David Sirota Article: My Comments
by Ann Driscoll, Fri Oct 21, 2005 at 09:46:46 AM EDT
David Sirota has published a new article about the direction of the Democratic Party, doling out some tough words to the pro-Hackett liberal blogosphere (http://www.alternet.org/story/26973/). Essentially, Sirota's argument goes something like this 1). Paul Hackett is not a true liberal and therefore those who support Paul Hackett are compromising their principles 2). The Beltway Establishment hypes up charisma over substance and therefore, the grassroots is aligning itself with the Establishment, rendering Sherrod Brown the real outsider. As I hope to illustrate in detail, these points are uniformly inaccurate.
(To provide some context, Sirota describes the Democratic Party as being afflicted with "delirium" among other mental disorders)
What's troubling is that this kind of delirium is most commonly found on the Internet blogs, supposedly the progressive ideological bastion, but increasingly a place only of traditional partisan prioritization. Case in point was the recent brouhaha over Ohio's upcoming 2006 U.S. Senate race. Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett...what followed was illustrative of the delirium plaguing the progressive base. Within hours of Brown's announcement, "progressive" Internet blogs lit up with intense criticism of Brown. And let's be clear -- Brown's move was tactically clumsy. But the attacks went well beyond criticism of his decision to be a candidate to the core of who he is, showing that the supposedly "ideological" base is, in part, anything but. In many parts of the base, there is no ideology at all."
In other words, Sirota argues that those who support Paul Hackett and felt anger towards Sherrod Brown for entering the race have no ideology or unifying code of moral values, principles, or beliefs. If the fallacy in this argument isn't already obvious, let me flesh out why. First of all, Hackett is a liberal democrat. There isn't an issue of significance with which he differs from core democratic values. The Iraq War, gay rights, abortion, progressive taxation, the environment, and yes, even guns (his position is almost entirely symbolic). Hackett is no DLC centrist, so the notion that supporting him compromises progressive principles is absurd.
Secondly, supporters think Brown has no chance to win the Senate seat. We perceive his entry into the race against Hackett, who DOES have a chance, as potentially squandering a major opportunity to improve the party, the state and the country. The principle of wanting change in the country and seeing Brown as a threat to the REALISTIC accomplishment of that change may be too pragmatic for Sirota's taste, but a healthy connection to reality is also a principle.
"...while Hackett has no voting record on any issue at all. Even on his signature issue, Iraq, Hackett never supported withdrawing troops."
Paul Hackett supports withdrawing the troops. Watch the clip. The message could not be clearer: http://wcpo.com/news/2005/local/10/15/paul_hackett.html
"Instead, parts of the progressive base did the opposite, attacking the ideological champion; calling him "untrustworthy" for his tactical decision despite his years of steadfast trustworthiness casting the tough progressive votes; and venerating the other candidate with no ideology or voting record to speak of but whose "profile" they liked."
Again, this notion that Hackett has "no ideology" is just patently false. The fact that Sirota bases his entire argument about style vs. substance on this false notion reveals his argument's overall weakness. Secondly, Sherrod Brown, by all accounts, lied to Paul Hackett's face when he said he wouldn't run. Lying is a breath of trust. Therefore, the conclusion that Brown is untrustworthy is morally reasonable.
"...parts of the grassroots have taken on the establishment's condescending, self-fulfilling prophecy that personality, charisma, image and "profile" matter more to voters than anything of substance. It's hard to say which is more troubling -- that this profile-always-trumps-substance delirium both insults voters' intelligence and has no actual basis in reality, or the fact that many who claim to speak for an ideologically motivated base actually don't care about issues at all. Either way, it is troubling -- and dangerous -- for the left."
What's particularly interesting about this paragraph is how Sirota twists the scenario from its reality (outsider, Paul Hackett vs. insider, Sherrod Brown) to its inverse. By associating the pro-Hackett grassroots with the "Establishment" via this ludicrous "delirium" label, Sirota is trying to present Brown as the outsider and Hackett as the insider. Is it necessary to iterrate that Sherrod Brown is the career politician, not Paul Hackett? That the DSCC intimated that Hackett drop out, not Brown?
Additionally, Sirota provides no evidence of the Establishment's supposed fixation on charisma and personality. In fact, judging by the Democratic presidential candidates of 2000, 2004, and possibly 2008 (Gore, Kerry, and Hillary) it is more accurate to conclude that the Establishment values the type of experience and credentials that Sirota champions in his article- rather than the charisma and personality he claims they ineffectually trump up. Besides, the grassroots have always been attracted to magnetic, firebrand politicians. Look at their hero, Howard Dean, with whom Hackett shares considerable characteristics. The popularity of Paul Hackett isn't a sudden, new alignment with the "Establishment."
I agree with Sirota's general point that the Democratic Party is populated by unprincipled shills, neglecting to do their duty as the opposition party. But if there's anyone who realizes that and wants to change that, it's Paul Hackett, a total outsider. He has made it clear in both the speech I saw and the Channel 12 newsclip that he feels a remarkable disgust for Beltway politicians who "hold their fingers to the wind." Charisma is central to Paul Hackett, but it is also the supreme confidence in his convictions that enables Hackett to connect with such a broad spectrum of voters. That Sirota misrepresents Hackett's desire to bring backbone to the Democratic Party betrays the entire purpose of his argument.
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