Tearing open the tent

I sense — or perhaps just hope — that the left (you say progressives, I say liberals) is grappling with the need to open its tent. That’s because I’m starting to hear those who fear — on the eve of possibly cashing in the greatest gift certificate in recent political history, the botched Bush administration — that the closed orthodoxy of a chosen few could shrink the party just when it need to grow.

See today’s Washington Post on Democrats’ efforts to reassess.

Those in the middle of these events share a similar conviction, which is that for too long Republicans have been winning the battle of ideas (and often campaign strategy) in American politics, in part because conservatives invested in what is now a well-funded infrastructure of organizations that have produced ideas, thinkers, publications, strategists, and politicians who now control the White House, Congress and increasingly the federal judiciary.

There is also a belief shared at least by some of the participants that Democrats have ridden for too long on what are the fumes of the New Deal and the Great Society, which sustained Democrats for half a century. . . .

Doug Hattaway, a Democratic communications consultant who worked for Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000, recalled a moment of epiphany during a focus group of Democratic operatives and marketing professionals he attended last year. The participants were asked to say what Democratic accomplishments they were most proud of. Their responses filled several pages on a flip chart set up in the focus group facility. “We all realized there was nothing there within the past 30 years,” Hattaway said.

That is painful but necessary reassessment. See also Russell Shaw lecturing fellow progressives at Huffingtonpost:

But reading some of the posts and Comments here and in other Blogs, I notice a key fault shared by many of my fellow progressives. A fault so endemic and irritating that it ignores the realities of politics and human nature. A fault that turns more people off than it converts.

Just as with the true believers on the right, the overarching fault of too many of the left’s true believers is a combination of rampant self-righteousness and a lack of respect for other positions that may happen to differ with yours. Differ greatly, or differ slightly.

A fault that fuels articles, posts and comments that ring with the wrathful tone of I am right and if you are not 100% in agreement with what I say, you are a right-wing lackey of the Rove Administration. And in being that, you are either horribly naïve, or getting paid by them. . . .

The best trajectory for change is to convince those who may not agree with you on everything, but agree with you on some things to side with you on those things you both agree on. That’s how alliances are made, and sometimes, how minds are changed.

My fellow progressives, when you scorn everybody who does not agree with everything you say, a process inimical to human nature ensues. When you shout people down and call them names, they tend to get defensive and either shut down or shout back at you. When an ultra-progressive (of which I bear some traits) tells a moderate liberal “you are full of shit, fuck you,” that’s not the best way to get buy-in on any of your ideas.

Not the best way to engage your fellow citizens. For if you go down this absolutist path, you lose the opportunity to engage, and change, the minds of those whose critical mass we really need to change things about what is wrong with our nation and the world.

I’ve been on the other end of those silly and ultimately destructive efforts by a few to kick some of us out of what they think is their club if we don’t copy everything they say about every issue and candidate: a political party as a high-school clique. In the end, of course, that’s not going to stop me from voting for the candidates I want (though in their skewed logic, voting for Democrats Hillary Clinton or Joe Lieberman makes you less than a Democrat) but I fear it will affect the ability of the party to get the right candidates and to get them elected. If they take this too far, the Democratic Party will act like a third party with no second party inbetween.

The Democratic Party, of all parties, should be inclusive and open to debate. And I’m glad that debate is underway.

: Something similar is happening in the UK with the Euston Manifesto (see posts here, here, and here).

  • long time/first time

    Agreed. But I thought it should be a friendly voice that first points out that Sen. Lieberman’s first name is Joe.

  • http://www.wingercomics.com/ Carson Fire

    “The Democratic Party, of all parties, should be inclusive and open to debate. And I’m glad that debate is underway.”

    Was it ever inclusive and open, and is the debate underway?

    I agree with much of this post, but not these particular statements. It’s really a part of that self-righteousness that for decades has convinced the Democratic party that it’s more open to debate than anybody else. That simply isn’t the case. It was during the 80s, when I first became disenchanted with the Democratic party, that I realized that contrary to the lip service, Democrats had become far more close-minded on issues than any creature in existence… it was always incumbent on everyone *else* to have an open mind in order to accept *their unalterable positions* on every issue. Because there were people who did not accept their gospel, then, aha! closed minds… they should have them open, like us! This is a self-deceipt that has festered for a long time; even moderate Democrats mouth it, so it’s going to be a hard habit to break.

    And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a Democrat or two venture forth with a bit of clear insight like this, only to be buried and forgotten a week later. Whose convention did Democratic leaders go to? The rabble-rousing, crazy wild-eyed Kos convention, or — well, we don’t even *see* conventions of the reasonable brand of Democrat. We see them, those reasonable Democrats, this tiny handful, clucking on the edges of the party, while quite clearly the party is fully in the grips of the Michael Moores, the Daily Koses, and the Oliver Willises.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    Just a thought but maybe the Dems should evict some of their losers.

    Perhaps Ted Kennedy, Durbin, Pelosi, Reid, Dean, and their platform of higher taxes, gay marriage, votes for felons, socialist business bashing, Bush derangement, and undermining the GWOT?

    Instead the inclusive Democratic party is hellbent on evicting Lieberman etc.

    Is anyone keeping track of how many articles like this have been propagated? I mean, how many times are they going to prescribe changing the delivery rather than the message?

    What does that say about the maturity level of otherwise grown adults when they have to tell their compadres not to “shout people down”?

  • Ronski

    Gay marriage is where in the Democrat Party Platform? Or do I need stronger reading glasses to see it?

  • Knemon

    “It’s really a part of that self-righteousness that for decades has convinced the Democratic party that it’s more open to debate than anybody else.”

