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Netroots Politics 242

Michael Gracie writes "I picked up "Crashing The Gate - Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics" from the DailyKos website, albeit apprehensively. The Kos community has a "reputation," and some would suspect that any printed material associated with the site would parallel what is said there. Nevertheless, I was curious to hear what Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga would say, knowing they wouldn't have to deal with the instant (and often aggressive) feedback the "Kossacks" dispense. For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised." Read the rest of Michael's review.
Crashing The Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics
author Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga
pages 196
publisher Chelsea Green
rating 8
reviewer Michael Gracie
ISBN 1931498997
summary A must read for constituents on both sides of the fence

As background, the authors are no strangers to the Internet or its political enablement. Armstrong is a household name in the arena, having started one of the first political weblogs,, and assisting with the Howard Dean campaign's blogging efforts. Zuniga is just as well known, if not more so. He founded DailyKos, which is likely the most popular political group weblog site in existence. In other words, these guys should know their stuff, and for the most part they seem to.

As pure reading material goes, the book ("Progressive Partner Special Limited Edition") is precisely 196 pages of 100% post-consumer waste recycled, old-growth forest-free paper, including 14 pages of reference notes and indices. The type is large, well spaced, and generally easy on the eyes. I knocked this puppy off over three afternoons, including note taking.

While I didn't fact check every line of the book, what I received was a pretty thorough, analysis-driven opinion of what has gone wrong with Democratic Party politics. It starts with a definition of "the enemy," the "cons" of the Republican political thought process. Corporate insiders, right-wing think tank graduates, religious leaders, and old-school mindsets are overstuffed in a barrel. What pops out is the realization that the Republican Party is less a tank mowing over everything in its path than a loosely bound, fragile coalition that has succeeded not by Borg-like assimilation, but through sheer patience and will.

Onward to the "failing" side, in which Armstrong and Moulitsas slice and dice their political party in what can only be described as a semi-hostile, scathing rebuke of the disorganization, the infighting, and the selfishness which has kept it divided. The authors are, however, quick to point at two examples of success (in Colorado and Montana during 2004). In those cases, campaigns took decidedly different approaches, but one thing seemed certain - anything BUT the status quo could work.

Diving deeper into the situation, "Crashing The Gate" now hits the hot button that is going to piss a lot of Progressives off - the wholesale pilfering of campaign dollars by political/media consultants, who enrich themselves fabulously while using worn out techniques that lead to failure after failure. The D.C. power base, showing no inclination to stop the madness, is not forgotten either. If any one point becomes perfectly clear to readers, it will be that big money has and is wasted in extraordinary magnitudes.

At this point, J & M point to McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, as the tipping in the power struggle over Progressive direction. McCain-Feingold redirected high-dollar contributions from direct-to-politicians pockets into 527 organizations that cannot "explicitly advocate the election or defeat of any candidate for federal office." What it really did, according the authors, is force Democrats to look to "the people." Numbers no longer followed dollar signs - they had to follow individual support roll counts. Then Howard Dean captured the Internet's imagination.

The authors give Howard Dean a lot of credit for initiating the "grassroots movement," something I found unsurprising considering they were in the middle of it. By engaging a myriad of internet tools managed by foot soldiers, Dean quickly proved McCain-Feingold naysayers wrong. The Democratic stronghold eventually trounced Dean - they took it upon themselves to define him as "unelectable," and turn Dean's overzealousness into perceived nuttiness. It was a concerted attack, and not without casualties. First and foremost, John Kerry lost the Presidential election, and that is where I inferred that the tables really turned. While "wounds were being licked" offline, Internet activists maintained engagement as thought the battle wasn't over. As described, after Terry McAuliffe (Chairman of the DNC) departed, the bloggers made their presence hard to ignore, uncovering dirt on hand-selected McAuliffe successors, one after the other. Howard Dean maintained his loyalty to those folks, and the end result...he is now Chair of the Party.

The last chapter, entitled "Inside The Gate," follows up on some successes for the Democratic Party in places like Montana and Virginia, and infers that "grassroots" campaigning, not "netroots" organization, was the primary motivating factor. In many campaigns, however, "netroots" did play a role, and even when losses were incurred, the efforts succeeded in draining opposing candidates of funds and energy while giving good reason for progressives to relish in their newfound power. Fair warning - the net was not to be ignored.

