In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler (By Hotline's William Beutler)

I asked Beutler to respond, and he kindly assented. Matt

On Saturday morning you may have read Matt Stoller eviscerating my Washington Examiner analysis of blogger-backed primary challenges in 2006. He's since offered me this chance to explain and expand here at MyDD, and I appreciate the opportunity.

First of all, I would like to separate the op-ed from my day job, writing Hotline's Blogometer. Matt advised you to take the Blogometer with a "massive grain of salt" from here on, but I think that's unfair. My op-ed took a clear position and gave advice; the Blogometer's purpose is to give an overview of the political blogging scene. When I do make arguments there, they're generally descriptive rather than prescriptive. So I just ask that you judge the Blogometer based on the Blogometer itself.

Next, I will concede something: I was not fully informed when I wrote that that no national groups had endorsed the strategy of targeting incumbents -- I was not aware that the AFL-CIO was already backing Ciro Rodriguez. However, the MoveOn endorsement didn't come until the day the article went to press, and the DFA endorsement wasn't in the Hotline until the day after. Had I published this independently on the web, I would have had strikethrough tags at my disposal -- advantage, blogosphere. So I may have spoken too soon: Apparently Democrats are getting into Club for Growth-style primary challenges. And as I'll get to below, I think that could be a mistake.

Matt points out that I didn't cite any blogs in the piece. But this is simply a drawback of the short op-ed format: in 700 words one just doesn't have the space to make a complex argument and provide citations along the way. What's more, most readers of the Examiner wouldn't know MyDD from MySpace, so I only referenced Daily Kos, by far the best-known political blog. If I had included citations on the Matt singles out, they likely would have been this and this for bloggers urging Dems to back the filibuster; this and this for previous support of primary challengers; this and this for bloggers targeting "Vichy Democrats" who supported cloture.

Nor does one have the space for much nuance; Matt was outspokenly opposed to the filibuster, and I quoted him in the Blogometer about it at the time. That doesn't change the fact that it was a minority position. Matt also protests that he doesn't support Chuck Pennacchio, and I never said he did. Right here at MyDD though, Chris Bowers is backing Pennacchio, even though he acknowledges he can't win. (I don't begrudge Chris the ideological stand, but it still strikes me as misdirected energy -- after all, Democrats are nowhere near becoming a pro-life party.)

Markos is fond of saying that the neroots aren't about ideology. That may be so, although I wonder if Matt disagrees, as he criticizes me for saying "woe to" a Dem politician who misreads the blogosphere -- it's not rocket science, he says. Not to him, to be sure. But he might consider the fact that a lot of smart people find the blogosphere particularly inscrutable. (One reason more politicians haven't engaged the netroots is because they don't understand it. Attitudes like Matt's are one reason why they're reticent.) The left-blogosphere is a diverse crowd, and not everyone agrees with each other. That's a fine thing. But it would be a mistake not to realize there's a cumulative effect, and that's what I described.

As for my referencing the term "Vichy Democrats,"Thersites2 is correct in his suspicion that my column was partially inspired by his blog. But I'm not the first Beltway writer to notice its use on the left -- Howard Fineman picked up on it last fall, and Michael Crowley associated it with Howard Dean's approach in 2004. In fact, it didn't even originate with the blogosphere -- the late Mary McGrory attributed it to a "disillusioned liberal" in 1995 after a number of House Democrats voted with the Republicans to buy more Stealth bombers.

Now, I believe Markos when he says he despises the term -- it does drift too far into Godwin territory (I'm not sure why Steve Gilliard assumes I don't know what "Vichy" means) -- but nevertheless both "Vichy Democrats" and "Vichy Dems" are meta tags in use by contributors to dKos. The phrase was timely, punchy, and summed up the anger I saw directed against moderate and conservative Democrats.

Now, I've been asked why Matt Brown would do any worse against Lincoln Chafee than Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island. I ask why the challenge was necessary; their differences on Iraq are a matter of minutes, not degrees. Brown's climb in the polls has been impressive, but it owes to his TV presence more than anything else, and now they're just tied. Meanwhile Whitehouse has banked 5 times what Brown's got, and the NRSC is pulling out all the stops for Lincoln Chafee.

Let's go to Montana. John Morrison has won statewide more than once, is remarkably similar to Tester on the issues, has actually raised more money online than Tester, and has a pretty substantial lead. It's possible Tester could catch him, but like in Rhode Island, what's really gained? I don't need to tell you that Conrad Burns is in just as much trouble, if not more, than Chafee. But after a primary battle, the eventual nominee (still likely Morrison) is almost surely going to have less money and more liabilities. Name recognition is good to have, except when the name is attached to statements that come back to haunt the nominee in the fall.

If I had to guess, I'd say the reason Tester, Brown, Pennacchio, Hackett in OH SEN and others have so much blogger support is because they actively cater to the netroots. They speak in an inspiring, combative manner, they tend to be younger, and they hire well-known bloggers. That's good news for the netroots -- bloggers have clout. But it's limited, and might not have much more to grow. The blogosphere isn't a cross-section of the party, it's a constituency.

Matt also disputes my stating that "No candidate supported by Moulitsas has yet won a seat in Congress." I'm afraid my phrasing was imprecise -- I was talking about the "Kos 15" from 2004. Now, Markos has argued to me the strategy of expanding the playing field rather than winning every race, and I respect the long-term thinking. That said, 0-15 is still notable. Matt lists Stephanie Herseth and Ben Chandler as Kos-backed candidates. I tend to see these as moderate, establishment-backed candidates that bloggers accepted as well. But I'll reconsider my position on them. After all, if my argument is that the netroots and the national party need to be complementary rather than adversarial, these were examples of how that can work.

