-end” supporters that are the problem.

    Blogistan’s talk radio hosts, Josh, Ezra, Digby et al kept pointing at Sarah Palin while Obomer, handed out money to Wall Street, kept Iraq going, escalated AF-PAK [with disastrous results], eviscerated the constitution in ways too many to mention, all the while ignoring the plight of those made jobless by his campaign contributors…the list is longer, but I’m tired of repeating myself.

    Having lived in the NOLA area after Katrina, few of Bush’s supporters were as vocal as Obomer’s are still. Most were/are apologetic for their idiocy, Obomer’s supporters on the other hand, are still telling those suffering “this is working very well for them.” [h/t Barbara Bush]

    The Obomer supporters have yet to have their Katrina moment, I live in a “liberal” city, Obomer’s supporters are every bit as ignorant the worst of the Bush supporters…apparently, education and “breeding” don’t negate the power of willful ignorance.

  56. Just fuckin’ pathetic. Say what you will about Clinton (and I am not a fan) she would have purged.

    But, it still would’ve only replaced the zealous Neocons with the equally dangerous NeoLibs, Ian…! 8-(

  57. Formerly T-Bear

    My, my, my, still on about juvenile dichotomous, either/or games; how cute! when you have before you door number three, systematic corruption and all that entails. This discussion is that of magpies, telling of last month’s bright and shinny objects.

    Wonder what EPU would have made of it.

  58. Formerly T-Bear

    Argh! A kingdom for an edit!

    above, 2nd line: you have before your lying eyes door number three, …

    An additional observation on Libertarianism: Libertarianism was the ideology used by the John Birch Society to clothe itself with pseudo-credibility. Libertarianism is a designed construct, woven out of interpretations, propaganda, disinformation, political fantasy and marketing to meet the requirements of a particular agenda, much as neoliberal economics has been constructed to erase all other options for consideration, leaving only itself the sole beneficiary of TIna – There IS no alternative.

  59. Celsius 233

    I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.
    John Adams, letter to John Taylor (15 April 1814).

    Are we, the U.S., still a democracy? When one can answer that question factually; then one will know the action required.
    I do not see this as a possibility in the current reality…

  60. peon

    Not an “A-lister” here but as an avid reader of those blogs I think I represent a large group. When something happens in the political world I go to those blogs for analysis. I like the spectrum of views from Digby to Ian. I don’t always agree, and there are some I used to read but no longer. Many withered and died of Obamadoration .
    I like “pith” with a pertinent link. I have a life and appreciate brevity.
    I farm, live in a conservative community, most of my acquaintances are Tea Party Libertarians. My friends are socialists. We have common ground on some issues and worked together during the Bush years to oppose war but I have no illusions about a joining of ranks.
    One or the other of us would have to sell out a lot of our principles.
    The Tea Party has traction because it appeals to white male anger at losing the little piece of the pie they had control of and having to share with the “wimmin”and “the other”.
    People with money recognize this and feed the anger with money. It is useful to them.
    People with money will never feed what the left wants. We want to take the whole pie back and share with everyone. Hell, I don’t even care if they work for it.

  61. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide…

    Are we, the U.S., still a democracy?

    We’ve yet to see a democracy in full bloom. Our “democracy” was tilted towards property, privilege and wealth from its inception. One can argue that things are worse (I’m not going to disagree with that,) but I don’t think “democracy” should take the hit.

    The realization of a true democracy may be, ultimately, sociopolitically impossible… but that’s another discussion.

  62. Dan H

    Peon said, “People with money will never feed what the left wants. We want to take the whole pie back and share with everyone. Hell, I don’t even care if they work for it.”

    Well put. Of course the problem with most of the “progressives” in this country is that theyre not actually leftists. Its a sham to ease their conscience. Give a penny, take a dollar… Sadly its enough for many of our species.