No review of a political reference would be complete without some conclusion for those so inclined. Rather than air my personal views, I will provide some perspective-based alternatives:

A) If you are anything close to Progressive (which I suspect many readers will be), you may at first feel a bit betrayed by your leaders, and certainly enraged by the pilfering of contributions that came from your pocketbook. Your suspicion that what is being suggested is emulation of the long-term strategies of the enemy is not unfounded. Crashing The Gates sometimes infers just that, albeit with a bit of a "net twist." Be patient until the end - you may wind up wanting to blog for your favorite local candidates - but it won't be an easy road. I'd say I concur with the authors that there is no short-path to election success, no matter the effort - the authors are making no promises, and that is refreshing from any set of written words deemed political. And be forewarned - what led to victory in a particular place and particular situation, might not work the next time. I interpreted that by reading between the lines.

B) If you lean right you will feel warm (and smug) over your Party's triumphs, and a little confused as to why someone would so openly lay out a potential roadmap for defeating you. You may be inclined to read the book again, just to make sure you have a game plan to thwart any such attempts. Alternatively, you might brush off any thoughts of a grassroots movement ever having a chance of taking your team to the mat. You have a "big machine" on your side, one constructed over decades - how could any grassroots effort put a dent in it? This reader, having a meager understanding of how "new media" communications spreads, says the latter take might not be a wise one. Conservatives have their pundits, but they should ask themselves whether they could engage armies of them.

C) If you sit in the middle, a most likely social liberal and fiscal conservative, I'd say you may still feel a bit lost. You have choices: go the route of the ultra-organized "idea generators," but risk more betrayal on the fiscal end while you turn blue over the social fanaticism; or, you can bet on those who still haven't gotten their act together, but have a lot of momentum, gained recently, in the new media realm. Yes, the progressives have a "new machine," but can they effectively control it as it grows? The conservatives have certainly proven they can steer theirs, and it is anything but small. Either way, you'll solidify your previous view that politics is about big money, intensive recruitment, and, ultimately, some form of indoctrination. You might not exactly get the "warm-fuzzies" if you fancy yourself an independent thinker.

I said my satisfaction with the read contained some caveats. It did, and they affect my rating of the book as such.

1) I found the historical elements of the book the very compelling - again, while I didn't check facts, I didn't feel I needed to. The first couple of chapters were relatively unbiased - at times I almost felt like the authors were glorifying Republican efforts. Then, wham, they actually say Republican strategies are "brilliant," while describing their party's entitlement participation philosophy (meaning, one should be happy to have a job on a Democratic campaign, even if you electricity just got shut off) in comparison to the well paid, constant grooming and care that Republican "students" usually received.

2) I was hoping for a complete separation between the web diatribe the authors are associated with, and their view to initiate change through hardcopy publication. Unfortunately, I found at least one element of major distraction, on pages 114 through 118, which referenced events regarding politically motivated compensation for both old and new media input. It hinted, unnecessarily, of some bitterness, while I would rather have heard a token "Oh well, that is how the game is played." The section in question was hard to shake - it followed me for the last sixty or so pages. Additional anecdotes describing "normal, sane" candidates having the ability to win elections left me chuckling a few times as well, meaning I had some difficulty disassociating the authors with some of what I have read at DailyKos.

3) The title conflicted with some of the nuances within. For someone sitting on the fence (as described above), I thought the authors would have tried to harder to convince that the supposed "progressive revolution" isn't just more of the same. The dollar signs strewn throughout made me think more about all the money that politics engulfs (even if it is raised by citizen journalists) than the power any individuals have to instigate real change. I sometimes felt that the subtitle could have included "people-powered fundraising."

4) As the authors point out (as excuse or not), the manuscript was scrapped late in the process. They started from scratch, under considerable time pressure, and I can respect that. In my eyes (assuming it is true), they scored some points here for admitting the need to start over, and re-working on the fly.

I know Slashdot readers have their opinion of bloggers in general, and it is not always the most favorable. However, as a consistent reader of both Slashdot and several major political blogs I have to say "Crashing The Gate" is a heck of a job from a couple of "bloggers." I am now intensely curious to see if Glenn Reynolds's "An Army of Davids" paints a different (and/or alternative) picture of the "netroots" phenomena.

As a final offering, Armstrong and Zuniga note that the world of progressive bloggers could already be four to five million strong, with extraordinary growth predicted for the future. In addition, they offered that anyone, anywhere could contribute. But, a democratic system requires mutual acceptance, healthy debate, and a willingness to accept a role alongside, not hands above, the rest. The online world already seems to be straying from those core tenets, with clubby recruitment gatherings, A-list bloggers and too much crosstalk. Without some correction, I wonder whether the growing political force the authors portray can sustain itself long term, or whether new media will turn out like old media - sensationalist, untrustworthy, and begging to be ignored."

You can purchase Crashing The Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Netroots Politics

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  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:27PM (#14877629)
    For someone sitting on the fence (as described above), I thought the authors would have tried to harder to convince that the supposed "progressive revolution" isn't just more of the same. The dollar signs strewn throughout made me think more about all the money that politics engulfs (even if it is raised by citizen journalists) than the power any individuals have to instigate real change. I sometimes felt that the subtitle could have included "people-powered fundraising."