I get the impression that the netroots oppose the establishment as much as they do because they fear the party will run off the rails entirely otherwise. I don't buy the notion that the Democrats are on the verge of becoming a permanent minority party; rather, it seems to me that the divisions over the Iraq war have exaggerated the differences between the party's liberal and moderate wings. Republicans have held all 3 branches of government for only about five years and already they're in danger of losing it. The Democrats' disagreement on matters of style over substance make it less likely the Republicans will.

I realize much of my argument tracks with establishment position, and I don't mean to say the DSCC or DCCC are blameless -- that would be a different op-ed -- but it would be wiser to expand the field, as Markos tried in 2004, than go mano-a-mano with the entire Beltway Goliath this year. Instead I see the netroots and party establishment pulling in different directions, and especially in races where they don't need to.

Tags: Blogosphere, dccc, DSCC, Hotline, Media, William Beutler (all tags)



Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler (By Ho

So which is it?

The left-blogosphere is a diverse crowd, and not everyone agrees with each other.


The blogosphere isn't a cross-section of the party, it's a constituency.

At the least, I'd appreciate an expansion on this seeming contradiction.

Another question: do you count DFA 2.0 as part of the lefty blogs?

I read this and re-read it and still come to the conclusion that you're still scraping the surface of things and claiming to have dug deeply.

Perhaps that has more to do with Matt's caution towards Blogometer? I couldn't say, you'd have to ask him.

by Bill Rehm 2006-02-20 06:08AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler

Those statements aren't mutually exclusive. Bloggers do disagree with each other, but within a certain hard-to-define segment of the Democratic party base. Without the data to support a sketch of the average blog-reader I'll decline to do so, but I'll wager that most are probably new to following politics, within the last five years (as am I so, I don't mean to point fingers).

You ask a good question about DFA 2.0 -- It does occupy a different hard-to-define middle ground, but I treat it here as a traditional party group. If someone feels this is wrong, I'd be interested to hear why.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 06:31AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler

I accept that they may not be. Hence, the request for clarification.

Your answer seems rather nuanced, don't you think? In other words, I think you're pulling it out of your, er, out of thin air. You have no data, but you'll bet you can characterize us.

Similar characterizations of Howard Dean's support by the press were rampant during the '04 primaries. Turned out, they were wildly off-base.

As far as DFA 2.0, it was the first real evidence of what bloggers wrought -- a national organization, built from the grassroots.

Now, look at the Dean's List candidates that DFA backed in it's first election and the success rate. This is in spite of the fact that DFA's Dean's List candidates were chosen the same way Markos chose his.

Howard Dean is now Chairman of the DNC. His success in that campaign, in the face of huge resistance from the Washington power base, was in no small measure due to DFA's and blogger's support for his candidacy.

I am only speaking from experience here. I honestly don't know if the lefty blogs constitute a constituency. There is a self-reinforcing community, but I don't believe those are necessarily the same thing.

by Bill Rehm 2006-02-20 11:01AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler (By Ho

You don't satisfactorily, if at all, address this point:

Apparently Democrats are getting into Club for Growth-style primary challenges. And as I'll get to below, I think that could be a mistake.

You do, as you wrote above, simply describe that some challenges have been mounted and the long shot odds against those challenges, but do not explicitly address why it is a mistake to challenge Dems in the primary that do not support a National Democratic platform.

On a more general point, I have a problem on how the so-called "netroots" is almost treated as a completely separate animal from the Democratic grassroots.  I understand that for working journalist, specially those that reside in the Beltway, it is easier to tag and ID distinct groups (constituencies); because, once a group has been categorized (labeled) it more easily lends itself to story narratives (that is, pitting one group's interests against another group's interests).  

The fact is that the so-called netroots are not a distinct constituency, we are broadly speaking, simply the grassroots of the Democratic party.  Visitors and posters in the better known liberal blogs are the activists, the organizers and the election-year volunteers of the Democratic party.  Most of us are close observers of politics.  We're not a separate animal from the base of the Democratic party; we just happen to be vocal about our opinions.  Moreover, thanks to this medium, now a broader audience has access to the collective voices of the grassroots of the Democratic party -- something that was not technically feasible before.

Now, it's very telling that some in the elected leadership of the Democratic party establishment, and some members of the journalistic class don't know what to make of the so-called netroots.  I simply take this to mean that these individuals are utterly disconnected from activist grassroots, the base, of the Democratic party; and, as far as the party establish goes, this appears to be utterly incompetent in connecting with its base in a passionate and inspiring way -- instead, they appear to be more concerned with managing us. (Now, as I wrote above, those that post in blogs are simply the most vocal about our opinion; we are certainly not representative of the average Democratic voter.)

In spite of all this, like the overwhelming majority of liberal blog posters, I'm a pragmatist and will continue to vote for the Democratic party candidate; which is why the party establishment does not see a need to "address" the demands of the activist base of the party.  However, it is precisely because of the former that primary challenges are essential if the party establishment is to ever be responsive and reflective in a meaningful/substantive way of the values/principles voiced by the activist grassroots of the party (much like social conservatives have managed to do in that other party).

by bedobe 2006-02-20 08:08AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler

You're right, I didn't touch on that again specifically.

As I wrote in my original piece for the Examiner, targeting incumbents and frontrunners in primaries is risky enough when you're the party in power. But when you're in the minority, the margin for error is much smaller; in 2006 Democrats really can't afford to lose any of these close races if they're to have any chance of taking back the Senate. Supporting Brown over Whitehouse (even now) and Tester over Morrison will make it less likely they'll knock off the GOP incumbents in those races (because of the obstacles listed).

