Establishment Democrats Relying On New McCarthyism To Attack The Left As They Move To The Right

With the Democratic Party moving right, becoming increasingly like the Republican Party of circa 2002, while current Republicans have become even further detached from reality, they have also increasingly been attacking the left. We already have gone through the last election watching Hillary Clinton campaign against Medicare for All, promoting restrictions on civil liberties, and defending her failed history of neocon interventionism, while her supporters attributed criticism from the left to sexism, and have moved closer towards embracing neoconservativism. This may have just foreshadowed what to expect in the future.

Ryan Cooper recently discussed how the left questions establishment Democrats such as  Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick over their records. He predicted in The Week how the Democratic establishment will respond by continuing to play dirty against the left:

..if they just want to have a retread of the 2015-16 primary, the center could just try to win dirty. The left, they might say (working hand-in-glove with sympathetic columnists), just doesn’t like minority or female candidates because they are racist and sexist.

I would bet quite a lot of money the centrist Democratic establishment will opt for the latter strategy. Indeed, some are already doing so — like Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, elite Democrats’ in-house think tank.

That would be pretty rich coming from the crowd that shamelessly leveraged Islamophobia to keep Keith Ellison — probably the left’s second-most trusted politician, after Bernie Sanders — out of the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Of course that is what we are already seeing. Just today Shareblue has a defense of Kamala Harris which resorts to such dirty attacks, claiming that the objection to Harris from the left is that she “shares a gender with Hillary Rodham Clinton.”

Such attacks on the left based upon false claims of misogyny are especially absurd considering that many people who ultimately backed Sanders had previously supported Elizabeth Warren before she declined to run. Some wound up voting for Jill Stein. Many are now backing Tulsi Gabbard for the 2020 nomination. (Many of us are also excited about Jodie Whittaker breaking the glass ceiling in the TARDIS.)

Many of the most vile attacks on Bernie Sanders and the left have come from former Clinton staffer Peter Daou, who runs Shareblue. The Washington Free Beacon showed a recent tirade from Daou on Twitter within the past week. Conservative Democrats (often labeled centrists in light of how far right the middle has moved in American politics) have become the major opponents of liberal and progressive ideas, while turning to the tactics of the far right.

George Zornick responded to MyCarthy style attacks on Bernie Sanders from Peter Daou and Melissa McEwan in an article at The Nation entitled, Bernie Sanders Is a Russian Agent, and Other Things I Learned This Week: A case study in how fake news is attracting liberals. He pointed out how Peter Daou has started a string of accusations that Sanders is practically a Russian agent based upon false claims:

The jumping-off point seems to have been when Peter Daou, an avowed Hillary Clinton fan and major Twitter personality, quoted-tweeted my original post. Daou spends almost as much time energetically trashing Sanders as he does attacking Trump, and many of the respondents were followers of his. He certainly did not imply Sanders was a secret KGB asset, though, writing only: “Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the ONLY TWO VOTES **AGAINST** the Russia sanctions bill. Bernie was out of sync with every Dem senator.” (It was a Russia/Iran sanctions bill, and Sanders made it clear he objected only to the Iran part, but never mind.)

Sanders made his position quite clear, including on his web site, but such facts are irrelevant to anti-liberal hatchet men like Daou who are more interested in Swift Boating Sanders (even if Sanders’ concerns were also expressed by John Kerry). If anything, I think that Sanders has been too accepting of the Democratic party line on Russia, which goes far beyond the facts which have been established. Despite this, while Daou’s followers on social media have found it a sign of extremism that Sanders and Paul voted together, I see a view shared by two Senators who frequently differ from their party’s orthodoxy to be worthy of consideration.

Zornick went on:

So how did people jump to this conclusion that Bernie Sanders, by opposing Democrats, must ipso facto be working at the behest of Russia? It wasn’t entirely organic. And it points to how fake news can infect some of our brethren on the left.

Blame starts with the people with megaphones that peddle this nonsense. Eric Garland, who became a Twitter celebrity with his bizarre “game theory” thread, has explicitly tied Sanders to Russia in his threads. So has Melissa McEwan on her Shakesville blog. “Bernie Sanders, who has visited Russia, has not been, to my knowledge, suspected of being vulnerable by Russian kompromat cultivated on his visits, unlike Donald Trump. But, as I said above, if I intend to say something, I will state it plainly, and here I am plainly stating that I do believe these connections warrant more scrutiny,” she wrote. The Palmer Report, which churns out Russia-related fake news by the pixel load, wrote a post in April: “Bernie Sanders must disclose what he knows about his campaign adviser Tad Devine and Russia.” And of course, uber-grifter Louise Mensch has joined the conspiracy theorists.

We have a long way to go until the 2020 primary battles and can expect to see far more of such dirty tactics from conservative Democrats who place victory for someone with a D after their name over principle, failing to understand that their abandonment of principle is a major reason why Democrats have been on such a losing streak and could not even beat Donald Trump.

Update: 

Democrats Risk Blowback On Russia Narrative

Vox, A Voice Of The Democratic Establishment, Now Realizes That Bernie Sanders Is The Democrats’ Real 2020 Frontrunner

During the 2016 campaign, Matthew Yglesias and Vox were often seen as a voice for Hillary Clinton and “Neoliberal Corporatism.” It is with this background that I find it significant that Yglesias now proclaims that Bernie Sanders is the Democrats’ real 2020 frontrunner. While many establishment Democrats continue to resist Sanders and his supporters to various degrees, there are signs such as this that others are acknowledging this reality.

The post by Yglesias makes some points which I have made in the past, leaves out some things of significance, and does have some interesting material which Sanders supporters might not be aware of.

