May the House Cleaning Begin
As usual I'm late to the party, but I didn't miss the celebration on election night. Needless to say, it was a historic result and a strong victory for Sen. Obama and the Democrats. My hearty congratulations in particular to Sen. Obama and his campaign staff and volunteers - they worked hard for this victory and should enjoy the moment. The Democrats have done very well too - and deserve congratulations as well.
A few readers have been asking if I plan to return to blogging, so I thought I would briefly come out of hibernation to both comment on the election and mention what my blogging plans are.
Peter Daou wrote a good piece at The Huffington Post a couple of weeks prior to election day, titled "On November Fourth, the Netroots Should be More Than an Afterthought". As the originator of the Daou Triangle, Peter is right on several fronts. He says, rightly, that:
One thing that shouldn't be overlooked is the tortured path to that day and the ragtag group of activists who, from the fear of knowing that America had taken a terrible turn at the dawn of a millennium, embraced a new medium and labored tirelessly, thanklessly, defending the Constitution and the rule of law. Day after day, they congregated on websites, blogs, message boards and any other online forum they could find to write, debate, argue and resist a radical administration and a lockstep Republican Party. Mocked and feared, dismissed as 'angry' and treated with disdain, they fought their opponents, fought their own party, fought the media, fought one another, all to a single end, the defense of inviolable American ideals against a brazen onslaught from a shameful and shameless administration.
I started blogging at a time when Bush was still fairly popular and it wasn't exactly "cool" to feel uncomfortable with the direction he was taking the country. The PR campaign that began in 2002 against Iraq was a leading indicator to me of things to come - so, even though I was an independent at the time I started tilting towards the Democratic party - a change that solidified by 2005 largely because of the progressive blogosphere. I became a proponent of progressive blogs to friends and family and felt proud to contribute my irrelevant fraction to help support the progressive cause and expose Republican corruption. So, with the conclusion of this election (minus the three Senate races that are still too close to call), I am happy to finally see the Party of Bush crushed in the polls and left wondering what its future is (go to The Next Right to read what conservative bloggers are discussing). This is the day I have been looking forward to for years - especially after the nightmarish election of 2004. So, I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. May the house cleaning begin in earnest in January 2009.
All that said, there has been one major leading indicator in this election - one that triggered alarm bells in my mind and convinced me that a personal change is in order.
That leading indicator is the behavior and trajectory of some of the "leading lights" of the progressive blogosphere and progressive media.
Back in the 2003-2004 time frame, so-called conservative bloggers were generally dominant in influence. This resulted in routine character assassination of opponents, advancement of smear campaigns sometimes in collusion with the media, non-stop hero worship and projection of fantasies on their Leader, attacks on everyday citizens who dared to defy or criticize their Leader, self-congratulatory celebrations on their influence (remember Time's Blog of the Year 2004?) and on the alleged demise of the Democratic party. The swift-boat campaign against war hero Sen. John Kerry (one that I observed very closely and responded to in great detail)) was a successful one for the conservative blogosphere but a clear sign of moral rot within their ranks. Sad to say, in the 2008 election, some of the leading "progressive" bloggers, seemingly under the pretense that they should do what the Obama campaign could not do, eager to prove that if the GOP could eat s*** they could eat more, turned the tables on the conservative blogosphere in many respects. It was ugly and for the first time in my history of blogging made me feel deeply embarrassed that I am part of this blogosphere.
