Well, this will send the Kossacks into a tizzy! The Wall Street Journal has an op-ed by Dan Gerstein, "Decline of the Angry Left." Gerstein, a senior adviser for Joe Lieberman's various national campaigns, claims that the Daily Kos is finished as a mover and shaker in Democratic politics. After reading it over I think he is dead on with much of his analysis. The anger of the extremist, left as seen on a daily basis on the Daily Kos site has lost the contest for the hearts and minds of the Democratic Party. As Gerstein notes, he has been the target of the left before and this op ed certainly won't make him their newest American idol!
In fact, Gerstein might not make himself very welcome in many Democratic circles all the way 'round with his denigration of the party leadership at this time.
Indeed, at the exact moment their party leaders were loudly replaying the psychodramas of the 1990s (and to some extent the '60s), voters of both races were quietly resolving the pre-eminent conflict of the party's present -- between the politics of hope and the politics of Kos. (That being the Daily Kos, the nation's most influential liberal blog and the left's poster child for partisan pugnacity.)
Gerstein says that, as they bicker over whom to support and as they fight the battles of the last century, the party leadership is missing the boat. He thinks that the rank and file have made a choice between the loud-mouthed, childish, vitriol of the Daily Kos set and have gone for the themes of "hope" and change" offered by Barack Hussein Obama. Though it might be a little premature to say that Barrack is the final choice of the rank and file, he is right that the hatemongering of the Daily Kos set has been spurned in the simple fact that John "silky" Edwards was soundly rejected at the polls.
Of Edward's ridiculous campaign, Gerstein writes:
Mr. Edwards, after running as the sunny son of a mill worker in 2004, returned last year as the angry spear carrier of the hard-line left, running on a dark, conspiratorial form of populism and swapping in corporations for Republicans as the villain in his us-versus-them construct. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has not just been selling possibilities and opportunities, but reconciliation and unity -- and, god forbid, promising to work with Republicans to meet the country's challenges. (Not surprisingly, throughout 2007, Mr. Edwards was the runaway favorite in the regular Kos reader straw poll -- besting Mr. Obama by 21 points as late as Jan. 2, 2008.)
Now that Mr. Edwards has formally dropped out of the race, we can say it's official -- hope and unity crushed resentment and division.
Some may say that Edwards lost not because of his style -- that of the angry populist -- but because his new found arrival to that style was simply not credible. The angry Kossacks might take that very angle to explain away why they lost (as Gerstein points out, they supported Edwards heavily) but this would not explain why Edwards' campaign did not resonate at all outside the nutroots on Al Gore's Internet. So, with this in mind, I'd say that Gerstein is right that the petulant, tyros of the Daily Kos are an ever-dwindling minority and have lost their battle to control the party.
Gerstein says, "The signs of change are unmistakable. Over the last year, the Kossacks themselves seemed to be waning -- the number of monthly page views on the site is down dramatically." That seems about right to me. The pure emotion and empty intellect of the Kossacks cannot easily be sustained among voters who eventually tire of the high maintenance emotional state required to stay involved in a Daily Kos style of political "discourse."
Gerstein doesn't mention it, but this parallels what happened to the goof balls and hippies that appropriated the Democratic Party during George McGovern's run for the White House in 1972 as well as their collapse and retreat afterwards. They did affect the party, of course, but their hate mongering and over-the-top emotionalism could not be sustained by the party after McGovern’s loss.
Gerstein is also right that the current Democrat debate is not about substance at all because all three top tier Democratic Party candidates agreed on the basic issues. Of the 2008 race he says, "there is no real disagreement on Iraq or any other core issue."
This conflict is not about ideology but about style. The truth is, over the past several years Democrats have bridged or buried most of the major issue splits that hobbled the party in the past, as evidenced by the absence of big policy debates in this campaign. That's left us to stew, particularly in the wake of John Kerry's embittering loss in 2004, over how we fight the other side.
Gerstein is most familiar with the contest between Joe Lieberman and Daily Kos supported Ned Lamont from the 2006 midterms and his points there are particularly meaningful.
Of that race, Gerstein says:
...the choice came down to two Democrats who actually agreed on most issues outside of Iraq, but differed on the kind of change we need in Washington. Mr. Lieberman called for a new politics of unity and purpose; Mr. Lamont mostly called for Messrs. Bush's and Lieberman's heads.