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely. If you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog. Money is the root of all evil, etc. etc. etc.

    FIRST and FOREMOST, take out the corporate money, you will get better leaders that aren't solely out to make a buck for their buddies who run the corporations and the military-industrial complex.
    But in a 'capitalist' economy and consumerist-society, does anyone actually believe that will happen or even work?
    True Progressives do not have a voice in today's government - they are only heard in obscure, online blogs.
    And if you want to initiate REAL change and start a 3rd party, FORGET ABOUT IT!
    The current government will make rules to prevent you from even getting a 3rd party on the ballot.
  • by schnikies79 ( 788746 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:39PM (#14877723)
    Have you ever voted? If you look at a presidential ballot, there a ton of people to vote for. It was around 12 last I remember, Anywhere from republican and Democrat to the Communist Party to the Prohibition Party. There are plenty of choices but they aren't very organized. That and you have party voters. I know plenty of people who will vote straight ticket no matter who the candidate it, Republican and Democrat.
  • by Photon Ghoul ( 14932 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:41PM (#14877742)
    limiting authoritarianism in America ... by giving it to private companies.
  • by Dan Farina ( 711066 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:41PM (#14877750)
    While Libertarians do come with different stripes, I would say that the more extreme do not seem very realistic -- I, for one, would not entrust everything to whims of private hands.
  • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:43PM (#14877766)
    But I think it kind of misses the point of what kos is about.

    It's not so much about winning elections, but rather changing the dynamics of the debate. Changing the dynamics of the debate is a longer term strategy than just winning an election.

    While I haven't read this book, my impression is that is what it is about. Not on how to win elections, but rather on how to influence direction.
  • middle america (Score:3, Insightful)

    by august sun ( 799030 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:44PM (#14877781)
    I have yet to be convinced that this new medium can reach middle america. So far it just seems to be getting to the well-educated + net-savvy younger generation, whom tend to the Left anyway so I'd question how this will revolutionize the political landscape in America and be a force for broadcasting the liberal message to the masses.
  • Strawman much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nightsweat ( 604367 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:52PM (#14877851)
    Very nice charicature of a party that in no way resembles the Democrats.

    Over the last fifteen years, which party was responsible for most of the cuts in government and which was responsible for most of the expansion of government? Which party had a surplus and which has record deficits? Which is surveilling you in direct opposition to laws passed to prevent warrantless surveillance and which party is fighting that surveillance?

    Time you reconciled your perceptions with the realities.
  • Quite true. The party platform needs some adjustment to get away from the "crazy nutcase" end of the spectrum. Anything taken to its logical extreme is a bad idea, and so is Libertarianism. Libertarianism at is logical end is just plain anarchy, and that never works for a civilized society. I see voluntary taxes and privately owned roads as a really bad idea, but I also see most of the other things the government has a hand in as being really bad ideas, too.
  • by smagruder ( 207953 ) <> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @03:55PM (#14877876) Homepage
    My points on Libertarianism:

    • The Libertarian economy: Runaway to Ruin
    • Libertarianism is like communism: both look great on paper.
    • Libertarians never seem to understand that lifting all constraints from powerful organizations ultimately means the end of freedom and democracy. Why can't they see the end game of their simplistic thinking?
    • Libertarianism constitutes the ultimate in linear thought processes.
    • The central problem (and irony) with big-L Libertarianism is that ultimately, in this linear system of thinking, all liberty is lost. Libertarianism always seems to leave out the concept of the big-power players, who obviously will always exist and will always work to build their power at the expense of the masses. Libertarianism leads to a feudalist society with no liberties. That's why I say Yes to small-l libertarianism for individuals, and No to big-L Libertarianism for corporations and industries, which I believe must *always* be regulated by small-d democratic fiat.
  • by Photon Ghoul ( 14932 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:03PM (#14877959)
    Libertarianism at is logical end is just plain anarchy, and that never works for a civilized society.

    There's more to anarchism [] than you might think. Whether or not it's possible or even desireable is definitely up for debate. Note that "anarcho-capitalism" is probably closer to the extreme end of "libertarianism" than "anarchism" itself.
  • Adhering to the desires of any political party is always a bad idea. I don't completely support the Libertarian party agenda, but I do think it's a far better agenda and more sincere one than the R's and D's. I work from within the party to try to grow it and to shape it into a little bit more moderate organization. Only when the party finally gets set in reality can it begin to gain a foothold in the government.
  • by Photon Ghoul ( 14932 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:05PM (#14877974)
    My comment was a little snarky, but essentially boils down to me saying something like:

    Giving power to private companies is not any better than leaving it in the hand of a bureaucratic institution.
  • Re:Success... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Malacandra ( 585921 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:10PM (#14878021)
    It's called "principle". The race in Texas was between an incredibly regressive incumbent who runs away from his party... and endorses the Republican agenda.

