A Breakthrough in the Netroots (aka “The Grunge Blogosphere”)

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matt stoller.jpgMatt Stoller, one of the most significant emerging leaders of the new political left in this country, has just written a fascinating essay that I think is a real breakthrough in his thinking and hopefully in the strategic thinking of the netroots crowd in general.
Stoller’s piece is smart Trotsky. I mean this as a compliment to Stoller who is trying to weave together the incongruities of passion, earnestness, and purity of motive on the left with a shrewder, calculating, appreciation of domino effects on the political right.
The essay is cerebral and cites a comment I made recently and have been making from time to time: “one of the characteristics of modern global politics is how organized minority factions are able to overwhelm majority views.”
If Bill Richardson is right and most Americans think that the war in Iraq is against their interests and want the troops to come home, then it’s clear that our political structure and the influence of a well-organized minority have been able to shrug off this strong public opinion.
In Israel, if the majorities of both Israel and Palestine want a negotiated peace settlement that has many of the features of the Geneva Accord (but without the name “Geneva”), then one has to wonder why the majority interest can be so successfully ignored for some time.
Some time ago, I began to think through whether there were “killer aps” that progressives could deploy to better win the big picture objectives they wanted to pursue. For instance, in my view the John Bolton battle was never about Bolton; it was about rejecting the pugnacious nationalism and anti-internationalism of the Bush administration. Removing Bolton, or stopping his confirmation as US Ambassador to the United Nations, was the first successful foreign policy hit of progressives against the Bush machine. Karl Rove was in shock and couldn’t believe that a civil society group had successfully assembled Democrats and certain key Republicans to tell the White House “no.”
The fact that the Bolton battle was not about Bolton but about taking ground back in the foreign policy community from Cheney’s neocons and young Jesse Helms crowd is important for future students of this episode to remember.
Likewise, while I still have a problem with Congress’s self-inflicted weakness vis-a-vis the Executive Branch, there is no doubt that Congress is returning to some healthy patterns of oversight over the White House — and is kicking the wannabe monarch in the shin now and then (though not enough). But this return to semi checks and balances didn’t just start with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid taking over the management of their respective chambers in Congress, this began to happen when Tom DeLay was run out of town.
I used to tell environmental groups, progressive foreign policy groups, gay rights groups, feminist groups and other global justice/civil society groups that I had occasion to meet or speak to that while their individual, parochial concerns were quite important — if they would just pool their money and resources to sue Tom DeLay into political insignificance, ALL progressive policy issues would get an uptick just by removing him.
DeLay was finally moved out — but many years too late.
The tactics that the Right has been using are not off limits to the left.
The Netroots world is doing a good job working to get people elected that represent a new and different political calculus in Washington. But that should only be part of the organizing schema.
Working to achieve tangible victories in key battles does not always mean fighting to reflect the interests of the majority of Americans. That’s good for some to pursue — but one is never going to be able to achieve the interests of all Americans on all good causes all of the time.
What is needed is more strategic thinking in progressive circles about what battles are worth having in order to achieve more systemic success. I think that consensus is impossible in the left — and thus we need the Matt Stollers of the world to find some like-minded associates and begin hatching the campaigns that matter, and ignoring the ones that don’t. Well-organized, focused minority efforts really don’t spend a lot of time at war with the less ideologically committed in their own group — they just work to beat their real opponents, or to secure their real objectives.
The political left has been too easily distracted by causes that in my mind didn’t matter — tackling journalists they felt were too biased, or challenging negative characterizations of the netroots, or trying to impose ideological conformity on other progressives who may be slightly out of step with prevailing currents.
Rush Limbaugh goes to work every day to tickle a strain of virulent, misguided nationalism that keeps his machine going. That’s how he views what to applaud and what to spit at. And he and his followers are shrewd and connected.
That kind of strong focus on the battles that matter, that can give some ability to a minority left to secure better outcomes for the majority than they are getting today would be a giant leap for the progressive blogosphere that Matt Stoller has played a strong role in building.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

