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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The DKos Boycott

Late last week a diarist at Daily Kos, going by the handle of Alegre, called on fellow supporters of Hillary Clinton to conduct a “writer’s strike” at the site. As Markos Moulitsas quickly noted, this is actually a boycott, not a strike–or maybe the right word is a secession, since the idea is for pro-HRC Kossacks to find somewhere else to blog and talk.
On its own terms, the boycott is a pretty unremarkable example of the inherent tensions of the blogosphere, where centrifugal and centripital forces are always fighting for ascendancy. As the largest single site in the political blogosphere, and as one that features both a vast and decentralized array of opinion, and a very strong sense of being a “community” with a distinct point of view, Daily Kos is especially conducive to this sort of tension. It’s not surprising there are intra-Kossack rebellions now and then. New blogs and spinoffs (remember that Markos himself began as a diarist at MyDD) are extraordinarily common, for the simple reason that netroots participants will often decide to form “communities” more closely tailored to their opinions and particular needs, or provide them with a more prominent platform.
On the other hand, the boycott also reflects the growing ferocity of the Clinton-Obama competition, and as such, should concern all Democrats. Alegre’s boycott call could have been clearer, but its main complaint is about the “abusive nature” and “horrid and sexist manner” of anti-HRC commentary at DKos, rather than the pro-Obama allegiances of front-pagers and commenters.
At the risk of putting words into a lot of mouths, I’d summarize the increasingly personal nature of the argument between Clinton and Obama supporters in the blogosphere, and beyond it, as follows:
Obama supporters are generally upset at what they consider to be a destructive rearguard action by HRC’s campaign to boost her slim chances at the nomination by severely damaging Obama’s general election prospects. Exhibits #1 and #2 in this indictment was her public suggestion that Obama is less qualified to be commander-in-chief than John McCain, and her alleged abettment, on national television, of the idea that Obama is some sort of crypto-Muslim.
While Obama supporters don’t often accuse Clinton supporters generally of being racist, they do accuse the Clinton campaign of appealing to racist impulses in the electorate.
Meanwhile, Clinton supporters in the blogosphere naturally feel more than a bit persecuted, because they are a distinct and enduring minority, and also because HRC-abuse long predated this presidential campaign. Much of this abuse obviously stemmed from her support for the Iraq War Resolution, but a lot also represented displaced anger at the alleged ideological and partisan heresies of her husband. As an example, an extraordinary amount of cyberspace has been devoted to attacks on HRC as the “DLC candidate,” even though she led what was perceived at the time as being the anti-DLC faction in the Clinton White House, at least in the early years of that administration. This attack-line is particularly infuriating to those HRC supporters (most notably Armando Llorens at Talk Left and to some extent, Blogfather Jerome Armstrong at MyDD) who think the Obama candidacy reflects the worst aspects of Clintoninan “triangulation.”
The “sexism” charge against Obama supporters is slightly less prevalent, though there are a host of feminist bloggers–some of whom actually support Obama–who are chronically upset about criticisms of HRC that follow sexist stereotypes. And some pro-HRC or neutral feminists, within and beyond the blogosphere, are convinced that the entire Obama campaign is a political example of the well-known real-life phenomenon of loyal, long-serving, talented women being displaced in hiring decisions by the first promising young man who walks through the door.
Personally, I’ve long argued that intra-Democratic arguments, particularly in presidential primaries, need to benefit from a free-speech presumption, including electability arguments, so long as they don’t directly suggest that the intra-party rival is objectively inferior to the partisan opponent, and more pertinently, so long as they do not ascribe invidious personal motives to fellow Democrats.
The Clinton-Obama competition is complex, but I think it would be helpful to sort it out in terms of the conditions just mentioned. Do readers agree? I’d be very curious to know.
UPCATEGORY: Democratic Strategist

4 comments on “The DKos Boycott

  1. Sphinxie on

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t get any benefit out of DKos. Around 2004 it was better, though it still suffered from the same quality of din, but to a lesser extent… Frankly, there’s a reason I subscribe to certain political blogs, and not virtually every single blog that anyone out there publishes. Some people are not worth reading. (I have other complaints about the main page of DKos that I won’t go into here, but they’re all different forms of din.)
    For that matter, while I have been shocked by the multi-dimensional obnoxiousness of the vocal Obama supporters (alas, reasonable ones are too quiet and reasonable to compete), when it comes to “diarists” HRC supporters were little or no better, in what I’ve read.
    I was a Clinton supporter until I concluded that she was not running a good enough campaign. The thing is I agree with much of her rhetoric–such as managerial skill being extremely important–and decided she was not meeting those standards. There are problems with both candidates, even while I feel that both candidates are better than any choice we’ve had in a long time. However even if Obama is the better of the two, that doesn’t mean he should be canonized. I think overall I’ve been disillusioned regarding the quality of judgement of the vast majority of progressives–not because of their ultimate choice, but because reason has been tossed aside in favor of fervor.
    A footnote… I suspect that during the Bush years we’ve gotten used to being haters, we’ve gotten used to viewing “the other side” as an evil enemy. It’s entirely appropriate when directed towards Bushco, but if we throw this stuff around too casually post-Bush it’ll make the atmosphere around politics more toxic. And it’s sad that this might be inadvertently ushered in by Obama, who has (as an individual if not always as a campaign) placed so much importance on a decent approach to politics.