    *

    The smoking gun is somewhere in “The Making of the President: 1972.” Some choice quotes from the McGovern committee.

    I wish you guys all the luck in the world, but *I’m* not gonna hold my breath. On that matter, you have no choice, though – that’s one stuffy tent you’re trapped in.

  • Ed Rusch

    “well, we don’t even *see* conventions of the reasonable brand of Democrat.”

    Yeah, we do. Just because you never leave your basement and the warmth of the water heater next to your computer desk doesn’t mean they don’t happen. In terms of political impact, the Kos convention had zilch — lots of media, little impact. But the many, many local and state conventions held over the last two months will have a far greater impact — and can claim the participation of hundreds of thousands of participants. That’s where the debate happened, outside of the echo chamber of bloggers.

    Haven’t you all realized how far from reality the likes Jeffo and his ilk are?

  • http://www.climatecrisis.net DrSinker

    And the Republican tent stands in contrast how?

    There’s plenty of self-righteousness on the other side. The only difference is that they don’t claim to be open minded. That’s a difference of degree only.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    long time… thanks. i don’t know what i was thinking… maybe i was reminiscing about al lowenstein from my long island days. maybe i was just being stupid.

  • Dan

    Jeff, I really hope you’re right. But every post I read at Kos makes me fear that you are wrong. The far-lefties like those at Kos seemed to have taken over the whole progressive movement. Anti-American, anti-Israel, and completely dismissive of any concerns about Islamic fundamentalism or terrorism, they seem to have convinced themselves that the Democratic Party’s “problem” is that it’s too centrist and accommodating, ignoring the fact that the only Democrat to be elected President in the last 25 years was Bill Clinton, a product of the (largely centrist-leaning) Democratic Leadership Council. The Kos types actually seem to hate the DLC and moderate Democrats more than they hate Republicans. Read the nasty comments by Kos-ites at “The Plank”, the New Republic’s blog sometime. The relentlessly mean-spirited attacks on New Republic editor Marty Peretz are enough to make me worried…really worried. Throw in the fact that many of the Kos types are OBSESSED with Israel and the supposed influence of the Israel lobby in America (armed with their Mearsheimer and Walt “credentials”) and it starts to get a little scary. As a lifelong Democrat, I am really shocked to see what has started to happen on the Left end of the political spectrum in the last few years. Certainly, many of the Left honestly oppose the Iraq War for some very good reasons, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the code word “neocon” used to express animus towards, well, Jews. I could never be a Republican, but more and more I’m wondering how much longer I can associate myself with a Democratic Party that “boasts” such bigoted members as Cynthia McKinney, Robert Byrd, Jim Moran, and John Conyers, to name but a few. And yes, largely bigoted in the sense that there are some very anti-Semitic overtones in that not-so-esteemed group. Of course it isn’t anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli policy, but the relentless focus on Israel’s misdeeds by some on the Left, while they seem to have little concern for the misdeeds of numerous larger countries who have far worse human rights records, is more than a little troubling.
    Like I said, I hope you’re right, Jeff…I pray you’re right. But lately, I’m afraid it’s going in the other direction.

  • Billy Dee

    So now the Dems are guilty of TOO MUCH homogeniety? Please. The Dems need a little more discipline in order to more effectively counter the Republican borg collective.

    And anyway, what’s so bad about some wack job lefty calling you a fascist because you’ve left the reservation on whatever issue? Liberals have absolutly no power. Their threats and imprecations are empty. Now, when conservatives turn on you, then you’re in trouble.

  • MoeLarryAndJesus

    Tolerance is a fine virtuee, but so is holding on to certain principles, and staking out coherent positions. Jack Murtha is right – it’s time to start getting out of Iraq, not least because the Bushpigs have mangled the situation beyond rational hope of repair. And kowtowing to religious lunatics with toilet paper suggestions like a Constitutional gay marriage ban is just not acceptable. Nor is the behavior of the DeLays and Frists in the Schiavo matter acceptable.

    If that results in a smaller-than-possible tent, so be it. I have no desire to spend time in a tent with torture-supporting gay-bashing SuperChristians. Disagree with me about certain particulars of tax law or public education or governmental education or gun laws, fine. But tell me you still want to “stay the course” and not “cut and run,” and you can go to your imaginary hell.

  • Mike

    I agree with this post. I would also agree with if “democrats” was replaced with “republicans” so I guess it’s a wash in my mind.

  • http://resistanceblog.blogspot.com Dperl99

    I have never read this blog, came through a Sullivan link, but if the quality of the comments on this post means anything, I am not missing much. I mean the CapitiousNut’s charicature of the Dem party platform is simply silly, not very condusive to any debate. And the idea the “far-lefties” at Kos are “Anti-American, Anti-Israel and dismissive of any concerns about Islamic terrorism” is just completely absurd. I spend a fair amount of time reading the posts at Kos and I have never seen this obsession with the influence of Israel in America, and that is something I tend to be sensitive to. Kos is a community, there are 40,000 members that can post on the site, there is going to be a wide range of views. I certainly disagree with much of what is written, but to generalize about them as this far-left anti-semtic cabal is inaccurate, and is basically doing what you accuse them of. I also think you overstate their importance. Yes they have the ability to influence things, it’s a lot of people and they can organize, but to say they have taken over the progressive movement is a little bit melodramatic.

  • rob

    I keep hearing about the wacko’s on KOS. Could someone please give an example? CaptiousNut doesn’t count. Apparently he thinks a big tent means discriminating against gays.