The same would be true in PA if Pennacchio was more of a threat or in CT if Lieberman (who knows, maybe Lamont) had a more credible challenger. But in general, I don't think the party is in so much trouble that it needs to undertake this kind of revolution just yet. Once you're back in power, that's the time to start enforcing party discipline.

Moreover, the Club for Growth chooses its targets based on black and white criteria (votes on taxes) whereas the netroots often chooses targets based, as Lucas O'Connor writes above, on "passion." That criteria is much more subjective, and I imagine would make it harder to rally support for that challenger.

As to the extent that the netroots are part of the grassroots, I am sure there's considerable overlap -- but I also would guess that the nature of the medium means there are some differences. For example, netroots participants may not quite be the "young professionals" of Benjamin Wallace-Wells' Kos profile, but they are a bit younger than the notch babies who never miss a primary.

I also wonder if the consistent high placing in dKos/MyDD straw polls of Russ Feingold and Wesley Clark would differ somewhat from the overall grassroots -- but I haven't seen any polls recently that weeded out the casual voters (who choose Hillary based on name ID).

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 09:04AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler

...The same would be true in PA if Pennacchio was more of a threat or in CT if Lieberman (who knows, maybe Lamont) had a more credible challenger. But in general, I don't think the party is in so much trouble that it needs to undertake this kind of revolution just yet. Once you're back in power, that's the time to start enforcing party discipline...

There is no good time or bad time to "enforce party discipline". No one, not even an incumbent, is entitled to a free ride. There are a lot of variables and competing interests in the process of shaking out candidates. It's a tough business and there are no guarantees.

Joe Lieberman made his bed with dubya and as the favorite of the Faux News Channel - he'll either win his primary or lose it.

All you're advocating is entropy. That's not good politics, nor is it a path to good governance.

by Michael Bersin 2006-02-20 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler

How has the Club for Growth strategy paid off for them?  

While that was slightly snarky, here is a set of real questions that might be enlightening.

  • When was the CfG formed?
  • When did it begin backing issue Republicans against Incumbent Republicans?
  • How many of those races were lost by the Republicans?
  • How many of those races were won by the issue Republican?

by Robert P 2006-02-20 10:42AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler

Club for Growth was formed in 1999, when the GOP held both houses of Congress. It backs issue GOPers against incumbent GOPers almost exclusively. They've been pretty successful, overall -- both in electing their issue candidates and keeping incumbents in line. But if they lost one or two, it didn't matter as much as it will matter to Dems this year.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler

Once you're back in power, that's the time to start enforcing party discipline.

You seem to be missing the point that the American people don't see the Democrats as different than the Republicans in a substantial way: there is no there there.

Unless the Democratic party takes positions - somtimes hard positions - we don't have a distinctive voice and are subject to the CW claim by the media that we have no alternatives to propose.

When some Democrats in Congress vote for the Bankruptcy Bill (for instance), they blur the distinctions between the parties.  Enforcing party dicipline on key votes is the essence of creating the atmosphere to gain majority control, not something that results from majority control.

by JimPortlandOR 2006-02-20 10:51AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler

I think that the netroots are to some extent interested in playing a longer game than the Beltway establishment seems to be.  For the last several cycles, I've seen the national party focusing on the upcoming election (whichever election that happens to be) to the exclusion of longer-term goals such as party-building, recruitment, training, and brand management.  This focus on short-term results has allowed the Republicans to denigrate the word "liberal" and to make the plausible (albeit false) argument that Democrats don't stand for anything.

If it hopes to regain national prominence, the Democratic party cannot be the cicada that appears every two years when it's time for a national election.  The 2006 elections are important, true, but they're not the only thing that's important.

Part of winning elections in the short-term is convincing the electorate in the long-term that your party has better ideas and better leaders.  And you can't do that without having candidates who are open and unapologetic about being Democrats, who don't reinforce Republican frames and talking points, who are more concerned about the party as a whole than about their own situation.  There's more to it than this, of course, but this is a necessary precondition.

I've seen a lot of criticism of Joe Lieberman in the blogosphere, and some of that concerns his ideology or positions.  But the overwhelming majority of the criticism is directed at his failure to stand up for the Democratic party and for other Democrats.

I recently caught the end of "The American President" on TBS.  What strikes me about that movie each time I see it is President Shepherd's press conference at the movie's climax.  It is compelling not because of the policy prescriptions made, but because it is a forceful, unapologetic defense of values held dear.  If, however, a President Shepherd were to make such a statement in today's political climate, you'd undoubtedly see two things:

1.  Other nationally prominent Democrats wouldn't stand up for him against the sniping from the GOP-dominated media, or if they did, the defense would be timid and uncoordinated.

2.  A quote would appear in the Washington Post from a unnamed (of course) "Democratic insider" decrying the President's "intemperate language" and encouraging "moderation."

That has to change.  If it takes funding candidates who may have little chance of winning but who are unapologetic Democrats, who build the party at the local level, and who force Republicans to spread their money more thinly, so be it.  If it takes primary challenges to sitting Democrats who don't stand up for the party, even if there's a chance of weakening them in the general election, so be it.

These things might weaken the party in the short-term, though I doubt it.  (Duncan Black is correct about the Lump of Campaign Money fallacy.)  But even if they do, that's an acceptable price for strengthening the party in the long-term.

by kenfair 2006-02-20 11:09AM | 0 recs
Club for Growth?

But in general, I don't think the party is in so much trouble that it needs to undertake this kind of revolution just yet. Once you're back in power, that's the time to start enforcing party discipline.