29 comments on “A Breakthrough in the Netroots (aka “The Grunge Blogosphere”)

  1. Carroll says:

    I think Juan Cole is the best example of a highly intelligent person using plain english with miminum words in five sentences and one paragraph to describe something.
    *The PKK are terrorist residing in Kudish Iraq.
    *They are screwing with Turkey
    *The US is supporting or at least ignoring them.
    *The MEK are also terrorist
    *They are screwing with Iran
    *The US is also ignoring them.
    See how easy that is Matt?
    “Turkish troops killed a PKK [Kurdish Workers Party] guerrilla in eastern Anatolia early on Sunday, then ran into an ambush in which PKK fighters killed 13 Turkish troops. The PKK is being given safe harbor in Iraqi Kurdistan by authorities there, much to Ankara’s frustration. This major firefight, the most serious in years between PKK and the Turkish military in years, will put pressure on the Turkish government to engage in hot pursuit of the Kurdish guerrillas into Iraq where they are hiding out. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, but the US military has done nothing to stop it from attacking a NATO ally (Turkey). The US also coddles the Mojahedin-e Khalq [MEK] terrorist group in Diyala province, which Saddam used against Iran, and which is probably the source for some of the wilder charges the US military makes against Iran.

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  2. Kathleen says:

    More on the weak-kneed Demz.
    The Democrats who enable Bush
    By HELEN THOMAS
    HEARST NEWSPAPERS
    WASHINGTON — President Bush has no better friends than the spineless Democratic congressional leadership and the party’s leading presidential candidates when it comes to his failing Iraq policy.
    Those Democrats seem to have forgotten that the American people want U.S. troops out of Iraq, especially since Bush still cannot give a credible reason for attacking Iraq after nearly five years of war.
    Last week at a debate in Hanover, N.H., the leading Democratic presidential candidates sang from the same songbook: Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York, and Barack Obama of Illinois and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards refused to promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by 2013, at the end of the first term of their hypothetical presidencies. Can you believe it?
    When the question was put to Clinton, she reverted to her usual cautious equivocation, saying: “It is very difficult to know what we’re going to be inheriting.”
    Obama dodged, too: “I think it would be irresponsible” to say what he would do as president.
    Edwards, on whom hopes were riding to show some independence, replied to the question: “I cannot make that commitment.”
    They have left the voters little choice with those answers.
    Some supporters were outraged at the obfuscation by the Democratic front-runners.
    On the other hand, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., are more definitive in their calls for quick troop withdrawals.
    But Biden wants to break up Iraq into three provinces along religious and ethnic lines. In other words, Balkanize Iraq.
    To have major Democratic backing to stay the course in Iraq added up to good news for Bush.
    Now comes a surprising Clinton fan.
    President Bush told Bill Sammon — Washington Examiner correspondent and author of a new book titled “The Evangelical President” — that Clinton will beat Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination because she is a “formidable candidate” and better known.
    Sammon says Bush revealed that he has been sending messages to Clinton to urge her to “maintain some political wiggle room in your campaign rhetoric about Iraq.”
    The author said Bush contends that whoever inherits the White House will be faced with a potential vacuum in Iraq and “will begin to understand the need to continue to support the young democracy.”
    Bush ought to know about campaign rhetoric. Remember how he ridiculed “nation building” in the 2000 presidential campaign? Now he claims he is trying to spread democracy throughout the Middle East.
    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is another Democratic leader who has empowered Bush’s war.
    Pelosi removed a provision from the most recent war-funding bill that would have required Bush to seek the permission of Congress before launching any attack on Iran. Her spokesman gave the lame excuse that she didn’t like the wording of the provision. More likely, she bowed to political pressure.
    Is it any wonder the Democrats are faring lower than the president in a Washington Post ABC approval poll? Bush came in at 33 percent and Congress at 29 percent.
    Members of Congress seem to have forgotten their constitutional prerogative to declare war; World War II was the last time Congress formally declared war.
    Presidents have found other ways to make end runs around the law, mainly by obtaining congressional authorization “to do whatever is necessary” in a crisis involving use of the military. That’s the way we got into the Vietnam and Iraq wars.
    So what are the leading Democratic White House hopefuls offering? It seems nothing but more war. So where do the voters go who are sick of the Iraqi debacle?
    Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers. E-mail: helent@hearstdc.com. Copyright 2007 Hearst Newspapers. On Nov. 3 Thomas will be the guest speaker at the ACLU of Washington’s Bill of Rights Celebration Dinner; for details, contact aclu-wa.org.