Yglesias does repeat a point I have made previously, both in the context of one reason why Sanders lost, along with an explanation for why Sanders went on to back Clinton and try to work with the establishment. It is important to understand how things looked before Sanders entered the race. Clinton’s nomination appeared inevitable and nobody (including Sanders) thought he had a chance. Sanders two main goals were to force Democrats to consider his economic views, and to strengthen his position in the party in order to push his priorities in the future. As Vox put it:

By the time it was clear the Sanders 2016 campaign had legs, it was already fatally hobbled. Almost no one believed in the summer and fall of 2015 that he stood any chance of beating Hillary Clinton — and that included Sanders himself. As Patrick Healy and Yamiche Alcindor reported last April, he “was originally skeptical that he could beat Mrs. Clinton, and his mission in 2015 was to spread his political message about a rigged America rather than do whatever it took to win the nomination” and only began to really focus on trying to win when his poll numbers unexpectedly soared in early 2016.

Consequently, labor leaders who sympathized with Sanders’s critique of Clinton didn’t give any serious thought to actually endorsing him. Instead, they used his presence in the race as leverage to extract concessions on issues like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Cadillac tax on high-value health insurance plans from Clinton.

And since Sanders was running to raise the profile of his issues rather than to win, he didn’t bother to develop much in the way of answers to foreign policy questions, even though Clinton’s record of support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and her hawkish instincts were some of her biggest vulnerabilities with the Democratic Party base.

Elected officials were almost uniformly afraid to endorse him, even if their policy views were closer to his than to Clinton’s, and left-of-center think tanks — including ones that are deliberately positioned to the left of mainstream Democrats ideologically — shied away from working with Sanders on policy development, for fear that Clinton’s wrath would destroy them if they did.

I would also add that the view that he could not win also affected Sanders’ early strategy. He continued to work in the Senate and initially only campaigned part time. If he realized how close the campaign would be he might have campaigned more in 2015, including going to the Super Tuesday states and work earlier to increase minority support. He might also have protested more about the lack of early debates, and made an issue out of Clinton’s scandals.

The lack of early debates also brings up another point which Yglesias ignored–the degree to which the nomination was rigged for Clinton from the start. There was undoubtedly pressure to clear the field for her, and Wikileaks made it clear that the DNC was not following their own rules about neutrality. This has further been confirmed in the class action lawsuit against the DNC.

Rules since McGovern, including Super Delegates and front loading the process with southern states, were specifically written to get a more conservative nominee. The irony is that they failed to change with the times, and these rules gave the Democrats a nominee who could not even beat Donald Trump, while harming a strong general election candidate such as Sanders when he did arise.

Rather than reverse the outdated rules, the Democrats instead altered the rules even further in 2016 to help Clinton. This included limiting debates, changing fund raising rules, and refraining from announcing the popular vote in Iowa, which Sanders probably won, as was done in 2008. Harry Reid’s actions in Nevada, at a time when he claimed to be neutral, also helped tilt the race towards Clinton. Despite the primary process, Hillary Clinton was chosen in back rooms by the Democratic establishment in 2016 in a manner which was little different than how parties picked their nominees in the proverbial smoke filled rooms in the past, ultimately costing the Democrats the election.

Things will be different in 2020. Yglesias also points to how Sanders is building a team to expand upon the issues he raised in 2008. As I noted again yesterday, among the major reasons I supported Sanders were his opposition to the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, as opposed to the major issues he campaigned on. A future campaign will hopefully include these issues. Yglesias wrote:

Earlier this year, Sanders — who doesn’t sit on the Foreign Relations, Armed Services, or Intelligence Committees — quietly added to his team Matt Duss, a veteran Middle East analyst known for looking askance at America’s tendency toward uncritical alliance with Saudi Arabia and Israel. It’s a clear sign that Sanders, who had a keen interest in left-wing foreign policy as mayor of Burlington but hasn’t had much of a profile on the issue in Congress, is serious about being able to play competently on the full spectrum of issues.

Sanders also picked up Ari Rabin-Havt, best known in recent years for his Sirius XM radio show but previously an adviser for Harry Reid in his early years as Democrats’ Senate leader.

While Sanders is deepening his team in Washington, his national political organization Our Revolution is diligently working to get Sanders supporters elected to state and local offices. Critically, the list of Our Revolution winners — a group that includes House members, state legislators, state party chairs, and even city council members — is quite ethnically diverse. His camp is aware that 2016’s African-American outreach strategy was flawed in both concept and execution, and he’s setting himself up to be able to count on black and Latino elected officials from all regions of the country as surrogates while also courting national leaders like the NAACP’s William Barber.

Yglesias also says that Sanders is moderating his views, but if true he does remain well to the left of Hillary Clinton. While Clinton campaigned against single payer health care, Sanders continues to push for Medicare-for-all. I cannot disagree with Yglesias when he points out that Sanders’ age could be a problem in 2020. We will have to wait and see if he is still up to running. The post did look at other possible candidates should Sanders not run, concluding by saying that “Among the Bernie faithful the most frequently named fallback candidate isn’t the well-known Warren or labor-liberal warhorse Sherrod Brown. It’s Nina Turner…”

Yglesias ended with a strong argument that “It’s time to take Bernie Sanders seriously”

The Democratic Party establishment is, in many respects, in worse shape than it realizes.

Sanders’s insurgent campaign revealed a Democratic Party electorate that is fairly eager to embrace an ideological champion as a progressive counterpoint to the decidedly conservative GOP. The notion of pragmatism continues to carry weight, but having lost control of all three branches of the federal government and blundered to a point where Democrats don’t control the state Senate in New York or the governor’s mansion in Illinois, party leaders’ credentials as strategic masterminds are in question.

