Frustration on Global Warming

This is frustrating.

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26 CBC Members Do PR for Fox News

There's an article in the New York Times by Raymond Hernandez and Jacques Steinberg on the CBC Institute continuing to keep the Fox News debate alive.  At this point, it's really quite sad.  It's worth noting, as usual, that Maxine Waters rocks.  She's publicly opposed to the debate, contrasting with the 26 members of the CBC who signed a letter asking Obama, Clinton, and Edwards to reconsider the decision to appear on Fox News.  Charlie Rangel, Keith Ellison, Al Wynn and John Lewis were four of the Fox News boosters.

The debate inside the caucus is ongoing.

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1990s Clinton Paranoia

I'm watching a Chris Matthews show, which seems to be entirely focused on the new books coming out on Hillary Clinton and trivial nonsense from the 1990s.  Ugh.  Pundit freaks.

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Disruptive Field Tools

Campaigns have changed a lot over the past four years.  2000 and 2002 saw low-turnout debates over snowmobiles and earth tones, dominated by big television budgets and the so-called 'Gang of 500' set of establishment journalists and pundits.  In 2004, blogs came into politics and disrupted the traditional model of fundraising and media, bringing a new and much more information-intensive path to understanding politics.  You no longer had to be an insider to get polling data, and this created a platform for activist innovation.   The closed loop of fundraising and insider connections to journalists was short-circuited by this new model of distributing message, and earlier internet political organizing models like Moveon were able to fully flower into independent GOTV and media organs.  In 2006, youtube disrupted the traditional video market, and layered itself onto blogs and mature tools like Actblue to change the way that message was distributed, and funded.  

And yet, there has always been a distance between field/GOTV and the media/polling/fundraising worlds.  The big question - can the internet deliver votes - has never been answered.  I still hear the argument put out by people like David Plouffe, who is running the media side for Obama's campaign.

"Don't get me wrong," said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager and Rospars's boss, "the Internet is a powerful organizing and fundraising tool, and it's getting more and more important every day, but it's still not the persuasion and message tool that TV is."

This is a pretty dumb attitude, it's kind of like saying 'well advertising on comedy shows is gold, but drama isn't where the voters are.'  If the people are on the internet and are also watching TV, you have to be in both places.  As you can see, the dismissive attitude towards the internet and the innovative possibilities it offers is still around, large and in charge, even on what is supposedly the most internet-savvy campaign.  I think by the end of this cycle, that will have changed.  The notion of 'going door to door' on the internet, through offering video clips to targeted voters over MySpace, will be here.  Social networks will be combined with voter files, which have seen dramatic improvements since 2000.  And fundraising, field, and media will have converged.  Candidates will be putting out youtube clips early to raise money, identify supporters, and win primaries.  All of this has been tested already, and it works.

Rock the Vote, in 2004, registered 1.2 million voters with a simple online voter registration download tool.  That's more than twice as much as they had ever registered in any other cycle, including the youth-spike year of 1992.  And the online voter registration tool wasn't particularly flexible.  What's happening this cycle could be ground-breaking, in that Rock the Vote is building a voter registration engine with an API anyone can innovate on top of.  Groups and individuals will be able to capture the number of people they register, the data of the people they register, and the contact information of those they register.  This means that, unlike with a standard voter registration download form, the person who asked you to register, presumably someone you trust, will be reminding you to vote.  That's a big deal.  They will also be able to get credit for registering you to vote, since the voter engine will let people see how many people have registered through a page.  It'll be kind of like Actblue, for voter registration.

