by Unknown | 11/17/2007 12:00:00 AM
Word in the political blogosphere, of which I used to be a part, is that Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos has just gotten a column in Newsweek. Conservatives at first were angry at Newsweek's supposed liberal bias, until the magazine announced that it was going to "balance" Moulitsas by hiring Karl Rove. Here's Markos' response:

Newsweek actually got this right, for once. They balanced out a movement progressive with a movement conservative. In years past, Rove's "balance" would've been Bob Shrum. Now, they're apparently starting to realize the difference between a movement partisan and an establishment hack.

Markos' description of himself as a "movement progressive" is absolutely outrageous -- as offensive as Bush's calling himself a "compassionate conservative." "Progressive" is a term whose meaning has changed many times over the years, but one thing it has always implied, from its origination circa 1900 through today, is support for a dramatically-expanded federal government. Yet here's Markos, calling himself a "Libertarian Democrat" and advocating that the Democratic Party move "in a new direction, one in which restrained government, fiscal responsibility, and—most important of all—individual freedoms are paramount." These are not the words of a progressive, they are the words of an anti-government provocateur, whose support for "restrained government" is an offense to all those who know, as the old Progressives knew, that powerful government is the first and last bulwark against injustice.

Moulitsas' error is repeated in this Hannity & Colmes clip on Fox News, when Republican Bill Sammon utters these words at 2:50 in:

To say that the guy who founded the Daily Kos is not a far-left liberal is to say that the guys who founded aren't far-left liberals. They're far-left liberals, Alan! Admit it!

Actually, I'm not certain that the guys founded MoveOn are far-left liberals. They're anti-war activists, which is not the same thing; so are Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones, Ron Paul, and Wayne Gilchrest, and I doubt anybody (other than Gilchrest's primary opponent) calls those guys far-left liberals. Nevertheless, the MoveOn community has shown strong support for Dennis Kucinich, so it's pretty fair to say that MoveOn in general is supportive of far-left principles.

But Markos? Alan Colmes got it right in that clip: Markos is a reformer, not a liberal or a progressive. And while I agree with Markos' desire to purge the party of people like Bob Shrum and Mark Penn who are corroding it from within, I disagree with many of his fundamental values, most notably with his opposition to strong government.

I'd be much more tolerant of our disagreement were Markos not wilfully co-opting the progressive movement to justify his decidedly anti-progressive beliefs. Every blogger who is, in fact, a part of the progressive movement should denounce Markos for lying about who he is and what he represents. One major online voice, BooMan of BooMan Tribune, has done so:

Markos...[is] not a mainstream liberal. You won't see mainstream liberals' views represented in Newsweek. There's nothing wrong with that. That's not a knock on Markos or on Newsweek. It's just true. If you want to see a mainstream liberal voice in a major news weekly, you have many options: Digby, Chris Bowers, Matt Stoller, Pam Spaulding, Meteor Blades, etc.

FOX News is committed to the fiction that Markos is a far-left bomb-thrower and that is a radical group. But it's not true. And one more thing...why shouldn't the far left have a voice in the national dialogue? What's wrong with that.

For someone in the "short head" of the political blogosphere, that was a courageous thing to write, and I commend BooMan for doing so. But frankly, all the people BooMan mentions as authentic "mainstream liberals" should be writing similar posts. While I don't really expect Meteor Blades to attack his boss, the others, particularly Bowers and Stoller (whose blog is built around the idea of building a progressive movement separate from strictly partisan efforts) have been unconscionably silent.

The fact that someone like Markos could be considered a "far-left liberal" or a "movement progressive" is an indicator that something is deeply wrong in our society. A century ago, "far-left liberals" and "movement progressives" saw America's problems as they really were: an excess of wealth and power in the hands of a few, with poverty and powerlessness the state of the many, was corroding our society and its claim to representative democracy. Today, our problems are the same, but our vision has contracted: we can no longer see the poor and disfranchised through our media-driven rosy-colored glasses. Our ship of state is drifting ever to the right, and our populace is drifting with it. And giving Markos Moulitsas a colum in Newsweek isn't a victory for progressives, because he's not one of us and his personal success won't change a damned thing for our movement.




Anonymous Anonymous on 11/17/2007 1:45 AM:

If a magnified state is the essence of "progressivism", Dick Cheney's gotta be your guy! Seriously, you have to have a more nuanced definition of progressivism in order to distinguish it from the authoritarianism of the 20th century.


Blogger Unknown on 11/17/2007 2:05 AM:

Oh, I do. I'm vastly oversimplifying it here to draw the contrast with Markos' "Libertarian Democratism," which is diametrically opposed to progressivism, despite his attempts to blur the differences. I'm not attempting a comprehensive definition of progressivism -- you're right, that would require a lot more nuance than is in this post.