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  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I notice that there is very little attention paid to the connection between Willard Romney and Blackwater. A potential President with a close connection to a private army.”
    Well, Hillary’s chief strategest can make the same claim.

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  4. rollingmyeyes says:

    I notice that there is very little attention paid to the connection between Willard Romney and Blackwater. A potential President with a close connection to a private army. Would we have a President Romeny with a private army at his command? Could make for some interesting politics during this late part of the American Century.

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  5. Carroll says:

    United States definition of terrorism:
    (18 USC 2331)
    .. as “violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnaping.”
    Okey dokey…that makes Israel and the US terrorist. And me too..because I am definitely in favor of using intimidation and coercion on my government to effect their conduct.
    Since it is plain nothing else has or is going to work.

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  6. RonK, Seattle says:

    After years of activism, it dawns on Stoller that the world-system is more complicated than the second-simplest thing anybody can possibly imagine.
    Well, that’s a step.
    Recognizing that there is such a thing as an intermediate step is the sort of epiphany that down the road might inspire an appreciation of strategy … which might in turn kindle a sincere interest in understanding the world as it is.
    But in the main, it still has the look and feel of dogs watching television.

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  7. Robert Hume says:

    Immigration is another issue where polls show that a large majority of the population, white, black, and hispanic; want lower levels but the executive, and most of congress, and most of the media want more.
    So if the majority can get its way on Iraq, will they also get their way on immigration. Or will the elite have to give up getting their way on Iraq because it would mean giving up getting their way on immigration.
    Or can “we” figure out how to screw the yahoos (as Mickey Kaus) would say it anyway.

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  8. Kathleen says:

    Sandy… that was fuuuunnny. You may not be baffled by bullshit, but I’m afraid bullshit flies with the masses. It’s a microwave mentality. Tell it to me in one or two sentences, or I’ll miss the point.
    Starting with Reagan, the use of t.v. and paid political ads really came into prominence in campaigns. As a former president of Screen Actors Guild, he knew well how effective commercials were for offing junk. RepubliKlans are simply better at using Madison Avenue to come up with the snappy little terms, the packaging. House on the hill, thousand points of light. All democraps can come up with for a rallying cry is “We can do better”. I’ll say. Give them The Understatement of the Century Award.
    Democraps don’t know how to use the English language to their advantage. They also can’t seem to come up with any ideas, they just react and let Repugs define the issues.
    As for strategy, they seem to be listening to Carville who is more interested in keeping his wife’s ass out of jail than advancing the peoples’ will. What is the “strategy” of taking impeachment off the table? How is that going to get Georgie Porgie to pack up his little veto pen? Who is the Democrap who advised this? Have the Clintons and their practical fence stradleling “advisors” taken over the party?
    9/11 seems to have caused everyone to regress emotionally and curl up into a fetal position. Without it, we would not be in this catatonic freeze. To maximize that fear and make it easy for Joe Six Pack, Repugs coined the phrase “Islamofascists”. That way they and our Demander-In-Chief don’t have to distinguish between Hammas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Taliban, etc. They’re all just towel heads and they’re out to git us. Simple. And the Democraps are still in their fetal position, with their thumbs in their mouth, apologizing for not being potty trained.
    Incidentally, Matt Stoller was one of the many hot shot bloggers working on the Lamont campaign. Knowing how to blog is not enough to win an election. It’s preaching to the choir, a smug little inner circle that doesn’t connect with the average working family. It’s good for some things, but not enough by itself to bring about the revolution we need to right the country.