Last but by no means least, relying on African-American voters as a bulwark against left-wingery, as Clinton did, is tenuous as black views on economic policy are generally quite left-wing. Democrats now rely heavily for votes on the large — and very Democratic-leaning — millennial generation that lacks clear political memories of the Cold War or the booming neoliberal economy of the 1990s, so “socialism” isn’t a scare word for them, even as it remains unpopular nationally.

Sanders became their champion over the course of 2016 and continues to hold that status now. But while in 2016 he faced a unified — and intimidating — opponent and launched with a ramshackle campaign, today he has a strong national political organization, a proven fundraising track record, and is moving decisively to address his weak points on international affairs, policy development, and minority outreach. Everyone agrees that in a perfect world he’d also wave a magic wand and scrape 10 or 15 years off his age, but that’s not possible. The movement he’s created lacks an obviously more compelling successor, and he continues to be broadly popular with the public.

Predicting the future is a mug’s game. But if Bernie Sanders runs again, he’ll be hard to beat. And as far as one can tell, he’s doing everything you would do to set yourself up to run again.

While I often disagreed with Yglesias during the 2016 campaign, this is a far more realistic viewpoint than he expressed previously, and far more realistic than the delusional account of the race which Peter Daou posted on Facebook today.

Matt Taibbi Stands Up To Putin-Based Smears Against Sanders Supporters And The Left

Supporters of Hillary Clinton not only disagree with the left on the issues, but also try to deny the legitimacy of disagreement. They have tried to dismiss opposition to her views and conduct as sexist or right wing (even when they are supporting the more conservative candidate). More recently we have seen a form of McCarthyism from Clinton supporters and the Democratic establishment, as they have tried to make a case that opposition to Clinton, and support for Bernie Sanders, is based upon Russian propaganda. As seen above, this includes Peter Daou, a long-time practitioner of dirty politics for Team Clinton, who previously found ways to blame everything on sexism.

There many areas of disagreement between the left and Clinton, as I discussed in the previous post. As I noted, Clinton’s record on corporate influence on public policy received the most publicity during the campaign, as this is what Sanders concentrated on, but those who opposed Clinton also disagreed with her on many other issues, including foreign policy and interventionism, civil liberties, many social/cultural issues, the drug war, and health care (especially with Clinton attacking Medicare for All with bogus claims). These issues have nothing to do with support for Putin or any fake news from Russia. Clintonistas are even less tolerant of opposition to their neoconservative views than Bush supporters were.

Matt Taibbi looked at the dangers of the Putin Derangement Syndrome which the Democratic establishment is suffering from:

These stories insist that, among other things, these evil bots pushed on the unwitting “bros” juicy “fake news” stories about Hillary being “involved with various murders and money laundering schemes.”

Some 13.2 million people voted for Sanders during the primary season last year. What percentage does any rational person really believe voted that way because of “fake news”?

I would guess the number is infinitesimal at best. The Sanders campaign was driven by a lot of factors, but mainly by long-developing discontent within the Democratic Party and enthusiasm for Sanders himself.

To describe Sanders followers as unwitting dupes who departed the true DNC faith because of evil Russian propaganda is both insulting and ridiculous. It’s also a testimony to the remarkable capacity for self-deception within the leadership of the Democratic Party.

If the party’s leaders really believe that Russian intervention is anywhere in the top 100 list of reasons why some 155 million eligible voters (out of 231 million) chose not to pull a lever for Hillary Clinton last year, they’re farther along down the Purity of Essence nut-hole than Mark Warner.

Moreover, even those who detest Trump with every fiber of their being must see the dangerous endgame implicit in this entire line of thinking. If the Democrats succeed in spreading the idea that straying from the DNC-approved candidate – in either the past or the future – is/was an act of “unwitting” cooperation with the evil Putin regime, then the entire idea of legitimate dissent is going to be in trouble.

Imagine it’s four years from now (if indeed that’s when we have our next election). A Democratic candidate stands before the stump, and announces that a consortium of intelligence experts has concluded that Putin is backing the hippie/anti-war/anti-corporate opposition candidate.

Or, even better: that same candidate reminds us “what happened last time” when people decided to vote their consciences during primary season. It will be argued, in seriousness, that true Americans will owe their votes to the non-Putin candidate. It would be a shock if some version of this didn’t become an effective political trope going forward.

A (Valid) Media Attack On Trump And A (Nonsensical) Defense Of Clinton

Apparently the 2016 election will never end. The week began with major pieces on both of the awful major party candidates. The Los Angeles Times started a four part series on Donald Trump yesterday, starting with Our Dishonest President. The major points were:

  • Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based.
  • His utter lack of regard for truth.
  • His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas.

Part II, Why Trump Lies, was posted today:

Even American leaders who lie generally know the difference between their statements and the truth. Richard Nixon said “I am not a crook” but by that point must have seen that he was. Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” but knew that he did.

The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact so profound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth.

His approach succeeds because of his preternaturally deft grasp of his audience. Though he is neither terribly articulate nor a seasoned politician, he has a remarkable instinct for discerning which conspiracy theories in which quasi-news source, or which of his own inner musings, will turn into ratings gold. He targets the darkness, anger and insecurity that hide in each of us and harnesses them for his own purposes. If one of his lies doesn’t work — well, then he lies about that.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is as terrible as the Times says, but we must not make the mistake of falling into the trap of binary thinking and ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton is not much better–and likely could have done more harm than Trump because she could act with the support of the establishment.

The Guardian has a pathetic attempt to white wash Hillary Clinton by Susan Bordo. It repeats pretty much every bogus argument which we have heard from Clinton apologists, and which I have already debunked in great detail in previous posts, so I will only touch on the highlights here. Bordo learned nothing from the 2016 election, blaming James Comey, sexism, and especially Bernie Sanders for Clinton losing, while showing zero understanding why Clinton was ethically and ideologically unfit for the presidency.