    And yes, Kos has targeted tough races so the fact that there's been a lot of losses isn't unanticipated.
    On the other hand, he has helped win some races, too. Ask Stephanie Herseth if the netroots helped her campaign.
  • by Elemenope ( 905108 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:19PM (#14878102)
    Anarchism can mean no government, but in many of its forms what it really means is voluntary or what I call buy-in government. In other words, there are still mechanisms of political organization, but their power over an indivdual depends upon a (entirely revocable) voluntary association with that government. See also: Anarchosyndicalism.

    Now, that's not to say it isn't crazy on its own merits, but let's not throw labels around casually.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:22PM (#14878126)
    The NYT SAT on enough Iraq war lies stories until after the 2004 elections to help get GWB reelected. I wouldn't classify them as "left wing". They did it *on purpose*.

    And for that matter, the only left wing and right wing in the US is an artificial construct. We have two major parties, BOTH of which cater to the large transnationals and globalist "the rich get richer and more powerful" forces as their primary focus. Any "grassroots" noises they make are to keep the rabble amused and to stop them looking behind the curtain. As long as those globalists can keep "the people" squabbling with each other with the phony left/right paradigm, they win. In 2004, the globalist fatcat party won the election, just like it did in 2000 and 1996 and 92. I mean, look at the election fraud with diebold et al. Kerry couldn't have run faster nor ignored it harder if he tried. How much evidence do the skull and bones deniers need? We don't have smoking gun, we have smoking artillery evidence, going way way back on any number of treasonus scandals involving both parties. They swap around who they take money from, the chinese army, haliburton, enron-who cares? Mena, Arkansas ring a bell with anyone? A boat load of connected Ds and Rs and dot mil goons involved there. Is this really that hard to grok?

    It is BEYOND corrupt.

    If anyone thinks things will get "better" with some globalist dipsquat puppet like Hillary or Kerry or even Dean in, they are swimming in the river of de nile. The R supporters are exactly the same, well meaning in their own way,but very naieve.
  • Re:Re Subjectivity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <`gro.uaeb' `ta' `sirromj'> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:26PM (#14878150)
    > Whatever we write, no matter how much we try to be 100% objective, will be subjective
    > due to our own experiences, culture etc.

    Which is why I don't mind bias as long as it is out in the open. My objection to the NYT, for example, is that they insist they aren't biased. Dailykos or Rush Limbaugh don't bother me because both are honest about what they are and what they are trying to accomplish. Heck, even Fox is pretty open about the fact they lean right but make sure they let the other side get in their take on events also.

    That said, I do take exception to your postmoden view that objectivity isn't possible. It may be true that 100% pure isn't possible (welcome to the real world) 99% is an attainable goal and mainstream journalism should be held accountable when they don't measure up. The BBC used to be the canonical example of objective reporting, even if nowadays they are banned at many British military installations because of their blatent biases.

    It isn't rocket science either. It used to be the first thing they taught cub reporters, to get and report "just the facts". The Who, What, When, Where and Why. The reporter really shouldn't be in the business of 'explaining' the news, they should be reporting the facts and allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions. In cases where extra material is helpful a seperate background piece or analysis/opinion piece can run near the hard reporting. Seperating the reporting from the opinion makes it easy to hold the reporting accountable; anything not provably 'true' in a reported piece gets a correction in the next edition or else the paper's reputation can be made to suffer.

    While some stories can't be broke without an anonymous source they should be be shunned normally because depending on them turns the news into rumor and innuendo instead of fact based reporting. If you dont't believe me, open a newspaper and see for yourself.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:29PM (#14878189)
    Anybody remember his infamous "screw them" moment? []

    Of course you don't, because kos disappeared it because the backlash was so great.

    That comment is just one representative example of the "debate" that the kos kids want to have.

    If this is the kind of debate kos wants, no wonder his candidates keep losing elections.

  • One quibble (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TallDave ( 916610 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:32PM (#14878211) Homepage
    I noted something about Republican campaigners being better paid. A big difference in the 1004 GOTV efforts was that Dems were paid while the GOPs were volunteers. By all accounts, this dichotomy worked to the GOPs favor: they were true believers intent on spreading their glorious message of truth, justice, and the Republican way, while the Dems were just showing up to make a buck.
  • by Damek ( 515688 ) <> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:33PM (#14878218) Homepage
    If you lean right [...] You have a "big machine" on your side, one constructed over decades - how could any grassroots effort put a dent in it?

