Rebranding Republicans versus HRC
by Matt Stoller, Sat May 06, 2006 at 01:19:44 PM EDT
Markos launched a warning today for Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post. His argument is pure Crashing the Gates:
Hillary Clinton leads her Democratic rivals in the polls and in fundraising. Unfortunately, however, the New York senator is part of a failed Democratic Party establishment -- led by her husband -- that enabled the George W. Bush presidency and the Republican majorities, and all the havoc they have wreaked at home and abroad.
Of course, it's still early. At this point in the last presidential cycle, the first hints of Howard Dean's tr ansformational campaign were barely emerging. In 2002, the Democrats had no clear front-runner, but the conventional wisdom was betting on a handful of insider candidates with money and connections: Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman and John F. Kerry, and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt. These three were supposed to contend. The early polls gave them (especially Lieberman) the inside track to the nomination, and the media gave the rest of the field no more than its usual dismissive coverage.
But the netroots -- the far-flung collection of grassroots political activists organizing online -- proved to be a different world, one unencumbered by Washington's conventional wisdom. Even as the establishment mocked Dean and his supporters ("like a scene out of the 'Star Wars' cantina," laughed a rival campaign aide), his army of hyper-motivated supporters organized across all 50 states. This movement exploded onto the national scene when Dean began reporting dramatically higher fundraising numbers than his opponents. Had Kerry not lent himself millions to reach the Iowa caucuses, and had Dean not been so green a candidate, Dean probably would have been the nominee.
Markos goes on to talk about Bill Clinton's failed Presidency and Hillary Clinton's inability to comprehend the shifting power basis in the party. It's a nice companion piece to EJ Dionne, who write about the Republican rebranding attempt. Republicans talking like progressives is not new; it's been creeping around since Bush's compassionate conservative talk in 2000. It seems however to have gone up a notch recently.
Thus are those who once derided Al Gore's environmentalism now painting themselves in very bright shades of green. Last month Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) took a drive in a hydrogen-powered car to show how much he cares about conservation and the planet.
Members of Congress who once eagerly showered tax breaks on the energy companies now want you to know they're tough on Big Oil. Last month House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) urged federal agencies to investigate possible price gouging by the petroleum giants.
What I find fascinating is that even as Republicans run towards he progressive center in terms of rhetoric, Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer are stuck with the 1980s inspired idea that 'the center' is a pro-corporate, pro-war, and socially-liberal-though-not-too-icky crowd. My guess is that it isn't. The center at this point is increasingly lying with independent progressive populists, a sort of holdover from the Perot voters and the people that Jim Webb is targeting in Virginia.
That said, it is not clear, and the progressive movement has not yet demonstrated, that we are worth taking seriously. We have not turned out our vote. We lay down for candidates like Bob Casey. We do not fund our own. I mean, Moveon and DFA haven't even come in for Ned Lamont in Connecticut.
We are an immature movement, and Hillary Clinton is making a bet that we are not yet at a point where we matter. Is that a good bet? I'm not sure. My guess is that she will be able to get through the primaries without progressives, but it will be difficult for her to draw upon us when she is swift-boated in the General election campaign. After years of not reaching out, and possibly a bunch of Sista Souljah moments (she is paying attention to Bill's advice, after all), bloggers are not necessarily going to want to defend her from salacious attacks inevitably involving Bill and their marriage. Then again, it's quite possible that I'm wrong, and that the partisan juices will flow freely as they did in 2004, and we'll tapdance on command for Hillary Clinton. That's what she's banking on. I mean we did it for her husband, we're doing it for Bob Casey, and we're worshipping Harry Reid..