The absurdities of her argument begin the header which says her book “asks how the most qualified candidate ever to run for president lost the seemingly unloseable election.” She botched health care reform as First Lady. She promoted right wing goals in the Senate, including working with The Fellowship to increase the role of religion in public policy, pushed for war in Iraq based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaedda (despite failing to even read the intelligence prepared for Senators), and has consistently supported restricting civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism (and flag burners). She was a failed Secretary of State who continued to promote interventionism, learning nothing from her mistake in Iraq, failed to abide by the ethics agreements she entered into, and used the position to make money from influence peddling. She was a terrible candidate in two presidential elections. She was wrong on virtually every major decision in her career. How does that translate to most qualified or make any honest observers all that surprised that she lost?

The excerpt from her book repeats the usual claims of sexism, ignoring the fact that the left has opposed DLC, Third Way Democrats like both Bill and Hillary Clinton since the 1990’s. We did not want to see any more Bushes or Clintons in office. Both Clintons and the Bushes all represent essentially the same thing, and the opposition was not limited to Hillary. Many of those who voted for Sanders in the primaries initially supported Elizabeth Warren, and some went on to vote for Jill Stein, with gender not being a factor.

Bordo complains that Sanders branded Clinton as “establishment,” even though Hillary Clinton was the strongest proponent of the Bush/Clinton establishment, and biggest opponent of change, around. She complains about Bernie running against her, ignoring the fact that this is a part of living in a democracy. She complained about how Bernie campaigned against Clinton, while failing to provide any real examples of improper conduct on his part. She ignored how dishonest Clinton’s campaign against Sanders was, from her repeated lies about his record in debates, to her lies about the email scandal and FBI investigation.

Bordo tried to claim Clinton is a progressive and minimize the difference in ideology between Clinton and Sanders supporters, despite rather vast differences of opinion on many issues.  Clinton’s record on corporate influence on public policy received the most publicity during the campaign, as this is what Sanders concentrated on, but those who opposed Clinton also disagreed with her on many other issues, including foreign policy and interventionism, civil liberties, many social/cultural issues, the drug war, and health care (especially with Clinton attacking Medicare for All with bogus claims).

Clinton’s negatives eliminated any advantage other candidates would have had against Donald Trump. Her dishonesty and influence peddling destroyed any advantage in running against the dishonesty and corruption of Trump. Clinton was out-flanked on the left by Trump during the election on foreign policy and economics, despite how incoherent his policies were. Her views on civil liberties were not all that different from what was expressed by Trump. The Clinton record on mass incarceration and immigration further negated Trump’s negatives.

Clinton lost because she was a terrible candidate and ran a terrible campaign, failing to give any reasons to vote for her beyond gender and claims that it was her turn. It is a mistake for Bordo to blame Sanders. Even if Sanders had not run, those of us who opposed Clinton would have still opposed her candidacy. I opposed Clinton in 2015/6 for the same reasons I opposed her eight years previously, and frequently for the same reasons I opposed George Bush. This was because of her dishonesty, her corruption, and how she has spent her career undermining liberal viewpoints. My opposition to Clinton had nothing to do with her gender and did not come from Bernie Sanders.

Update: Some Clinton apologists (including Peter Daou) have moved on from the bogus claims of sexism to adopting McCarthyist tactics in claiming that opposition to Clinton’s policies and support for Bernie Sanders were plot of a Russian plot.

Signs Democrats Are Rejecting The Gutter Politics Of David Brock & Peter Daou

One of the many downsides of Donald Trump’s election is having people like Steve Bannon working in the White House. However, if Clinton had won, we might have had people nearly as bad from Team Hillary such as Sidney Blumenthal, Peter Daou, and David Brock.

We learned during the email scandal that Hillary Clinton was receiving advice from Sydney Blumenthal, who also had conflicting business interests in Libya. Peter Daou continues to attack Bernie Sanders and his supporters on Facebook and Twitter, often directly naming “white males” as the enemy, failing to see anything wrong with attacks based upon gender and race. He has attributed any opposition to the policies or unethical conduct of Hillary Clinton as being based on sexism. Former Republican hit man David Brock, turned Clinton hit man utilizing the same unsavory tactics, is trying to promote himself as a leader of the Democratic opposition to Donald Trump.

During the election campaign, the activities of David Brock and Peter Daou to promote Hillary Clinton’s campaign was the topic of an article in The New York Times. They continued their gutter politics, directed towards Bernie Sanders and his supporter, after the election. Jeff Weaver responded to the attack:

The knives are out on the Democratic side after the unexpected victory of Donald Trump. Not surprisingly, the first attacks have been launched by the experts on mudslinging against fellow Democrats: David Brock and those whose lease he holds like Peter Daou. Brock’s long history of character assassination and penchant for attacking those on the left continues…

Rather than face the very real challenge of remedying this situation, some have taken to blaming pollsters and data analysts for Hillary Clinton’s loss. After all, it’s much easier to bash those who didn’t see the wheels coming off the train rather than asking why the wheels were coming off in the first place.

Now we’re witnessing the scapegoating of Sanders and his supporters. Most of us knew this predictably lazy attack would come. Somehow, Senator Sanders is to blame because he brought millions into the Democratic Party process by articulating a positive vision of economic, racial, environmental and social justice…

Now he wants Democratic donors to replenish his coffers with millions for another round of mud-slinging. Hopefully, Democratic donors won’t let themselves be scammed again.