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  2. Brent on

    ScubaSwim,
    I understand the frustration that must come with being an outnumbered “HRC” supporter on a number of progressive forums, and I give you credit for sticking to your convictions. But there are a number of statements you made in your post here that I feel are inaccurate. With your indulgence, I would like to respectfully give my viewpoints. (For the record, I’m an Obama supporter.)
    First, I would point out that Barack didn’t just make “one good speech.” He has made many good speeches, across a variety of topics, including his recent speech on race relations and his less publicized speech on politics and religion at the “Call to Renewal” evangelical conference in June 2006.
    Second, I’m not sure why you think Barack supporters don’t know much about him. Sure, he’s a breath of fresh air, but I think many of his supporters are quite familiar with his personal and political history. I for one have read both of his books, a memoir on him written by a Chicago journalist (“Obama: From Promise to Power” by David Mendell), and have heard most of his speeches. And not all of the information is positive: “Dreams from my Father” revealed much of his misguided youth, including his teenage drug abuse, and “Promise to Power” spoke of his occasional vanity and arrogance as a campaigner and his occasional neglect of his family life. These surveys and critiques of Barack’s life may have caused some people to dislike him, but he obviously still has a strong following. Either way, I don’t think it’s fair to characterize Barack’s followers as being ignorant of his life.
    Third, while the dialogue online does cover a lot of the “horse race” elements of the campaign, I think there’s also at least some discussion of the issues – especially Hillary’s vote on the Iraq war resolution and her association with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. I feel these are two concrete and important topics of discussion. As to which topic dominates the conversation, I think it depends on the forum in question. But discussion on the issues is out there.
    Fourth, I’d also like to challenge your claim that there exists “ZERO” information demonstrating Barack’s ability to bring people together. His “one good speech” did a pretty good job at the convention. His campaign has a million donors. He has millions of followers. He draws tens of thousands to his rallies across the country. And, with all due respect, you are in the minority of HRC supporters in the progressive blogosphere. With all seriousness and respect, I’m curious to know if there were any other indicators you were looking for.
    In summary, I perfectly understand that debates can get heated and supporters can become defensive of their candidates – I plead guilty to my past offenses. My point here was to try to provide an honest case for rebuttal. As always, I mean no disrespect to you personally.

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  3. ScubaSwim on

    As a HRC supporter, I too have been frustrated by the pro-Obama/anti-Clinton slant to the election process. The slant has been so obvious to me at the regular sites I visit that I now find I spend substantially less time at these sites (DailyKos, TPM, and others). It’s not just the extreme harping on every little Hillary mis-step but also the waiving-off of even big Barack mis-steps. I think the above entry misses an obvious basis for frustration from Hillary supporters–Hillary is a known entity from a long way back. Barack is a hardly-known entity who gave one very good speech several years ago. People seem to put Hillary down because they know her (familiarity breeds contempt) but push forward Barack even tho they know little or nothing about him (a breath of fresh air). The dialog on line is about campaign processing and not about issues or even how one vs the other might run their administration. It’s been turned into a personality contest–just like high school. And just like high school, it’s the cool kids who are pushing this meta narrative. And just like high school, I reject the cool kids’ assertions that they know what’s best and others don’t. No one on either site (and several others such as Salon) bothers to investigate Barack or question his assertion that he can (a) lead, (b) bring people together, (c) is ready for the job. I have seen ZERO definitive information or example that convinces me he has accomplished anything significant in any of those three categories. I feel like we’re repeating the pro-Bush anti-Gore meta-narrative of the 2000 campaign…..look how good that turned out! And since it’s being treated as a game and a personality contest by the websites, people who want to play with Hillary are obviously more interested in creating a sub-group–and rightfully reject that the cool kids know best (they don’t).

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  4. Kensdad on

    as a staunch supporter of HRC over at TPM, i find that the obama supporters consistently label her as a “liar and cheater” who “will do anything to win” and wants to “steal the nomination” from its true heir, Obama. over there it is all about pledged delegates and “following the rules” to exclude FL and MI (while ignoring the rules that allow superdelegates to make up their minds freely and independently.) any argument that goes against the obama pledged delegate meme or not seating FL and MI is attacked with with a feriousness of a rabid dog backed into a corner.

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