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Tilting at Windmills

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June 26, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

PASSION vs. ANGER....Ezra Klein passes along some advice from Grover Norquist:

The left, he argued, shouldn't seek to simply mimeograph the right's structure CAP for Heritage, Media Matters for Media Research Council, etc. "You don't have to have the same weapons in politics because both aren't structured the same." Back in gladitorial days, one warrior would have a sword, the other a trident and net. You play to your strengths, not to your opponent's. I found this to be a remarkably compelling point.

Obviously you can take this point too far. Basic politics is basic politics, and figuring out what to say, who to say it to, and how to say it most effectively is important no matter what side you're on.

But I'll take the opportunity here to agree with Norquist in one particular way. It strikes me that modern American culture rewards conservatives when people are angry and polarized and rewards liberals when people are united and forward looking. (Relatively speaking, of course.) This is why I don't especially think the left needs its own Ann Coulter, or its own Karl Rove. We need effective advocates and smart political operatives, of course, but they need to operate on an entirely different wavelength. Fanning the flames of anger, even in our own cause, produces a political environment that ultimately helps conservatives.

Someday, perhaps, I'll think about this idea hard enough to decide if it's more than passing whimsy, and then I'll write something longer about it. For now, though, I'll throw this out: for the right, anger is more important than passion. For the left, passion is more important than anger. We should act accordingly.

Kevin Drum 1:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (81)

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Of course Norquist doesn't want similar liberal groups. They'd be competition for his money laundering racket.

Posted by: Rob on June 26, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

This is why I don't especially think the left needs its own Ann Coulter, or its own Karl Rove. Fanning the flames of anger, even in our own cause, produces a political environment that ultimately helps conservatives.

Kevin, you are completely right. That's why Kos is hurting Democrats and the left so badly. When Kos gives his orders to attack the right, the leftist blogofascists immediately act on his command and launch the attack. The American people just sees you liberals as going berserk again and can't even hear your message. You look like a bunch of childish rock throwers throwing a temper tantrum. Unfortunately, with Kos being the Kingpin of the leftist blogosphere, I don't see any way for you blogofascists to change. Kos is just leading the the left to its ruins.

Posted by: Al on June 26, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Hate is important to the right; righteous anger is important to the left.

Posted by: Tom DC/VA on June 26, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

For now, though, I'll throw this out: for the right, anger is more important than passion. For the left, passion is more important than anger.

In normal times that's true, Kevin, but when a conservative President is shredding the constitution and taking us into unnecessary wars anger is more predominant than passion in the left, if by passion you mean passion for societal change. That is as it should be. Liberals are in the strange position of having to work to conserve America.

Posted by: Wagster on June 26, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I agree as well. The liberal blogs should not and cannot represent the wants and needs and American Liberals. They are too angry and too autonomous.

We need smart people. That starts with getting rid of politicians that are too lazy or too inciteful.

Also, you would have to address the fragmentation of the liberal bloc. It is too much of a group of interest groups.


Posted by: D-Vega on June 26, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Hitler attacked with tanks. The best response? Better tanks.

Posted by: Dave of Maryland on June 26, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Al:

"Kos is just leading the the left to its ruins."

Thanks, Al. We'll take that under advisement.

The truth is that, despite what the right thinks, I don't no a single liberal or Democrat who takes marching orders from Kos, Michael Moore, Cyndy Sheehan or any of the bug-a-boos that people like Al went their pants over.

Kevin's take on Norquist is right. The Democrats shouldn't mirror Republican tactics, because it will just leave the electorate with the sense of "oh, they're all the same" -- which just plays to the right, in my opinion.

We need to get our message out and have a strong presence and organization. But we need to be who we are. Imitating Fox hasn't helped CNN or MSNBC very much -- by the same token, trying to be like Republicans isn't going to help Democrats.

Posted by: K Ashford on June 26, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

The entire nation was united after 9/11, and the Democrats still lost big. The entire country was united in winning the war on terror in 2004, and the Democrats still lost big.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 26, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

"It strikes me that modern American culture rewards conservatives when people are angry and polarized and rewards liberals when people are united and forward looking. (Relatively speaking, of course.)"

Kevin, I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, so can you provide any examples to illustrate your point? Were the American people angry and polarized when they re-elected Reagan in the '84 landslide? Have they remained angry and polarized by re-electing Republican (granted not conservative) majorities in Congress for the last 12 years?

And when have liberals ever been rewarded by the American people? FDR's campaigns in the 30s? LBJ's landslide in 64?

Posted by: Chicounsel on June 26, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

It was Kos himself who observed (sometime close to the end of the 2004 campaign, if memory serves) the differing ways the Right blogosphere and the Left blogosphere were structured. The Right was more heirarchical, marched more in lockstep, repeated the same talking points, (see Al, above) not many of the big players hosted comments sections and those that did aggressively banned dissenting views. The Left, while still somewhat heirarchical, was more diffuse, more disputatious, more willing (heck, even eager) to criticize their own leaders, frequently hosted comments sections with not nearly as much banning, etc.

These structures weren't mandated by anybody, they just evolved this way more or less organically. Too me, that says something about how the two sides' minds work. I think any efforts to build a left-wing organizational/media machine in this country will have to inevitably reflect these differences and figure out how to use them as best they can to their advantage.

Posted by: Chris on June 26, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Since when in recent memory are people united and forward looking in this country?

Posted by: Quinn on June 26, 2006 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
I've been telling you for years that the Democrats don't need to become Republicans to beat them, about time you came around to my point of view.