  63. Hugh

    The fail was in progressives thinking they could effect change through the Democratic party. Sure, it was worth a try. It was all part of our learning curve. But it was known from the get go that neither Hillary nor Obama were progressive. And by the summer of 2008, it was also well known that Obama not only wasn’t progressive, he was extremely anti-progressive. Some of us who supported him only hesitantly then cut our ties. But many in the progressive blogosphere simply looked the other way. They were still into lesser evilism. So they threw their values down the toilet and supported Obama over McCain. It was a year or a year and a half into Obama’s first term before they really began to take in they had been had. And not just by Obama but by the Democratic party which was lined up behind him. The passage of Obamacare in what was it? March of 2010 should have been the final clarifying moment for progressives and progressive bloggers everywhere that “progressive Democrat” was an oxymoron. But instead of finally even at this late date burning their bridges to the Democrats, almost none of the so-called progressive blogosphere did. They continue to reflexively view debates in Republican versus Democrat terms, and they continue to mostly side with the Democrats. So the “progressive” blogosphere failed, so what? It deserved to. It wasn’t progressive. It was mostly filled with Trojan Horse Democrats. It was pure distraction, a tool to keep progressives from forming into a real opposition, to keep them chasing the cause du jour or wagging fingers at those crazy Republicans. That’s what made a movement like Occupy so appealing. It was designed not to go anywhere, or be a serious alternative to the two parties.

    This is not to say that there isn’t a progressive blogosphere. There is, but it is run on a shoestring at the margins. The so-called progressive blogosphere may have failed but then and now it continues to soak up most of the resources and keep them safely out of the hands of those bits and pieces that actually constitute an authentic progressive blogosphere, the one that broke with the Democrats, looks beyond the legacy party duopoly and to the core problems of the country. This blogosphere hasn’t failed, and it didn’t sell out. It’s the progressive blogosphere the much larger and better known one could have been and through greed and cowardice never was.

  64. Peter

    These posts and many of the comments are the most depressing things I’ve read for a long time. As a non-leftist interested in what the left has to say, I want to scream “Do you really think you can capture the political zeitgeist with such bleak analyses and such downer messages?” The old left enjoyed the successes it did because it was able to inspire the electorate with dreams of a better world in response to real conditions and a better life for real people and their families. Remember the eight hour day, “I have a dream”, the fights for j0b security, pensions, public education etc.? Today’s left often reminds me of aging Boomers wanting to take everybody’s toys away from them to forestall some vague future apocalyptic economic or environmental doom. A lot of the comments here sound like they’re from folks posting their despair as a farewell message just before they head home to die.

    You can infiltrate Tea Party rallies and play Spot the Racist with you camera for YouTube all you want, but if you don’t understand that underneath all their anger lies a message of hope for a better world that gives them energy and commitment, you won’t offer much of an alternative. Trying to pretend the embarassingly childish OWS protests were the seeds of sweeping transformative change or blaming all your failures on the Koch Brothers and shock jocks will keep you on the margins for a long time. How about looking into a mirror to see whether you played a role in your now being seen widely as the answer to the challenges of another century?

    I’ve read Ian’s 44 points several times. However stimulating on an intellectual “undergrad seminar” level, as a political program I can’t imagine them exciting anybody under fifty, but I can imagine lots of people resolving to fight them to their deaths. They seem to be largely a combination of old-fashioned Marx-lite and denying people things to save the planet. But it’s the timewarp that strikes me. Get rid of the suburbs? Do you really realize just how huge that demographic is and how psychologically invested in their homes and communities they are? Let’s undo LA and Manhatten while we’re at it. Sorry, Ian, you aren’t telling the average American, whoever he or she may be, why tomorrow will be better for them than today. Why would a young American setting out to build a career and family sign on to such a defensive ideology?

    It’s about the optimism, stupid.

  65. Celsius 233

    It’s about the optimism, stupid.
    Ah young Bison; optimism is highly over rated and a bad substitute for a firm view of reality.
    Without a real grounding in the reality of today, there is no possibility of a grasp of tomorrows possibilities. And, based on today’s realities, tomorrow isn’t looking too well.
    Your screed, while a rah, rah moment, isn’t a very realistic view of the realities of the present and near future.
    Maybe a time to buck up and buckle down, no?

  66. Ian Welsh

    Is this blog campaign rhetoric for the masses? No, no it’s not. It’s people inside the movement discussing the movement’s failures and goals.

    I can write stirring rhetoric and have done so in the past. If and when it’s time, I’ll do so again. It’s not time right now.

    And, actually, my post on the baseline scenario went viral and did very well amongst young people so they may have more stomach for honesty than you do.

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