The Netroots and The Progressive Movement Are The Difference
by Chris Bowers, Mon Oct 02, 2006 at 10:45:32 AM EDT
There are two primary reasons for the improvement of Democratic prospects in 2006 compared to other recent election cycles: Republican implosion and the maturation of the progressive movement. Generally speaking, Democrats have not taken the advice of the three main narratives that followed the 2004 elections: talk faith, get right-wing on national security, and make it clear what they stand for. However, outside of Tim Kaine and Harold Ford, I haven't seen much of anything from Democratic candidates this election cycle when it comes to actually "talking faith." I also missed the point where Democrats moved to the right on national security, especially with 90% of Democrats favoring a timetable for withdrawal of troops in Iraq for almost a year now, and Democratic opposition to the Patriot Act increasing sharply. And if someone can tell me that the Democratic platform is clearer now than it was in 2006, I'd like to hear that argument.
The differences between 2006 and other recent elections is not that Democrats have started talking faith (we haven't), not that we have moved to the right on national security (we haven't), and not that we have a clear agenda (we aren't any clearer now than we were in 2004). I also don't think that the argument that we had a slightly more vicious DCCC chair than in the past works very well. Further, I don't think the argument that we have more appealing leaders in the past works very well, because nationwide almost no one knows who Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are. The difference is that Republicans are imploding and that we have a mature progressive movement. For starters, just look at the financial improvement Democrats have made in 2006 (emphasis mine):
Now, let's look at candidate recruitment and party infrastructure. Democrats are running in more districts this year than they have run in a long, long time. While the Democratic leadership, including Rahm Emmanuel, deserves some credit for this, it didn't happen until the netroots started banging the drums of the fifty-state strategy in 2004. Howard Dean and the netroots demanded that we run everywhere, and then we went about making that plan a reality. We have filled thousands of vacant committee seats and precinct captainships the Democratic Party, paid for party organizers in all fifty states (the DNC is primarily bought and paid for by the netroots and the progressive grassroots), and sounded the call to activists around the nation that we could and should compete everywhere with Paul Hackett's narrow loss in OH-02. The netroots and the progressive movement are the primary driving forces behind the fifty-state strategy. They are why we have candidates, organizers, and party officials in more places than at any time in recent memory. This strategy has had, and will continue to have, a significantly positive impact on the outcome of the 2006 elections.
And why is the press coverage for Republican so much worse these days? The obvious answer when it comes to Foley is that sex is involved, and sex sells. However, the longer-term answer over the past two years is once again the netroots and the progressive movement. New organizations such as CREW and Media Matters are putting more pressure on the media to cover Republican scandals accurately than ever in the past. The netroots are keeping stories alive, such as the Downing Street Memo, and eventually helping to push them into the mainstream. New progressive media is now directly reaching millions more people every day than it did in the recent past. This is not even to mention these new progressive medias, especially the blogosphere, are putting serious pressure on the established media every day on every issue on every news story. This simply was not around before 2004.
The national media is already spinning that if Democrats win in 2006, it will be in spite of the netroots and the progressive movement, and if they lose it will be because of the progressive movement. However, the truth is that almost every major improvement Democrats have made in 2006 compared to previous election cycles was primarily driven by the netroots and the progressive movement. Fundraising, infrastructure, fifty-state strategy, media--almost all Democratic improvements in those areas were driven by the netroots in particular, and the progressive movement as a whole. We are the primary difference between 2006 and the past five election cycles (click here to see just how large that difference is right now). Even when it comes to Republican implosions, the progressive movement played a large role in making sure that those implosions were on display within the establishment media for the entire country to see.
The media narrative should not be that Democrats have a chance to win in spite of the netroots and the progressive movement. An honest appreciation of the situation reveals that most, if not all, of the significant improvements Democrats have made from 2004 to 2006 were generated primarily within the netroots and the progressive movement. If Democrats win in 2006, it will be because of the netroots and the progressive movement, not in spite of it. That Democrats are in such a good situation right now is largely because of the netroots and the progressive movement, not in spite of it. I'd really like to hear a counter-argument as to what improvements Democrats have made in 2006 that were not primarily generated by the progressive movement. An argument could be made that the nexus of new institutions surrounding Democracy Alliance is another major difference maker, but that is hardly an old-school development. The netroots and the progressive movement are far more organized and wide-reaching than they were in 2004 and before, and that is making a big difference in Democratic fortunes in 2006. Just look at Colorado for a microcosm of this. Democrats are not winning in Colorado in spite of the progressive movement, but because of it. When Democrats gain seats in 2006--and Democrats will gain seats in 2006--that will be because of the progressive movement too.