Your comparison between the Club for Growth and the progressive blogosphere is a false analogy. Characterizing support for primary challenges as a desire to "enforce party discipline" is a false characterization.

The overall complaint in the progressive blogosphere for several years has been a failure to oppose Bush/Republican legislation. Asking the Democratic Party as a whole to stand up to Bush on destroying Social Security and warrantless wiretaps is hardly a clarion call to "enforce party unity."

The same principle applies to opposition to Lieberman, Cuellar and Casey. There is absolutely no reason for progressive Democrats not to support a primary challenge for both Lieberman and Cuellar simply because their behavior and conduct has been more supportive of Bush than of the Democratic Party. Chris Bowers and Jonathan Singer have both made pleas for progressives to support or at least vote for Bob Casey that have been very poorly received because Casey's politics are anathema to progressive activists.

In point of fact, it is the Democratic Party apparatchiks who are attempting to enforce party discipline by rigging primaries and supporting primary candidates who are running against progressive Democrats, in direct violation of their own policy of primary non-interference.

Speaking for myself, I frankly don't give a damn about what is "good for the party" as defined by Ed Rendell, Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel. If defeating Bob Casey in the general election costs the Democratic Party majority status, that's their problem not mine. If Bob Casey wins the primary (quite likely), I plan on doing everything in my power to help Rick Santorum win another term as Senator of Pennsylvania.

That will piss off a lot of people here at MyDD and I'm OK with that. We are not a top down Borg Hive at the beck and call of hot shot bloggers. I could care less what Markos, Armando, Bowers or Singer think about Bob Casey. I believe he is a political disaster and am willing to exercise my free will to oppose him.

My goal as a DFA activist is not to make anyone else happy.  I do and say what I do based on my informed political conscience and am answerable to no one. That pretty much describes most of us in the progressive blogosphere.

by Gary Boatwright 2006-02-20 01:01PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler

Once you're back in power, that's the time to start enforcing party discipline

Actually, this is an interesting point of contention.  Once we (if we) regain power, the blogosphere will lose a lot of its influence: once a candidate is an incumbent, it's nearly impossible to dislodge them, as the 99% retention rate in the house has shown.  It's precisely when we're attempting to regain power that we should be working most actively to influence the party's candidates and strategies.  The main problem here is that there has been a sea change in the style of political parties in this country since Watergate.  We're seeing a switch from relatively independent legislators who are most concerned with their district's opinion (and those of moneyed interests who seek favorable legislation) to a more centralized European-style party where discipline is job one.  This is possible because there has been a move towards restricting actual legislative choices to the meetings that decide when votes are taken.  We saw this with the Bankuptcy Bill, which negatively impacts a vast majority of the country in favor of a small minority (the credit industry).  Senators like Lieberman voted in favor of the voting rules that made passage a certainty, then voted against it in the actual vote, where their defection made no difference.  This kabuki-style of legislation is very convenient for politicians: they can say "I voted against" an unpopular bill, and reap political rewards, evenb as they ensure that bill's passage through institutional votes that garner them cash supports from special interest groups.  It's also extremely undemocratic, and many of us on the blogosphere are reacting mostly to this loss of effective representation.  There are a lot of structural problems with our democracy right now, and it appears to us that the only way out of it is to elect Democrats who will not follow Lieberman's approach.  The blogosphere is not Liberal so much as it is anti-establishement.

by padraig 2006-02-20 07:14PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler (By Ho

Yet even though Club for Growth has not (to my knowledge) managed to unseat an incumbent, they play a significant ideological role. It seems to me that  the blogosphere can legitimately assume that role on our side of the fence.

Tom O  

by tol 2006-02-20 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler (By Ho

I was not fully informed when I wrote that that no national groups had endorsed the strategy of targeting incumbents -- I was not aware that the AFL-CIO was already backing Ciro Rodriguez.

And the League of Conservation Voters also endorsed Ciro, two days before your op-ed was published.

by DavidNYC 2006-02-20 10:12AM | 0 recs

That said, 0-15 is still notable.

Why, why, why? You can't just SAY something is notable without explaining WHY it's notable. (And no excuse on word counts here.)

There were exactly two out of those fifteen I really thought had a good chance at winning - Carson and Knowles. The rest all ranged from "expanding the playing field" to "longshots at best."

If anyone gave money to Richard Morrison, Jeff Seemann, Sam Barend or Jim Newberry because their first and foremost goal was seeing those people win, then they were sadly misinformed. (And only by themselves - Markos was very clear about his goals in putting people on that list.)

If Markos wanted to pump up his stats, he could have put Chuck Schumer and Jim McDermott on that list. But he didn't - he specifically picked challengers to incumbents or Republican-held open seats.

Let me put things another way: In 1994 - a landslide year - 85% of Republican challengers to Democratic incumbents lost. Boy, what sucky performance, huh?

by DavidNYC 2006-02-20 10:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

Because running races is still about winning races; symbolic victories aren't. That's a lot of money with nothing to show for it. The campaign may be part of a years-long project, fine. That project may or not pan out, but the fact that the opening round went oh-fer cannot be off-limits to point out.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 10:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

You can't change the terms of the debate if you're not engaged in it.

What do you think Dean's 50 state strategy is about? Do you think Dean (or any of us who support this strategy) honestly believe that we're going to win, just because we showed up?

Money spent against incumbents forceds their attention (and some of their money) back home. These are not isolated races.

And the money pot is not a finite resource, either. The money that the netroots poured into those races  did not come out of other candidates' funds, or from the DCCC, the DSCC, or the DNC.

by Bill Rehm 2006-02-20 11:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

There's more money to go around now, to be sure. But it's not unlimited. And I agree they're not isolated races, but you'd have to show me where the gains came. (Markos has argued to me that Nick Lampson getting in early against Tom DeLay was one. Sounds plausible, but if it wasn't for DeLay's other problems, Lampson wouldn't be a very big deal either).