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  9. docmagnus1 says:

    My first comment — want to see if it works. They used to say that a conservative is a liberall who’s been mugged. Well, I’m liberal by most standards I suppose and always have been, and I’ve been mugged, but I wonder: Am I the only one in the room who believes the Second Amendment has helped save the US from Bush? I mean, without it, I think it’s pretty clear a lot of us would be dead at the hands of the Administration today. So maybe one issue we could back off a bit is on gun control. A safer, saner personal weapons policy can wait until we get the biggest criminal syndicate in the world out of office.

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  10. .... says:

    americans seem duped into believing that things would be different under a democratic presidency… they won’t be.. these politicians are feeding out of the same trough and reading off the same manual..

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  11. Chris says:

    Steve, as a random self-identified member of “the political left” I hope it will sound informative rather than patronizing when I explain that people like me (well, people with greater powers of persuasion and more experience doing this than *myself*, so “like me” but better at it) actually think it’s somewhat *important* to fend off biased journalism/journalists, challenge negative characterizations of the netroots, and impose ideological conformity (which is the name Very Serious People have for party discipline, which they hate, *hate*, *HATE* when it involves Democrats engaging in it) — because those are acts that reflect an understanding of political self-identification and self-defense, and so of course the Washington political establishment needs to discourage liberals from engaging in any of that.
    This probably wouldn’t be so irritating if you weren’t already intent on giving crappy anti-Democratic advice, like suggesting Democrats cede national security policy to a conservative Republican (your crush on Chuck Hagel is understandable, but there’s a *place* for non-insane Republicans, and it’s *the* *REPUBLICAN* *party*, though we’ll take their tactical votes, assuming any of the non-insane Republicans have the brains and balls to recognize the utility of *casting* them).

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  12. ... says:

    >>one of the characteristics of modern global politics is how organized minority factions are able to overwhelm majority views<<
    isn’t that what the nra, abortion fanatics-religious right,mainstream media, aipac, war in iraq, or iran and a number of other organized minority factions do all the time? until one acknowledges and puts aside their unbalanced impact, their is no point in thinking a working democracy possible..

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  13. Sandy says:

    Yep. Looks just like ’em.

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  14. PissedOffAmerican says:

    What a coincidence, Steve. I just ran across an excellent internet picture of an elephant.
    http://www.counterpunch.org/cook10052007.html

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  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Getting beyond the pretentious semantics of Stoller’s piece, it just seems like yet one more attempt to legitimize the inaction of the “opposing party” and Congress as a whole. Rationalizing that inaction through presenting us with the concept of of an unsurmountable mountain of clever tactics employed by the so called “minority”. But corruption and self-serving pursuit is far from a “minority” action in Washington. It is the norm, of course. As we all, (Stoller included?), realize.
    So, point of fact is that it is NOT the minority that has determined policy. It is the MAJORITY that has determined policy, but it is a majority that only exists within the criminal ranks of the Washington political elite; it does not represent the “majority” of citizens that are SUPPOSED to be served by a representative government.
    From that premise my argument that we no longer have a representative government is derived. And I find it hard to believe that anyone could argue effectively or convincibly that our “representatives” are truly representing the best interests of the public majority.

