October 16, 2008

The Illusion of the “Netroots Movement”

Filed under: Politics — PolitiCalypso @ 5:21 pm

There are some very good reasons why I have never chosen to identify with the “netroots” movement or the politics thereof. One such reason is the “movement”‘s eagerness to take credit for anything good that happens to the Democratic Party in elections, when the simple truth of the matter is that outside circumstances shape elections. If I were superstitious, I’d worry that the onset of crowing about the apparent coming Obama win would jinx it. However, that would be the ultimate in assigning undeserved responsibility to these characters.

The political pendulum swings back and forth. As a liberal, I think that the more liberal party should be the natural governing party of the U.S., because we need to move forward continuously. However, there is a place for a more conservative party, a loyal opposition, that keeps the metaphorical feet of the liberal party firmly on the ground, and sometimes gets rewarded with power when the liberal party becomes corrupt or goes off on some kind of crazy utopian scheme. A big reason why politics in the U.S. have been so messed up is because the party charged with keeping everyone’s feet planted on the ground was emphatically not the “conservative” party. It was the “conservatives” who had pie-in-the-sky visions of using force to instill democracy in people and being thrown flowers for it. It was the “conservatives” who believed that the sheer beneficent nature of the rich would lead to a pretty unicorn world of unregulated markets promoting widespread wealth. The “hard realist” party, the one attempting to put the brakes on these kinds of ideas, was the Democratic Party. Traditionally, liberals were supposed to have optimistic ideas of human nature and conservatives were supposed to be more pessimistic and cynical, but, despite the slogan of the Obama campaign, that has been reversed. Liberalism is traditionally, and classically, not supposed to be the check on conservatism run wild, but that’s what has happened now.

What we are seeing right now in the U.S. is that natural cycle, albeit in an upside-down world. The “idealist” party–the Republican Party, in this case–is getting thrown out because of a combination of corruption and its crazy utopian schemes backfiring in its face. The Democrats, the party of liberal ideology, are playing the part of the steady hand now. The factor that threw everything off was the advent of neoconservative ideology, which is nothing if not “idealistic.” I happen to believe that they are bad ideals, but ideals they are. With that movement now pretty much discredited, I am hoping that, after the reforms are enacted, the parties will assume their natural roles once again, with the Democrats returning to being the party of FDR and the Republicans becoming the party of Goldwater.

In a word, the election is being decided by the economy. The counting-their-chickens crowing of the “netroots” is sound and fury. They happened to be in the right place at the right time, but let’s be serious here — the election is not being won based on any spew posted on a blog, either this little one or something like the Daily Kos. Blogging is good for two things — personal catharsis and easy organizing. It has made a difference in raising money and in organizing volunteer efforts in contested states. I’ll give it that. But all the fundraising and all the organizing in the world won’t make a difference if the large-scale factors are not in your favor. You can organize all you want, and talk to as many people as you can, but the success of your message depends on their willingness to listen to you. See “U.S. Congressional Election, 2002.” And, for that matter, 2004 — though I am pretty sure that voter suppression and election fraud decided that one, as was true in 2000 as well.

Incidentally, I find it deeply ironic that the netroots luminaries tend to discount the idea that anything like that occurred. However, I understand why they do: The myth of a fair election fairly lost serves their agenda. It allows them to take credit for what happened since then, as the rise of the blogs coincided with the inevitable crash-and-burn of neoconservatism. To suggest that maybe there wasn’t a huge systemic problem at the time, but that cheating cost the elections, would destroy the myth that the luminaries need, which is that they Saved the World.

(For the record, I have strong reason to believe that election fraud was committed–or at least attempted–in 2006 as well, in particular, with voter suppression in Virginia, but that there were simply too many holes to plug that year, and the “Rove math” method of “winning” depends pretty heavily on an election hinging on a single heavily contested state. This was the situation in 2000 and in 2004, and both sides knew it two weeks from the election. It was not the case in 2006, and it is not the case this year. If anything, the situation this year is even worse for the GOP than it was in 2006. Barack Obama has 264 electoral votes absolutely locked up, and of the remaining contested states, he needs to win only one of them. He is ahead, as of this writing, in almost all, and significantly ahead in some. The infrastructure simply does not exist for that scale of thievery, though they have given it a good run in Ohio once again, with the likely purging of thousands of new voters.)

I try not to fall hook, like, and sinker for anyone’s version of reality, but attempt to work out the truth myself. This includes the narcissistic hero mythos that the “netroots movement” has built around itself. There is no such “movement” in the sense that they mean it, which is to say, a movement that strongly influences politics. The things that influence politics are the same things that always have: most importantly, the economy, the current activity of the military, and the corruption/distrust levels of each party. Other factors come into play, but those are the three big ones. The blog luminaries are on the right side of history, but they didn’t cause history to unfold. The neoconservatives did that to themselves, as they were always doomed to do, because of the inherent nature of their beliefs. You can’t avoid the political cycle.

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