And hopefully, the Democratic Party re-establishes faith with the American working class in every zip code by authentically offering a bold and positive vision — a vision with no room for the ineffective gutter politics that benefit Mr. Brock and his friends.

There is hope that Democrats have learned their lesson and might be rejecting the gutter politics of Brock and Daou if this article from The Daily Beast is correct. Asawin Suebsaeng writes that Democrats are rejecting such a role for David Brock, with even some Clinton supporters now sick of Brock:

As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding a demoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.

Many in the party—Clinton loyalists, Obama veterans, and Bernie supporters alike—talk about the man not as a sought-after ally in the fight against Trumpism, but as a nuisance and a hanger-on, overseeing a colossal waste of cash. And former employees say that he has hurt the cause…

…many Democratic grassroots activists and campaign alums have been giving his proposed plans some stern side-eye.

“His ability to produce wins for Democrats is nonexistent,” Jeff Weaver, former campaign manager for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential run, told The Daily Beast. “He does not have the kind of understanding of what kind of coalition you have to bring together to win national races—that’s his fundamental problem.”

During the 2016 election, Brock and his network positioned themselves as prominent allies to the Clinton campaign, generating opposition research, stunts, and ads against Trump, and supporting Clinton in the primary.

Brock bragged early last year that his team had assembled a mountain of damning oppo that could “knock Trump Tower down to the sub-basement.”

But Trump Tower still stands, and Brock’s groups failed to help Clinton to victory.

I would add that the dirty nature of Clinton’s campaigns is precisely one of the reasons that Clinton lost. While many (but not all) of the attacks on Trump from the Clinton camp were accurate, they were not enough to overcome Clinton’s own negatives. Trump managed to pull in enough votes in the rust belt with promises of jobs to win the election. Such talk about the issues, even if he probably cannot keep his promises, were more appealing than the negative message from the Clinton campaign, which failed to provide any positive arguments to vote for her other than her gender and the belief that it was her turn.

Suebsaeng continued:

It’s clear why Brock has acquired a long list of enemies on the more progressive corners of his own party. Brock’s political evolution is well-known: the former anti-Clinton right-winger who starting in the late 1990s transformed into a relentlessly pro-Clinton Democratic operative.

But the friction between Brock and Democrats is not merely limited to its more progressive faction—many alumni of Obama’s campaigns and White House, as well as Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 run, say they want Brock to stay far away from the Democrats’ future plans.

“I don’t think David Brock has been helpful to the party to date, and I don’t think he will be a big part of its future,” a former senior Clinton campaign official told The Daily Beast. “And it’s surprising that many other people don’t see it that way.”

Another senior 2016 Clinton aide, who asked not to be named because the ex-staffer did “not want to deal with Brock’s bullshit,” described Brock and his organizations in 2016 as “useless—you might as well have thrown those [tens of] millions of dollars down a well, and then set the well on fire.”

Two sources told The Daily Beast that in the last couple of months Brock and his team reached out to former Clinton campaign officials, including ex-national press secretary Brian Fallon, to join Brock’s new anti-Trump “war room.” All, however, declined the offer simply because “no one wants anything to do with him,” one source recalled. (Fallon did not respond to a request for comment.)

Other opinions expressed about Brock:

“I met with I’m a couple times—he’s fucking weird,” a former Obama administration official, who also requested anonymity, told The Daily Beast. “I felt like I was meeting Mugatu from Zoolander… I don’t know what the fuck [Brock’s network] did besides raise a ton of money, and I don’t think the after-action report on 2016 says we need more David Brock. Probably the opposite is true.”

And:

“He has a tendency to overstate his level of impact and importance,” a former operative of one of Brock’s organizations said. “There is a sense [in Brock’s own groups] that he cares less about progressive policies and moving the ball forward, and is actually more focused on stroking his ego.”

Another Democratic operative close to the Brock empire told The Daily Beast that the experience working with him only deepened suspicions that Brock cared more about himself than the liberal base or the party at large.

“Somewhere along the way, it became instead of putting the mission of American Bridge [or Media Matters] first, it became about putting him first, growing his power in the party—his popularity,” the operative said. “There’s no question that his groups were the least effective of 2016. If anything they did harm.”

The staffer concluded: “I have never worked somewhere with so much unlimited resources [where] I don’t think they’re used efficiently.”

If the Democrats are going to rebuild in time for the crucial 2020 elections, it is important that they stop acting like Republicans to give voters a reason to support them. Rejecting the gutter politics of people like David Brock is an important step.

Clinton Campaign Targeting Johnson & Stein, Fearing Loss Of Millennial Votes

johnson-stein

The Democratic Party made a clear mistake in nominating a candidate as weak as Hillary Clinton when Bernie Sanders was polling much better against Trump and other potential Republican opponents. While matters are easier for Clinton with a candidate as awful as Trump, she does have a problem which the Democrats would not have with Bernie–motivating young voters to turn out to vote for her as opposed to staying home or voting for third party candidates.

In most elections, the major party candidates ignore the minor party candidates as they rarely have an impact on the election. With candidates as terrible as Clinton and Trump, there is increased interest in Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. The Hill reports that Democrats are targeting the Libertarian Party ticket:

Democrats panicked by third-party candidates drawing support away from Hillary Clinton are ramping up their attacks against Gary Johnson and warning that a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump.

Liberal groups are passing around embarrassing videos of Johnson and running ads against him warning about his positions on issues like climate change that are important to young voters and independents…

The Clinton campaign and its liberal allies are increasingly taking the threat from Johnson and Stein seriously, making direct appeals to young voters and punching down at the third-party candidates they view as potential spoilers.

“Young voters are suggesting that they’re uncomfortable with Clinton and are using Johnson and Stein as protest votes,” said Douglas Schoen, a former official in the Bill Clinton administration. “The campaign must make the case that unless young people vote for Clinton, they’re effectively voting for Trump.”