Rick

Posted by: Rick on June 26, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

for the right, anger is more important than passion. For the left, passion is more important than anger. We should act accordingly.

Excellent point. The Right requires enemies to rail against, and when they don't have them, they invent them (fags and flags being the current bait).

For the left, though, the most potent weapon against this is satire and humor. Why do you think they hate the Daily Show so much? Because it bursts their bubble.

Conclusion: we need fewer sanctimonious Dem politicians, and more saxiphone playing ones. Hey, that gives me an idea...

Posted by: craigie on June 26, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

The entire nation was united after 9/11, and the Democrats still lost big.

Not only is that not true (the Dems lost small), but it leaves out the important middle part of the sentence:

The entire nation was united after 9/11, but the GOP decided to use that event to partisan advantage rather than to benefit the country as a whole, and the Democrats still lost. Of course, what goes around comes around, and President Rove had bothered to get the Dems on board after 9/11, he'd face a lot less criticism over the war now. Bummer, huh?

Posted by: craigie on June 26, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

the Left needs some sharp response when under attack and it's spinlessness has surely been noticed.

Hilter had no response either and that proved rather deadly. So Kevin, yes, the Administation needs challenges from the public and government - not just from Dems but the press as well.

Bush has strated attacking the press in the same way this administration has been attacked Dems - wanted to shut the press up - as Bush is doing today to the NYT.

Bush Condemns Report on Bank Records and Al Gonzales already has made the remark the this administration can go after the press, Dana Priest so the press had better wake up soon - if knows what is good it, because Bush is not friend of democracy and he doesn't like the truth and this administration seeks to spin and lie and to punish those like Joe Wilson and his wife or anyone else arm with the truth.

Posted by: Cheryl on June 26, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

This advice has a point. I thought it counter-productive when David Sirota (whom I generally admire for his sharp point-making and hard work) put out (I forget in what venue) an "open letter" to Tom Friedman. I saw the text in an email newsletter of 2/16/6:

"I'm sure you are just giddy that your book, The World is Flat, has been on the best seller list for weeks now. From what I can tell from thumbing through it (I only made it a few pages in before becoming nauseated), the work is a classic tribute to the corporate power structure you have so publicly fellated over the years not only in your books, but in your columns.
..."

I don't think it helps the image of progressives for such phrases as "fellated" appear in open letters etc., however I can sympathize with the allegory therein. It is odd how conservative hotheads are given a pass, whereas "fellaters" (?) like Richard Cohen are always warning about how destructive to all and their own cause it is for liberals to be angry. Why is this?

Posted by: Neil' on June 26, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Even if you're wrong, Kevin, I'd rather see a united and passionate country than an divided and angry one.

Posted by: Ben Bartlett on June 26, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

There is a lot of psychological research on the effect of fear of death on political attitudes. The short version is that it dramatically increases support for charismatic leaders and authoritarian policies (one of the studies actually used images of the Sept 11th attacks and found that subjects primed with them were more likely to support Bush over Kerry). The variables you describe are somewhat related, so I think you're on to something.

Posted by: Matthew on June 26, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, please, not another thread about Kos and the liberal blogosphere.

Let's talk about something important: Whaddyathink, should liberal warriors choose tridents and nets or swords? In theory, since Conservative politics are all about slashing and dicing, Liberals should be able to entrap conservative warriors with our nets of knowledge. We can pierce their feeble ideologies with our tridents of truth.

Since 1994, of course, conservatives have been slicing through liberal nets of knowledge with their false blades and strong arms...and *sigh* the crowd has been cheering. So I guess that hasn't worked out very well for us. So, back to the original question: Do we go for bigger blades or tougher nets?

Posted by: PTate in MN on June 26, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Douglas Adams provides Democrats with their best tagline for 2006:

Don't Panic.

Posted by: clb72 on June 26, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

AH nails it big time,The Right doesn't give a shit if there lied to,The Right doesn't give a shit if they about everthing they say.

Posted by: Consevative and Ugly on June 26, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

For the left, passion is more important than anger.

Now and again you toss out some really funny lines, and that was one of them.

Posted by: republicrat on June 26, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

This is a fascinating little post. It raises questions:

1. When were the situations in moderan American culture when people were "united and forward looking" and therefore rewarded liberals? The only times in the past 40 years when liberals were elected president (and even they pretended not to be liberal) were in the post Watergate anger and the anti-Bush I recession anger. Probably the only united and forward looking time was 1984 with the Reagan landslide.

2 What is the difference between anger and passion? I suspect Kevin thinks, from his liberal superiority perch, that on any given issue the conservative is stating the angry view and the liberal is stating the passionate view. Otherwise, I think the distinction is mostly playing with words, at least with respect to politics.

3. Whatever the distinction means, it is an odd thing for a liberal to be pushing at a time when the liberal base is angry to the extent of sometimes being irrational.

4. If angry is bad, then it is further evidence that Kos and company will hurt the democrats.

5. Who are the leading conservative politicians who came accross as angry? The patron saint, Reagan, was exactly the opposite. Even today, who are the angry politicians? Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, and of course, Hillary.

Kevin's view is just liberal superiority and condescension -- we are passionate, you are angry -- give me a break; a conservative with a superiority complex would say the same thing about liberals.

Posted by: brian on June 26, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Quinn: "Since when in recent memory are people united and forward looking in this country?"

I think that the American people were united and prepared to be forward looking after 9/11. Bush's leadership failures--going for the petty political advantage rather than uniting the nation--were never so obvious as at that time.

