Washington Monthly on Daily Kos
The Washington Monthly looks at Daily Kos. One of our problems with Kos is that, while he bashes those he doesn’t like (such as Kerry) as Bush-lyte without any ideological justification, the candidates he supports are often significantly less liberal than Kerry. Washington Monthly sheds light on this:
The conventional wisdom is that a Democratic Party in which Moulitsas calls the shots would cater to every whim of its liberal base. But though he can match Michael Moore for shrillness, the most salient thing about Moulitsas’s politics is not where he falls on the left-right spectrum (he’s actually not very far left). It’s his relentless competitiveness, founded not on any particular set of political principles, but on an obsession with tactics —and in particular, with the tactics of a besieged minority, struggling for survival: stand up for your principles, stay united, and never back down from a fight. “They want to make me into the latest Jesse Jackson, but I’m not ideological at all,” Moulitsas told me, “I’m just all about winning.”
One of the problems with Kos is that he gave misleading impressions that victory over Bush should be easy, ignoring the difficulties in beating an incumbent during war time. When Kerry lost, the ditto heads at his site blamed Kerry, weakening the party in the long run. The Washinton Monthly gives a reason as to why readers at Kos had unrealistic expectations:
Moulitsas wasn’t just posting any polls, he was selecting those that suggested Democrats—from John Kerry to congressional candidates—were heading for victory, while downplaying less encouraging signs. It left liberals trapped in a bubble of reassurance. Heading into the election, it would have been reasonable to assume from the evidence presented on Daily Kos that Kerry was the clear favorite to beat Bush, and that Democrats were likely to pick up seats in both houses of Congress. When none of these things happened, there was a sense of incomprehension. All of Kos’s confident predictions had been wrong. “It’s a valid criticism. Looking back, I was too optimistic,” Moulitsas told me. “[At] the beginning, I didn’t even know what a margin of error was.”
While I fear it will be quite damaging to Democrats in the long run to allow Kos to appear as an unofficial spokesman, the article does point out that he has not actually been very successful politically:
Worse, Kos hadn’t just fared poorly as an armchair quarterback—he’d been beaten on the field, too. In the Democratic primaries, he first backed Dean, then Wesley Clark. Both sparked grassroots excitement, but ultimately, of course, flamed out. Then, of the 13 Democratic candidates for Congress that Moulitsas handpicked for his readers to support—and for whom he raised over $500,000– not a single one prevailed.
Ultimately where we differ from Kos is that we care about what happens after a candidate is elected. This is all about the government policies we will ultimately have. Therefore we continue to back John Kerry based upon his policy positions, while Kos continues his vendetta against Kerry dating back to when he was paid to support his primary opponent. While on the one hand Washington Monthly gives Kos far too much importance than it has in politics, it also sums up his failings:
Moulitsas is just basically uninterested in the intellectual and philosophical debates that lie behind the daily political trench warfare. By his own admission, he just doesn’t care about policy. It’s here that the correlation between sports and politics breaks down. In sports, as Vince Lombardi is said to have put it, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” When the season is over, you hang up your cleats and wait for the next season. But in politics, that’s not the case—you have to govern, and if you don’t govern well, you won’t get reelected. So while tactics and message are crucial, most voters will ultimately demand from politicians ideas that give them a sense of what a party is going to do once in power. Wanting to win very badly is an admirable and necessary quality in politics, and Moulitsas is right that Democrats have needed it in greater quantity. But it is not really a political philosophy.