  • Dan

    To clarify, I probably got a little carried away and didn’t mean to suggest that the all Kos readers and posters were anti-Israel and anti-American. I apologize for that implication. But there are strains of those sentiments in a GREAT many posts I read on lefty blogs LIKE Kos – a GREAT many, and I won’t back down from that assertion. DPerl99, I don’t know if you’re just overlooking it, but this theme that the “Zionist neocons” are puppetmasters pulling the strings of American foreign policy is a VERY common theme on Lefty blogs and message boards these days. And yes, it’s anti-Semitic, and your assertion that I’m “doing what I accuse them of” is a little off base. I’m calling these bigots out for what they are. I see them hiding behind the “anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic” excuse, and I’m not buying it. It’s very clear that in the last few years, MANY on the Left have gone from criticizing Israel honestly to going over the top and using the excuse that they are merely criticizing Israeli policy as a cover for what is obviously hatred of Jews. I’m sorry if I singled out Kos – they are by no means one of the worst offenders in this regard, but they are very popular and in the spotlight right now and I have seen these themes come up often at Kos. The near-worship of people like Juan Cole, who you couldn’t convince me in a million years didn’t have anti-Semitism underlying his anti-Zionism, makes me extremely uneasy, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I understand the danger of calling people “anti-Semitic” when it may not be the case, but I also fear that we are allowing anti-Semites to routinely hide behind the mantra “I’m not an anti-Semite, I’m just criticizing Israeli policy,” and it really is a new, politically correct form of anti-Semitism that seeks to delegitimize the state of Israel, which will eventually result in Israel’s destruction or dismantlement – a scenario that can and will lead to the death of many many Jews.
    So I call it anti-Semitism, and, to quote Tom Petty, I won’t back down.

  • http://resistanceblog.blogspot.com Dperl99

    Dan,

    I certainly agree that there are significant strains of anti-semitism on the left, I just don’t see a lot of it on DailyKos. One does have to be careful as there are, I think, legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy and not all are rooted in anti-semitism. As I said, it is a diverse community, and I disagre with much of what is posted and I tend to dismiss such rantings about the neocon zionists pulling the strings of American foreign policy as so much conspiracy gibberish (perhaps I take it too lightly). I just thought that describing them as “anti-american” was a little over the top.

  • Dan

    DPerl99-
    fair enough, and I appreciate your response. I have many Jewish friends (I’m Jewish too, obviously) who argue about this kind of thing with me. They think I overreact to the creepy “Zionist, neocon” stuff out there, but I see it a lot and it seems like a lot of times that stuff gets said on blogs and message boards and nobody objects to it, like it’s perfectly acceptable. So yes, I do think you might take it a little too lightly, but so do a lot of my friends, and you seem like a reasonable person, so I really do apologize for going over the top a bit about Kos and “anti-American” accusations. I didn’t mean to come across like a spokesman for Fox News!
    I’m pretty liberal, domestically speaking….
    Dan

  • http://apostate.raqsstorm.org Woodrow Jarvis Hill

    I also fear that we are allowing anti-Semites to routinely hide behind the mantra “I’m not an anti-Semite, I’m just criticizing Israeli policy,” and it really is a new, politically correct form of anti-Semitism that seeks to delegitimize the state of Israel, which will eventually result in Israel’s destruction or dismantlement – a scenario that can and will lead to the death of many many Jews.

    As you can guess from the content of my blog, I’ve got some interests in the Middle East. Those are mostly through my long-standing hobby of studying dances from that area, which combined with my interest in Medieval Re-Creation to studying the history and culture of the region.
    But I’m also a center-left progressive, a DLC-ite, if you will, in many ways. I don’t read Kos except on rare occasions; last time was because a Kos diarist quoted a friend (and, ironically given your topic, someone who is passionately pro-Israel) from Livejournal on pregnancy. I’m more interested in Peace from, and for, both sides than in picking a side. I’m got gripes with how everyone in this piece of the game is going ’bout handling themselves.
    So I ask you, and I want to know, how can I criticize Israel under your strictures? What commentary can work, what can I say that’s going to not been seen as anti-Semetic? How can I make clear, to you and others of your ilk, that I might be frustrated with the politics, and not the people or the gov’t itself?
    I’m not interested in backup up, or down, or whatever. I just want to start having some damn conversations, not arguments or polemics. Make sense?

    —-Woodrow

  • http://www.askderekscruggs.com Derek Scruggs

    I generally vote Democrat, but the only political blog I read with any regularity is Andrew Sullivan.

    The thing I really dislike about the current environment is that each side no longer questions and argues over rationale and policy, but rather over motives.

    Thus, the right accuses the left of hating America and wanting the terrorists to win. The left accuse Bush of only caring about his buddies in the oil business and thinking that he has a direct line to God.

    I realize these are extreme views and that there are moderate voices in both parties, but guess which ones get more airplay in the MSM? Why does Ann Coulter outsell George Will?

    It gets so tiresome after a while…

  • http://www.wingercomics.com/ Carson Fire

    Ed Rusch — “But the many, many local and state conventions held over the last two months will have a far greater impact”

    Ed, I sure hope you’re right, but in my view, the current craziness was seeded in the local conventions as far back as the 80s.

    I would go to the things thinking I’d see debate and reason, take part in the democratic process, and instead people would stand up and scream about “free houses for everybody” and browbeat everybody else into accepting their extreme positions.

    The only difference I see now is that this extremism has escaped the shadows of the private conventions and is now paraded around in the open air.

  • Linus

    It’s a faux-debate about anything other than American interventionism (and maybe then only in Iraq; how many Democrats opposed the Kosovo War?). But even that debate is liable to be suppressed when Mrs. Clinton gets the nod. The Kossacks will huff and puff before that happens, and some of them even afterwards, but by November of 2008 the overwhelming percentage of them will fall into line and support the national dominatrix regardless of her unrepentant support for Iraq and pledge to continue “spreading democracy” in the Arab-Muslim world.