    Republicans (and hopeful progressives) should take note that the current Republican "machine" arose out of fervent conservative activism that has roots going back almost 60 years, to the tireless efforts of one Clarence "Pat" Manion, who utilized direct mail techniques to begin the process of uniting disparate elements of conservative citizens in the hopes of winning back their own party which had become increasingly liberal to compete with the Democrats.

    Despite history's usual focus on the leftist activists of the 1960s, there was a very strong undercurrent of conservative student activism as well, resulting in the candidacy of Barry Goldwater. This failed at first, but they arguably ultimately succeeded in Reagan. Not that any of their "small government" hopes and dreams ever succeeded. They never will. But I digress.

    The point here is, though, that what's happening on the left right now is almost the mirror image of what happened back then. As a progressive, I hope that, with the benefits of increased communication times and cheaper mass-communication, we can do things a little faster... but time will tell. We progressives should be in for a long, difficult process, with much failure before eventual success.

    Conservatives, conversely, should be asking themselves if they're actually getting what they want from their elected officials. But that's just par for the course for partisans of both parties, isn't it?
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @04:47PM (#14878345)
    And who was pushing for socialized healthcare, carnivore, had to be coerced into accepting welfare reform and oversaw a DoJ that twice in a few years time had major, violent confrontations with American citizens that ended in innocent civilians getting killed by carless federal agents? Bill Clinton, a democrat. Did you know that David Koresh, the leader at Waco, used to go for a walk into town about 4 days a week and that law enforcement knew this at the time? They didn't arrest him because they wanted a confrontation with what they called an extremist group. Last I checked, that's not a professional attitude. That's a military attitude, not a peace officer mentality.

    The Republicans are worse than the Democrats, but that's not relevent to anything that I said. Clearly, I am not a Republican as I identify with classical liberalism. And what pray tell, oh defender of the party of the ass, does that make me inclined to be? A voting Libertarian, that's right. I voted for Badnarik, not Busherry in 2004. Why, that would make me a genuine opponent of both "progressives" AND their republican country club counterparts.

    The truth is that both parties do the same things. The Democrats are better in a few degrees, not principles, and that really does depend on the area you're talking about because they are far worse than the Republicans in their fair share of areas as well. Last I checked it wasn't the Republicans that generally favor an end to private firearm ownership or laws against hate speech or thought crimes that punish people for having hateful motivations.
  • Ah, yes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kythe ( 4779 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:07PM (#14878510)
    ...the eternal libertarian philosophical lynchpin: "fuck you".

    NO ONE but a libertarian could confuse regulated capitalism with socialism. It's a sure sign of an extremist. Thanks for playing.
  • by Politburo ( 640618 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:14PM (#14878561)
    You, and many GOPists, make the assumption that all defense spending is de facto good. I submit that this is false.

    And it's important to note that while GOPists were all for a BBA in the 90s, the most recent endeavor [] did not have the same support. Interesting, no?
  • by Phoenix Rising ( 28955 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:31PM (#14878684) Homepage
    Even with all those ballot choices, minor parties have it rough. They have to qualify for that ballot slot, in every state, every election cycle; major parties are automatically "in"; if Perot's Reform Party hadn't derailed, they might have lasted long enough to get in on the fun, but even the perennial parties like Natural Law, Constitution, Libertarian, and Green have to go through the rigamarole every year or two with the current laws.

    Third party candidates rarely qualify for Federal matching funds for the Presidential race. Third party candidates don't usually get their candidates on every state's ballot. And it's nigh on impossible to build up a third party's base to the point where they can challenge on a major ticket. Bernie Sanders is the only elected Independent in a national office (Jeffords was elected as a Republican before defecting in 2001).

    And the reason many of the parties can't build up their base is that, come election time, no-one wants to vote for a candidate when another candidate - not quite as good but from a major party - might lose because of the vote split. We need to institute Instant Runoff or Condorcet voting if we want third parties to thrive. And we need to make the tournament field a bit easier to qualify for on a long-term basis; the parties I mentioned above have been around for a long time; they deserve better than they get.
  • Re:Success... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Phoenix Rising ( 28955 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:41PM (#14878767) Homepage
    And how many times did the Republicans fail back in the good old days of Democratic Party dominance? How many times did they have to put candidates up in order to change the debate in the GOP before they succeeded?

    The Kos dozen were mostly underdogs to begin with in 2004 (with some exceptions, like Obama). The Democratic Party is waking up to the fact that it's ineffective at electing candidates outside of its strongholds. In many states, the local parties are in disarray or are non-existant. Kos, Howard Dean, and others who have taken control of swaths of the Democratic Party since 2004 are building a new machine to replace the old clunker that's been sputtering along for a decade now; it takes time to finish the machine, test it, and run it in a couple of races to fine-tune it until it can win.