It's sad really. Just imagine where the USA could be today if we had a real leader in office after 9/11. We needed vision and courage to protect the US against Islamic terrorists, and Bushco saw an priceless opportunity to implement a John Birch society wish list.

Posted by: PTate in MN on June 26, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think kevin is exactly right: successful politics requires a baseline of activities, independent of ideology. and he's right that the right performs best when folks are angry and polarized. but I'd go him one further: I think the right plays to and validates the worst traits in our national character: fear of immigrants, anti-urban, jingoistic, reactionary, judgemental, valuing force over reason.

the right implies stuff like, "feeling guilty for being threatend by all the 'to continue in english, press 1' phone prompts? that's ok. the mexicans are here to take our jobs and to get the southwestern states to secede."

or

"hey, understandably scared b/c we got attacked on our own soil, and angry and want to lash out indescriminately at anyone in turban-like headgear? that's ok, let's lock up any muslim who looks at a cop cross-eyed and toss the key away."

look, I'm not making a wimpy "liberal" argument that it's wrong to be threatened when the face of your country starts to change, or that---in the case of Sept. 11, we shouldn't have bombed the taliban back into the early pleistocene era. fear of ethnic and cultural change is, unfortunately, something deeply ingrained in most of us. nothing to be proud of and something requiring some introspection and some change.

and the urge to punish someone for 9/11 and its exposure of our vulnerabilty was normal and right. it was right to respond w/ deadly force in afghanistan. but it wasn't right to extend our rage to every muslim, invade iraq, and start carving up and out the bill of rights.

we all, no matter where we call home on the political spectrum, have impulses that either in themselves are decidedly ignoble, or, if unchecked, lead to truly shameful consequences. the measure of our value as people and as a people is how we respond to those impulses. how we act. and how we govern ourselves.

I'd describe myself as an FDR-democrat, supporting a strong defense, wanting to make sure the little guy gets a break, and believing that policy should be based on facts and the public's best interest. in short, to subscribing to a philosophy of progress and fairness.

so, I think it's important that the Democratic party, as well as liberals, continue to make the argument forcefully that Americans, the supposed heirs of the Enlightenment, stand for conquering our baser instincts. that we stand for working to be better people and citizens. and that 21st-century liberalism as ideology and the Dems as a party are the vehicles for those moral and political victories.

Posted by: mencken on June 26, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Quinn: "Since when in recent memory are people united and forward looking in this country?"

I think that the American people were united and prepared to be forward looking after 9/11. Bush's leadership failures--going for the petty political advantage rather than uniting the nation--were never so obvious as at that time.

It's sad really. Just imagine where the USA could be today if we had a real leader in office after 9/11. We needed vision and courage to protect the US against Islamic terrorists, and instead Bushco saw an priceless opportunity to implement a wish list to make John Birchers drool.

Posted by: PTate in MN on June 26, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin is back on wish fullfillment and rationalization.

If the left simply got out of crony socialism they would attract a big chunk of the middle.

Posted by: Matt on June 26, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Fanning the flames of anger, even in our own cause, produces a political environment that ultimately helps conservatives.

This is precisely Rove's tactic.
And in boxing terms, it's a Rove-a-dope.
Hit your opponent in a painful (but not necessarily lethal) area, in hopes of getting a reaction, the kind of reaction that opens your opponent up to a more lethal blow.

The fact that Rove has FoxNews available to him as a weapon system that can propagate his information, is separate from the tactic.

I don't know if Liberals need a Karl Rove, or an Anne Coulter, or a Heritage Foundation - but they DO need to neutralize or counter the weapon that is FoxNews. AirAmerica is a poor attempt.

When Reagan eliminated the Fairness Doctrine in media, that was when the Liberals lost - and lost irrevokably, any chance at parity between monied interests and the rest of us. Liberals lost big. And apparently since they couldn't beat them, they decided to join them.

Posted by: Pink on June 26, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans your all Goddless.

Posted by: Consevative and Ugly on June 26, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

For now, though, I'll throw this out: for the right, anger is more important than passion. For the left, passion is more important than anger. We should act accordingly.

...and the right will accuse us of acting in anger anyway (Bush Derangement Syndrome, anyone?).

Posted by: Gregory on June 26, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, the Switcheroo Republicans are playing almost entirely an emotional game, attempting to keep the Democrats tainted as "cut and run, traitorous, flip-floppy, angry, shrill," etc. It's all a "values" game, to make the Dem candidates look as if they are personally unreliable. This has been going on now for the past several elections, and the Dems always respond as if they need new positions on the "issues." The issues don't really matter, it's the values game!

Look at President Bush's statement today, attacking the newspapers for printing about the government's monitoring of financial transactions, which "makes it harder to win this war on terror." Does anybody really believe that the terrorists hadn't figured this out years ago? The President and Vice President are simple out to demonize The New York Times again, as librul traitors, for purposes of the "values" debate. This is Karl Rove at work. It's all so predictable.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on June 26, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Passion and anger seems like late night thinking.

Ours is good, theirs is bad, but look at the kool paradigm.

Posted by: Mike Finley on June 26, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Grover Norquist was the person who said all Democrats needed to be castrated (he didn't specify what would happen to the females; forced plural marriages to Radical males presumably). Now he is giving the Democrats helpful free advice on how to counter the Radicals.

Um, yeah. Let's try that /right away/.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 26, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

It strikes me that modern American culture rewards conservatives when people are angry and polarized and rewards liberals when people are united and forward looking.