    The trouble with the Kossacks is not that they’re too radical but that they’re not radical enough. They represent just another variation on America’s middlebrow, mainstream politics (which is incidentally why the right is so afraid of them, and is trying desperately, failingly to tar them as far left liberals).

    Liberalism used to be a politics of compassion. It is today a politics of culture – largely. There are certain virtues to this, but how many people in the liberal netroots opposed the war on humanitarian grounds? How many diaries on the dailykos in the last month have dealt with the nearly 2,000,000 people incarcerated in American prisond today, often in conditions worse than any other western country, and some in the developing world? They talk about “smart programs” and “smart government” (jiust like their DLC foes; fancy that!) but what about the real losers in this society, the ones who don’t respond to “care not cash,” who don’t put down the bottle or the crack pipe. Proverbially, there are winners and losers but they ain’t no big deal – even for so-called liberals.

  • erg


    Instead the inclusive Democratic party is hellbent on evicting Lieberman etc

    No, Lieberman is hellbent on evicting himself. He seems to think that he has some divine right to get re-elected without facing a primary or an opponent. He seems to have forgotten that he’s Senator, not Emperor. If he loses the primary, he will take his toys and go home crying.

    Personally, I’m a centrist Democrat in most respects. But in the war on Iraq, Lieberman has been totally wrong, totally incompetent, and he’s not even dared to criticize the President as much as some Republican Senators have done. Fuck him and I hope he loses.

  • Martin Henderson

    As a Kos fellow-traveler who considers himself a centrist, I don’t think voting for Lieberman or H. Clinton makes one less of a Democrat, but those two would certainly not be at the top of my list. Against right-wing Republicans in a general election, fine; but Joe is not entitled to another term when there is a perfectly acceptable alternative, and Hillary has no rightful claim on the presidency. The party has a wealth of talent. Why those two?

  • David

    >that’s not going to stop me from voting for the candidates I want (though in
    >their skewed logic, voting for Democrats Hillary Clinton or Joe Lieberman
    >makes you less than a Democrat

    No it just makes you a republicanlite foxnews democrat who loves to go on tv pretending to be a democrat who then takes the opportunity to attack the party or their candidate as you did many times during the last election.

    Just do us all a favor and tell us that you’ll be supporting Kean Jr. right now so we don’t have to hear you bitching and moaning about Menendez.

  • Ed Rusch

    “I would go to the things thinking I’d see debate and reason, take part in the democratic process, and instead people would stand up and scream about “free houses for everybody” and browbeat everybody else into accepting their extreme positions.”

    Don’t you feel the least bit silly about basing your opinion of something occuring in the last few months on events happening a quarter-century ago? I mean, come now — as a rational, thinking human being, don’t you feel like a total turd for having such a stupid opinion?

  • http://www.oliverwillis.com Oliver

    Jeff, what’s maddening is the inability of folks like yourself and Lieberman to admit that the Iraq invasion and occupation was a mistake and is currently devolving. Like Lieberman, rather than admit that you continually snipe at Democrats for the cardinal sin of not being Republicans.

    I’m a Clintonite Democrat, who supports most free trade initiatives and every single military action of the last 15 years save for Iraq, yet somehow we’ve got you clapping in agreement when dishonest brokers like Glenn Reynolds lament about the “far left” Democratic party (you’re doing it in this very post). What you fail to get, with all your punditry on the media, is that you’re legitiziming the very same conservative extremism you claim to dislike.

  • Ken Moynihan

    I find blogs a very useful source of information, rather than a source of entertainment. Most of the time I turn a tin-ear to the more inflamatory comments, but for the most I find good links to stories I’m interested in (thus, how I landed here).

    I also find thoughtful discussions of the real issues debated by real people. It’s actually quite fufilling.

    I hope that both parties have these internal debates, so they can actually find consensus instead of division, for all of us.

    We desperately need leadership in these difficult times. Let’s hope we get some soon…..

  • MoeLarryAndJesus

    Dan writes: “To clarify, I probably got a little carried away and didn’t mean to suggest that the all Kos readers and posters were anti-Israel and anti-American. I apologize for that implication. But there are strains of those sentiments in a GREAT many posts I read on lefty blogs LIKE Kos – a GREAT many, and I won’t back down from that assertion. DPerl99, I don’t know if you’re just overlooking it, but this theme that the “Zionist neocons” are puppetmasters pulling the strings of American foreign policy is a VERY common theme on Lefty blogs and message boards these days. And yes, it’s anti-Semitic, and your assertion that I’m “doing what I accuse them of” is a little off base. I’m calling these bigots out for what they are.”

    You’re confusing a small gang of anti-Semitic nuts with a significant presence. There’s at least one nut who constantly spams the Huffington post with irrelevant drivel and screen names like NOWARFORISRAEL. And who is calling that guy out for what he is? The so-called left. The Bushpigs who infest the place either ignore him or pretend he’s somehow typical of the “left,” which is absurd.

    Some try to use the discontent with Lieberman as an example of leftist anti-Semitism, but that argument is purely stupid. I hope Lamont beats Lieberman solely because Lieberman is a shameless hawk, and for no other reason.

  • John

    Jeff,

    I think Dan is right, its headed in the opposite direction. From reading Kos, one would assume that moderate Democrats pose the greatest threat to our Republic, followed by the Bush adminstration, followed very distantly by terrorists who barely warrent a mention. Unfortunately, I see no way to heal the rift, which ultimately stems from votes on the Iraq war resolution. For Rove, the Iraq war is the ultimate wedge issue and the gift that keeps on giving. No matter how bad things get, it always manages to tear Democrats apart more than it tears apart the GOP. Has for the last three years, and will continue to for at least the next five.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    This is a hilarious if not tragic thread. Just place the poop in front of them and they will step in it every time.

