Netroot Causes

Last week I spent a nice long weekend in San Francisco, Berkeley and a strange place called Blackhawk over the hills east of Oakland. Ostensibly the trip was meant to be a break from the heat and humidity of summer in South Carolina. But it was also an opportunity to see a good friend who recently moved to the Bay Area from Huntsville, Alabama. Not a typical 'Bamian, my friend is a daily reader of Crooks and Liars, the Daily Kos and the New York Times. He is liberal Democrat, Jewish and staunchly pro-Israel.

Visits with my friend can often turn into boisterous political debates that rise in volume until, as happened a couple of years ago in a Philadelphia hotel, intervention is required. But this visit had no such pitched battles. That was, of course, due to the events in Lebanon. For all intents and purposes, you couldn't wedge a knife between my position and his regarding what Israel should do.

Although I didn't make much of a point of it, my friend's pro-Israel stance is smartly at odds with his compatriots at Crooks and Liars and the Daily Kos. Those fledgling political movements are not only at odds with the majority of Americans, but also with a significant part of what could be considered the "base" of the Democrat Party. As Dean Bennett notes:

WHEN THE BOMBS began to fall in the Middle East, the Daily Kos had a problem. And the Daily Kos's problem could soon be the Democratic party's problem.

On the one hand, one of the most solid blocks of support for the Democratic party is America's Jewish community. Not only do America's Jews tend to vote for Democrats, they tend to actively campaign and raise funds for politicians on the left. But for many American Jews, even the most liberal, Israel's welfare is a going concern. Politicians who enter the Democratic party (and for that matter the Republican party) usually make a conspicuous show of the fact that they are "right on Israel."

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Perhaps sensing that this issue could highlight just how far removed the Kos community is from the American mainstream, Moulitsas and his other front-page bloggers have opted to ignore Israel's war. Combined, the half dozen front-pagers have written exactly one post on the subject. And that post, authored by Moulitsas, simply declared that he wouldn't write anything further on the subject. So while the most important story of the year develops, the nation's leading progressive blog has chosen to focus on the Indiana second district House race between Chris Chocola and Joe Donnelly. Nothing wrong with that; it's their prerogative to blog about whatever they like.

As I have noted before, the "netroots" movement is a political phenomenon with destructive internal contradictions - destructive to itself and the Democrat Party. The movement comes from the idealogical fringe of the national political dialogue, yet claims to be fully representative of Democrat Party ideals. It believes that present day politics are corrupt and designed for "insiders", yet is led by political consultants who take money from seemingly any Democrat candidate who offers work. And now, it claims to be sympathetic toward the victims of Israeli oppression, yet can muster only one blog post in the face of overt and sustained Israeli military action.

The question is whether the war in the Middle East will be the event that draws the Democrat Party out of its fascination with this movement. Word is that most Washington Democrats implicitly dislike these rogue political neophytes, but are too frightened to stand up to them. The mainstream media, of course, continue to cover them sympathetically, if only because they are ideological soul mates.

But the cracks appear to be forming. Hillary Clinton has kept her distance, being savvy enough to know that the center elects presidents in this country. John Edwards seems to have his own robust internet strategy. And now if the funders of the Democrat Party, mostly the very rich and often Jewish, are sufficiently put off my the rabid anti-semitism of commenters on these internet sites, we may see the slow demise of the "netroots" as an important movement on the left side of the political spectrum.

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