Sunday, August 19, 2007

More on the Daily Kos Syndrome

In a recent post I commented on the narcissism and megalomania of Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos. I'm not the only one who's noticed Kos' inclination toward self-aggrandizement.

Kimberly Strassel, in Friday's Wall Street Journal, offered an excellent analysis of the relationship between Kos radicals and moderate congressional Democrats. It turns out that Henry Cuellar, a moderate, free-trade Democrat in Texas, was attacked by Kos for his partisan "treason" in 2006. But Cuellar whethered the storm, and his story points to a lot of emptiness in Kos' chest-thumping:

A centrist Democrat who is pro-business, free-trade and strong on law enforcement, the congressman was designated an apostate by the left-wing Netroots crowd. They decamped to his district and bankrolled a liberal primary challenger. Mr. Cuellar triumphed, though Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas would later swagger on his blog: "So we didn't kill off Cuellar. But we gave him a whooping where none was expected and made him sweat."

Which is the point. If the liberal blogging phenomenon deserves to be known for anything, it is the strategy to intimidate or silence anyone who disagrees with its own out-of-the-mainstream views. That muzzling has been on full display in recent weeks as Mr. Moulitsas and fellow online speech police have launched a campaign against the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. DLC Chairman Harold Ford, Jr. was even thwacked last week for daring to speak to this editorial page (my sincere apologies, Mr. Ford)--the clear goal to discourage him from making such a free-speech mistake again.

Yet a lively midweek chat with Mr. Cuellar suggests that this campaign of threats isn't necessarily having the intended effect. If anything, it might be backfiring. "They win when they intimidate people," says Mr. Cuellar. "I've taken everything they've thrown, plus their kitchen sink, and I still stand proud as a moderate-conservative Democrat." He says his triumph over blogger fire has only strengthened his conviction that his party will only win elections if it continues to be a "big tent" open to all views. "To make that tent smaller, to force people--not to persuade, but to force, because these are threats--to quiet down, that's destructive in the long term and the short term."
Apparently, the netroots hordes spent hundreds of thousands dollars to unseat Cuellar in the primary, without success:

Despite all the blogger bravado that they now run the show, Mr. Cuellar's experience has been more the norm than the exception. The press may adore them, but the Netroots simply haven't notched many concrete victories. "Every time I see [Sen.] Joe Lieberman in the hall, we like to say 'we're still here, aren't we?'" says Mr. Cuellar, a spunky tone in his voice. California's Jane Harman, reviled as a "warmonger," last year whipped antiwar activist Marcy Winograd in a primary, 62%-38%. Ellen Tauscher, who heads the New Democrat Coalition in Congress, was savaged by left-wing blogs for her votes authorizing Iraq and free trade, and in particular for her warning to her party not to "go off the left cliff." She walked away from her re-election with 66% of the vote.

Mr. Cuellar goes so far as to argue that instead of cowing Democratic moderates, the left-wing attacks have united them. More middle-of-the-roaders now believe that if the bloggers were to win a high-profile primary, it would only energize them to go after others. "This has brought us together to say, 'this is us, and we've got to stick together,'" he says.
This is not to say that Kos is having no effect on moderates. Incumbents don't want to have to wiggle out from under from under Kos' thumb. That's understandable, but I think if Democratic members of Congress continue to stand firm against the netroots they'll save their party from obscurity.

Kos is much more blustery than knowledgeable about politics (be sure to read my dissection of his poor Washington Post essay in my earlier post). Strassel captures this in her essay's conclusion:
In a match-up on "Meet the Press" this past weekend, the Daily Kos's Mr. Moulitsas extolled those who use his site to trash thoughtful folks such as Mr. Cuellar as a shining example of "democracy." In the same breath he then commanded the DLC's Mr. Ford to "control" his moderate members, and force them to stop disagreeing with liberal Democrats. If you get that logic, you might just be a Daily Kos reader.
I watched that debate, which aired last Sunday. I think Ford was head-and-shoulders above Kos, particularly in his classiness. Ford might have been more agressive in going after a number of Kos' off-the-wall claims. In any event, argument isn't Kos' strong suit. Intimidation is. Ford could barely get a word in edgewise through most of the debate.

I don't like Kos. I'm going to keep the pressure on him on this blog.

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