Now, I've made no secret of the fact that the behavior of some "progressive" bloggers was worse than pathetic during the Democratic primary. So it shouldn't, at one level, come as a big surprise that the general election - against a Republican opponent - would reveal some or more of the same. Yet, it didn't have to be this way because the GOP's record was bad enough without the need for fiction or smears against their candidates or positions. If winning and ideology is all that matters and how one wins doesn't matter, then we become no different than the Republicans who have turned pettiness, viciousness and character assassination into art forms. In some respects, the epitome of the blogosphere's rapid descent has been evident from nothing less than the Andrew Sullivanization (or Hannitization) of Josh Marshall - something that began in earnest during the Democratic primary. The hallmarks of creepy Bush Republicanism have also come to the fore - to cite just a handful of examples: publishing the personal address of an Obama critic (Michelle Malkin-style), attacking the family of an opponent to spite her, publishing addresses or house photos of Bush supporters, uncritically repeating several false, debunked stories about an opponent (God knows how many cringe-inducing op-eds and blog posts from the left that I've had to endure in the past 2 months), defending and even encouraging vile smears about the opponent (something that made me ashamed that I supported this guy at one time), deranged sexist attacks - too many to list (and just plain crackpottery), constant insinuations about the likely racism of secret McCain supporters (setting aside any legitimate attacks on McCain or the GOP for race-baiting) and on and on. To be clear, not all progressive bloggers/writers went down this s***hole - thankfully some of them retained a modicum of sanity and much of their integrity - but others lost their souls in this election in the desperation to win. Interestingly, the progressive blogosphere learnt one of the primary lessons of the Daou Triangle - getting control over the narrative. In my view, controlling the narrative is critical but so is being factual. This time around, with the help of the media, narrative control ended up more important for the "left" than facts - something that the Republicans have long honed to perfection.
No doubt, McCain/Palin and some of their stooges took part in the usual GOP-style demonization of their opponents during this campaign. But that's what I expected (especially after the 2004 election) - and that is not in any way a defense of equally bad behavior on our side. Thankfully, Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden did not stoop to the level of McCain/Palin, but many Obama/Biden supporters in the progressive media and blogosphere did. In some respects, the treatment that Sarah Palin - someone who I strongly disagreed with on a range of major issues - got from the "progressive" blogosphere (aside from the legitimate criticism of her lack of foreign policy experience and her hilarious, if silly, talking points) reminded me of what Hillary Clinton had faced during the primary. Alas, even some Clinton supporters - especially some women who ostensibly claimed to speak for their sisters during the Democratic primary - turned unbelievable performances during the general election campaign, using almost cartoonish attacks on Palin filled with disinformation that had been previously debunked. In fact, it was thoroughly embarrassing to find repeatedly that conservative bloggers (I read many of them fairly regularly to keep an eye on what to expect) gained the upper hand this election in debunking some of the attacks on Palin, making parts of the "progressive" blogosphere look really as idiotic as the media that recycled some of these stories. The result was a bittersweet victory on November 4th - happiness over the Democratic wins and unhappiness about what happened in the "left" blogosphere.
As Echidne said:
It's a mess, from a feminist point of view, because we are asked to defend a woman whose policies are not good for women, we are asked to defend a woman who was one of the FIRSTS, one of that group who is supposed to be much better than the average person in an occupation, and she was not picked on those grounds. Yet mostly we got no acknowledgment of the FIRST quality in this election, we chicks. What we got, instead, was such a spewing of viciousness about both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin that I'd be not at all surprised if no woman would run for the next hundred years. That might very well be the exact intended effect.
Let me re-iterate that the defense - "Republicans do the same" - is not a compelling defense at all. I'm not a Republican and I'm not interested in doing everything that Republicans have done or hypothetically might do. So, it is clear that for me personally, it's time for a change - to revert to becoming an independent (progressive) once more. I will be off from blogging again till January 2009, but when I return my focus is likely to be less on politics and more on policy - probably on the topics of energy, climate change and the economy. I am very much an Obama supporter and I hope he is a successful two-term Democratic President but I'm not going to look kindly towards those projecting fantasies or those who advocate SYFP (that attitude on the Right over the last several years is what led to their political destruction this year) or those who continue a fact-free, smear-filled approach to politics. The country needs a real change from the nonsense of the past. I will very much be supporting those who ask fair questions and hold our representatives in Congress and in the White House accountable.
I wish you all a great holiday season in advance and the best of luck to weather the dark, economic storm clouds.