Dean's 50-state strategy is a start. But the bloggers acting out of concert from the DS and D-Trip remind me of ACT and other 527s running parallel campaigns to KE'04. That wasn't the best use of resources, but they were legally obligated to operate that way. The netroots and the DC committees are not.

So is it being done it this way? Out of animosity, probably mutual animosity, is what it looks like to me.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 11:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

So is it being done it this way? Out of animosity, probably mutual animosity, is what it looks like to me.

You cherry-pick a few examples where there is some kind of "netroots-DC split," and you decide we're motivated out of animosity? That's a pretty base attack on our motives and reasoning.

How about you look at all the races in the nation and then see what percentage of them have an even remotely identifiable split between the preferences of the netroots and the preferences of the DC establishment. Even if I grant you all the races where blogosphere opinion is heterodox, it's still tiny.

Tester, Lamont, Hackett (even though many bloggers support Sherrod Brown), Cegelis, Matt Brown (that's a major stretch). You can even throw in Pennacchio and Tasini if you like. Maybe there's a handful more. I'll generously give you ten, maybe a dozen. Hell, even 20, if you want.

Last I checked, there were hundreds of campaigns being waged this year. 435 for the House, 34 Senate races, a whole bunch of gubernatorial races, plus many, many others at all levels. Even if we only look at the federal and governor elections, the netroots disagrees with the establishment on less than 5% of races - more like 2%.

The trad media loves the storyline of infighting among Democrats, because it fits in with the larger frame of "GOP = disciplined; Dems = fractured." A few differences of opinion about a few candidates here and there does not a "split" make - but it does make for a healthy party willing to ask hard questions of itself.

by DavidNYC 2006-02-20 11:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

I never said this was happening in every race, most races, the preponderance of races, or even a lot of races. What I have argued is that it's enough to jeopardize Democratic gains.

And for what it's worth, the GOP has problems o' plenty of problems -- notice that they're even in danger of losing their majorities in the first place, when no one thought this was possible a year ago. But that would have been a different op-ed.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

I was taking exception to your claim that we are motivated out of animosity. If we were motivated out of animosity, we'd be opposing the DC establishment in a lot more than 2% of races.

by DavidNYC 2006-02-20 12:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

Gotcha. Obviously the netroots and the establishment can and do co-exist most of the time. The cooperation re: Herseth and Chandler

I was arguing that animosity is a reason why there isn't more cooperation between the two. Animosity based on real circumstances, to be sure, and probably there are other reasons, but animosity has to be a factor.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

So, can we be looking forward to you next op-ed blasting the DSCC/DCCC for acting "out of animosity", or is this (as I expect) a one way line of comment?

by ElitistJohn 2006-02-20 02:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

But the bloggers acting out of concert from the DS and D-Trip remind me of ACT and other 527s running parallel campaigns to KE'04. That wasn't the best use of resources, but they were legally obligated to operate that way. The netroots and the DC committees are not.

So is it being done it this way? Out of animosity, probably mutual animosity, is what it looks like to me.

Interesting analogy, netroots to 527s. I disagree with you, but you're essentially making the case for increased coordination, which of course I wouldn't argue with.

But your second point, that the netroots is doing one thing and the establishment is doing another out out "mutual animosity" strikes me as a bit baseless. There's certainly a lot of frustration among the netroots with the choices that the establishment makes, but does that really rise to the level of animosity? I guess that might have something to do with it in the case of Lamont v. Lieberman, but do you really believe the establishment would be upset if Ned replaced Joe? It would seem to me that, in many instances, the netroots are actually doing what the establishment would like to do if they didn't need to worry about decorum.

So I guess I'm asking, ala Daou, is for you to prove it. What's your evidence of mutual animosity between the Democratic netroots and the party establishment?

by Scott Shields 2006-02-20 12:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

I'm surprised to hear skepticism about animosity between the netroots and the establishment.

Alas, I can't quote the party establishment, because I refer to personal conversations. There's a lot of frustration about being told how to do their jobs, and a sense that the bloggers are more trouble than their worth. I can't say whether it's the prevailing sentiment -- obviously there is plenty of arms-length outreach going on -- but it's part of it.

And when John Lapp posted to dKos last month, the second response was: "I thought the DCCC was the enemy? Why are they posting here?"

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 12:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

First of all, that comment, made by AnnArborBlue, was a joke.

And secondly, don't the establishment types in both parties say the same thing about every one of their constituencies? Take labor as one example. Labor openly supports some Republicans. That's something we haven't done and wouldn't likely do. But do you refer to the relationship between the labor movement and the Democratic Party establishment as being marked by "mutual animosity?" Of course not.

by Scott Shields 2006-02-20 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

Maybe a joke, but one hinting at a real source of tension. If I'm making too much out of the many grievances I've seen leveled at the party committees, that's a lot of grievances to dismiss as nothing. Do you mean that you haven't seen these grievances?

I think labor's different because labor's been around for so long. The party still doesn't know what to make of the blogs, and it threatens to change things in a way that labor changed long before anyone in power now was born.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 12:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

Just so we're clear on something, I asked you to prove an assertion. You offered up something that was said in jest and private conversations you've had that you can't quote. So you're not going to give any solid support for what you've said. And that's fine, I guess, as you're admitting that it's your opinion rather than a hard and fast fact.

