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Jan 31 2017

The Failure of “Daily Kos” and the Democratic Party

You’re not fast enough for me!

Today, I am.

Lessons for “The Resistance” from the Bush Resistance
by Ian Welsh
2017 January 30

Trump’s ban of travelers from 7 Muslim countries spawned a large backlash, showing that “the resistance” is still a thing. I suspect it will continue to be a thing, because Trump is going to do much which enrages people who already believe he is a fascist.

It is little commented on now, but when Bush was ramping up for his invasion of Iraq, millions of people came out world wide. Most US allies of any significance other than Britain refused to participate. The war went ahead anyway, and in its shadow there was resistance. I was part of that, the Netroots.

The Netroots opposed Bush directly when possible, and it also sought to make the Democratic party better because we had noticed that enough Democrats and in many cases almost all Democrats had signed off on the worst parts of Bush’s regime. Gore, had he been in power, might not have been quite so bad, but the Democrats weren’t really opposing Bush strongly, and some of them were absolutely terrible—straight up collaborators. Joe Lieberman, for example. (Who was also Obama’s mentor in the Senate.)

It should be clear that the Netroots was pretty organized: we communicated behind the scenes, and often coordinated. We were in constant contact with democratic party staffers, and had access to many Democratic Congress members. They saw that we had reach, and being politicians they wanted to use that reach. Even people who despised us, like Clinton, came to Netroots.

In 2006 Republicans lost control of the House. The Netroots had helped with that, and we had hopes and expectations.

They were quickly dashed: the House caucus had taken our help, sure, but they had no intention of seriously opposing Bush’s wars or his vast over-reach on civil liberties and executive power.

Then in 08 Obama won. He took some of our help, but he didn’t buy it. Unlike the Democrats in 06, many of whom had pretended to agree with us and had been willing to work with us, Obama did not work with the Netroots. During the entire campaign the only time he reached out to us was during a period of a few weeks when he was losing to McCain in the polls, and even that was pro-forma.

Obama built his own grassroots organization, and he didn’t go through the blog gatekeepers (there were exceptions, one a-list blog of the time was the favored dumping ground for Obama oppo research.) Instead Obama’s supporters, and very likely operatives, flooded the comments and diaries. Obama got the support of Netroots supporters without having to give anything to the netroots organizers.

By give I mean “policy concessions”, while there was plenty of petty careerism in the Netroots, that was never the issue. Since 2008 many people in the Netroots at the time have been taken on and given jobs by various organizations associated with the Democrats. The trivial amount of money required to buy out the “alpha activists” wasn’t the question: control was.

Obama was very clear about his contempt for the Netroots. He thought that we didn’t understand how politics worked and how good things happen. He was explicit, you can read it in Obama’s original post at DKos.

So Obama got in power, he bailed out the banks, he fucked over ordinary home-owners, he increased deportations and ramped up drone assassinations. He was far harsher on whistleblowers than Bush had been and he re-signed all the bad bills when the time came, like the Patriot Act and the AUMF, which had given Bush massive executive power and carte-blanche to spy and assassinate and go to war.

Obama institutionalized Bush. Oh, he drew back on some things, but he advanced others, and he left the basic power structure in place and the legal structure. Then he went to war with Libya, which while it killed less people than the Iraq war, was the exact same type of war crime as Bush had committed: aggressive war on a non-threatening country. This is what the Nazis were hung for in Nuremburg.

Note that the Democratic controlled House and Senate of 09/10 was no better than Obama, they did not push him to be better.

Six years later Trump won election. The apparatus put in place by Bush to allow him to commit his crimes and over-reach was not just still there, it had been extended significantly in terms of whistleblower prosecution, drone assassination, spying on journalists, immigrant incarceration and surveillane state powers and ability.

Trump inherited a more powerfully oppressive system than Obama did, even if Obama had not always used it as oppressively as Bush (though in some cases he had been worse.)

There are a couple lessons to learn from this.

The first is that while partisan Democrats may be one’s allies when opposing a Republic president, their opposition is opportunistic and not principled. The second they are in charge, they will support or wave aside the same actions they condemned coming from a Republican. That doesn’t mean don’t work with partisan democrats, it means understand when they’ll stop fighting AND that once they don’t need you, they will regard you as a threat and seek to to eliminate you.

The second is more important: control of a party matters more than the results of any individual election.

(T)he reason that America is where it is is that after each over-reach: after each extension of executive powers; police state and war, when the Democrats got back in power they didn’t roll back the worst excesses, NOR did they push the lever even further to the left. In fact, Clinton had many policies worse than Reagan/Bush (welfare, crime) and Obama had many policies worse than Bush Jr., as we discussed.

In order to stop the next Trump, not just this one, you must have control of a party so that they roll back the terrible laws and policies of the last 40 years, and not just roll them back but start pushing the lever even further towards equality, away from oligarchy, and towards civil liberties and widespread prosperity.

If you do not do that, your victory over Trump is temporary. You win against him, but you do not win against what caused him, and what he represents.

The right wing understood that. The Netroots said “more and better Democrats” and while it had some successes, it didn’t have enough, because it failed repeatedly at primarying bad actors.

The Tea Party succeeded: they were able to remove enough Republicans they objected to that the ones who remained were scared to cross them. While doing so they were willing to lose seats, because they understood that Republicans who would not vote for them when they chips were down might as well be Democrats. (This is where the screams about the Supreme Court would be inserted. There is truth to this, but you are now losing it anyway.)

Changing what Democrats WANT to do; who they want to be; what sort of country they are actually willing to vote for and build, is what matters. Objectively, Obama and Bill Clinton contributed massively to the ills which lead to Trump. That needs to stop. There needs to be a Democratic President who rolls back what has been done, and then moves strongly to the left. Who dismantled the legal, regulatory and institutional framework for tyranny; and who actually reduces inequality and increased prosperity for all Americans in a clear way they can feel.

Failure to achieve that, and a Congress which would work with such a president and oppose the inevitable future Republican presidents, will equal failure for the Resistance, no matter how many small successes they have, or even if they are able to remove Trump thru impeachment or loss in 2020.

There’s a click before the strike. Listen to the clock.