I've been combing around voter registration statistics, and the number of 18-29 year old voters who voted in 2004 versus 2000 jumped from 15.8 million to 20.1 million, an increase of 4.3 million.  With Facebook, MySpace, and Youtube turning intensely political, it's pretty clear that voter registration, and specifically, being able to count voter registration and compete over it, will be a killer ap.  Finally, field will be at least in some part measurable and put online.  Facebook alone has 22-24 million members, and is growing at 150,000 members a day.  MySpace is over 100 million.  And though it's unclear how many of these user accounts are citizens and how seriously they take participation in these public spaces, the fact that there are these public spaces, and that they are gargantuan, is a game-changer.  My guess is that the opinion leaders in these communities are traditional pundits and stars, but it doesn't have to be this way, and bands and bloggers are in the mix as well.

If Rock the Vote experiences the type of growth of regular Web 2.0 startups like Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, Youtube, etc, there's no reason that 18-29 year old voting block can't expand its share of the electorate by 3 or 4 points. This would swing Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Iowa, and Ohio.  And it would put North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, and Arkansas into the swing category, while pulling New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania out of swing state territory.

In primaries, the effect of more youth voters would be much more significant, especially if the cost of communicating with these voters drops below the cost of communicating with other demographic blocks.  And we're not even talking about the self-organizing tendencies this generation is already displaying, with its competency in using the grouping tools of the internet.  All in all, it's pretty neat to live through a historical realignment of the political system.  It started in 1998 with Moveon, and by 2008, the new rules of politics will be in place.

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Katrina Swett to Activist Blogger: Get a Life

I know little about New Hampshire Democratic Senate candidate Katrina Swett, but this back-and-forth between Swett and an activist blogger is really obnoxious. 

I have looked through her FEC Report, I wrote a post about it here.  I talked a little about some of the things I found out, how most of the money came from large out of state donors, and if she thought it was ok for those out of state donors to buy her the Democratic nomination.  My follow up question was asking her what she would do with the money she raised that's marked for the general election, about 30% of it, if she lost the nomination.

Swett said she makes no apologies for her fundraising; whoever takes on John Sununu is going to need all the help they can get.  She also said that if she lost the Democratic Nomination, she'd be on the ground `the next day' campaigning for the winner.  Fair enough.

She also told me "Well, if you spend that much time looking through my FEC Report, you need a more interesting life.  I have a few suggestions for you. . ."

Is this how she'll handle tough questions from Democratic Activists?  Tell them to get a more interesting life and stop following the campaign so closely?

Also, as an overall criticism, Katrina Swett is a bit long winded.  I found it difficult to follow what she was saying at times, and even more difficult to find a good quote in the middle of her responses.  I think she's aware of this, because she made a joke about her son reminding her to stay brief in her remarks.

So, I don't know.  Katrina Swett speaks passionately about the issues she cares about, and is obviously committed to defeating John Sununu.  I talked to her after, and she was really very nice.  I wasn't inspired by her safe Democratic positions, but they were light-years ahead of John Sununu.  

A little googling shines a bit more light on her career.  Swett is a somewhat milquetoast candidate who backed Lieberman's independent bid in Connecticut, though her positions are fairly liberal.  Her husband was a two-term Congressman who has endorsed Clinton, and she seems to be the establishment choice in the Democratic primary to face Sununu (her opponent is Steve Marchand).  She actually managed her husband's first campaign, so she has a deep and working knowledge of politics.  Surprisingly, though, she lost to Charlie Bass in 2002 despite dramatically outspending him.  Politics is in her family; her father is Congressman Tom Lantos, a noted Iran hawk (and holocaust survivor).

All in all, Swett seems like a standard 1990s Democrat, a bit contemptuous of activists and into the whole loads of cash thing.  I could be wrong.  But I do want to note that treating progressive activists who want to blog about public politics and policy badly is a good way of getting mentioned on MyDD.

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Criticism and Clinton

With the orgy of Clinton-bashing books from so-called journalists coming out, it's worth codifying a few informal rules that I have about Hillary Clinton and blogging.  