NextGen Climate, the group run by liberal billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, is on the ground in eight battleground states with a message that is almost exclusively aimed at reaching the millennial voters who are energized by the issue of climate change.

Last week, the group threw six figures behind digital ads mocking Johnson as a climate change denier and warning millennials that climate change will cost them trillions of dollars.

A source at NextGen told The Hill the group will be looking to turn out young voters for Hillary Clinton and down-ballot Democrats with a texting campaign in the battleground states and a carpooling service that will drive them to the polls.

The Libertarians have also attracted the ire of a group called ShareBlue, which is owned by longtime Clinton ally David Brock. The unabashedly pro-Clinton, for-profit media company has a strong following in the realm of progressive social media and has been using its platform in part to hammer Johnson as a flaky Republican.

ShareBlue CEO Peter Daou, a veteran of John Kerry’s and Clinton’s past presidential campaigns, told The Hill he’s targeting Johnson and Weld from the policy side and making the case for why their platform should be anathema to progressives.

Daou’s website is also targeting Stein, who is pulling support from the far left. A recent post argued that Johnson and Stein “are not serious candidates.”

Johnson and Weld hold liberal views on issues like marijuana legalization, abortion rights and non-interventionist foreign policy that have helped them gain traction among some young voters.

But both former Republican governors tend to hew closer to the conservative orthodoxy on issues like taxation, minimum wage, Social Security and Medicare, environmental regulation, and school choice.

While not true that Johnson is a climate denier as the pro-Clinton group claims, there are a number of problems with his views, including his views on environmental regulation. Even with these flaws, Johnson would be preferable to Clinton and Trump. All three have poor environmental records, making this a poor issue to determine who to vote for. Johnson is far preferable to Clinton on major issues such as opposing Clinton’s conservative views on military interventionism, civil liberties, and the drug war. Fortunately Jill Stein presents an alternative to Clinton, Trump, and Johnson who shares Johnson’s views on these issues without the major drawbacks in other areas.

While Peter Daou’s arguments for Clinton often are totally irrational, from ignoring the importance of avoiding unnecessary wars and defending First Amendment rights to attributing any criticism of Clinton to sexism, he does realize that Stein is a potential threat to Clinton. While the source of the attacks have not been positively identified, Clinton supporters have often been attacking Stein on line with fabricated attacks, falsely claiming this Harvard trained physician is anti-science and anti-vaccines.

If the Clinton campaign really wants to contrast their views with those of Johnson and Stein, how about allowing them in the debates rather than using arbitrary rules to keep them out? That would be a far more significant debate than the one we had this week.

Clinton is hoping that using Bernie Sanders as a surrogate will encourage millennial voters to turn out for her. It remains to be seen whether young voters concerned about ending the state of perpetual warfare will vote for Clinton even if Bernie is campaigning for her.

Clinton is even having problems with one group which she did not expect problems with–African American and Hispanic voters. Politico reports that the Clinton campaign is in “panic mode” over the loss of support from black voters in Florida:

To kill Donald Trump’s chances of capturing the White House, Hillary Clinton needs to win Florida. And to do that, she needs a big minority turnout.

But Democrats are beginning to worry that too many African-American voters are uninspired by Clinton’s candidacy, leading her campaign to hit the panic button this week and launch an all-out blitz to juice-up voter enthusiasm…

Clinton faces a similar potential problem with Hispanic voters. Though Florida Hispanics back her by double-digit margins similar to the level of support Obama enjoyed, activists fear their turnout rate will be lower. Hispanics account for more than 15 percent of the Florida voter rolls and African-Americans are more than 13 percent. About 65 percent of registered voters are non-Hispanic white, and they heavily favor Trump.

Clinton Supporters Can Attribute Any Criticism To Sexism

Peter Daou Press Conference

Among the many disturbing things we are seeing from the Clinton camp is their attribution of almost all criticism to sexism, along with their hostility towards the free press. Peter Daou, a  former Clinton adviser, who continues to push heavily for her, showed how ridiculous they can be with this tweet: “Make no mistake: the media’s obsession with forcing a #Hillary press conference is ALL ABOUT HER GENDER.”

Yes, attribute it to sexism when Clinton avoids answering questions, despite two recent reports which have demonstrated that she has been lying to the American people about major scandals for over a year. Both the the State Department Inspector General report and the FBI director’s statement on the investigation demonstrated that Clinton violated the rules in effect when she became Secretary of State, she acted to cover up her actions,  and that many of the statements she has made since the scandal broke have been false. Fact checkers have pointed out how Clinton has repeatedly lied not only about the scandal, but about what these findings against her demonstrated.

Anyone who is likely to become the next President should be willing to answer questions from the press. Someone tainted by scandals to the degree Hillary Clinton is should especially be questioned. That has nothing to do with her gender. It is a fundamental principle of democracy.

Today The New York Times editorial board discussed the ethical issues involving the Foundation. I imagine that those in the Clinton camp see only sexism, and not questions of ethics. Emma Roller elaborated further on the Opinion Page. Is she also sexist?

Even beyond the recent scandals, Hillary Clinton Clinton has a long history of opposing government transparency, along with a terrible record on First Amendment issues. Objecting to her record on government transparency and First Amendment issues have nothing to do with her gender.

Daou acts as though Clinton is being singled out, but in reality both Clinton and Trump have been criticized by the media for the ways in which they are hindering press coverage. It has nothing to do with gender. Daou acts as though the criticism is all from sexist male reporters, but the criticism has come from journalists and others regardless of their gender. Last month, Carol Lee, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, argued that both Trump and Clinton are a threat to press freedom. Again, her criticism has nothing to do with gender.

