Most of the people who are the "front page" authors at Daily Kos are simply ignorant and destructive. Joy Gray's boorish performance at Network Nation and jejune effort to excuse it is a good example - although "good" is not really the word to describe such nonsense. But Sunday night, when the DailyKos front page featured Gray's article and a number of other efforts to make the Democratic party weaker, DailyKos carried a strange conversation which illuminates the grip that the dysfunctional "progressive narrative" has on even the better writers there. Here's what happened.
One of the few remaining African-American participants at Daily Kos proposed that some writer who generally agrees with the Obama administration should be added to the front page roster. That such a request needs to be made on a forum that bills itself as a "Democratic blog, supporting Democrats" is remarkable in itself. DailyKos's featured writers may disagree on whether the President is just inept and naive or a coward, a traitor, stupid, or corrupt, but the notion that the President is a smart, strong, and generally adept advocate of the well-being of the American people is expressed as often on the DailyKos front page as it is on Fox News. So here's DailyKos author Dante Atkins, who appears to be a genuinely decent committed Democrat, responding in a condescending, narrative blinded, and politically confused way - I'm sure without even having the faintest clue of how offensive he was being.
According to Atkins "believers in progressives ideals" are necessarily critical of the President. Those who think otherwise must "support people over principle", in other words they are emotion driven "fans" or, more harshly, "cultists". And I note that African-Americans on DailyKos have often been told that they support the President purely on racial grounds (because, of course, white critics of the President are color blind and beyond prejudice as they will tell you themselves). This take on the world is counterfactual and enormously condescending and offensive, but it's an article of religious faith in "progressive" America - and one of those things that the believers are so enmeshed in that they cannot even see it. That supporters of the President must be childish fans driven by personality is an axiom of the progressive narrative, not a proposition that one can even discuss.
I support the presidentAnd most of what you see from the front page is a lot of pleading to please, do more.
And it's hard for people who are committed activists and believers in progressive ideals to provide what it seems that you're asking for (unequivocal support), because that belies what we're here for.
A frontpager who supported people over principle probably wouldn't want to write here anyway, because it's the ideals we're committed to and not the person.
And take note of that "unequivocal support" as a characterization of
[Maureen Dowd made the point that ] President Obama has absolutely no one in the media who will speak in his support 100% or even 75% of the time and support his position and initiatives like he’s not half a devil. She discussed how just about every on TV Democratic pundit just thinks they know better. [...]That's a demand for "unequivocal support"? Really?
Can we get at least one front page writer who will fulfill the role that[ Dowd] has described. Just one person who will not attack the President, who will speak of his initiatives as if they want to press for them to work as opposed to looking for failure and pushing memes of weakness and disappointment.
I’m not telling anyone to shut up. I just want some balance.
In a later comment, Atkins goes on to expose two additional axioms of the progressive narrative - that the President's non-confrontational approach is not only weak but misguided, and that the way to influence the administration is to critique the administration.
At the same time, you have to understand that there's a big difference between what the people like me do, and what goes on at some other sites--say, the ones pushing primary challenges, or openly advocating for Obama's defeat. That's not what I'm here for. I'm here to push, in the vein of "make me do it." I want Obama to be stronger, fiercer, bolder. I believe in his best intentions, but I don't believe in his strategy for execution as we've seen it thus far. And that's what i critiqueCertainly, one can argue that the approach the President takes, the same approach he advocated in his books and has both advocated and employed in his entire political career is wrong. But that argument is far from self-evident. The discussion that should happen on progressive blogs about why the "stronger, fiercer, bolder" approach fails so often is not possible as long as it is assumed to be correct and beyond question. The class struggle "bold" adverts of PCCC in Wisconsin, for example, failed to prevent right wing jackass Prosser from winning. It's not uncommon to hear from devotees of the progressive narrative that President Obama needs to sound more like one-term former Congressman Alan Grayson - even though Grayson's approach evidently did not appeal to his constituents. The idea that the President, a man who after all has had a far more successful political career than Grayson, might know what he is doing is not an idea that can even be debated. So the request for a progressive front page author who disagrees with Atkins' evaluation of the President's strategy is a request that Atkins finds basically incomprehensible - not wrong, but incomprehensible and way outside the bounds of discussion.
The other axiom of the 'progressive' narrative is based on a profound misunderstanding of the famous line attributed to FDR - "I agree with you, now make me do it". In the progressive narrative the way you "make him do it" is by telling him that he should "do it" - or often by announcing that his failure to "do it" is evidence of cowardice, corruption, stupidity, venality, or general naivete - by insulting him. It's kind of the Don Rickles motivational theory of politics. The people who made FDR "do it" used a different methodology. They won elections, brought people out onto the streets, shut down huge corporations in strikes, blocked sheriffs sales, and so on. For example, A. Phillip Randolph could credibly threaten to bring a hundred thousand marchers into Washington D.C. unless he got a concrete executive order opening defense jobs to African-Americans. He got the order. Want to see President Obama accelerate troop withdrawals from Afghanistan? Then bring 500,000 people into Washington D.C. to protest the war. Writing blog posts about how much the President sucks is just not going to do the trick, I'm sorry to say. Neither is turning over Senate seats to Republican wingnuts. But it's an axiom of the progressive narrative that "holding his feet to the fire" by complaining is the way to influence policy. And, again, this theory is not one that is open to debate on progressive blogs - it's just known to be true by the believers.
And finally, I want to note Atkins claim that "you have to understand that there's a big difference between what the people like me do, and what goes on at some other sites--say, the ones pushing primary challenges, or openly advocating for Obama's defeat." I don't think that's correct. I think that the unchallenged tide of often very nasty criticism on Daily Kos enables and supports those who push for primary challenges or openly advocate for Obama's defeat. DailyKos comments are full of bitter, vitriolic, nasty attacks on the President and advocacy of third parties, sitting elections out, and open sabotage of Democrats. That does not take place "on some other sites", it's unchallenged and unending on his site. And there's no way that the damage done by years of this sort of "critique" will be undone by a hypothetical last minute effort to close ranks.
DailyKos became a "progressive narrative site attacking Democrats" and it appears that it will continue be a net negative for those of us who think that Atkins was correct that Democratic Party "is the greatest vehicle we have for progressive change in this country"
Note: Another DailyKos writer, David Waldman, who otherwise does very good work at Congress Matters also weighed in with sentiments similar to those of Atkins. My discussion with Waldman turned into a shouting match that was not particularly illuminating, so I've focused on Atkins similar argument.