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The Man Behind the Curtain


A few days ago, a local consultant here in San Francisco sent me a note. He’s been thinking: the Internet is a much “hotter” medium than TV. So the kind of people being attracted to politics aren’t the cool-headed TV-types but brawlers. The consultant was thinking of Howard Dean, of course, but also about a little round of fisticuffs that had almost broken out between one of DailyKos’s apparatchiks and Democratic Party activist Donnie Fowler.
Dean, of course, is embroiled in an argument with the Republican Party over who has more white people: Us or them. As far as I can see, politics, media and most business – most social and economic power in this country – is mostly in the hands of white folks. So I’m not exactly sure what this fight is all about or where it’s leading. But it serves as a nice prelude to another heated exchange.
It seems that The Great and Powerful Progressive Blogger Markos Moulitsas – Daily Kos to you, “media” to himself and, a bona fide jerk as far as I can tell – is threatening Carol Darr and George Washington University’s Institute for Politics Democracy and the Internet. Why? Because Darr made some typical D.C-generated “middle of the road” comments to the Federal Elections Commission about its proposed rules on campaigns, campaign finance and the Internet.
Moulitsas didn’t like what Darr said. So, of course he mocked her on his site. Then, in an email to IPDI’s annual conference director, The Great and Powerful Progressive Blogger got ugly.

Carol Darr and you guys fucked up with your FEC comments. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure you don’t get a single netroots individual at your conference next year. Just thought I’d let you know.
Have a good day.
Markos Moulitsas
Daily Kos

Oh, I can feel the hot wind of “progressive” inclusiveness, can’t you? You’re either with Kos or you’re a fuck-up. Good thing I never thought of myself as perfect, eh? Naturally, the Great and Powerful Progressive followed up with more unkind remarks about Darr – a long-time Democrat who served in the Clinton Administration – on his site. Darr’s no dummy; she forwarded the message on to the commission.
UPDATE:: The Great and Powerful Progressive has written to the commission. It is not an apology.

Tell me oh Great and Powerful Progressive, have you ever read Pogo? How about taking a look at another website, one without your name on the top? You’ve been behind on the Federal Elections Commission issue since this whole thing broke. You’ve been following the man you should see as your true political opponent – Mike Krempasky and the guys at RedState – from the get-go and you’re either too lazy or too stupid to see the real problem and agenda here. You’re being played, oh Great One. Like a cheap accordion.
As a Great and Powerful Progressive, you should be in favor of campaign finance laws: at a minimum you should support full and open disclosure for all campaigns and campaign consultants. But you don’t. Why? Because you think on-line fundraising will make it easy for you and your buddies to raise enough money to take over the Democratic Party. And you think that’s a good thing. In fact, I’ll bet you think it’s the only thing. Because after you take over, all will be right with the world. “Progressives” like you will be in charge. So, naturally, it doesn’t matter how we get to that political nirvana, does it? You figure the ends justify the means and once you good, virtuous people are in charge the golden light of righteouness will rain down upon you. Why? Because you’re good; you’re “progressive,” you’re by that very definition virtuous.
Now, I’ve had to put up with this nonsense here in San Francisco for a while now and my contempt for this sort of delusional and circular thinking knows no limits. It’s a mockery of the Democratic Party’s Liberal values. It cares only for itself and no one else. It’s brought us Supervisor Chris Daly, who tells voters to “fuck off” when they disagree with him in public hearings, and Matt Gonzales a mayoral candidate who accepted campaign contributions from San Francisco’s thuggish builders group. Progressives consistently fail to understand that in politics – particularly if you’re going to ride the white horse and carry the big spear – it matters very much who buys the armor and feeds the stallion. As a Great and Powerful Progressive, Moulitsas asks as much of the Republican Party as he and the diarists criticize the Bush Administration, Halliburton and Big Oil. Why can’t they set these same standards for themselves? Oh, wait. I forgot. It’s because they’re “progressive.”
The idea of getting money out of politics is one that used to be endorsed by Democrats and reformers, folks who really were progressive, not just mouthing the words to some 1970s Golden Oldie barely remembered from their first 8th Grade co-ed dance. Why? Because those reformers understood that big money – corporate money, union money, rich people’s money – didn’t always go to their side or the aisle. And regardless of where it goes, it can be corrupting. They understood that money will never leave politics; that’s why it has to be watched very, very carefully, as publicly as possible, as openly as possible.
Mike Krempasky does not believe this. And if you think for a minute that Krempasky isn’t trying to use this recent round of FEC hearings and comments to gut the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which brought many of them into being, you are dreaming. That’s the Great and Powerful Progressive cause. But, of course, it’s being ignored in favor of name calling and mocking a woman who’s both reasonable and polite and who Moulitsas met only a few weeks ago when he sat next to her on a panel (which I moderated in New York) and decried the rising tide of partisan name-calling and bad-mouthing on the Internet.
UPDATE:Krempasky has spelled out his thinking on this issue here.
Now, I don’t agree with Carol Darr’s analysis of what should be done by the FEC. I think the media exemption should be given freely and fully to anyone who asks for it. But I also think people who ask for it shouldn’t take money from campaigns, shouldn’t be involved in fundraising and shouldn’t be endorsing candidates or doing any other sort of political work. Carol Darr sees the same trouble I do:

On its face, the bloggers’ request for rights equal to those of mainstream media seems reasonable. Their online readership, in a few instances, exceeds those of mid-sized daily newspapers, and their influence and legitimacy continues to grow, in some cases exponentially. Last summer, dozens of bloggers were issued press credentials at the two national party conventions, and several of them have been credentialed by the House and Senate Press Galleries. Recently a blogger was given a day pass to the White House Press Room. Some bloggers want it both ways, however. They want to preserve their rights as political activists, donors and even fundraisers — activities regulated by campaign finance laws — yet at the same time enjoy the broad exemption from the campaign finance laws afforded to traditional journalists. As one blogger speculated, “So basically, I can do whatever I want, spending however much money I want (blogTV that has fatband maximized by megamillions) and just call it a blog?” That is exactly right. For thirty years the campaign finance laws have made a fundamental distinction between political activists and the news media, in order to protect a free press while at the same time limiting the influence of big money on federal elections. Until recently, the distinction between the news media and rest of us was clear and uncontroversial…
Bloggers can have it all, but not all at one time, without destroying the two campaign finance statutes or the press exemptions or both. Given the social and political changes ushered in by new communications technologies, it may already be too late for anything but a massive overhaul of the campaign finance statutes.

I don’t think the Great and Powerful Progressive or his minions should make a request to be exempted as a media organization. They’re not. They are political activists. I can’t do anything about the fact that Moulitsas will use the convenient cover of “media” to take on the perks and privileges of traditional journalists and reporters. He seems determined to make regular and reasonable people believe that “blogging” is a synonym for “sleazy campaign tactics,” and that “blogger” is another euphemism for jerk. Kos readers are free to make their own decisions about his site and if The Great and Powerful Progressive wants to be the Left’s Matt Drudge, bought and paid for by his political patrons, punishing his enemies, annoying his friends and embarrassing the Democratic Party, I can’t – I won’t – stand in his way.
Just a few words of advice, oh Great and Powerful One: Watch out for nosy girls in red shoes. The Munchkins were a forgiving group but that was a movie.

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