Hillary Clinton is likely to become the next president despite having been wrong on virtually every major decision of her career, and despite Hillary and Bill having spent years playing fast and loose with the standards others are held to, both to increase their influence and to amass a huge personal fortune. It is no surprise that Hillary Clinton is not trusted, and that people believe she has a lot of questions to answer.

The Blogosphere vs. Barack Obama

I feel like the we have returned to the days of the 2008 Democratic Primary as a number of liberal bloggers (primarily but not entirely Clinton supporters) have spent the day bashing Obama. The latest round of this got underway with a blog post from Peter Daou (who worked for Hillary Clinton) and was picked up by the usual suspects. Others, such as Ezra Klein and Steve Benen, put the dispute into perspective, with Steve referring back to a recent post which outlined many of the liberal accomplishments under Obama which some on the left often ignore.

From a political perspective, Daou is overstating the problem when claiming that liberal bloggers such as “Glenn Greenwald, John Aravosis, Digby, Marcy Wheeler and Jane Hamsher” are “bringing down the Obama presidency.” Most people haven’t even heard of these bloggers, and polls have shown a very high level of support for Obama among liberals and traditional Democratic voters. Many liberals can handle acknowledging Obama’s accomplishments and showing some understanding of the political situation he is working in while also disagreeing on some issues.

On the other hand, we have seen a number of signs that this criticism is getting under Obama’s skin (along with that of close associates like David Axelrod). It is a safe bet that they are surprised by the amount of criticism they are receiving from those they expected support from. However to claim they are bringing down Obama is absurd. I think that Obama, as well as the Congressional Democrats, face far more problems due to the apathy towards voting from the average voter who is disillusioned by the slow progress on the economy than they are harmed by those who are upset by compromising of progressive principles.

This is not to say that all of those engaging in the Obama bashing today are sore losers among the Clintonistas or that there is no validity to their complaints. Those such as Glenn Greenwald who concentrate on civil liberties issues do have more to legitimately complain about. Even here a bit of perspective is needed from those who claim that Obama is worse than Bush. Obama is well aware that should there be another terrorist attack on his watch the right will blame it on any areas where they could argue Obama let up on the “war on terror.” This could easily result in a right wing backlash with greater restrictions on civil liberties.

It is of value for bloggers such as Greenwald to point out the problems with Obama’s policies but more of a sense of perspective is needed. Some of Obama’s decisions have been wrong, but we are hardly living in a dictatorial police state, or even in a state as bad as we would have under the Republicans as some on the far left claim. (It is also notable that the tea party supporters who attack Obama for a number of imaginary offenses have largely been silent on these issues).

I also could not help but think, seeing how many primary opponents of Obama are leading the attacks, that most likely either Hillary Clinton or John Edwards would be far to the right of Barack Obama on these issues based upon their past records.

While advocates of a single payer system have many valid arguments, it was disappointing during the health care debate to see some such as Jane Hamsher distort the Democratic plan as dishonestly as was done by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Besides, there was zero chance that a single payer plan would pass.

Obama’s mistake here it was more on selling reform as opposed to the type of reform which was passed. The Democrats were delusional to think opposition to health care reform would vanish after passing it, especially when most of the benefits won’t be seen for a couple more years. I don’t buy the argument being made by some that initially pushing for an agenda which is further left would lead to more liberal results, but on health care I do believe that it could have affected public perception of the plan.

Obama antagonized many liberals for quickly shooting down any chance of a single payer plan and also played into the hands of Republicans who falsely claim that his plan represents a government takeover of health care. Imagine if Obama had started out saying there are basically four ideas which might be considered:

  1. “Socialized medicine” where there will be a government run health care system and government bureaucrats run the system.
  2. A single payer plan, like Medicare, in which government pays instead of private insurance companies, with health care facilities remaining in private hands.
  3. A mixed plan similar to the Republican counter-proposal to the Clinton health care plan with controls over what insurance companies could do, exchanges to promote sales of private plans, etc.
  4. Continuing the status quo where bureaucrats from the insurance companies often make the decisions and where many people are denied insurance coverage entirely.

Obama then could reject both socialized medicine and the status quo. When he ultimately went with #3 it would be more accurately framed as a moderate option to the status quo and not a radical plan. Maybe such framing would have even made it easier to push for the public option, which would still be a long way from the rejected choice of socialized medicine.

The Meaning of Massachusetts

It seems that everyone has an immediate opinion as to what the Massachusetts Senate results mean. Everyone is interpreting the Massachusetts results as a wake up call but different people are taking different lessons from it. Is anyone advocating anything different today in response to the results than they were before the loss?

Many on the left are saying this means that Obama should move further to the left. Peter Daou says the lesson is that the Obama administration should pay more attention to bloggers. Moderate Democrats such as Evan Bayh say the lesson is that the party should be more moderate. Conservative politicians and pundits argue this shows the Democrats are too far to the left. In other words, everyone seems to be saying the lesson of the election is exactly what they have been saying all along.

While there is obviously no one answer, I think the problem comes down more to being able to put out a coherent message and find a way to get voters to vote based upon the actual facts, not what is being said on Fox and right wing talk radio. Neither the moderates nor the more liberal Democrats stand a chance when people think that a centrist administration such as Obama’s borders on Marxism.

Beyond this we need more time to analyze the results to really say whether a more liberal or moderate message would win. So far analysis of polls do show that lack of enthusiasm among progressive voters did hurt Coakley.  Health care was a factor, but partially because some voters didn’t think that the health care legislation goes far enough. Obama says that voter anger and frustration were factors.