Anonymous Anonymous on 11/17/2007 3:21 AM:

But, even saying that "Markos' 'Libertarian Democratism' ... is diametically opposed to progressivism" vastly overstates the differences. Wouldn't it make more sense to say that "Markos' 'libertarian Democratism' isn't the same as progressivism" and leave it at that? There are many things that you and Markos are both near "diametrically opposed" to, which means that you are more kin to each other than this post acknowledges.


Blogger Unknown on 11/17/2007 3:30 AM:

I can agree to your second sentence but not to your last. I'm not arguing that Markos is at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum from me, but on the crucial issue of governmental size he is certainly closer to Ron Paul than he is to me. It's on a different axis from the traditional liberal-conservative one that we differ, but that axis is an integral one for anyone seeking to define the term "progressive." As such, he's not a "movement progressive" or a valid counterpart to Karl Rove, and he shouldn't be positioning himself that way.


Blogger Jesse Hemingway on 11/17/2007 12:33 PM:

This comment has been removed by the author.


Anonymous Anonymous on 11/17/2007 12:35 PM:

The facts are clear as day; Right wing radio has always been the mechanism for republican talking points and mass propaganda. Let’s look at the republican talking points first as you channel surf ALL the right talkers are saying the same thing at the same time very peculiar. Understand that each human brain process information differently and yet when the republican talking points hit the air waves they are nearly perfectly identical, circa Nazi lock step style. That is the first piece information to appraise and determine, is what we are really hearing an intentional effort of physiological warfare? The exact same message pounding the air waves non-stop until the next release of republican talking points.

The next step in the process is check for mental programming calculations if indeed this is physiological warfare. The classical concept is to divide the group this is done by demonizing an element of society. If you look at Rush Limbaugh’s career as a right wing talker and all the other usual suspects have they implemented a divide the group strategy? It becomes factual for example they took the word liberal and demonized to an extent that it is lower the whale crap. Now if you talk to a typical right wing listener and a repeater of the right wing propaganda they surely can not tell you what a conservative is, what it means to them, and convey their own thoughts. Yet they know that a liberal is about equivalent to a child molester. So this group of people that has aligned themselves with the right wing talkers really have no clue of what they really believe or who they are, yet they have had the propaganda grilled into their mind that they are sure of one thing they have nothing to do with anything that is liberal. After this is accomplished your followers are unable to think on their own and their reasoning skills decay until they are useless. Then the next step in the process is to manipulate their reasoning core function in their minds and leave the critical thinking up to the right wing talkers. Once the brain washing is complete or you have become hypnotized ether of the description can be used. You end up with liberal is evil and conservative is good yet the meaning of conservative has been flipped and changed in this process to fascist.

Government bad corporation good, government bad corporation good, government bad corporation good and as long as the government becomes subservient to the corporation then that is the meaning of conservative. No that is fascist and or fascism in the most accurate and classically meaning and sense. Many real conservatives and real liberals are working together to bring attention to this phenomenon because what is at stake is the United States Constitution because they understand that this type of physiological warfare can be used for only one thing and that would be the destruction of United States Constitution.

To think that there are many right wing talkers that have sold their souls for their personal success rather then the integrity of the United States Constitution just screams volumes of the insidious and treacherous path we have been on since December 12, 2000.


Anonymous Anonymous on 11/17/2007 1:44 PM:

Jeremy, If I understand your logic correctly, it also simply means that you are closer to GWB and Rove than Markos is.


Blogger Unknown on 11/17/2007 2:49 PM:

Jesse, you're right that right-wing talk radio is responsible for a lot of the rightward shift in recent years, but the media in general has to take some responsibility too. I think the ultimate origins of that shift lie in the anti-communist push of the 1950's. And Markos is complicit in the shift himself when he appropriates the word "liberal" to describe his own libertarianism.

Ralph, I think you're trying to put me and Markos in the same ideological box, and I can't agree to that. My view on government is that its primary job is to help people through trustbusting, regulation, and social services. Markos' view on government, like that of Ron Paul, is that its primary purpose is to leave people alone and respect their right to privacy. Bush's and Rove's view of government, if it may be called that, is that its primary purpose is to aggrandize them and their friends. They don't have an authentic position on government beyond political and self-necessity. Markos and I occupy the two mainstream ideological positions on that issue.


Anonymous Anonymous on 11/17/2007 3:27 PM:

If the key difference between you and Markos is big government v small government, according to your rendition of things, Markos is closer to Ron Paul's small government libertarianism and you are closer to Bush/Rove's big government conservatism. If you have any doubt about Bush/Rove's partiality to big government, look at their budgets, deficits, expansion of entitlements, expansive definitions of executive authority, etc. You can't claim that Bush/Rove's position is not "authentic" simply because you don't like it.


