The denizens of the left blogosphere consider themselves the Democratic Party's base. But they are not. For Democrats, as opposed to Republicans, the wing is not the base; the legions of loyal African Americans, union members, Jews, women and Latinos are. In the end, the sillier left-village practitioners are stoking the same populist exaggeration—the idea that Washington is controlled by crooks and sellouts—that conservative strategists like Bill Kristol believe will bring the Republicans back to power. The perversity of this is beyond comprehension.I think it's impossible to understate just how pernicious this sort of idea can be to any sort of progressive change. I'll be the first to insist that the system has problems, and doing away with Senate holds and reforming the filibuster are essential to a functioning democracy. But practically all political reform is built around the hope for change. What the leftbloggers seem not to realize is that the right's tone is their tone for a reason: they don't want to change anything! But presumably left-leaning activists do, which makes the whole situation puzzling. If you want to, you know, change things, you have to project an aura of infectious optimism, an excitement about reform and a rock-solid belief that, even if it takes a long time, you can make change happen. There are many big targets that need real reform: the Pentagon, health insurance, how we use energy. Obama has so far won a small but significant victory over the first and a (presumptive) big victory over the second. That he didn't accomplish every single thing that can be done should merely be a call for more action in the future.
I ordinarily ignore the big bloggers on the left. It's true that Greenwald, Kos and the rest of them occasionally have good insights, but I just can't stand the stench of ideology that comes from those places. The Democratic Party is blessedly free of identity politics compared to the Republicans, but perhaps the one exception is the big left blogs that seem to mostly exist to identify who's a good liberal and who's not, and to devise continual litmus tests to that effect. I suspect that these activist types and much of the right are driven fundamentally by feelings of powerlessness, that all these folks have internalized that message, and that this drives visions of a Washington run by crooks and thieves and sellouts--if you feel like you are continually getting the shaft, how could you feel otherwise? Nevertheless, if the left's strategy for acquiring power is, as it seems to be, to behave erratically, emotionally and inconsistently in the hopes that Democrats are going to tremble in fear before them, they need to rethink things. At best, this behavior will merely make Democrats ignore the activist base on the left, and all of a sudden we'll have two Tea Party movements. To the extent that this is about "face", I've always felt that the ability to swallow one's pride is a very underrated political skill.