The climate of fear that followed 9/11 also benefits conservative ideals much mor than liberals. Or at least, it benefits those who would exploit conservative ideals. I'm not so sure I understand what real conservative values are anymore, they've been so raped and used by the Bush administration.

Posted by: Del Capslock on June 26, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

There is a good bit of truth in what you write here - Anger does play better to the right-wing side of the aisle than the left. The GOP has found a way to channel the free-floating anxiety much of the lower economic strata in America feel every day, due to job insecurity, outsourcing, lack of good health care coverage, lack of affordable child care, etc. - into hatred of liberals (who are really part of the answer, not part of the problem), minorities and Muslims (after 9-11). However, I think re-channeling that anger back towards conservatives, should be part of the short-term plan, to beat them back into the minority status they belong in. Then, we can start rebuilding community.

When an elite snob like George W. Bush, who was born with a silver spoon up his nose and has never done an honest day's work in his life, essentially says that working people don't deserve to be paid a minimum wage, the left should beat him senseless with his own rhetoric. How we ever allowed a spoiled, ex-college cheerleader brat who wears cowboy boots, but is afraid of horses, to be defined as macho is beyond me...

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on June 26, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

I dunno ... I think "passion vs anger" is kind of a false dichotomy.
One person's passion looks angry to somebody else, and vice-versa.
I think a deeper analysis would tease out things like attitudes to
authority, and also eagerness to appeal to the worse vs the better
angels of human nature.

Kos is correct that the right-wing blogosphere is more naturally
comfortable with hierarchy and group order while lefties tend to
question nearly all forms of authority. I think this is a
characteristic that we'd be hard-pressed to change without changing
who we are.

But more perniciously -- while passion vs anger might be a matter of
terminology, there's no question that conservatives are more
confortable with a dark view of human nature, and have less qualms
about harnessing malice for political advantage: greed, resentment,
envy, even blind hatred. These emotions -- while toxic as a steady
diet -- are implicated in self-preservation, and are thus much easier
to channel into forms of activism than the more noble implses of the
human heart that we liberals prefer to associate ourselves with.

In fact, a lot of the right-wing screed against the lefty
"blogofascists" (Kossacks have their issues, but fascism is hardly one
of them) is pretty transparently projective identification -- a clever
and effective way to act resentful, greedy and hateful while blaming
it on your opponent.

The question is -- do we want to get down into this muck with them?
Can we really hitch the ideals of community and empathy to such ugly
motivations?

I don't know what the answer is, unfortunately ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 26, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Keven says: for the right, anger is more important than passion. For the left, passion is more important than anger.

For the right, perception of discord, danger, chaos, crime, immorality, etc. is important because that means AUTHORITIAN STEPS MUST BE TAKEN.

Posted by: MonkeyBoy on June 26, 2006 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

I recall something Bill Clinton said of the GOP in his 2004 DNC address:

"They need a divided America. We don't."

Posted by: frank bruno on June 26, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Go to C&L IMMEDIATELY to see a "liberal" talk show host take down a right wing talk show host using none of the right wing radio tricks. Beautiful stuff.

The kind of stuff I would like Biden to see.

When is Norquist's arraignment?

Posted by: jerry on June 26, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans want, need, and intend to continue an Endless War. Just keep repeating this message. People will eventually take notice.

Posted by: CT on June 26, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

The right-to-work law (as at least one poster above mentioned) was the beginning of the end for the power of organized labor (as predicted by my father among many others.) For better or for worse, the unions became virtually meaningless almost overnight, and collective bargaining became a thing of the past.

Posted by: Naz Nomad on June 26, 2006 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Herr Drum:

"This is why I don't especially think the left needs its own Ann Coulter, or its own Karl Rove."

Das goot.

Because you don't have anything akin to them.

And in regards to Dick Cheney... there is not a single soul to the left that burns with anything akin to his rage for the enemy.

(RE Dick's enemy-- that's YOU folks, ie. liberal bloggers and commenters:
Cheney fucking hates you... and he tells you to fuck off everyday in both subtle and not so subtle ways.
Crikey... he'd throw your liberal traitorous asses in prison if he thougth he could get away with it.
So don't you start thinking you want to tell him to go fuck himself. That'd be bad liberal politics. Bad as in a no-no. Bad as in taboo. Bad as in angry. So calm yourself liberal. Calm yourself. )

Ergo...

If you don't have a Cheney, a Rove, or a Coulter... what you need to do is create some lofty liberal rhetoric to show they aren't needed anyways.

You are doing a heckuva job creating that rhetoric Kevin.

Heckuva job.

Keep it up.... and the stupid dimocrats are going to lose the midterms too.

Posted by: koreyel on June 26, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

You know what though, I am ANGRY. I've seen my country changed in ways I didn't think was possible. I've seen my views marginalized in favor of those in "real America" (though why people in the Midwest are any more "real" than I am is completely beyond me), and my patriotism questioned because I think the current administration screws up *everything* it touches and doesn't get held accountable. I am sick and tired of turning the other cheek. Being nice to Republicans doesn't work, folks. They have cut the Democrats out of the political process in every way possible, and we aren't supposed to get angry? What are we, the party of abused spouses? I don't think so. So many people I know are disgusted by the Republicans and sickened by the way the Democrats don't fight back and don't get angry. Damn right I'm angry. I'm pissed as hell. And I'm not afraid to say so either.