All is not lost even if Republicans now have a 41-59 “working majority” in the Senate. Democrats still hold the House and White House. What happens in November will depend largely upon what they do with it (and how the economy does as most voters have too short a memory to remember who wrecked the economy).

Changes in the Blogosphere

While traveling last weekend I  lacked the time to post as often as usual and missed some topics. Sarah Palin’s announcement sucked up most of the news last week, but before that there was one other item which was discussed on many blogs. The post attracted considerable attention in the blogosphere because it was a topic of interest to all bloggers–the blogosphere itself.  Laura at 11D discussed the changes in the blogosphere over the past six years and is not happy about many of the changes.

Laura writes that the old A-list bloggers don’t have the same influence as they had in the past:

People used to read the A-list blogs because they were first on the scene to tell us what the hot articles and issues were. But now we get that information from Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader. Does anybody still read Instapundit? Most of the A-List bloggers aren’t all that influential. When I surveyed key journalists about what blogs they read, they rarely pointed to the traditional A-list blogs. They preferred the niche blogs, which brings me to the next topic.

Her next topic is that “If you have a particular expertise and unique perspective, they you can quickly gain a following. Everyone else is out of luck.” I do often suspect that I established my own blog in the nick of time and fear that it would be harder to start a new blog today and achieve even the modest (by old A-list standards) readership I have. If someone is already famous they have a shot at becoming a famous blogger. Otherwise, unless they really have something unique to office, I fear there are just too many blogs, and too many competing sources, to easily get established. Of course as long as a blogger is enjoying what they do it might not matter that it could take a couple years to receive a significant number of readers.

One reason it might be harder for new bloggers is that “Bloggers do not link to each other as much as they used to.” Part of that is burn out. It takes more time to go through all the small blogs and find those which have a unique and quotable take on a story.The value of links, while helpful, can be overrated. Often a link from an A-list blog will bring in a huge amount of traffic for one day, but what really matters is the readers who stick around as opposed to reading one linked post.

A related problem is that there are fewer places that can drive traffic to the small blogs. The Daou Report, which later become the Salon Blog Report, first under Peter Daou and then under Steve Benen after Peter went to work for the dark side, helped highlight the posts of many small bloggers. This is no longer around but there are still some sources which do this. Sites such as Memeorandum and Megite include links to both large and small blogs discussing a story, but far more traffic goes to the headline stories than small bloggers. Real Clear Politics does provide a handful of links every day to small as well as large bloggers. I also have some additional aggregators listed in the links section.

Laura complains about Huffington Post, complaing that “It has sucked up all the readers. And HuffPo isn’t a proper blog. It is run by people who don’t link to other bloggers and do not get the old ways and norms that greased the system in the old days.” Actually I have on rare occasions received links from writers at Huffington Post. Other times I  have received traffic from links which people have included in their comments. I have no way to know if I receive more traffic thanks to such links or less due to Huffington Post sucking up readers, but I do not see their existence as a problem. She also sees Twitter and Facebook as problems, but while they might be in some ways competition I often receive traffic from people linking to me from both.

I generally agree with Laura’s comments on the problems with Link Monitoring:

In the past, I could easily figure out which blogs had linked to me and then send them a reciprocal link. For whatever reasons, Google Blog and Technorati aren’t picking up the smaller blogs, and I have no idea who’s linking to me.

Neither has been working well lately, but it isn’t simply a matter of missing smaller blogs. For the last few months Technorati has been missing the vast majority of links that I’m aware of, both from large and small blogs. My Technorati ranking has fallen from over 500 to under 200. While some of the sites linking here in the heat of an election year are no longer linking as much, there are also many blogs which I have exchanged links with over the past six months which are not showing up in Technorati at all. Using Google Blog Search has both the problem of many links being missed along with it adding a new link ever time a handful of blogs with links here enter any post.

Besides missing a tremendous number of links, Technorati rankings mean less as counting links from other blogs means far less than in the past. The idea is that the blogs with the most other blogs linking to them are the most influential. This misses the influence of a large number of forums, Facebook pages, Twitter comments, and links from other sources beyond blogs.

Laura notes that “Many of the top bloggers have been absorbed into some other professional enterprise or are burnt.” Ezra Klein (who himself has turned professional at The Washington Post) elaborated further on this further:

The place has professionalized. Talking Points Memo used to be some unemployed writer’s blog. Now it’s a significant media institution. Atrios used to be the only guy articulating a certain set of progressive frustrations with the media. Now he’s a fellow at Media Matters, a well-funded watchdog organization dedicated to tracking the media in excruciating detail. It used to be that people blogged in their spare time. Now kids graduate from college and apply for jobs as bloggers and, sometimes, internships as assistants on blogs.

This could be taken as good or bad by those of us who prefer our day jobs but still like to blog as a hobby. Independent bloggers are at a disadvantage compared to those who have the name of a professional news organization behind them. Being able to blog full time will also result in advantages. This could be a far better blog if it was my main job and not something done quickly throughout the day, but I’m certainly not going to take a pay cut of that nature.

The professionalization of the blogosphere also does help independent bloggers such as myself if you take the view that a rising tide raises all boats. With many of the old bloggers now becoming professional, the status of the entire blogosphere has risen. Independent blogs can be seen as being something of more significance as part of an entire blogosphere which has greater importance. While my readership might be small compared to that of the professional bloggers, I still have near 10,000 readers for many posts when including those reading trough RSS readers, email subscriptions, Kindle, and regular web surfers. Posts which are picked up by Blogburst are seen by far more readers at the web sites of many newspapers and media sites. Distribution through Newstex further increases the influence of the blog (as well as providing a monthly royalty check). Despite all the difficulties in an amature blogger getting noticed among the professionals, this really is not all that bad for a hobby.