    They've shown that even in hopeless races there is some hope; Hackett's campaign would not have come within 2% of beating *any* GOP candidate in Ohio-2 last year without the support of the netroots, and I doubt the "old" Democratic Party would have even wasted a dime on it. But if a Progressive candidate can come within 2% of winning in a solid Red district like OH-2, there is a lot more hope for the Democratic Party than is visible from the numbers.
  • by Loundry ( 4143 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:45PM (#14878790) Journal
    You and I are friends of each other, so let not my disagreement spoil that. :)

    The Libertarian economy: Runaway to Ruin

    And what evidence do you have to support this assertion? A libertarian economy is one where anyone is allowed to compete. Regulated markets usually end up as government protectionist schemes which stifles competition and thus decreases intention.

    Libertarianism is like communism: both look great on paper.

    We can point to several failed communist states to show that "communism only looks great on paper", but what "libertarian" state will you point to to show your point? There has never been one, because there have always been people in government power who use force to attain their goals. We can see numerous examples in China where the state gives up regulation, allows for capitalistic reforms, and China's economy prospers as a result.

    Libertarians never seem to understand that lifting all constraints from powerful organizations ultimately means the end of freedom and democracy. Why can't they see the end game of their simplistic thinking?

    It's not that I don't see that point of view -- rather, it's that I don't believe you. You can't just say that increasing individual liberty will end up decreasing it without supporting that statement with evidence and expect me to believe you. "Simplistic thinking" seems to be the hallmark of those who argue by assertion only!

    Libertarianism constitutes the ultimate in linear thought processes.

    This is a repeat of the "simplistic thinking" statement.

    The central problem (and irony) with big-L Libertarianism is that ultimately, in this linear system of thinking, all liberty is lost. Libertarianism always seems to leave out the concept of the big-power players, who obviously will always exist and will always work to build their power at the expense of the masses. Libertarianism leads to a feudalist society with no liberties.

    Now you're just building on your second point by adding some collectivist arguments to it. Your argument that "Libertarianism leads to a feudalist society" is false because feudalist implies static social classes, such as lords and vassals. Why does individual liberty (including your hated individual right to property) necessarily lead to static social classes and the implied lack of social mobility?

    That's why I say Yes to small-l libertarianism for individuals, and No to big-L Libertarianism for corporations and industries, which I believe must *always* be regulated by small-d democratic fiat.

    The one point that I wish anti-libertarians would realize is that they seem to solve the problem posed by "big powerful organizations" by replacing it with one single big powerful monopoly organization: the government. Simultaneously, they believe that since there is a voting system in place, the government will necessarily be free(er) from corruption than non-governmental entities. I think this is very much an article of faith. There is little data to support it. Governments draw their people from the same group of fallible humans that non-governmental entities do, and those people are in no way free from the negative traits that we've seen in the people in non-governmental entities.

    However, there is one crucial difference between government and non-government which is the primary and overpowering reason that I want to decrease the power of government: government is the one entity that has the legal right to use deadly force to achieve its goals.

    I'm a small-l libertarian who votes Libertarian simply because no one else stands up for individual liberty.
  • Seriously... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by C-Diddy ( 755183 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:57PM (#14878886)
    I'm on the Right side of the political fence, but I might consider buying the book if Kos et al actually contributed to any kind of political win. Alas, they have not, as most recently demonstrated here []:
    The bottom line: we helped a campaign that was the walking dead and gave it new life, pumped in resources, and made it competitive. We did much to even the playing field even if ultimately we came up tantalizingly short.
    This is becoming the constant refrain of Kos: We came so close.
  • by Zwack ( 27039 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:14PM (#14879016) Homepage Journal
    You claim to be a "liberal" and then you claim to be a "Libertarian"...

    Which is it to be? There is a distinction between the two (and "libertine" if you want to go that far)...

    I have to ask someone like you just "WTF" is wrong with "socialised healthcare"...

    I've lived in the UK under socalised healthcare and about 30% of my gross salary went in taxes and National Insurance payments. These pay for health care and social security and the like...

    I've also lived in the US under privatised healthcare (actually I work for a healthcare provider) and about 30% of my gross salary goes in taxes and Private Health Insurance payments... These pay for the same sorts of things but only cover me and my family. As I work for a non-profit healthcare organisation I also know how many millions that we put aside every year to pay for the charity cases that don't have insurance... And you know where that money comes from? From people who CAN pay. So, while we don't have a socialised healthcare system here what we do have is a system that encourages people not to go to the doctor until it's an emergency at which point it costs more to solve the problem and the people who are paying for insurance are subsidising those that can't afford it.