Posted by: Baaaa on June 26, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

I think you are right, Kevin, AND, I think this is a very depressing fact. The next thirty years are going to see a constant diminution of the stature of America as all today's pigeon's come home to roost, from foreign debt to global climate change to the failure in Iraq to the rise of China. The reponse of the American people will be substantially less gracious than that of the British under similar circumstances. As Bernard Lewis says, when you ask "What went Wrong", you can look inward and ask what you did, or you can look outward and ask "who did this to us".

America will follow the second path, and the next thirty years will be nothing but anger at the rest of the world and various "traitors" within America. Sure there will be the occasional Jimmy Carter, elected on a wave of revulsion at the excesses of the conservatives, but that's all such an election will mean. The conservatives may switch to politicians who are more competent and less venal, but the politics of the times will be th epolitics of mean-mindedness, hatred and blame, not the politics of optimism and inclusiveness.

Posted by: Maynard Handley on June 26, 2006 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone else see the idiocy inherent in a bright young liberal like Ezra paying any attention to the advice from a Republican operative on how the Democrats can beat the GOP?

Posted by: nut on June 26, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, koreyel, for exemplifying American conservatism: Petty, small, stupid, and mean.

Posted by: CT on June 26, 2006 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

The next thirty years are going to see a constant diminution of the stature of America as all today's pigeon's come home to roost

I mean, what would be the problem with this, exactly? A diminuation of American stature would just mean that the USA would be less likely and less able to intervene in foreign adventures and other self-destructive actions. Plus, the leadership of the USA would be much more modest and humble rather than giving themselves over into delusions of grandeur. Heck, the Dutch have certainly improved since they suffered a "diminuation of stature," haven't they?

Posted by: Anonymous on June 26, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose Mr. Norquist would have us have the net and the trident. Those dudes always get their asses kicked. We'd better have the sword. Give them the trident and the net.

Posted by: Rob W on June 26, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the basic differences between Republicans and Democrats can be attributed to genetics.

http://www.primates.com/baboons/culture.html

Posted by: Wonderin on June 26, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin's got a point. And it's why the Washington Dems dis the blogsphere at their peril: we've got the passion, while they've got Bob Shrum and a bunch of play-it-safe types.

Especially in a base year, which the off-year elections always are, Job #1 is motivating your base, giving them a reason to turn out. As Rod Stewart says, Passion.

Posted by: RT on June 26, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Bob up there was pretty eloquent (rmck1 on June 26, 2006 at 3:57 PM).

Unfortunately for our country, contemporary conservatism doesn't deserve an ounce of respect. To grant them the label "angry" is too generous in my opinion. But monkeys don't respond to negative judgments -- that just puts them into overdrive. No, they need to be rewarded for doing the right thing. The best thing we can do is weaken their base, by continuing to lay out the hypocrisy of saying one thing while doing another. Once voters see the "authorities" as Godless, a message of pragmatic government will get through. And then, liberals will have to answer the question, how do we stay in power? But that's a question for another day.

Posted by: Moe is me on June 26, 2006 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, this is a traditional observation of 20th century political life.

Most historians acknowledge two great political poles:

1. Liberal government with its regime of parliamentarianism, toleration, the rule of law and a climate of progress, science, and optimism.

2. Against this order there came to be the authoritarian regimes of left and right. These are distinguished by nationalism, ideological rigidity, xenophobia and racism, cults of power, and various forms of occult knowledge. This implies a rejection of progress since knowledge and understanding are separate from the material world. The collapse of the liberal ethos has often been attributed to increased economic frustration and insecurity for the middle class.


In Germany after 1917 there was political violence in the streets and a radical polarization of the parties. The situation was acute and there seemed to be little chance for moderate liberal government. By the middle of the 20s the Nazis realized the power of this situation and would actively provoke their communist rivals only to denounce them as Bolshevik agitators and agents of Moscow. The climate of violence cultivated by the Nazis was an important ingredient in Hitlers rise to power.


Posted by: bellumregio on June 26, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's point is related to one I find myself making with my right-wing friends all the time, when they point out that Rush and O'Reilly and Hannity get bigger ratings. I tell them that's true, but it's not because they're winning in some "marketplace of ideas." It's because they appeal to people who like to listen to people who are angry and nasty. Many of us don't like to listen to people ranting on the tube or the radio, even if we agree with them. The closest the Left has to Bill O'Reilly is Michael Moore, and Moore is a pussy cat compared to the right wing's pit bulls.

Posted by: Wally on June 26, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

When Republicans divide the country, they're providing a necesary service separating the people who love this country from the people who would love to destroy it. When Democrats divide the country, they're merely trying to weaken our leader.

When Republicans get angry, it is a righteous fury. When Democrats get angry, it is their fascistic impulses coming to the fore.

When Republicans blog, they are trying to add independent and unique voices to the national dialogue about Bush's inherent greatness. When Democrats blog, they are merely taking marching orders from Kos to try and tear down this conversation.

In short, everything that Republicans do is good, and everything that Democrats do is bad. No amount of "passion" or "righteous anger" will help you until you see the inherent wisdom of this statement, turn from your anti-American wickedness, and become conservative.

Posted by: American Hawk's stand-in on June 26, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Your statement, Kevin, got me thinking about Joe Biden's swipe at VP Cheney on CNN: "No, I don't want to respond to him. He's at 20 percent in the polls. No one listens to him. He has no credibility. It's ridiculous."

The swipe was not substantive and did nothing to help the cause of ending the war against Iraq. It struck me as more Ann Coulter than what we want from a senator on our side. In response to Biden's statements, I said this:

The talking heads on the right are going to have a field day with this and rightly so. Dick Cheney is the Vice President of the United States and one of the most powerful men in the world. I agree that the White House plan on Iraq has been and continues to be disastrous, but Cheney by virtue of his office deserves to be heard. Biden is not a talking head, shock jock, or Newsmax writer. He is a senator and he should conduct himself accordingly.