Blogger Unknown on 11/17/2007 3:32 PM:

Ralph, tell me what "big government conservatism" even means. The roots of conservatism are in small government libertarianism. "Big government conservatism" is the equivalent of "Communist Nazism" -- it doesn't exist, except in the minds of unscrupulous practitioners who use the paradox for their own ends.


Anonymous Anonymous on 11/17/2007 4:24 PM:

Jeremy, Opposition to expansion executive branch agencies hasn't been characteristic of the Republican Party for 70 years and foreign policy isolationism died with Robert Taft, Sr. Even if you go back to the Reagan regime, it paid rhetorical tribute to reducing government, but it did very little, if any, reducing. So, whether you like it or not, the modern Republican Party is committed to a big government conservatism. That may mean regulation and taxation that *favors* corporate interests -- but it doesn't favor doing away with regulation or drastically reducing taxing authority. The argument between you and Karl Rove is merely one about whose interest should be served by a massive federal government -- not about whether there should *be* a massive federal government.


Blogger Unknown on 11/17/2007 4:47 PM:

I don't see corporate-favoring big government as any kind of ideology at all. Reagan said, "Government isn't the solution to our problems, government is the problem," and Clinton followed up with "The era of big government is over." Since the Clinton years, if not before, there has been a pact between the two major parties to reduce government in the only place it matters: social services and corporate regulation. Markos agrees with that pact, I disagree with it. The fact that Rove supports big government in the sense of defense contracts, etc., is immaterial because it's not an ideology at all -- it's just a bunch of handouts. Nobody actually believes that corporations should get handouts from the federal government or that the defense budget should be beefed up solely to benefit defense corporations. That's a non-ideological stance and has no bearing on the discussion at hand.


Anonymous Anonymous on 11/17/2007 6:45 PM:

What do you mean "Nobody actually believes that corporations should get handouts from the federal government or that the defense budget should be beefed up solely to benefit defense corporations"? The rationale is made in terms to national defense and welcome to your current regime. And, btw, there's no serious candidate for President who is going to radically reverse that situation. If you don't want a universal draft, you're going to have a large part of national defense conducted by private contractors.


Blogger mark on 11/17/2007 10:17 PM:

"Markos, calling himself a "Libertarian Democrat" and advocating that the Democratic Party move "in a new direction, one in which restrained government, fiscal responsibility, and�most important of all�individual freedoms are paramount."

If Markos is a "Libertarian" well, then, the word is effectively meaningless. I guess I'm a socialist monarchist then. Or perhaps a fascist anarchist. Or a reactionary moderate. Or whatever might sound catchy at a given moment.


Blogger Unknown on 11/17/2007 11:06 PM:

Mark, he's definitely not a big-L "Libertarian," but he's at the very least a Lockean liberal, while I'm a communitarian follower of Montesquieu.


Blogger Lisa Pease on 11/19/2007 12:10 PM:

I choked too when I heard Markos was going to represent the 'left', as Markos really only represents Markos. He doesn't speak for me, never has. But there are a plethora of people who do, who would have been a better choice. Jeff Cohen, the former director of FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting), or Robert Parry (, or Michael Parenti (numerous publications) - these are people who understand the big picture based on actual history, not the fantasy non-conspiratorial history Markos demands people to believe on his blog.

I think this is just another way of shutting the left out of the debate even as they pretend they're opening it up. Sheesh.


Blogger Helponaut on 11/19/2007 2:47 PM:

I don't buy that being a progressive means wanting a larger Federal government. The Federal government is pretty damned big, and it ensures that we go to war for oil, that rich people face no risks, that a regulated media lies to the public, that digital content restrictions criminalizes half the population and that drug laws criminalize the other half, and that 2 million people are imprisoned. Among other things.

I think a lot of intellectual work needs to be done to rethink government in the age of the internet, when a billion people have access to the means of social production. Arguing that Markos is not a progressive because he doesn't accept a larger government as the solution is a bit of a stretch. That argument also accepts the falsified premise that conservatives want a smaller government and have constructed one when in fact they have expanded an authoritarian government structure in the form of a military-industrial complex into more facets of our lives than FDR ever dreamed of doing.


Blogger Unknown on 11/19/2007 9:15 PM:

Matt, thanks for your comment. My response would be that "conservatives" have not constructed a small government because there are no real conservatives in the Bush administration. Bush is as much of a conservative as Markos is a progressive -- that is, he's not one, he just plays one on TV. These aren't political terms, they're ideologies; if you violate the prime tenets of conservatism like Bush has, you're no longer a conservative, no matter what you call yourself. Similarly, if you oppose big government solutions to America's problems, you're no progressive, because that is one of the central tenets of progressivism.