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  16. Sandy says:

    Ha! BIFURCATION!!
    “….where the system’s behavior is essentially the same….and where it undergoes QUALITATIVE transformations of behavior…called bifurcations.”
    Excellent, POA. (Thanks, too, for reinforcing my earlier point.)
    The true political minority — Kucinich/Ron Paul/Gravel — DO represent the QUALITATIVE transformations of behavior — that quality being THE TRUTH. And, yes, POA, THEY are called the “lunatics”….the “weirdos”….the they’ll-never-win-ners, etc. etc.
    One of my heroes, Sally J. Goerner (Chaos and the Evolving Ecological Universe):
    “The bifurcation diagram also produces a very different image of HOW CHANGE TAKES PLACE (emph. mine). …(it) shows a type of change called PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM. As the control parameter increases, the system goes through periods of stable sameness, punctuated by abrupt transitions to QUALITIVELY DIFFERENT FORMS OF BEHAVIOR. Change is sometimes smooth and sometimes discontinuous. …The mathematics of attractors and bifurcation provide a good model for a lot of real-world behavior….”
    Well, now I’m doing it, too. Stoller, using the language he does, just (himself) adds to the complexity of analyzing what is obvious.
    We don’t need to translate Bush/Cheney’s and Congress’ actions into any complex scientific framework — though that may be a fun, private intellectual exercise for him…and others…personally.
    We just need COURAGE. We need STATESMEN. We need people who CARE ABOUT THE COUNTRY….and the CONSTITUTION….and the RULE OF LAW….more than they care about who bought them….who pays for them to get to POWER….who PAYS THEM to STAY in power!
    The Kucinich’s and Ron Pauls are the minority — and the American people DO respond to them! Do know when they’re being told the TRUTH about what’s going on.
    It’s the LUNATICS in charge — all of ’em — we have to worry about. The MAJORITY of the public seems to be catching on that the lunatics ARE both Rethuglican and Democrap.
    And, therein lies the dilemma.

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  17. JohnH says:

    I have found events of the past few weeks to be mildly encouraging. What was until recently questioned in living rooms is now starting to appear on liberal blogs. Then maybe it will appear in the traditional media.
    1) The Independent (UK) leads with a gigantic headline: “WHY?” In the lead article Patrick Cockburn questions the point of the Afghanistan mission:
    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article3033321.ece
    2) John Wiener posts “Who wants to bomb Iran? Democrats…” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jon-wiener/who-wants-to-bomb-iran-_b_67229.html
    3) Alan Greenspan lands a major strike against the fortress of conventional wisdom that the war in Iraq about anything but oil. Other commentators are starting to treat the oil motive as a no brainer. Mearsheimer and Walsh take on the Israel lobby as does Uri Avnery: http://www.antiwar.com/avnery/?articleid=11718
    The logjam of BS is finally starting to loosen, which may portend a flood downstream soon. Hopefully it will take Republicans and Vichy Democrats with it.

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  18. Carroll says:

    “It’s not just that America is run by lunatics, it’s that changing Congress did not alter our governing coalition because of this odd characteristic of modern political architecture.”
    ..I think it is diplomatic speak for….
    It is not just that is congress a bunch of self serving crooks and opportunist..it’s that congress has over the years altered congress and our democracy into a corrupt political system that serves their needs.
    “because of this odd characteristic of modern political architecture.””
    ..is just gobblygook for “because of this modern political corruption.”
    They have to pretend to be intellectual by using longer words with netural meanings while the rest of us have already identified it and named it in ordinary language…crooks, corrupt, speical interest, governing by minority interest…we have said it all before about our “system”.
    This is the first time though I have seen the Clemons and Stollers allude to this bottom line problem. So maybe this progress.

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  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “It’s not just that America is run by lunatics, it’s that changing Congress did not alter our governing coalition because of this odd characteristic of modern political architecture.”
    Gee, is he trying to separate Congress from the “lunatics” there? I see no revelation there, just a failure to properly identify the depth of the lunacy in Washington.
    Perhaps Steve and Matt have missed noticing that the “lunatics” ARE the majority, and that it is a bi-partisan phenomena. The interesting thing about this is that the true political minority, the Kucinich/Ron Paul/Gravel crew are presented as the lunatics by the MSM, (when they are not being ignored). The irony is that their unwavering devotion and conviction on key issues is one of the few acts of sanity we can cite out of Washington.