Biden comes off badly here and it strikes me as a desperate pandering. Make some substantive arguments. This kind of vitriol is uncalled for and harmful. Who cares where Cheney is polling? He's the Vice President.

Ridiculous. If Biden had wanted to make a real difference, he should have voted against the authorization to use force and used his office to make a substantive critique of the disastrous plan to invade Iraq.

Biden is a wind sock.

Posted by: R James on June 26, 2006 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

First, they ignore you.

Then they attack you. . .

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 26, 2006 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

I think any efforts to build a left-wing organizational/media machine in this country will have to inevitably reflect these differences and figure out how to use them as best they can to their advantage.

That is precisely what Kos has accomplished, and it's precisely why he's under fire.

Posted by: Brautigan on June 26, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

You have to become angry enough to start making things happen yourself. I am not a big fan of Kos, but at least he and his 'diarists' are doing something without first waiting to find out if it is OK with a higher authority. That is the beauty of the internet, tele-communications, and the printing press. There are many things individuals can do. In 2004 I did a little push polling of my own, and have already planned a pamphlet campaign for my Congressional district. I do not know if anything I do will have an impact, but it beats going to anti-war demonstrations then watching the invasion live on TV.

Posted by: Hostile on June 26, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me that the institutions critical of the left-wing blogs are never going to be helpful to the causes that progressives champion and are never going to approve of the left-wing blogs themselves. So what's the real loss here?

Seems to me that the real questions are what's the tipping point in terms of blog market penetration where we're not looking for 'good press' and how do we get there?

Posted by: jhe on June 26, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

CT:

Thank you, koreyel, for exemplifying American conservatism: Petty, small, stupid, and mean.

Golly...

So that's what it is like to have one's arguments ripped to shreds by a passionate liberal.

Oh my...

I am ROFLMAO at that bright burst of liberal reasoning.

Yes you've won me over CT.

I am going back into liberal attack mode.
Back... to what I do best:

Think I will go sit under that banyan tree over there and comtemplate whether my navel agrees that passion is better than anger and that passion is the way to win the midterms...

The navel knows best...
It really does...

Posted by: koreyel on June 26, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Since 2000, this is what seems to be happening:

First they fuck you.

Then they give you advice.

Then they laugh at you.

Then they fuck you again.

Posted by: nut on June 26, 2006 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Well, the simple fact is we need to play to our strengths. Fortunately for the liberal left, those strengths happen to be the qualities that make the 'blue' states the most productive.

But we need more leaders who will tell it like it is. In 2003 it may have been appropriate for Democratic Senators to respect the office of the President, but it was entirely inappropriate for them not to realize that Bush is a lying thieving sleazebag.

The whole matter requires some judgement, but that's not too much to ask from people who want to hold high public office.

Posted by: serial catowner on June 26, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Are you smoking crack again? You know what liberals should do, Kevin? Look at what someone like Norquist "helpfully" suggests -- and do the fucking opposite.

Posted by: expatjourno on June 26, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Dick Cheney is the Vice President of the United States

Dick Cheney is a crook and a coward. He's also the de facto president, and has been from the beginning.

and one of the most powerful men in the world. I agree that the White House plan on Iraq has been and continues to be disastrous, but Cheney by virtue of his office deserves to be heard.

Why should we continue to give credence to the architects of failure?

Biden is not a talking head, shock jock, or Newsmax writer. He is a senator and he should conduct himself accordingly.

I'm no fan of the man, but at least he's grown a spine.

Biden comes off badly here and it strikes me as a desperate pandering. Make some substantive arguments. This kind of vitriol is uncalled for and harmful. Who cares where Cheney is polling? He's the (Vice) President.

The public is coming around to the realization that Cheney has botched this motherfucking war beyond the barest trace of repair. And you expect us to bow in deference to the prick? Whose side are you really on, anyway?

"No, I don't want to respond to him. He's at 20 percent in the polls. No one listens to him. He has no credibility. It's ridiculous."

Beautiful. It's time someone said it.

Posted by: Reprobate on June 26, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

I might suggest one area where liberals should do things differently to conservatives. Simplification of issues helps conservatives, complexity helps liberals.

Liberals should not try to avoid the conservative technique of having universally agreed to simple policies and should be happy to have lots of different solutions.

Conservatives work best when issues are black and white. When issues are complicated their "straight talking" and simple messages can seem a bit childish, like when presenting "stay the course" as a solution to the very complicated problem of Iraq.

If liberals become proud of their wide variety of solutions to problems, rather than constantly bemoaning lack of agreement they can use it to make any issue seem very complicated, and make it look like only they really understand it and have solutions.

Bill Clinton did not rely on simple phrases as his stock in trade like Bush does. Instead he had an overwhelming knowledge of any issue and was not afraid to vigorously debate in almost boring detail with any opponent at any time. The end result was that people believed he knew what he was talking about. Ask people today who they would trust to sort out almost any issue and i'll bet you'll get Clinton over Bush every time.

Gore got creamed in 2000 because he was afraid of that. He should have embraced it as it would have exposed Bush's lack of knowledge and made people reluctant to hand over the federal government to him.

Posted by: still working it out on June 26, 2006 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Grover, as always, is full of shit.