I fundamentally reject the premise that the grievances you're referring to rise to the level of widespread "mutual animosity." If that was the case, there wouldn't be the amount of communication between the netroots and the establishment that there is. There are certainly frustrated people in the netroots. No one is arguing with that. But the minority of commenters who talk about abandoning the DSCC/DCCC/DNC cannot be cited to characterize the overall netroots zeitgeist as one of "animosity."

by Scott Shields 2006-02-20 01:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

I don't have a list of citations ready to go at the moment, but I'm sure I could locate them (and Lucas O'Connor has a start just below here in this thread). I'll just add, as I did in my original op-ed, that I see calls on sites like this one for a 50-state, 435-race election year, while the DCCC pleads that it doesn't have the resources to do any such thing.

Classify it as an opinion if you must, but if I'm so wrong, then why isn't there more cooperation? Why not fundraise and help them expand the playing field? The "animosity" I speak of is surely based on genuine philosophical differences about how to run a campaign.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 01:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

Why not fundraise and help them expand the playing field?

We are fundraising for candidates.  I don't get this notion that helping spread the playing field means raising money for party committees that explicitly aren't going to expand the playing field.  And I don't get your assumption that not doing this means that there is animosity.  

by Matt Stoller 2006-02-20 01:28PM | 0 recs
Don't bother

We tried to have this conversation via IM.

He's being willfully obtuse.

by kos 2006-02-20 07:10PM | 0 recs

The American Heritage Dictionary defines animosity as "Bitter hostility or open enmity; active hatred."

Maybe I'm being a stickler for semantics here, but I think your repeated use of the word is hyperbolic at best. I don't think most people here are really feeling "active hatred" over "genuine philosophical differences about how to run a campaign."

And to answer your question as to why we don't "fundraise and help them expand the playing field," I would once again disagree with the premise. Blogs large enough to make an impact in terms of money deal largely in retail politics. It's hard for us to put a face on the DCCC and say, "hey, give this group money." The minute that person does something someone disagrees with, the fundraising for the whole group is shot. It's better to highlight individual candidates like Francine Busby where the small dollar donations the netroots can provide make more of a noticeable impact. Besides, anything we raise for DCCC/DSCC-backed candidates winds up indirectly supporting those groups by relieving them of some of the burden anyway.

by Scott Shields 2006-02-20 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

Why not help them expand the playing field?  I think you yourself discussed above the "0-15" record of the Kos Dozen candidates last time around.  The sole purpose of those candidates was to expand the playing field into races where the DCCC or whoever else had decided not to put up a fight.  The DCCC had a strategy of targetting the seats they thought they could pick off and defending their most vulnerable, and that's a perfectly reasonable strategy (one I disagree with to an extent, but not entirely).  That of course means that they weren't going to be able to fund all 435 races.  Enter the Kos Dozen, expanding the playing field and forcing the GOP to spend resources on races they thought they had in the bag.

by Fran for Dean 2006-02-20 02:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?


If those poor folks are so strapped...why waste precious resouces sticking their noses into challenged primaries? Seems to me they could pocket that money and then use it in the general elections of that many more candidates.

Seems logical. Seems like trying to use finacial clout to impose their will on localities in primaries would be a luxury they can't afford, given the poor mouthing you mention.

Perhaps you could ask those folks about it and report back?

by ElitistJohn 2006-02-20 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

Because running races is still about winning races; symbolic victories aren't.

If, after talking with Markos, you think it's about "symbolic victories," then you either haven't listened to a word he said or you ignored it all deliberately.

Stan Matsunaka forced the national Republican apparatus to dump lots of money on behalf of Marilyn Musgrave. That's money that could have gone to help Pete Coors against Ken Salazar, or Greg Walcher against John Salazar.

But Stan forced the GOP to spend money on someone it would never have spent a dime on had she not had a strong challenger. And thus it helped two fellow CO Dems to victory.

It's called taking one for the team. Let me use a helpful sports analogy. In cycling, teams spend most of the race in a pack, known as a peloton. The guys at the front of the peleton do the grunt-work of breaking the wind so that the guys behind them don't have to work as hard.

The workhorses at the front of the peleton make it possible for the elite riders to break out of the pack at a later point - riders who have been kept fresh because the front-line guys bore the brunt of the wind for them.

Lance Armstrong might be the best cyclist in the world, but without the benefit of the peleton, he can't win.

Again I say, Markos could have listed all the Lance Armstrongs. But instead, he chose the unsung workhorses. His freakin' point was NOT to pick likely winners. It was to pick people who would help expand the playing field, for the empteenth time.

As you well know, outside of the DeLay-mandered seats in Texas, only three incumbents lost in the House in 2004. That's less than 1% of all incumbents who sought re-election. If you support challengers to incumbents, you will NEVER EVER EVER have a "good track record" when it comes to win-loss ratio alone.

At least have the courtesy to argue with Markos' plan about its stated goals. DID any of the campaigns he supported really expand the playing field? I'd argue that Matsunaka and Morrison were the best exemplars of that goal.

If you want to argue that Markos hasn't "picked winners" so far, fine, you're entitled to make that mistake. But as far as we're concerned, you're just parroting a RedState talking point when you make that your hobbyhorse. Debate Markos' plan on its merits, not based on what Mike Krempasky pretends it was about.

by DavidNYC 2006-02-20 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

All right, I could quibble on this point further, but I'll certainly concede that it might have helped on the margins in those 2 CO races. It's never been my "hobbyhorse" and wasn't critical to my original piece. As I said in my post here, expanding the playing field in '04 was surely a better strategy to undertake than fighting the establishment this year.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 12:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

I respectfully disagree that there was "nothing to show" for the effort put into the Kos Dozen last year.  There was "nothing to show" only if your definition of success is winning those races in that election cycle.  But those who gave to the Kos Dozen (as I did) gave with the full knowledge the races in question were mostly long shots.  We didn't expect them to win.  If some of them did, great, but that wasn't the point.