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  20. Sandy says:

    “Traffic patterns…”
    “…emergent systems”
    “…the problem is FRACTAL”
    “Politics is a NONLINEAR DYNAMIC system…”
    “The disjarring nonlinear change unleashed by 9/11….”
    “This lack of surfeit of adaptive capacity…”
    “POSITIVE FEEDBACK LOOPS”
    “COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS”
    “Nonlinear nature of change…”
    “…an emergent phenomenon”
    “…leverage point”
    “a dynamic system with regular nonlinear events”
    “…a balanced oscillation”
    “The political system’s contours are considered static, and linear.”
    “…a closed strategy model”
    “…there is a strong sensitivity to initial conditions….”
    Ah, yes, the language of chaos theory and complexity. I recognize it well. I’ve even used it myself, in papers I’ve written and presented.
    As the old saying goes, “if you can’t blind them with brilliance (or, science), baffle them with bullshit.”
    Now then, I realize this is a rude thing to say to Steve and Matt. But really, it’s easy to be taken in…by flattery (the young man was listening to Steve, as he says)….and by hocus pocus. The question is — is there any truth to what he says? Especially with Steve telling us “Stoller’s piece is smart Trotsky.” Hmmm.
    I guess where he lost me, Steve, is when Matt said:
    “It’s not just that America is run by lunatics, it’s that changing Congress did not alter our governing coalition because of this odd characteristic of modern political architecture.”
    or
    “Conservatives see politics as a nonlinear dynamic system….”
    hahahahaha Lost me there, too. They do?
    “Creating positive feedback loops for conservative ideas….” Wow. Fancy. I thought they were just spouting…and spinning…LIES and hoping we’d all swallow them hook, line, and sinker! Imagine that! They have been “creating positive feedback loops” for their ideas! Coulda fooled me!
    Give me Pissed Off American’s…and Carroll’s…straight talking TRUTH…..not thickly applied VARNISH….any day of the week.
    I’ve lived a long time by now. I’m no longer blinded by bullshit.
     

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  21. AM says:

    The lunatics in charge get away with their warmongering because of the minority in our population, and Israel’s, who live in irrationally deep fear. I’m in my 70s, and just this morning was reflecting on, and sampling mentally, the quality of fear that was rampant during the anti-commie 50s. It’s exactly the same as today’s fear of terrorists. What is this?? Can these people be helped?? Trying to talk to them about their fears was then, as now, as useful as trying to talk diagnosed paranoids out of their deranged ideas. Maybe the operative word here is ‘diagnosed’.

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  22. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Chucklin’ here.
    Steve, the gopher is that little critter that took out two of the plants in the parsley row. The elephant is that big grey thing that just trampled the whole garden.

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  23. Steve Clemons says:

    POA — I admire your persistence. Look up “New America Foundation” in the recent Walt/Mearsheimer book. Might affect your view of NAF and me…but in any case, I think you are frequently on target — but I also reserve the right and privilege to disagree with you on what constitutes a gopher and what constitutes an elephant.
    All the best from Montana,
    Steve Clemons

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  24. Carroll says:

