Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Battle for the Entrenched Power Broker Positions

Lieberman commited a serious tactical blunder in trying to cover all bases with his bid to stay on the November ballot at all costs. Check out Josh Marshall for a short and sweet summation of the damage. I said before that the race was Lieberman's to lose, and it looks like he's going to do it.

Now, here is where things get interesting. The MSM is presenting the story as the "anti-war left" is targeting a "pro-war" candidate. This may be the meme, but it is not the reality.

What the "netroots" is (as opposed to the base) is a loosely affiliated group of would-be power brokers who are fighting with the established power brokers for who is going to control selection of bland center-left candidates for national office. No, this is not some diabolical cabal engineered by Markos. Please, don't insult my intelligence. This is a very traditional internal war over who is going to occupy the position currently (and incompletely) held by "the DLC". I put that in quotes because it isn't just the actual organization, but the loose affiliation of groups and businesses that have common interests articulated most consistently by the DLC.

Neither of these power centers have any real interest in "the base", by which I mean the vast majority of voters who choose Democratic candidates more than Republicans ones. The netroots in particular is contemptuous of these citizens, sneering at them as "sheeple" rather than accepting that people simply aren't engaged. The old guard does accept this, and focuses on how to get just enough engagement to garner a vote.

Given that the poster boys for the netroots are Ned Lamont and Mark Warner, candidates so far from radical that they easily mix with the "DLC" crowd, it becomes clear that there really isn't any shift to the left going on here. It is a fight over who controls revenue streams and who gets to be part of the talking heads society.

I know some neo-Naderites are having wet dreams over throwing all the rascals out and having Saint Russ annointed king, but the cold fact is that the "netroots" organizers, for all their guff, have no intention of being daring if they can gain the upper hand. They will run DLC-lite (and plain old DLC) candidates. Why? Because centrist candidates do best with the electorate over all.

Lieberman is a useful target because there is a bland multi-millionaire available to run against someone who has pissed off a strong minority of Democrats in a small state. This is a battle of the power brokers and their ability to raise funds and mobilize partisans. When the dust settles, there really won't be that much of a change. As Kevin Drum has pointed out, there's no deep policy difference, no ideological split worth mentioning. There's just a loud and tiresome cat fight going on about who gets to call shots.

I think you can tell by now that I don't much care for either side. One is bland and cautious. The other is arrogant and irresponsible. Neither are very organized (except as fundraisers) and neither has much to say for itself. Their mutual campaign theme is "We're not him." And, the kicker of them all, they tend to know each other, hang out in the same conferences, beg for money from the same people, and (GASP!) often support the same candidates.

Which is why I'm not particularly excited by the Ned Lamont campaign. He stands for nothing new.


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