Of course he doesn't think the Democrats should be setting up an opposing "structure", BECAUSE IT'S WORKING ! It drives the fake RightWing media CRAZY every time 'Media Matters' repeatedly pierces their propaganda with the facts.
.

Posted by: VJ on June 26, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Look , the GOP has won election after election for the past 6 years because they own the media and use their corp. $$ to lie about the issues. Examples: Iraq, Soc. Sec., tax cuts, WMD's, prescription drug benefit, etc.

These guys aren't angry, they're drunk with power and aren't held accountable by the gov't or the media because they own the gov't and the media!


Posted by: D. on June 26, 2006 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin.

Anger and passion are pointless if the Dems can't figure out what the Demo party stands for, beyond hating Bush.

Posted by: Hey Moe! Hey Larry! on June 26, 2006 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin couldn't be more wrong. You can't sniff your way out of a fight. If we don't fight the Republicans with true justified anger, then we WILL lose.

Posted by: The Fool on June 26, 2006 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

Is it my imagination, or does Kevin write these things with one eye on his own reflection in a mirror on his desk?

Not angry -- passionate. Not naive -- idealistic. Not preachy -- virtuous. Not bad -- good!

Some of the younger lefty bloggers missed the long years during which Democrats tried to attack Ronald Reagan as an angry, divisive politician. Kevin doesn't have that excuse, and he's from California to boot. In a political culture suffused with self-congratulation, it is awfully tempting to build one's analysis on an idealized picture of oneself and those one agrees with -- which demands in its turn the ascription of negative qualities to all one's opponents. Such an analysis can be right some of the time, in the same way a stopped clock is right some of the time, but in general it is an invitation to self-deception.

Posted by: Zathras on June 27, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

"The public is coming around to the realization that Cheney has botched this motherfucking war beyond the barest trace of repair. And you expect us to bow in deference to the prick? Whose side are you really on, anyway?"

Reprobate, I'm not gonna take some loyalty oath just so you can be sure of my liberal bona fides. Are we fascists or are we free thinkers?

My point is that Biden failed to do anything substantive concerning the war since its dreadful conception. Then he throws some red meat to the bloggers and we are supposed to rise up and call him blessed.

Give me a break. Biden's no hero.

Eviscerating the Vice President through substantive argument--and it wouldn't be hard--would have been a better and wiser choice. No one need bow in unnecessary deference, but as a Senator, he shouldn't be sounding like Randi Rhodes.

Posted by: R James on June 27, 2006 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

Jeez... where do I begin?

Kevin, you are wrong here, completely wrong.

Anger IS passion. Whether Left or Right. And it is the most effective motivator.

People who vote green issues do so because they are angry over the rape of the planet. People who vote civil rights are angry about institutional racism. People who vote anti-war are angry at the profiteering, the mass murder done in our name, and the brutalization and abandonment of our own troops.

For ideological reasons, I vote. I will even debate people at work or on the street. But out of anger, I will join marches, volunteer for a campaign, or send money, or post flyers, etc. Ideology may bring votes, but anger (aka "passion") brings activism.

Anger is a completely reasonable response to those who are destroying our country. It is especially appropriate response when they do so WHILE calling me names, like traitor, moonbat, etc. How can I NOT get angry about that??

Funny how when liberals restrain their anger, they are called "soft" or "weak." But when we express our anger, we are called "shrill" or even "unhinged."

And that makes me angry...!

Another thing that angers me... so-called liberals taking political advice from Norquist. Gee, he doesn't think liberals should get angry, eh? Now, why would he think that? Because, duh, angry people ACT. And that is the last thing he wants.

Posted by: RobW on June 27, 2006 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

Enough with the hand ringing already. The left is scared shitless that the right will steal another election and then what will we do? Everyone knows Americans don't have the gumption for a revolution, not even a velvet one like the Czechs had under Vaclav Havel. What doesn't the left get about this situation? There are way more of us than them, yet the keep winning. How odd. We could take the white house back today, if we really wanted. But I guess we don't really want that.

The Republicans have never before benefitted so much from such an unorginized, divided oppostion filled with traitors.

Posted by: Michael Buchanan on June 27, 2006 at 4:59 AM | PERMALINK

on Biden-

His remark was exactly right.

Dems need to fight.

Drum is wrong here. He is confusing a personal stylistic preference for calm debating-society policy wonkery for political reality.

Dems lose at combative politics because they can't stop attacking those on their side who engage in combative politics.

It's a losing formula.

Posted by: matt on June 27, 2006 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

The counseling to avoid some appearance of anger is as matt says a losing formula. Being afraid of being called angry will only give the appearance of total weakness and feed into the perception of dems as weak on everything including defense. Surely anger is part of the complex equation of emotions that drives people to vote.

On the right a manufactured anger against perceived wrongs by people who want to take your gun and your Bible and somehow destroy your marriage has been very effective.

The pundits and people who are counseling dems to avoid anger seem to think this right wing anger is okay, legitimate, real, appropriate.

On the left there is a very real anger because of carnage by this admin due to their actions in Iraq, because of carnage due to their inactions in New Orleans, anger because of their willful destruction the environment, their lie upon lie, their secret government, destruction of civil liberties and the spirit and letter of the Constitution, their treating American citizens like suspects and terrorists if they oppose them.

Yet the pundits counsel the left to abandon their anger and see it is illegitimate and inappropriate.

Go figure.