    Now please take your "I'm a Liberal Libertarian and I hate socialised healthcare" crap and shove it where the sun doesn't shine. (Yes, that would be that valley in the Rimtops...)

  • Re:Re Subjectivity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NoMaster ( 142776 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:16PM (#14879033) Homepage Journal
    Many don't trust the NY Times because they are to the left.
    Your country needs to get out more...

    Seriously, from an outsider's POV, the biggest problem with American politics is the hysterical 'left = teh evil' and 'anyone left of the Democrats is a filthy rotten subversive baby-eating pinko Communist!' mentality, fostered by over half a century of Cold War based propaganda.

    Well, that and the black:white one-dimensional political spectrum you've created for yourselves. You have a society where the word 'liberal' is used as an epiphet, and even those who consider themselves to be such in your limited political spectrum try to deny that they are...

    (clue: the Democrats wouldn't be considered to be the left of the political spectrum anywhere, except America. Possibly in other minor hard right-wing states - except most of those are so right wing they'd probably consider Republicans to be left-wing too, or at least 'not right-wing enough'.)

  • by Egregius ( 842820 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:18PM (#14879041)

    Why isn't this guy/gal modded up? Because the post cuts right into the heart of discussed book: Democrats fighting the superiorly organised Republican machine through net-roots? Whatever they do, it's going to be fighting the symptoms, not the causes, of everything that's not going right in the US of A. And that's the 2-party system that caters to money.

    The whole political encouragement/empowerment system that's currently in place favors money, and the larger the sum the better. Money, and looking slightly better than the other side. Because both parties have become quagmired in the quest for money (money equates campaign funds, and hey, while you're at it, why not help yourself for your hard work?), compromising and sacrificing more and more on their path. Republicans for slimmer central government? Not really; cutting programs costs them elections. Democrats doing better in terms of social justice? Anyone taking a stand on fighting wars for oil? HA.

    The thing that wins elections is campaign funds. Whatever either party promises, it will be what they think the majority wants to hear. The real difference is in terms of which company pledges to whom. Right now Republicans score better in terms of being blatant enough about giving tax-cuts and benefits to the campaign-financiers, with Democrats scrambling to save the 'ruins of their party'.

    That it's a problem for America that there is a 2-party system with an entrenched political elite was recognised 150 years ago. Yet the system is still in place, acerbated by being more firmly entrenched in plutarchic politics than ever.

    I don't want to hear how the 'good guys can win from the bad guys', I want to hear a way of breaking out of this mess. The current system is obviously not sustainable [], while several countries seem to manage a lot better corruption-wise with a multi-party system. That, to me, is a lot more interesting than mere battle-tactics.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @07:16PM (#14879398)
    I believe it is absolutely impossible to have a government that does not, on the whole and over the long run, put the interests of those in power over the individual's natural right (god-given if you prefer) to freedom. What am I smoking, you ask?

    It's simple. The typical person who is interested in gaining power over others (power meaning the "right" to employ coercion as a means to an end) is not the person who only wants to mind his own business and live in peace! It is the person who believes in employing coercion as the means to his end.

    Sure, you will always have the one or two "radical" politicians actually working to reduce the powers of government. But the inevitable reality is that for every Ron Paul working to restore freedom, there are a hundred power-hungry crooks working to expand the powers of government.

    It makes sense, no? For each step towards freedom, there are a hundred steps towards oppression. There is a reason why the US government of today dwarfs the US government of only 100 years ago, not only in revenue but power over the people. There is a reason why every year, there are more laws than the year before. There is a reason why no government in history has ever significantly and permanently rolled back its own power through the process of democracy.

    That is the simple nature of organized coercion. I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said, as the US experiment in strictly restricted government was in conception, that a revolution would be necessary every so often in order to put government back in its place. While I don't advocate violence in the slightest (I am a peaceful anarchist), it's not hard to see his point.
  • by kadathseeker ( 937789 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @07:43PM (#14879539) Homepage
    In some countries like Germany there are many political parties that form alliances to get most of their plans implemented and people elected. What has happend in the US is simply that these different groups have melded in to two opposing sides that represent everything. It's bandwagoning to the extreme. I think that three to five parties with a little more distinction would be better, though, but it's not like this is some strange anomolous flaw.
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @08:05PM (#14879640) Journal
    I don't find the idea of a consumption tax to be any less awful than an income tax. In fact, I think it would be disasterous to our economy. If you want to see this model in action, look at Europe.

    Europe has both the VAT, and income taxes. That is not the proposal given by the FairTax movement.

