The Risks for the Blogosphere of Taking on Lieberman
by Matt Stoller, Thu Jan 19, 2006 at 05:14:45 AM EST
We face real risks should we pick this fight. The progressive blogosphere is right now facing a crisis of legitimacy. Though blogs funneled massive amounts of money to Kerry in 2004, to the DNC when Dean was elected, and to individual candidates, we are seen as disorganized, immature and incoherent. We tend not to break through to the established media. Big donors do not fund us, unlike all the other groups in the party. We truly are on our own. Our latent allies - Dean, Reid, Slaughter - cannot work through us because we don't bring enough to the table. Contrast this to Redstate, which has around 20,000 readers, around 2% of the traffic of Daily Kos, yet has played some role in the current House leadership election contest. They know politics, they take politics seriously, and they are taken seriously as a result. They also have advantages we do not - the founders of Redstate were already members of the Republican political elite.
But still, what have we accomplished? Individual actors - Josh Marshall, John Aravosis, Steve Clemons - are taken seriously, but they were established before blogs emerged. How have we made the country better? It's not an easy question to answer, but it's the same question we put to the party establishment every day. If we have no answer, then we don't deserve to be taken seriously, because we really are whining.
Here are the risks as I see them should we decide to go full bore against Lieberman. Lieberman, despite relatively low approval ratings among Democrats, is still popular. And he has strong links with civil rights groups and environmental groups.
- The Connecticut party will line up against us.
- Howard Dean may line up against us.
- Harry Reid may line up against us.
- Environmental advocacy groups may line up against us.
- Labor may line up against us.
- Dodd may line up against us.
So should we pick this fight, and should Lamont get crushed, we will once again be thrown into the 'loser' bucket and be dismissed as weirdos on the internet. But that's not the real reason I'm concerned. My concern is about what we stand for as a group, and how we define ourselves. One of the things Crashing the Gates laid out is how we're a different group of lefties. We aren't 1960s and 1970s liberals who act in a reactionary fashion against those who don't share our point of view.
Yet, in picking this fight against Lieberman, we're not really running 'on' something. I see no thread of articulated principles here that would justify a Lieberman challenge. The Sierra Club at least looks at your environmental record. What do we look at? The number of times someone has reiterated right-wing frames? What are we looking for in a candidate, that Lieberman isn't? I'm looking for principles here, things to wrap ourselves in.
If we are making demands, which supporting a primary challenger is doing, what are they? If we simply make the demand that a candidate not be Lieberman, then what kind of legitimacy does that confer on us as a group? How can other politicians follow that lead? They can't. And if we are demanding leadership from our party, and from our political system as a whole, we have to show some ourselves.
I'm going to ask people who don't support a primary challenge to refrain from commenting on this thread. I'm trying to get to some level of understanding here. Why would you oppose Lieberman? What are the principles that define your opposition?
UPDATE: I'm really liking the comments so far. Three points in particular are principles that define what he does that we do not like:
- His support for policies that are ruining America's military and standing in the world
- His support for borrow and spend policies that are bringing the American economy to a grinding halt
- His failure to hold the executive branch accountable