    Dperl99,

    You don’t like my charicature[sic] of the Dem party platform?

    Well it’s simply not necessary to distort inanities. Think about it for a second or perhaps seek the counsel of your homeroom teacher.

    Read Dperl99′s blog, it’s a paradigmatic example of this post’s point.

  • Dan

    Woodrow-
    I understand your dilemma and I really want to address your question. I’m sorry if this is a vague and subjective sounding answer. I am usually not asked to explain my views on this subject in such a civil manner – usually, when I argue about this issue on blogs and message boards, I am told in no uncertain terms that I fanning the flames of hysteria and “playing with fire” by ever accusing an Israel-basher of being anti-Semitic. But, having said that, basically, I think we’re dealing with sort of a “trust” issue here. As in, I don’t think it’s anti-Semitic to criticize Israel if I TRUST that person doesn’t have ulterior motives in doing so. To me, first of all, anyone who I know personally and know that they don’t harbor ill will towards the Jewish people in general can say pretty much anything they want about Israel and I won’t feel it’s anti-Semitic. Yes, I know, that’s a rather small category of people, but I’m just trying to get you to understand where I’m coming from. And frankly, somebody like yourself, who obviously doesn’t come out hurling accusations at me but seems to genuinely want to address the issue in a sane manner – well, I tend to think people who take that sort of approach are capable of offering criticism of Israeli policies without being anti-Semitic. I guess what I’ve been talking about in my posts is a more recent phenomenon – pretty much since the Intifada of 2000 and then after 9/11, I saw a LOT of criticism of Israel on the Web and in the print media that seemed to go beyond legitimate criticism. It was criticism that seemed to imply that Israel could do no right and the Palestinians could do no wrong. It was criticism that implied that “neocons” of “Zionist” persuasions (translation: Jews) were pulling the strings of this country to get us to go to war with Iraq and other Arab countries. It ignored any news that might have been damning to Palestinians and other Arabs, and inflated any news that might have been damning to Israel. In short, it was biased, but the antagonism behind it seemed to have overtones of earlier, nasty stereotypes of Jews – that we are “only looking out for ourselves,” that we want others to fight our wars for us, that we are greedy land-grabbers, that we are conspiring to take over the world and getting our willing dupes (in this case, the US) to do it for us, etc. What I’m trying to say is that there is room for legitimate criticism of Israel, and I am not a “Likudnik” who endorses the actions of West Bank settlers who want to take all of the West Bank for their own. I have quarrels with Israeli policy sometimes too. But when I see someone who clearly has an agenda aimed at delegitimizing Israel and its right to defend itself against what are clearly a good many VERY hostile neighbors – and frankly, not all of that hostility is CAUSED by Israel’s actions over the years, but rather much of it is based on plain ol’ Jew-hatred in the Middle East – well, then I start to call a spade a spade and I feel I have a right to label as anti-Semites some of those people who clearly have an agenda against Israel yet hide behind the mantra “I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m just criticizing Israel” .
    I’m not a master debater, and I don’t make my points exceptionally well on Internet message boards, but then I’m not trying to “win” an argument here, just wish to point out where I’m coming from and hope that I’ve made you understand just a little bit about my viewpoint. Here’s to more discussion, and thanks for your input and your question.
    Dan

  • r4d20

    Dan said: “As a lifelong Democrat, I am really shocked to see what has started to happen on the Left end of the political spectrum in the last few years.”

    Dan,
    As a lifelong republican (*ok, so I’m only 30*) I have been amazed at what has happened to the Right side of the spectrum.

    I say this as a republican with little love for leftwing extremists – the extremists seem to have much more influence and power on the right than on the left. Michael Moore is a gasbag, but Anne Coulter and Michelle Malkin tread close to intimidation and incitement to murder. Of course leftists can do, and have done, the same kind of thing – but I dont see any violent leftwingers who are bestsellers on Amazon.

    I hope the Democrats go moderate. I plan on voting for any moderate Dem over any republican except McCain just to stick it to them over all their shit.

  • kalukistan de la kalakaleel

    What, exactly, is “progressive” or even “liberal” about a party that is accurately described as full of “… true believers” who share the characteristics of “… a combination of rampant self-righteousness and a lack of respect for other positions that may happen to differ with yours.”

    I’d call that literally “conservative” and narrow-minded, provincial and parochial and defeatist – other words that describe the so-called liberal American left – and the democratic party, as well.

  • http://www.wingercomics.com/ Carson Fire

    “Don’t you feel the least bit silly about basing your opinion of something occuring in the last few months on events happening a quarter-century ago? I mean, come now — as a rational, thinking human being, don’t you feel like a total turd for having such a stupid opinion?”

    Yes, Ed, I’m Rip van Freaking Winkle, and I’ve been completely oblivious from then until now. I didn’t watch as the situation grew worse through the years. The extremism I saw then has nothing to do with the extremism I see now… it just happened, out of the blue!

    The left wing faeries did it overnight with their magic leftist pixie dust.

  • Yali

    Just because you never leave your basement and the warmth of the water heater next to your computer desk doesn’t mean they don’t happen.

    They just can’t help themselves, can they?

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    The Dems have been snookered by another Republican talking point: “The dems have (no ideas/are in disarray/don’t know how to get their message out/are in the thrall of the wacko lefties).”

    In fact the real issue is that the opportunities for the Dems to get their message out is limited. The big media is corporatist on one side and distinctly right wing on the other side. Where is the liberal equivalent to FOX, for example?

