Given as how I’m sporadically writing about my recent trip to Australia here on this blog, I guess it is incumbent upon me to report that blogs don’t seem to be terribly central to progressive politics in Australia or New Zealand. It’s not that they don’t exist; one site I’ve run across that provides a database of blogs around the world (though it’s not clear how many are political) lists 3,701 in Australia and 569 in New Zealand (as compared with 69,167 in the U.S.). And it’s certainly not the case that Aussies and Kiwis are not “wired;” their internet penetration levels are actually higher than ours; New Zealand ranks second only to Iceland in that respect, and Australia ranks fifth.Still, no one I talked to in Sydney thought of political blogs–much less any sort of broader web-based “netroots” movement, as something to think seriously about. And despite a very high awareness level of U.S. politics, they seemed surprised and skeptical when I mentioned the significance and self-consciousness of the “netroots” as a major faction in the Democratic Party.It’s possible that there’s just a lag-time factor here, but I doubt it. In no small part because money is not so ever-present in their politics, political organizing Down Under is very old-school and labor-intensive. “People-powered politics” is pretty much a given, even though, or perhaps even because, there’s less dependence on technology. New Zealand’s Labour Party recently conducted a very successful voter mobilization effort at a cost that would represent a rounding error in the monthly billing of any U.S. political consultant. Australia’s compulsory voting system obviously makes voter mobilization a less pressing concern altogether.But perhaps an even more important factor is the strong and grassroots-oriented party system. For all the talk among progressive bloggers about the oppressive D.C. Democratic Establishment, the truth is that our parties are far weaker and more decentralized than those in the rest of the English-speaking world. The “netroots” are scratching an itch for organization and bottom-up influence that isn’t that strong in places like Australia and New Zealand, where parties devote a lot of time to grassroots and interest-group constituencies, and where party discipline is high once decisions are made.I heard nothing in Sydney that would indicate that blogging and other internet-based political organizing and communications vehicles are about to sweep the world Down Under. Given how rapidly the “netroots” blossomed here, it could still happen there, but I wouldn’t bet my modem on it.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
The federal government is going to shut down this weekend, barring some miracle. And Democrats really need to make sure Americans know exactly who insisted on this avoidable crisis. It’s the House GOP, as I explained at New York.
If you are bewildered by the inability of Congress to head off a government shutdown beginning this weekend, don’t feel poorly informed: Some of the Capitol’s top wizards are throwing up their hands as well, as the Washington Post reports:
“’We are truly heading for the first-ever shutdown about nothing,’ said Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank. Strain has started referring to the current GOP House-led impasse as “the ‘Seinfeld’ shutdown,” a reference to the popular sitcom widely known as ‘a show about nothing.’ ‘The weirdest thing about it is that the Republicans don’t have any demands. What do they want? What is it that they’re going to shut the government down for? We simply don’t know.’”
That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Many House Republicans, led by a band of right-wing hard-liners, want to impose their fiscal and policy views on the nation despite the GOP’s narrow majority in the House. Their chief asset, beyond fanaticism, is that the federal government can’t remain open past the end of the fiscal year without the concurrence of the House, and they don’t really mind an extended government shutdown, if only to preen and posture. They are being encouraged in this wildly irresponsible position by their leader and likely 2024 presidential nominee Donald Trump.
But the hard-liners’ real motive, it seems, is to use the dysfunction they’ve caused in the House to get rid of Speaker Kevin McCarthy for being dysfunctional. The not-so-hidden plan hatched by Florida congressman Matt Gaetz is to thwart every effort by McCarthy to move forward with spending plans for the next fiscal year and then defenestrate him via a motion to vacate the chair, which just five Republicans can pass any time they wish (with the complicity of Democrats). Indeed, the Post reports the rebels are casting about for a replacement Speaker right now:
“A contingent of far-right House Republicans is plotting an attempt to remove Kevin McCarthy as House speaker as early as next week, a move that would throw the chamber into further disarray in the middle of a potential government shutdown, according to four people familiar with the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.”
McCarthy’s tormenters would like to have a successor lined up who will presumably be even less inclined to compromise with Democrats than the current Speaker. And that’s saying a lot, since McCarthy has already bowed to the Gaetz demand that House Republicans reject even the idea of a continuing resolution — the stopgap spending measures used to forestall or end government shutdowns in the past — and instead plod through individual appropriations bills loaded with provisions no Democrat would ever accept (e.g., deep domestic spending cuts, draconian border policies, anti-Ukraine measures, and abortion restrictions). It’s a recipe for a long shutdown, but it’s clear if McCarthy moves a muscle toward negotiating with Democrats (who have already passed a CR in the Senate), then kaboom! Here comes the motion to vacate.
Some observers think getting rid of McCarthy is an end in itself for the hard-liners — particularly Gaetz, who has a long-standing grudge against the Californian and opposed his original selection as Speaker to the bitter end — no matter what he does or doesn’t do. In theory, House Democrats could save McCarthy by lending a few “no” votes to him if the motion to vacate hits the floor, but they’ve made it clear the price for saving him would be high, including abandonment of the GOP’s Biden impeachment inquiry.
So strictly speaking, the impending shutdown isn’t “about nothing”; it’s about internal far-right factional politics that very few of the people about to be affected by the shutdown care about at all. Understandably, most Democrats from President Biden on down are focusing their efforts on making sure the public knows this isn’t about “big government” or “politicians” or “partisan polarization,” but about one party’s extremism and cannibalistic infighting. For now, there’s little anyone outside the GOP fever swamps can do about it other than watch the carnage.