    Be still my heart! I got so excited at this part I couldn’t finish the rest! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    “In fact, one of the characteristics of modern global politics is how organized minority factions are able to overwhelm majority views (something Steve Clemons noted in a session I attended a few days ago). From the settlers in Israel to hardliners in America or Iran to Al Qaeda in Iraq, minority factions are able to overcome views, sometimes even powerfully held views by a majority. The problem is fractal. Bush/Cheney controls American foreign policy and pushes for a war with Iran, McConnell controls the Republicans in Congress and pushes against SCHIP, Blue Dogs control the Democrats in Congress, Mark Penn steers the Clinton campaign, and right-wing business elites control the US Chamber of Commerce or the AMA. In every case, the leader of the group represents the minority view of the constituent group. Hardliners control small institutions that control larger institutions that control most relevant national instruments of power.
    Breaking through this pattern is vitally necessary to build a progressive economy. It’s not just that America is run by lunatics, it’s that changing Congress did not alter our governing coalition because of this odd characteristic of modern political architecture. ”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Finally, at last the crux of the matter is coming to the fore! This is everything I have meant in my references to the “tyranny of government by minorities” but wasn’t smart enough to elaborate on politically.
    This is encouraging. And I want to make a prediction. I think there will eventually be a shift in the netroots away from the partisan group think party blogs, at least on the liberal side and toward more action on the non partisan problems of “the system” Stoller and Steve are talking about here.

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  25. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So Who’s Afraid of the Israel Lobby?
    (Besides Steve and his think tank cohorts? Everybody, apparently.)
    http://www.antiwar.com/mcgovern/?articleid=11719

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  26. JohnH says:

    Fortunately, Seymour Hersh and others are starting to call the Vichy Democrats on their enabling behavior. However, the fact that the Democratic leadership doesn’t have an alternative frame to Bush’s (because they don’t want to) doesn’t mean that others in the party and in think tanks can’t strive for a coherent framing of the issues.

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  27. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “And why not actively promote the wars in the Middle East as Oil Wars?”
    Because, although framing the issue honestly in such context may be of benefit to the citizenry, it is not of benefit to either party’s posturing “leaders”, who are really serving the same masters.
    You act as though the Democratic leadership is on our side. Haven’t you been paying attention?

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  28. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “What is needed is more strategic thinking in progressive circles about what battles are worth having in order to achieve more systemic success.”
    Great advice. Makes one wonder why it seems that often times that YOU are shooting at gophers when theres a herd of elephants running loose in the room.
    When will you finally address the dangerous and damaging influence that Israel has on our politicians, and how each individual candidate’s fealty to AIPAC should be considered when trying to determine what direction each specific candidate will take American foreign policy? How can we possibly discuss Hillary Clinton’s, (or any other candidate’s), probable course of action in regards to foreign policy while ignoring such a huge part of the equation?

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  29. JohnH says:

    Stoller’s and Steve’s pieces are both thoughtful. I would argue that it is not enough to change tactics to exploit crisis moments. What has to change is the narrative. Narrowly focused Right wing groups have done a splendid job framing the issues. The Left has wasted its time reacting to those issues.
    And so we get a situation where everyone knows that Bush’s pretenses for war were false. But where is the alternative explanation for Bush’s behavior? And what are the reasons for staying? To counter Bush’s picture of chaos in Iraq, we need an alternative vision, one that paints the horrors of endless occupation, both on Iraqis and on government services in the US.
    The drive to war against Iran is beset by changing rationales. Like the war in Iraq, the adminstration is trying to find the rationale that sells best. Where is the alternative explanation?
    On warrantless wiretapping and other erosions of civil rights, Democrats react. Why don’t they create an alternative catch phrase. Some occasionally (actually rarely) use a term, like the War on the Middle Class. Why not actively promote it and use it with every crisis as further evidence? Why not use every instance of privacy violation as further evidence of Bush’s War on Dissent?
    And why not actively promote the wars in the Middle East as Oil Wars? Yes, such a term may not capture the full complexity of the situation, but Republican “issues” are effective and they are usually mere caricatures of real issues. And why not try to delegitimize the Israeli lobby and its supporters by labeling them tools of Sheldon Adelson, Bibi Netanyahu, and Likud, none of whom really serve Israel’s long term interests?
    Once the frames have been set and repeated ad nauseum to make them register, each new “crisis” falls into the frame, reinforcing the picture.
    Only when the picture is solid can crises be exploited to effect positive change.

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