    What is true on TV and radio is also true in print: Time, Newsweek, etc. have much more influence then The Nation. Studies have shown that on the talking heads shows the preponderance of pundits are conservative. In many cases they are “balanced” by a reporter, not a liberal. This is also part of the slight of hand, it subtly implies that reporters are not only “liberal” but will sacrifice their neutrality to support their (alleged) bias.

    Then there are the “think tanks” whose flacks are heard from frequently. The biggest group of these, like the Hoover Institution are funded by wealthy conservatives. These provide an intellectual barrage as sort of covering fire so that neo-con themes can be promoted with the appropriate polish.

    The real fact is that the super wealthy and corporate elite control the bulk of the money that is spent in the political arena and the Dems/liberals/progressives are outspent and kept from addressing the public. Stop blaming the victims and start following the money.

  • http://apostate.raqsstorm.org Woodrow Jarvis Hill

    I am told in no uncertain terms that I fanning the flames of hysteria and “playing with fire” by ever accusing an Israel-basher of being anti-Semitic.

    Oh, that feeling, I know. I get similar when I mention my views on Roe, which don’t track well with many of my Democrats. Briefly: Roe stifled a needed national debate; as much as I am pro-choice, I’m also aware that having such a decision meant we stopped explaining why choice is good and needed, and poured energy, time, and money into a single defense.
    But I digress.

    In short, it was biased, but the antagonism behind it seemed to have overtones of earlier, nasty stereotypes of Jews – that we are “only looking out for ourselves,” that we want others to fight our wars for us, that we are greedy land-grabbers, that we are conspiring to take over the world and getting our willing dupes (in this case, the US) to do it for us, etc.

    I do think I understand, and sympathize with, your point, and I think I see exactly where you’re coming from. For me, it’s similar to the conversations I have “back home” — I’m Black*, and both my parents have been, and still are, politically active. And my fear, when I read your original commentary, was that your fears were a Jewish version of the “It’s all the White Man’s fault” business I hear, at times. Because, yea, a lot of it is his fault, both historically and today, yet much of it is about how the community has fumbled and fell, as well, with missed opportunities and failed leadership.
    But, to be honest, I don’t know enough about the Jewish internal situation to judge that properly, which is why I asked. I try to keep up, because it’s pretty important to the current world situation, but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t do the job on it that I likely should.
    I’ll close by saying that yes, I think I’d disagree on one or two of your points; yet I’d rather ask for aid in understanding. Can you point me to a couple of good blogs or other new sources that your prefer and recommend? That way, if I chose to debate in the future, at least I’ll be coming from having a background of some sort…and you never know, you just might make me change a bit of my mind. :)

    Thanks, again.

    —-Woodrow

    Note to Jeff: Sorry to kidnap your space, man!

    * Or, to quote BLAZING SADDLES, “I’m Black?!?!”

  • Mike

    Just allow a serious anti-abortion contingent into the party, and you will win everything hands down.

  • Dan

    To R4D20-
    I completely agree with you about Malkin and Coulter. Vile and disgusting. One of the problems that occurs in our polarized political situation is that whenever you criticize the extremists on one end of the spectrum, it somehow can appear that you are condoning the sickening behavor of the extremists on the other end of the spectrum. In my opinion, Malkin and Coulter are really no different from Chomsky and Moore. The Far Left and the Far Right are truly mirror images of each other these days. I think this theory was proven correct when Pat Buchanan put Ralph Nader on the cover of his American Conservative paleocon isolationist magazine in 2004. Birds of a feather, in my humble opinion.
    Woodrow, I’ve enjoyed our conversation and I don’t expect you to agree with me on everything. That’s the beauty of a civil debate with reasonable people – and I hope in my earlier posts I managed to remain civil, but I realize that using the term “anti-Semitic” can certainly be taken as lowbrow name-calling when it’s not used properly. As far as blogs to check out…well, I read Andrew Sullivan many times a day. I also read The Plank, the New Republic blog. I keep my eyes on the Left and the Right – I DO actually read Kos sometimes, I read Talking Points Memo sometimes, but I also admit to reading National Review’s “The Corner”, the Weekly Standard, and, when I’m feeling particulary besieged by Islamic fundamentalists, I’ll even admit to reading Little Green Footballs, despite its sometimes vile, prejudiced overtones. I tend to like reasoned discourse (by people with ostensibly liberal views) that has a tinge of outrage at those who excuse terror – think Christopher Hitchens’ brilliant essays on Slate, for example. I don’t know if any of this will help illuminate my views on Israel and such, but for that I think you’d have to read a lot of books about the Holocaust and Israel’s various wars for survival to see the stark reality of the perpetual threat to Jewish survival. And, frankly, if you grow up Jewish and have a very OBVIOUSLY Jewish last name like I do (don’t feel like disclosing it here, but suffice it to say that very few people are in any doubt of what ethnic/religious group I belong to when they hear my last name), you get a sense of identification with the Jewish people and the historic prejudices against us that maybe one just can’t get otherwise. Not to say “it’s a Jewish thing, you wouldn’t understand”! But I guess I’m sort of saying that. And I certainly understand that you have probably endured racism that I can’t understand, as well as perhaps (it sounds like) a little outrage at the “blame whitey” phenomenon that I don’t really have the experience to understand either.
    I hope I haven’t come across as a nutcase. I know the dangers of yelling “discrimination” where there is none, and I also know that Jews aren’t exactly in existential (or, by and large, financial) danger in America. It’s more the history and the situation in the Middle East that worries me. Glad we could discuss it all.
    thanks,
    Dan

