Saturday, July 5, 2008

Wherefore the "progressive" blogosphere after November?

That, my friends, is the question Cernig asks over at Newshoggers:
On the Left too, there are going to be changes. Some Dem/Obama forms of Powerline-style mindless sycophancy are almost certain to emerge - and I hope some of us are going to be mindful enough to ridicule them. In the UK, Dale writes that he'll continue to criticize Tory mistakes when he feels the need - but there's going to be less need when a stronger Lefty blogosphere can do the criticising on substantative grounds and more peer pressure to defend his chosen party. The converse is going to be true in the US, where Lefties are more likely to fall into the "defending the administration" pattern we've seen from rightwing blogs during the Bush terms. That's more likely the closer the blogger is to the adminsitration in terms of contacts and possible future largesse. Might we see Kos and MyDD emulate the kind of administration cheerleaders we've until now only seen from the Powerlines of the US blogosphere?
I typed out a very hasty reply in the comments, and will partially repeat that reply here, hopefully expanding on it as I can in the short time I have allotted. In brief, I think we will see much more partisan cheerleading, to the extent that many avowed "lefty" and "progressive" bloggers have tied their fortunes to the Democratic party. We're already witnessing a prelude in the wake of the 2006 mid-term elections, in which the Dems retook control of both Congressional chambers for the first time since 1994. Please note that my impressions are based only on a small sample of what has occurred at the Big Box or Gated Community Blogs, as I have increasingly drifted away from that particular arena in the last couple years.

My impression is that a lot of the really good impassioned blogging that we once saw aimed at the culture of corruption in Congress diminished considerably. Do exposés of pork-barreling get much front-page space these days, now that it's Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who wield the gavels? What about the abysmal failure (as it's portrayed in what passes for a "leftist" blogosphere, which is overly kind - I prefer outright refusal) to end funding of the Iraq War, which was one of the main reasons voters swept the Dems in power? How about the continued decimation of civil liberties, now that the Dems share a greater responsibility with the White House for the attack on constitutional rights? How about holding Pelosi responsible for refusing to impeach Bush and Cheney? Yes, there may be some complaining, but it seems relatively muted, usually couched in terms such as "we need more and better Democrats." Just to test the waters a few weeks back, I posted a pro-Sheehan diary over at Daily Kos (Cindy Sheehan is the most visible challenger to Pelosi in her district). The response was that of, well, cheerleading. I had predicted some time ago that Sheehan would lose her position of esteem at Daily Kos once it became clear that she wasn't going to be a pawn of the Democratic party machine. Her direct challenge of a member of the Dem's establishment sealed her fate last summer.

I'm guessing it was really easy for a lot of these folks to be oppositional when it was Bu$hCo and a GOP Congress that were largely responsible for not only the budgetary fiascoes of the present sorry decade, but also of gross human violations so ghastly that they could only honestly be described as war crimes. I honestly wonder if we find ourselves with an Obama presidency and expanded Democratic majorities in Congress (the former is less of a sure thing than the latter), if we'll be treated to impassioned essays on the evils of torture and extraordinary renditions, of dropping cluster bombs, depleted uranium tipped bombs, and white phosphorous on villages in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and elsewhere; or if instead, those issues will be swept under the rug since the onus will have shifted entirely to their own party. Same when it comes to restoring eroded civil liberties. I know how I'm likely to bet. I'm already expecting to periodically appear at such places as Kos in order to ask pointedly "so, where's the change?" If I haven't already been banned entirely from such places before November, I expect to be so before too long into the next year.

As a side note: one of the points mentioned in Cernig's essay has to do with an observation that bloggers are essentially oppositional in nature. I'm not sure that I would agree necessarily with that assessment. Folks get into political blogging for any of a number of reasons. For a fair number, that may well be a means to express opposition and to advocate visions of possible futures that diverge from the status quo. That is a characterization that I will humbly accept. However, there are also plenty who get into this medium for other purposes, such as launching eventual political careers, securing book deals, or merely a place on news talk shows as pundits. The latter are not necessarily oppositional in their outlooks.

So there you have it. Kudos to Cernig for being willing to address the issue - it's one that will become more and more salient in the upcoming months. To what extent will today's prog bloggers actually hold their party's feet to the fire? To what extent will cognitive dissonance prevent them from doing so? What if your wildest fantasy came true and a genuine leftist government emerged? Could you, would you provide even a sympathetic critique to its shortcomings (and we all know that it would not be perfect)? To take an line from an old Dead Kennedys lyric, "Where do you draw the line? I'm not telling you. I'm asking you."

I don't have any good pat answers on those questions, just the questions themselves. Thoughts, anyone?

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