The hope candidate soundly beat the Kos candidate... by 10 points. More importantly, Mr. Lieberman won independents (the biggest voting bloc in the state) by 19 points, which is all the more remarkable because they opposed the war by a margin of 65%-29%.
Gerstein sums up his feeling that the angry left is waning with some "delicious irony."
The best evidence that Kos-ism is about kaput, though, comes from Kos's mouth himself. Yes, the most delicious irony of this campaign is that the supposed hatemonger is supporting the hopemonger.
Seeing the writing on the wall, as well as on his own blog, Markos Moulitsas -- Kos himself -- rejected the candidacy he himself helped spawn and announced (albeit grudgingly) on Dec. 12 that he would be voting for Mr. Obama via "a process of elimination."
Not exactly the most graceful concession, but the import is undeniable: Hope trumped Kos for Democrats. Now let's see what it will do for the rest of the country.
This reminds me of a line in "Star Trek, the Wrath of Khan" when William Shatner's Capt. Kirk was taunting Ricardo Montalban's Khan, the genetically enhanced, super soldier. "Khan," Kirk called out, "Im laughing at the 'superior intellect.'" Replace "Khan" with Kos and you get the picture.
Gerstein misses the mark when he throws in a few remarks about what is going on with the GOP -- his own leftist bias skews his vision in this case. In attempting to explain what the Daily Kos set was emulating in their style of politics, he garbles the truth fairly badly by assuming that the Kossacks were trying to act like Karl Rove.
The Kossacks and their activist allies... believe that Republicans are venal bordering on evil, and that the way Democrats will win elections and hold power is to one-up Karl Rove's divisive, bare-knuckled tactics.
Gerstein is right that the Kossacks believe that Republicans are not just opponents to beat at the polls but are actually evil, but Karl Rove never showed anything remotely like the hate and vitriol exhibited by Kos and his venal acolytes. Rove is not what the wild-eyed Kossacks are emulating. Stalin is closer to their pattern, than Rove.
Gerstein also absurdly claims that the Republican candidate who faced Lamont in 2006 was a "discredited candidate." It is true that Alan Schlesinger was not an ideal candidate and it is also true that he was not well supported, even by the GOP. But, it is a bit of a stretch to say he was necessarily "discredited." In a state where Democrats out number Republicans almost two to one (with Dems at 670,356, Republicans at 438,554), it is obvious Schlesinger had little chance -- especially since the Bush White House didn't even back him because allowing Lamont to beat Lieberman was a worse prospect than supporting Schlesinger -- but to go so far as to say "discredited" is a step too far that reveals Gerstein's own blind partisanship. These pointless little digs at the GOP damages his points, I feel.
In any case, Gerstein's "grave-dancing" on the still warm, but mortally wounded body of the Daily Kos community was amusing in many ways, heartening for us on the right, for sure, and quite prescient in many ways. It also should serve as a warning to our own side. The anger and nuttiness we see out of the Ron Paul set should be tamped down ASAP by anyone interested in not further splintering our own party.
I am not saying we conservatives need to give in to McCain in the interest of party unity, here. But I am saying that we need to be sure not to follow the Kossacks down the road to the sort of unhinged, lunacy that they have succumbed to. It is true that conservatives are far more intellectual than leftists are, they being more often led by their overblown emotionalism, but we also have a tendency to allow anger to overcome us once in a while. Watching the fall of the Kossacks from the peak of dominance of the political discourse they once achieved to the few squirming, crazies that they have left in their ranks is a lesson to be learned by all who want to lead with their anger.
The difference in the levels of hate and anger between the left and the right is palpable. Any look at the comments on the conservative message board Free Republic, or Michelle Malkin’s site, Captain’s Quarters or Hot Air pales in comparison to that of the left leaning Daily Kos, the Huffington Post or Democratic Undergroud. The left sites feature much more vitriol and acid by far than the right leaning ones do. It’s not even a contest.
Gerstein is right that this sort of hate just does not win new converts in the long run and quickly burns out the faithful sooner rather than later leaving an empty husk where once was a vibrant movement. The lesson for us is to avoid emulating the Kossacks. Just don’t do it.
Go read all of Gerstein's Wall Street Journal piece. It is well worth the time.