  • Dan

    To R4D20-
    I completely agree with you about Malkin and Coulter. Vile and disgusting. One of the problems that occurs in our polarized political situation is that whenever you criticize the extremists on one end of the spectrum, it somehow can appear that you are condoning the sickening behavor of the extremists on the other end of the spectrum. In my opinion, Malkin and Coulter are really no different from Chomsky and Moore. The Far Left and the Far Right are truly mirror images of each other these days. I think this theory was proven correct when Pat Buchanan put Ralph Nader on the cover of his American Conservative paleocon isolationist magazine in 2004. Birds of a feather, in my humble opinion.
    Woodrow, I’ve enjoyed our conversation and I don’t expect you to agree with me on everything. That’s the beauty of a civil debate with reasonable people – and I hope in my earlier posts I managed to remain civil, but I realize that using the term “anti-Semitic” can certainly be taken as lowbrow name-calling when it’s not used properly. As far as blogs to check out…well, I read Andrew Sullivan many times a day. I also read The Plank, the New Republic blog. I keep my eyes on the Left and the Right – I DO actually read Kos sometimes, I read Talking Points Memo sometimes, but I also admit to reading National Review’s “The Corner”, the Weekly Standard, and, when I’m feeling particulary besieged by Islamic fundamentalists, I’ll even admit to reading Little Green Footballs, despite its sometimes vile, prejudiced overtones. I tend to like reasoned discourse (by people with ostensibly liberal views) that has a tinge of outrage at those who excuse terror – think Christopher Hitchens’ brilliant essays on Slate, for example. I don’t know if any of this will help illuminate my views on Israel and such, but for that I think you’d have to read a lot of books about the Holocaust and Israel’s various wars for survival to see the stark reality of the perpetual threat to Jewish survival. And, frankly, if you grow up Jewish and have a very OBVIOUSLY Jewish last name like I do (don’t feel like disclosing it here, but suffice it to say that very few people are in any doubt of what ethnic/religious group I belong to when they hear my last name), you get a sense of identification with the Jewish people and the historic prejudices against us that maybe one just can’t get otherwise. Not to say “it’s a Jewish thing, you wouldn’t understand”! But I guess I’m sort of saying that. And I certainly understand that you have probably endured racism that I can’t understand, as well as perhaps (it sounds like) a little outrage at the “blame whitey” phenomenon that I don’t really have the experience to understand either.
    I hope I haven’t come across as a nutcase. I know the dangers of yelling “discrimination” where there is none, and I also know that Jews aren’t exactly in existential (or, by and large, financial) danger in America. It’s more the history and the situation in the Middle East that worries me. Glad we could discuss it all.
    thanks,
    Dan
    ps. And yes, Jeff, sorry to take over the discussion with this angle. I know you weren’t really going in this direction, and I apologize if we took it way off course.

  • owenz

    Political parties have to balance the competing priorities of having an “open tent” policy and presenting a unified vision for the country (i.e. actually standing for something as a party). I would argue that Karl Rove’s hyper partisanship has largely helped Republicans, at least in terms of elections, in the last decade. Say what you will about the policies themselves, but Rove’s party has presented a remarkably unified vision for the nation since 2000 – and electoral victories have followed. Conversely, Democrats are routinely panned in the media (and by Republicans) for voicing contradictory positions and not “standing for anything.” So the value of an “open tent” policy is somewhat questionable, is it not?

    I know Daily Kos has come to stand for everything liberal in the Democratic Party, but if you read the writings of Kos himself, you see he strains to maintain his own kind of “open tent” while adhering to a few basic rules. In the world of Kos, a Democrat can fall anywhere on the right-left ideological spectrum between Ted Kennedy and Ben Nelson. Thus, one’s position on a particular issue will not get someone excommunicated from the Kos wing of the party. Being pro-war and anti-abortion might not earn you a lot of fans on Daily Kos, but you won’t be singled out and attacked solely on the basis of these positions.

    Instead, Kos focuses on party loyalty and partisanship. Kos demands aherance to a certain code of public conduct – which includes never throwing fellow Democrats under the proverbial bus, never using derisive GOP talking points against fellow Dems, and never publicly undermining the party. Lieberman’s main sin is not his support of Iraq, then, but his willingness to publicly lecture fellow Democrats and seemingly take the side of the president at the expense of fellow Dems. In the Kos wing of the party, turning on fellow Democrats is the gravest sin one can undertake.

    It remains to be seen if the Kos formula works. Unquestionably, there has been an inordinant number of Democratic politicians in recent years who contributed to Republican branding of the Party. And Kos is certainly willing to support candidates whose ideological positions are far to the right of Ted Kennedy (see: Webb and Testor and Hackett). Is this ideological flexibility offset by his rigid requirements for partisanship and party loyalty? Perhaps. But underlying what Kos says is a belief that Rove’s great success is a direct result of his ability to make his party look strong, even when its policies are wrongheaded or inconsistent. The theory is: it’s better to sound good and be wrong than sound inconsistent/hesitant and be right. Like Rove, Kos seems to be saying that Party members can vote any way they want, as long as they do their part to make the Party appear strong and consistent.

  • Ed Rusch

    “The extremism I saw then has nothing to do with the extremism I see now”

    All right then, give me examples of extremism from a state Democratic convention in the last two months.

  • hey

    If one is interested in anti-semitism on dkos, check out the isryale “corporate sponsorship” cartoon threads… devastatingly illuminating.

    It’s the New Left all over again, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and assorted Soviet front groups are dominant once again. Thanks for making our campaign ads write themselves.

    Bad economics, no security, bad criminal policy, and barely liberal on some sexual issues (Tipper Gore what? Free speech my butt). Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • Mike Simpson

    I think Jeff’s column is overanalyzing things. Some Democrats could afford to be more tolerant of views that differ from their own, but I don’t think they are any worse in that regard than Republicans. The bigger problem is the party’s lack of any clear, unified vision to distinguish itself from the competition, particularly when it comes to Iraq.