Let me speak to just one of those races, because being from Houston, it's the one I'm most familiar with.  Richard Morrison ran a more credible and successful campaign against Tom DeLay than any Democrat has done in that district for a long time.  No, he did not defeat the sitting GOP Majority Leader, a ten-term incumbent.  But his effort, combined with the funding from the netroots, achieved the following:

1.  DeLay was forced to open a local campaign headquarters and campaign in his own district for the first time in many years.  This not only prevented him from spending time hatching more plots to screw over the country on the GOP's behalf, it also prevented him from raising money for other GOP candidates--a prime source of his power.

2.  Many more people in his district and the surrounding area became aware of Tom DeLay and his sleaziness.  That was in part due to the redistricting and the indictments arising from that, but also because there was someone to push back against his spin and to keep the stories in the news.  Contested campaigns give a hook to such stories that wouldn't exist otherwise.

3.  Democrats in his district and the surrounding area are energized and organized like never before.  For the first time in many years, they had both a goal and the resources to fight for that goal.  They now see some light after years of darkness.  (It's been hard to be a Texas Democrat over the past decade.)  Democratic clubs even three and four counties away have more members, more events, and more coordination than I've seen in a long time.

4.  The strength of Morrison's results gave impetus to Nick Lampson's decision to enter this year's contest.  Lampson has cash-on-hand parity with DeLay, is fairly well-known and liked in the district (having represented part of the distict before), and is outpolling DeLay well before the general election.

DeLay's vulnerability arises from a number of sources, including his indictment and Jack Abramoff's downfall.  The same is of course true of Democratic party strengthening in the area.  The netroots certainly cannot take credit for all of that, but it certainly can take credit for some.

Richard Morrison's candidacy weakened Tom DeLay, weakened DeLay's fundraising for the national GOP, strengthened local Democrats, displayed Democratic viability to the local electorate, and set up the possibility of defeating DeLay in 2006.  I consider this effort a resounding success despite DeLay's 2004 victory.  And in that, the Kos Dozen project overwhelmingly achieved its goal.

One last point: I reject the assumption that the Kos Dozen took away money from other, more "deserving" races.  I gave money to those candidates that I would not have given otherwise to other candidates.  Small donors like me tend to give to candidates and causes that inspire us.  You look at the $720,000 given to the Kos Dozen as money taken away from other candidates.  I look at that $720,000 as money used to fund the Democratic party and message that would otherwise have been spent on the latest CD or dinner at a fancy restaurant.

by kenfair 2006-02-20 12:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

I did mean to add one thing that I neglected in my original post here.  I wanted to thank Matt for inviting Mr. Beutler to give a rebuttal and defend his views, and to commend Mr. Beutler for coming forward to do so and to respond to further points.  It takes some courage and intellectual honesty to speak to what may be a hostile audience, and Mr. Beutler has demonstrated both.  Kudos.

by kenfair 2006-02-20 12:23PM | 0 recs
Defense of what?

There is no "block" when it comes to the blogshere, especially when speaking of what constitutes the blogs; readership. Blogs provide a platform for a HUGELY DIVERSE group of people, nothing more. There may be some direction that is collective, but it is discreet individuals that form the direction. I myself am a moderate with views that differ greatly from other progressives on many issues.

As for your presumption of primary challenges; "primary fights leave bruises, money is stubbornly finite, primary campaigns need time (and more money) to regroup for the general election and the Republicans will be ready to outspend them when they do." Thank you for the poli 101 lesson, I would never had dreamed that asking my party to represent my (and millions of others) ideals would leave us bleeding and vulnerable, guess I should remain silent and thankful.

Now for your assertion that the "blogs" are fueling an "anti-establishment project", get your facts correct. Most blogs if calling for anything are calling for pinpointed primary challenges on at most four seats. I see only a concerted effort focusing upon the Cuellar and Lieberman primaries, not an "anti-establishment movement". It is all about individuals now having a platform from which to begin to project the power that we have been denied by the party structure.

by Citizen80203 2006-02-20 10:32AM | 0 recs

It occurs to me that Tester is in no way a primary CHALLENGER.  Conrad Burns is still the senator from Montana.

Would you prefer that the Democratic party abolish primaries?

by kilb 2006-02-20 10:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Tester

No, but there are definitely occasions when it is preferable to avoid a primary. MT SEN is one.

Tester is a challenger more or less in the same way Hackett was a challenger. I believe Morrison was in before Tester, but Hackett was definitely in before Brown was. Brown and Morrison had/have a better chance of running a strong general election campaign, so it would be better for the Dems to save their powder in these circumstances.

You can see similar arguments at Campus Progress and by Ezra Klein, who is either a member of the netroots or a member of the press, or more likely falls into one of these hard-to-define categories.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 11:00AM | 0 recs

"Matt also disputes my stating that "No candidate supported by Moulitsas has yet won a seat in Congress." I'm afraid my phrasing was imprecise -- I was talking about the "Kos 15" from 2004."

Say it: you were WRONG. The statement is either true or false. It isn't "somewhere in between but not quite accurate."

I HATE when people use the word "imprecise" when they've been caught saying something false.

by mikeinflorida 2006-02-20 11:31AM | 0 recs

Fine, I was wrong. But I should have been more precise because I didn't say exactly what I'd intended. Of course, that's another debate, as is going on above.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 11:47AM | 0 recs

Honest mistakes happen. Everybody makes them. Not a big deal. I just think people should be clear about them when they occur.

