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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Beltway versus blogosphere

I ran across this very interesting pirce from Howard Fienman of Newsweek in which he wirtes about the ongoing war between the Beltway democrats and the DLC versus the liberl blogosphere.

From Newsweek via MSNBC
If I am hearing Simon Rosenberg right (and he is worth listening to), a nasty civil war is brewing within the Democratic Party, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton—the party’s presumptive 2008 nominee—needs to avoid getting caught in the middle of it.

“It’s not a fight between liberals and conservatives,” Rosenberg told me the other day. “It’s between our ‘governing class’ here and activists everywhere else.”

In other words, it’s the Beltway versus the Blogosphere.


Rosenberg rejects that notion that the bloggers represent a new “Internet Left.” It’s not an ideological rift, he says, but a “narrative” of independence versus capitulation: too many Democrats here are too yielding to George W. Bush on the war in Iraq, on tax policy, you name it. “What the blogs have developed is a narrative,” he told me the other day,” and the narrative is that the official Washington party has become like Vichy France.”

In the 1980s, he said, a generation of Democratic strategists reacted to the rise of Ronald Reagan by looking for ways to coexist with his brand of conservatism. The result was the Democratic Leadership Council, founded in 1985, which mixed cultural traditionalism with pro-market economics and hawkish foreign policy. It worked: Bill Clinton became chairman of the DLC in 1990, and used it as a launching pad to the presidency.

But, in the view of the Blogosphere, the DLC model is outmoded and dangerously accomodationist, in the manner of the allegedly independent, but in reality pro-Nazi, regime of wartime of France.

Rosenberg, who has, and can move easily in establishment circles, somewhat self-mockingly declares his own allegiance to the “narrative.” “I feel like I’ve joined the Resistance!” he says.

The First Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas, if you insist) in this civil war occurred in 2003 and early 2004, when party insiders, the Mainstream Media and a network of long-time “funders” anointed Sen. John Kerry, only to see him get chewed up in the early going by Gov. Howard Dean.

But even though Kerry eventually outlasted the Rebs, and even though Dean (for some weird reason) decided to become chair of the Democratic National Committee, the civil war didn’t end. It just went underground.

The first sign of its re-emergence was Cindy Sheehan (remember her?) on the national stage. Beltway Democrats avoided her like the plague; the Blogosphere embraced her as a heroine of the grass roots. It wasn’t so much the content of what she said; she was, after all, claiming mostly to be asking questions. It was the WAY she came to prominence—quickly, virally, seemingly from out of nowhere—and her stubbornly confrontational tone.

In Rosenberg’s view, that’s the tone Democrats need to adopt now, especially after Hurricane Katrina. Too many “governing” Democrats, he says, wrongly assume that their party’s traditional vision of “competent, benevolent government” has been rejected by the voters. It hasn’t, he says.

There is no need, Rosenberg says, to wander in the desert in search of a new theoretical synthesis, the way conservatives did a generation ago. What the Democrats need, he says, is an unforgiving toughness and a mastery of new means of communications—and all of this is more likely to be accomplished in the Blogosphere than inside the Beltway.