    The chief benefit of the FairTax, is that it removes taxation as a consideration for investments. The FairTax is a retail-level sales tax only. No tax on capital gains, no reason to invent paper losses to offset taxable income, no benefit to keeping your money in Bermuda, etc. Eliminating income and investment taxes alone will most likely result in the re-patriation of some ten trillion dollars currently held in offshore accounts.

    I'd go back to reading a bit of Adam Smith, if I were you. The reason why the income tax was his preference was because it was less obtrusive, and as such had the least impact on economic growth

    Smith assumed a government that cared more for prosperity than power.


  • by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @11:29PM (#14880488)
    I'll counter with a quote from Milton Friedman

    That's an Appeal to Authority argument. Even Friedman's quote does not say exactly how the free market will deal with a natural monopoly. He just says that he prefers it to not be regulated "where this is tolerable." You simply state then that it's better to be without regulation.

    Natural monopolies can still be defeated using market techniques if you really want to defeat the monopoly. Regulated monopolies are government sponsored and can never go away. We don't want nationalized or heavily regulated industries; they hurt the economy and the consumer more than an unfettered natural monopoly does.

    You state that natural monopolies can be defeated by market techniques, but you don't state how. That's what I asked. Blind assertions that it can happen are pointless. How exactly does the market defeat a natural monopoly which is what happens when economies of scale make the largest player capable of under-cutting all competitors due to having less fixed costs (and not having to charge as little as possible due to the fact that competitors can't match them)?

    Also, you seem to be confusing regulation with state ownership. There's a difference between the government saying that only one company can do the job and the government saying that you guys all have to share access to customers and justly compensate one another for the privilege, that you can't collude with each other to avoid competition, and that you can't use control of a resource vital to the industry (like oil barrels) to force out competition. You seem guilty of the same sin of confusing the opponent's argument that I did.

    Libertarians recognize that the government has a monopoly on force. Libertarians, however, recognize that there are legitimate usages for using government power (the military and law enforcement are big examples). That is what separates libertarian from anarchocapitalism.

    My bad. The Liberatarian Party is currently infested with anarchocapitalists, so it gets really hard to determine who you're arguing with when you talk Liberatarian politics. You had derided government for possessing that power earlier, so I incorrectly assumed that you were of that bent.

    If you wan't a Liberatarian ideal state, you're correct in saying that none has ever existed. The closest we've had is industrial revolution America -- the so-called Guilded Age. It was a time of unprecedented consolidation of power and wealth into the hands of a few men thanks to anti-competitive business practices, and it saw a lot of workers put through such misery that it birthed socialism and the labor movement as a backlash.

    Getting back to the topic, redistribution of wealth doesn't help the poor improve their economic situation; it only keeps the poor impoverished, and the poor remain dependent on the "safety net" forever. Poor people are also hurt by lack of capital, lack of property (real estate), and lack of education. Egalitarianism makes everybody equally poor, and egalitarian goals like redistribution of wealth are completely opposite to the goals of liberty.

    No, I'm afraid I'll have to strongly disagree here. Wealth is Power.

    Let me repeat that: Wealth is Power. Concentrations of Power are inherently in opposition to liberty. When the people are marginalized, uneducated, and worn-down, they become non-participants in a political process that leaves them jaded until at some point they boil over into revolution.

    There have been essentially only three distributions of wealth on the planet and they've all been strongly correlated with certain types of government -- pyramid shaped, diamond shaped, and flat. Pyramid-shaped happens in societies with a controlling elite and has been the shape of monarchies and dictatorships both rich and impoverished. Flat-shaped happens in anarchy and in early communism (before it goes pyramid-shaped due to corruption) where no one has power. Diamond-shaped is the shap
  • by smagruder ( 207953 ) <> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @11:56PM (#14880612) Homepage
    What I want is a party that:
    • defends civil liberties to the hilt.
    • engenders _true_ free market competition and regularly breaks up monopolies (no more support of farcical "free markets" that really means support of rampaging global corporatists and oligarchs).
    • avidly supports and values small business and decentralized business in general over centralized big corporate business.
    • maintains an absolute separation of church and state (this falls under defending civil liberties).
    • understands that shared infrastructure and the commons are key to society's development and enrichment.
    • is suspicious of *both* industrial and government power, but understands that _elected_ government entities have a role in ensuring that power players don't screw up civil liberties and that shared infrastructure is constructed and maintained.
    • will value everyday citizens over corporate CEOs, a large minority of whom are sociopathic.
    • provides both basic health care and education, with options for citizens to seek private alternatives or add-ons.
    • will deflate the military-industrial complex and *stop* getting the U.S. into elective conflicts.
    • will get serious about energy alternatives and environmental protection.

    Any party up to fulfilling this platform?

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.