    Some Democrats want a near immediate (w/in six months) withdrawl, others want a timetable, still others don’t want any timetable at all. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what John Kerry’s stance on Iraq was. “I voted to authorize the President to use force, but I disagree with how he’s used force, but I’d have gone into Iraq anyway” was the message I got. It’s OK to disagree with these things behind closed doors, but it looks bad to have several prominent members of the same party disagreeing in public on what I’d consider the single most important issue today. Where is the leadership?

  • MoeLarryAndJesus

    Mike Simpson says: “Some Democrats want a near immediate (w/in six months) withdrawl, others want a timetable, still others don’t want any timetable at all. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what John Kerry’s stance on Iraq was. “I voted to authorize the President to use force, but I disagree with how he’s used force, but I’d have gone into Iraq anyway” was the message I got. It’s OK to disagree with these things behind closed doors, but it looks bad to have several prominent members of the same party disagreeing in public on what I’d consider the single most important issue today. Where is the leadership?”

    If every Democrat in office expressed the same opinion on Iraq I’d vomit in my own mouth, because I’d be living in the United Soviet States of America.

    This demand is really rather stupid, Mike. Even the Repiglicans have a range of opinions on Iraq. As Steven Colbert said of Fox News, “the President’s opinion and the Vice President’s opinion.”

    The Democrats don’t control the executive branch, which is the only place one can realistically expect a party’s “official” position to come from. At least until next year’s Democratic primaries, when I fully expect the voters to make it clear that they want no more of Dumbya’s Incompetent Death Dance in Iraq.

  • Mike Simpson

    Moe Larry and Jesus, I don’t expect every Democrat to share the same opinion on Iraq but it seems to me that the party should have an official position on the single most important issue of the day.

    Where does the Democratic Party stand on Iraq? I honestly couldn’t tell you. How has the party distinguished itself from the GOP? Well, Democrats are generally pro-choice so that’s one thing. And they are ever-so-slightly more open to gay marriage rights, although you couldn’t tell by the way Howard Dean keeps contradicting himself. What else? The party is more socially liberal, but you’d never know it by the way key figures either make halfassed overtures to christian conservatives or skirt the issue entirely. They recently proposed pay-as-you-go government which is a terrific idea, except that a) Republicans beat them to it with their Contract With America and b) few Democrats have the cahones to admit that will involve repealing large portions of Bush’s tax cuts.

    The defining characteristic of today’s Democratic Party is its cranky, impotent opposition to George W. Bush.

  • MoeLarryAndJesus

    MikeSimpson replies: “The party is more socially liberal, but you’d never know it by the way key figures either make halfassed overtures to christian conservatives or skirt the issue entirely. They recently proposed pay-as-you-go government which is a terrific idea, except that a) Republicans beat them to it with their Contract With America and b) few Democrats have the cahones to admit that will involve repealing large portions of Bush’s tax cuts.

    The defining characteristic of today’s Democratic Party is its cranky, impotent opposition to George W. Bush. ”

    You put far too much emphasis on party, so I’d guess you’re a Republican. I could really not give a damn about “party,” although in the case of the current Repiglican party it’s hard not to condemn the entire lot. Your line about the Repiglicans beating “them to it with their Contract With America” is pretty funny, considering how the government we have now is further from “pay-as-you-go” than any we’ve ever had.

    Given current American demographics we may be stuck with the current right-wing slant for decades. I hope not. Perhaps Texas will secede and take Oklahoma with them. That would help.

  • Mike Simpson

    I notice you don’t contest anything I’ve said; you just assume I’m a Republican because of my emphasis on party (in response to an article on, er… political parties).

    I voted for Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004, I’ve voted for several Republicans (Arlen Specter in the last election), I’d gladly take a moderate from either party as President in 2008 and I think government operates best when one party controls Congress and the other controls the White House, as was the case when the unlikely duo of Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich managed to not only balance the budget but also began paying down the deficit in the 1990s.

    We all know that the GOP Congress has spent the last 6 years spending like drunken sailors and abandoning all the conservatives principles (limited government, fiscal responsibility, etc.) that they used to stand for. I’m just pointing out that the Democratic party has failed in almost every way to distinguish itself from the GOP.

    Does the party have an official stance on Iraq, immigration, gay marriage? I read four newspapers a day and I couldn’t tell you – what message do you think the message that your average Joe in the midwest or the South is getting? Probably the message I’ve been getting – that the Democratic party stands only for whining about Bush.

    I look forward to voting Rick Santorum out of office this fall and I’d love for the Dems to reclaim at least one house of Congress and restore our system of checks and balanced. But if they do, it will be because Bush and his sycophants have done such a miserable job, not because the party is winning on ideas or campaigning or anything else.

  • MoeLarryAndJesus

    MikeSimpson again: “Does the party have an official stance on Iraq, immigration, gay marriage? I read four newspapers a day and I couldn’t tell you – what message do you think the message that your average Joe in the midwest or the South is getting? Probably the message I’ve been getting – that the Democratic party stands only for whining about Bush.

    I look forward to voting Rick Santorum out of office this fall and I’d love for the Dems to reclaim at least one house of Congress and restore our system of checks and balanced. But if they do, it will be because Bush and his sycophants have done such a miserable job, not because the party is winning on ideas or campaigning or anything else. ”

    Hmm, sounds like you want the Dems to pull a Gingrich and come up with a Contract On America – I seriously hope they do no such thing. It was one of the most dishonest moves a political party has made in my lifetime.