You have now done that, so I've got nothing but respect for you.

by mikeinflorida 2006-02-20 06:44PM | 0 recs
"money is stubbornly finite"

Doesn't apply for the Wisconsin Senate primary.

by benmasel 2006-02-20 12:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Tester

Agreed, it does depend on how it's played, and so far it hasn't become a slugfest. But for the MT Dems overall, it's still a risk they don't need.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 12:50PM | 0 recs
A waste of my energy
Did you ever hear that college Republicans once chaned "Hey hey, ho, ho, Social Security ahs got to go"? Of course oyu did--it was big news int eh political world, and reached over five million people nationwide.

My friend Tim Tagaris and I were the ones who made the video public. And we did it while doing work (mine volunteer, his for pay) for Chuck Pennahcio. That alone makes the whole thing not a waste of energy.

And I am a commiteeperson in Pennsylvania. You shoudl come and visit my flaming liberal neighborhood sometim. On my street, Green party registration (11%) actually outnumbers Republican registration (9%). If think it is a waste of my time to canvass for Chuck Pennachio, when I am doing my committeeperson duty canvassing the neighborhod about elections, then you would be asking me to not represent the voters in my precinct. Representing the Demcoratic voters in my precinct is, of course, my primary duty as a committeeperson.

But I suppose you still probably think it is a waste of my time and energy anyway.
by Chris Bowers 2006-02-20 01:10PM | 0 recs
Re: A waste of my energy

A lucky catch to be sure, but if you were calculating opportunity costs ahead of time, you'd be better off focusing on the general.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 01:19PM | 0 recs
Re: A waste of my energy

I strongly disagree with that statement.  Chuck Pennacchio was campaigning long before Casey was.  If it was a completely uncontested election, Casey would have had even more time where he didn't have to worry about his campaign.  The Casey campaign wasn't doing anything at that point (except collecting money).

by Fran for Dean 2006-02-20 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: A waste of my energy

Funny, as I noted above, that argument seems to apply equally to the DSCC/DCCC. Of course, no one seems to note the irony of that.

by ElitistJohn 2006-02-20 02:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Why?

But does that word characterize the overall relationship between the netroots and the establishment? I would argue that it does not. Where there is animosity, it's no more pronounced than that which might exist between either party and any one of their constituencies.

by Scott Shields 2006-02-20 01:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Tester

I don't mean first candidate, I do mean better/stronger candidate. Brown wasn't the first one in OH SEN, but he will be the stronger candidae.

In another race I might agree, but Morrison is a proven vote-getter statewide already.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 01:24PM | 0 recs
Speaking for Blogosphere Animus

The progressive blogosphere is greater than the sum of its parts. You are ascribing a minority view to the whole blogosphere. I have written very harsh diaries against Lieberman, Biden, the DLC, Al From, Beinart and the Robust Liberal Hawks, etc.

It shouldn't be necessary for me to point out that I am not a front page poster for a number of good reasons, among them being that my views of the Democratic Party are harsher than the majority opinion in the progressive blogosphere.

My chief criticism of your viewpoints on the progressive blogosphere is that you oversimplify and mischaracterize. The claim that the progressive blogosphere is ineffective because Markos has a 15-0 record is a perfect example. You are using the typical M$M horserace analysis to determine effectiveness. That grossly understates the impact that progressive political blogs have and will have on the political structure and not just on the Democratic Party.

by Gary Boatwright 2006-02-20 01:28PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense of Hotline's William Beutler

I've got to head out now, but I want to thank Matt again for the chance to engage this debate. It's forced me to think harder about some of the conclusions I've drawn, and hopefully some of the arguments I've made will be useful in considering how the netroots directs its resources in the midterms this year. But if not, it's at least been fun.

If anyone has further questions or arguments to carry forward, you can drop me an e-mail through the Blogometer.

by William Beutler 2006-02-20 01:30PM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense

Let me pass on a few operations.  

First off, you seem to be buying the right wing spin that bloggers like Atrios, Markos, and Chris are out of the mainstream, far left.  By what standard do you conclude this?  To me they all seem rather moderate by historical standards, and on issues over perceptions seem rather reflective of where most people are.  Anti-Iraq, prochoice,proeducation, prohealthcare are rather mainstream opinions once you separate the fly shit from the pepper.

Second, I really don't see much of a heterodoxy in either the left or right wing blogosphere.  The Hackett dropout had bloggers all over the board.  Similar treatment is given Hillary Clinton.  That said, your article implies that we should show heterodoxy, which contradicts your articles premise that we show too much.

I see primaries as a means to get our best candidates to the forefront.  In the case of running against an incumbent, like Lieberman, the consensus is he's not doing such a great job for our country, and has gotten too cozy with the failed policies of this administration.  This isn't based on a single vote or that he was the first one to give Bush a standing ovation at his Lies Of The Union speech.  It's based on his overall record on things like bankruptcy, the Iraq war, being too cozy with the insurance lobby, etc..  I'd almost prefer a Wicker style Republican over him, if that one seat wouldn't change the majority.

As for the blogosphere forming a constituency, so what?  It's a hell of a lot more populist and grass roots than the ineptitude shown by the party leadership.  With few exceptions, the inside the beltway leadership have behaved like cowards.  They always seem to be on the defensive, and incapable of formulating an inspirational message.  How long should the rank and file put up with crappy leadership?

by Dick Tuck 2006-02-21 03:28AM | 0 recs
Re: In Defense

One other thing.  You might want to take a look at how well Move On did in the '98 midterms where they targeted the House Managers.  We got some first rate politicos in that one, like Rush Holt.

by Dick Tuck 2006-02-21 03:32AM | 0 recs


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