Posted by: Chrissy on June 27, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

I know I am late to this thread and what I am about to post would be more applicable to the thread about liberal bloggers being lambs full of venom, but read this. Apparently the Ann Coulter Wing of the Republican Right is vicious with a capital V. http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Posters_at_rightwing_board_threaten_to_0626.html

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 27, 2006 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

"Your statement, Kevin, got me thinking about Joe Biden's swipe at VP Cheney on CNN: "No, I don't want to respond to him. He's at 20 percent in the polls. No one listens to him. He has no credibility. It's ridiculous."" - R James

While I respect your view that Biden's comments, I strongly concur with those here that find Biden's comments to be a breath of fresh air. Let us recall what Biden was being asked to respond to:

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The worst possible thing we could do is what the Democrats are suggesting, and no matter how you carve it, you can call it anything you want, but basically, it is packing it in, going home, persuading and convincing and validating the theory that the Americans don't have the stomach for this fight.

This is such boilerplate right-wing, Republican, neocon propaganda that we've heard a million times since 9/11. Democrats have tried responding to this garbage on countless occasions.

Blitzer could as easily have gotten a clip of Biden on a previous CNN responding to the same charge uttered slightly differently. He could then have simply asked Biden if he still held that view. Dignifying that propaganda with a reply makes the Democrats look weak, and reinforces the propaganda, which makes precisely that point.

Its high time that some Democrat fight back rather than giving such drivel any credence. Really, at this point the vice president should be a little sheepish about spewing the same poison over and over. Things have gone sideways from the get-go in Iraq, and it is only because Cheney is shameless that he is able to continue with that line of attack against Democrats.

Biden's comments were fighting words, and impolite to be sure. But what he was asked to respond to was a far more impolite and corrosive attack.

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on June 27, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

I just don't see the Republicans as being "angry". Almost the opposite, laughing up their sleeves. Self-satisfied. Content.

The Republican elite has taken full advantage of their time in power and have made their own bed very comfortable and fluffy. The red state folk who think they put that elite into office are sitting back in their Barcaloungers in satisfaction, living their little egocentric lives knowing that Republicans are in charge and they don't have to worry. We have even given them a common enemy to hate and a new catch phrase to spit: Damn Liberals. I have heard the word Liberal used with more venom than Al Quaida, even on Christian radio.

Isn't it really us Dems who are the angry ones right now? It is anger, not passion that is preventing the Democratic party from formulating plans or uniting the party together under some common banner or finding anything to rally a country full of voters to put us in office. Why would they need to? The only element of cohesiveness I see within the Dem party is that thank heaven we aren't Republicans. Dems are angry, and with good reason, but it won't win elections.

I love my party for what it has done in the past, for what it stands for now, and for the future it could make possible. But we have some serious enemies who are on top and want to stay on top. We have enemies who have no qualms about telling lies and cheating and bribing and making war to keep power. How do we fight that unless we become that? And how do we convince a Republican voter base who thinks in similar, albeit smaller, terms.

A little evil overcomes a lot of good.

Posted by: Free Woman on June 27, 2006 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

Let us also remember that Cheney is the vice-president, yet he had no difficulty telling Sen. Leahy to "Fuck [himself]" on the Senate floor, for the love of god. Do you really feel that the office hasn't been disrespected and disgraced by its occupant, regardless of what others have to say about him?

Posted by: Dismayed Liberal on June 27, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

I strongly recommend that all those who say Democrats shoulndn't respond with anger read this essay by James Kroeger...

http://nontrivialpursuits.org/republican_nemesis.htm

He makes the excellent point that, while Democrats constantly try to take the high road by debating ISSUES, the GOP easily counteract that by creating an IMAGE. And anger is a big part of that image.

The effect is psycological in nature, and a pretty brilliant, and effective, bit of marketing.

By appearing angry, the right convinces those mindless drones politely referred to as "swing voters" that THEY HAVE SOMETHING TO BE ANGRY ABOUT. That their position is principled and righteous. AND, when the Democrats fail to respond in kind, they are perceived as lacking in principles- more concerned with their own power than with anything that could be worth getting angry about.

There is another psychological game being played- that of ridicule. The Right never misses an opportunity to poke fun, except when they're rising in phony righteous anger over made-up issues like flag-burning or defending Christmas. Nobody wants to be associated with the side being ridiculed...

So- righteous anger, laced with ridicule, is a working strategy. It has been so for the Republicans. They have been winning elections based on these, and using them as a distraction from genuine issues because they know that they are out of step with American voters on the issues- the war, minimum wage, health care, education, the environment, etc.

But, as Kroeger points out, most voters don't really know about the issues, or the difference between the parties' policies on the issues... so they are swayed by the Image instead.

And the image of the Angry Republican makes them appear sincere, while the image of the Wonkish Democrat makes them appear as just more government bureaucrats. And guess who gets the votes...

Meanwhile, those who are angry, er, I mean, "passionate," become activists and advocates for change... and get stabbed in the back by the Beltway Elite, for example: Schumer's saying that he'd support Lieberman, even if Lamont wins the primary, or the refusal of so many to support Feingold's censure resolution.

I'm almost as angry at MY party as I am at the GOP.

Again, read the article... It really is required reading for any Democrat who wants to, you know, win elections.

http://nontrivialpursuits.org/republican_nemesis.htm

Posted by: RobW on June 28, 2006 at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK

Yes. Republicans are the ones who want to frighten us.

There is nothing scary so it's all make believe.

Go back to sleep.

Remember when liberals had large majorities and vigorously projected America's power overseas. That was the FDR through JFK period.

How to reconcile with Kevin Drum's fatuous bromides? History, anybody?

Posted by: Birkel on June 28, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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