  1. Reject right-wing frames. Criticism that focuses on false information and bad faith paranoia from the right needs to be vigorously rejected.  It's not only bad to accept falsehoods as a matter of public discourse, it's also a problem for progressives to accept falsehoods about any of our candidates.  The right-wing attack on Clinton - that she is cold, evil, a criminal, or any number of untruths - has nothing to do with Clinton and everything to do with representing all Democrats as off-gendered elites.  It's all about trivializing discourse and reducing political choices between principled he-men and diffident second-guessing ninnies.

  2. Embrace substance. Criticism that focuses on substantive conflicts of interest and policy differences is absolutely fair game.  Clinton deserves scorn for her support of the war, her inconsistencies on the conflict, and her embrace of corporate interests.

  3. Knock off the sexism. I am tired of hearing people use misogynistic terms to describe Clinton.  It's not only wrong, it's stupid.  Clinton's strategy is designed to appeal to liberal women who would otherwise reject a hawkish conservative, but are proud of seeing a poised and brilliant woman make it in a male-dominated world.  There's no better way to help Clinton than prove to these women that opposition to Clinton comes from a desire to maintain a glass ceiling and a good ole boys network.  Stop it.  Also, go get some therapy, assholes.

These rules are important for all Democrats, but they are especially important for Clinton primary opponents.  If you reify the stereotype of Clinton as cold and stiff, voters that do not support Clinton will expect her to be cold and stiff.  When she turns out to be warm, intelligent and charismatic, these people will reconsider their opinions towards Clinton and become more open-minded.  This is heavily tied into the argument about electibility; Clinton wants this election to be about whether she can be elected rather than what she believes.  The reason is pretty simple - she wants liberal Democrats to vote based on criteria that has nothing to do with what she will do as President, and that's because most of us don't share her belief that troops need to stay in Iraq.  Her campaign has made this pretty clear by making the electability argument the centerpiece of her campaign, and using it against the other candidates.  If you make your criticism centered on conflicts of interest and policy issues, you will be on firmer ground.  You can dismiss the 'choose my song' and cute youtube clips she's making as professional and evident that she's pretty great on TV, but also irrelevant to the primary question of who would be the best President and best candidate.  

Clinton has a deep and strong emotional base in the Democratic Party, and for good reason.  She was attacked viciously for years by a lunatic fringe of Neanderthals, aided and abetted by mass media gossips like Jeff Gerth and Maureen Dowd.  The challenge for all of us is to make sure that the right-wing freak show of the 1990s is not validated the way that Ralph Nader validated it in 2000.  There is a difference between any Democratic candidate and any Republican candidate in 2008.  The challenge for progressives who oppose Clinton has an added dimension.  We must reject the right-wing critique while making a strong and clear case that it is Clinton's vision of a hawkish and corporate-aligned party that we oppose.  We must show that though she is a rock star with charisma and brilliance, that she also believes in a more conservative and cautious version of politics than we need at this moment in history.

So yes, she's very brilliant, but she also said this just a few years ago before voting for a bill with a withdrawal timeline in it.

I don't believe it's smart to set a date for withdrawal. I don't think you should ever telegraph your intentions to the enemy so they can await you.

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Third Way and Branding

So Chris has been doing a series of posts on the think tank Third Way, a group that offers policy ideas and talking points to centrist Democratic Senators.  I have conflicting information on how influential they really are, but it is instructive to watch the moderates and the centrists in the Democratic Party try to modify their branding.  So I'm going to wade into the intra-party debate.

In Chris's last post, he printed an email from a Third Way rep claiming that Third Way doesn't mean triangulating between the left and the right but is meant to signify the third great progressive era, after the turn of the 20th century and the New Deal.  I found this explanation of the name unsatisfying. Based on the literature of the group, the bio of its President, and the origin of the term itself, it seems very unlikely that what the Third Way rep wrote to Chris is accurate. Here are some facts which give me pause.

  • Jonathan Cowan, Third Way's President, founded a group called Americans for Gun Safety that promised to bring a new voice to a debate dominated for too long "by the far left and far right". Triangulating against the left has been a core fundraising strategy for Cowan for years, in fact. For instance... 

  • Cowan previously founded a Gen X-focused group in 1992 that called for the privatization of Social Security and was funded in part by third party Presidential candidate Ross Perot.  (There's a whole lot more here, including Cowan in a backwards baseball cap grabbing media attention and an anti-boomer manifesto called Revolution X).

  • Third Way transparently and dishonestly used polling data to misrepresent the electorate as whiter, more male, and richer than it really is. Polling the electorate in 2006 and comparing it to 2004 is just misleading, since a Presidential electorate is always wider than a midterm. Moreoever, Third Way's economic 'analysis' on middle class is similarly fraudulent. They misrepresent statistics, change measurement definitions to suit their conclusions, and use standard right-wing spin to hide wealth inequality. If your political statistics and economic work has no analytical rigor and is coming from a political group designed to push certain policies, then if the work is tilted against the middle class, it's hard to see that as anything but right-wing.

  • Third Way is a term rooted in the synthesis between the left and the right, and is not a historical description of a third great wave of progressivism. I have never heard of the progressive era referred to as 'the first way', or the New Deal era referred to as the 'second way'. Have you?

  • Here's Third Way's prospectus from 2004.

    Progressive centrism is not about splitting the difference between right and left.  Rather, it is a philosophy that favors government regulation to ensure fairness but opposes interference in private lives; it is a "third choice" that replaces the left's defense of big government and the right's frenzy to dismantle government.

    Bashing big government and the left is fairly triangulationistic, and that's the kind of rhetoric that flows through all of Third Way's work right alongside the rhetoric bragging about bringing progressivism into the 21st century.

All of this is to say that I'm glad Third Way is trying to shift their branding away from hating on the left.  But come on.  Don't try to tell us Third Way doesn't mean what everyone knows it means. That's just a naked admission that your brand is dead.

More on Screw the Base Day

Here's Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, on her work for corporate interests and for Clinton's campaign, written on an internal corporate blog.

I have found the mixing of corporate and political work to be stimulating, enormously helpful in attracting talent, and helpful in cross- pollinating new ideas and skills.  And,'' he added, ``I have found it good for business.''

And what does Clinton think of this, asks Howard Wolfsen?

The real question from the campaign perspective is whether Senator Clinton is comfortable with what Mark is doing, and the answer to that is yes, unequivocally,''

As I've written and will continue to write, Clinton is brilliant, warm, and very charismatic.  Frankly, though, I'm not sure if that makes the Penn problem more or less damning.  It certainly shows that there's a political machine that is embedded deeply in the Democratic Party at its highest echelons wedded to lobbying culture.

And while we're on screw the base day, I'm enjoying this.

Democrats who campaigned successfully last year against a "culture of corruption" in the Republican-controlled Congress found themselves one-upped today when more than 30 of their own members voted for a GOP motion to strengthen the package.

By 228-192, the House adopted a motion by Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to recommit the first of two lobbying bills -- a measure requiring quarterly disclosure by lobbyists of bundled contributions to candidates and party units -- to broaden the disclosure requirement to cover bundled donations to other PACs as well.

Woo-hoo!  Better parking spots for Democrats!  Universal health care for all Democratic members of Congress!

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Disappointing the Base Day

Well we knew that we wouldn't get what we wanted in 2006.  Here was my prediction.  This is a multi-cycle challenge, with the need for progressive primary challenges years into the future.  Shelley Berkeley, Howard Berman, and Steny Hoyer are particularly bad, and though I have no idea if any of them are vulnerable to a progressive challenger in their district, I would support such a challenger if one arose.

Meanwhile, all we can do is make lists of those who betray their constituents.  Afro-netizen was leaked a letter from 26 CBC members imploring Obama, Edwards, and Clinton to attend the Fox News-CBCi debate.  Color of Change listed them in the comments.

Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Bennie Thompson
James Clyburn
Sanford Bishop
G.K. Butterfield
Mel Watt
Danny Davis
John Lewis
Keith Ellison
Charles Rangel
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Sheila Jackson Lee
Donna Christian-Christensen
Diane Watson
Al Wynn
Elijah Cummings
David Scott
Yvette Clarke
John Conyers
Hank Johnson
Al Green
Corrine Brown

As Hoyer, Pelosi, Emanuel, Slaughter and Clyburn rig the rules in the House to force a blank check through Congress, we should remember.  This is a betrayal.  This is the same betrayal as 26 CBC members (19 or whom are progressive caucus members) who want our candidates to debate on Fox News, a Republican propaganda outlet.  They value their insider status and connections more than the will of the public or the people they represent.

We knew this would happen.  Our political system has been corroded by 60 years of fear-mongering, and it's not going to be cleaned out with one election cycle.  As we work to clean it up, though, we need to keep good notes.

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Three FUs to the Base

Today is screw the base day, where insider liberals whine about us not accepting their ineffective bullshit.  First up is weakling Louise Slaughter and her diary on Dailykos.  Second up is 23 members of the CBC who wrote an incredibly whiny letter to Clinton, Obama, and Edwards asking them to do the Fox News-CBCi debate.  And third is Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist.

Alright, and to the barricades!

FU One

Representative Louise Slaughter is a nice example of the old progressive caucus mentality.  Here's her pathetic whiny diary on Daily Kos explaining why she's chosen to kill more Americans and Iraqis with her cowardly choices.  Activists are mad, as you can read in the comments.  Slaughter is basically acting like an irresponsible child.  She keeps pretending that this is Bush's war instead of an American war that we can and need to stop, and it's everyone's responsibility to deal with it but hers.  

Slaughter has always been an institutionalist, though she has a liberal voting record.  She's quite proud of her integrity and work on ethics, but if you talk to actual citizens that work on the issue, she's not there when you need her.  Last cycle, Slaughter refused to file an ethics complaint against Republicans because she didn't want to break the ethics truce with Tom Delay inc.  And then there's Slaughter endorsing a self-funding primary challenge to Eric Massa in NY-29, even though Massa has all the grassroots support in the district.

At the end of the day, Slaughter is part of a machine.  She doesn't have any independent capacity to make decisions or work according to progressive values.  She plays by Republican Calvinball rules.

FU Two

Let's go to the mostly progressive CBC and their choice to protect a really bad decision.  Here's a list of CBC members who whined to the Presidentials that they should go on Fox News in a letter written and sent a few days ago.  Color of Change listed the signers as follows.  I removed two of them because their names weren't clear. and I also bolded the members of the progressive caucus.  The CBC members who signed the letter didn't want their names out there, so I'm putting them out there.  It's so awesome how they want to ask Democrats to go on Fox News and don't want their names associated with the ask.  

Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick
Bennie Thompson
James Clyburn
Sanford Bishop
G.K. Butterfield
Mel Watt
Danny Davis
John Lewis
Keith Ellison
Charles Rangel
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Sheila Jackson Lee
Donna Christian-Christensen
Diane Watson
Al Wynn
Elijah Cummings
David Scott
Yvette Clarke
John Conyers
Hank Johnson
Al Green
Corrine Brown

Keith Ellison is particularly disappointing.  

FU Three

Let's go for old reliable in progressive disappointment, Hillary Clinton.  Here's Mark Penn, her chief strategist, on his corporate and political work.

`I have found the mixing of corporate and political work to be stimulating, enormously helpful in attracting talent, and helpful in cross- pollinating new ideas and skills.'

``And,'' he added, ``I have found it good for business.''

And what does Clinton think of this?

``The real question from the campaign perspective is whether Senator Clinton is comfortable with what Mark is doing, and the answer to that is yes, unequivocally,''

Progressives have seen better days. I think we all knew this was coming prior to the 2006 election, and it's best to take the long view. We didn't get into this mess in 2003, and it's going to take more than one election cycle to get us out.

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Diaries

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