On Whiskey Bar, Billmon looks beyond the immediate ramifications of the Iowa results, and past the effect on the Dean candidacy to the long-term problem that faces progressives, which is how to build the political infrastructure necessary to counterbalance the one which supports the right-wing in this country.
(This is a topic dear to the heart of MyFriendRoger -- he and I have had extensive discussions about it for years.)
Here's part of what Billmon says:
The important thing, I think, is for progressives to build on the achievements of the Dean campaign, irrespective of happens to the candidate himself.
I think there's a real danger of getting too hung up on this year's presidential election, and investing too much emotional capital in the success of a particular candidate -- whether that candidate is Howard Dean or one of his Democratic rivals.
The task of building a progressive coalition that can turn America in a fundamentally different direction is a vast undertaking -- so vast as to seem almost impossible: as impossible, perhaps, as ending segregation must have seemed to the early civil rights activists of the 1920s and '30s. Under the most favorable conditions imaginable (conditions which we are extremely unlikely to see) the process will take years, if not decades.
The Dean campaign has proven it's possible to mobilize grassroots support for a political candidate by combining modern technology with old fashioned organizing techniques. But the real challenge is to take those same methods and use them to build not just an alternative political movement, but an alternative political culture -- one that can eventually become the most powerful faction within the Democratic Party, then take control of the party, then challenge the Republicans for majority party status. And it will have to be created one building block at a time, drawing on the energy and talents and commitment of thousands, and then tens of thousands, and then hundreds of thousands of activists all across the country.
Ironically, this is exactly what the right did in the wake of Barry Goldwater's landslide defeat in 1964. Conservatives spent the next 16 years building on the foundation they laid in the Goldwater campaign -- exploiting new fundraising techniques (direct mail) establishing new organizations (the Heritage Foundation, the Committee on the Present Danger) creating new media (Human Events, Conservative Digest) and building a parallel political establishment affiliated with, but outside of, the Republican Party. When the time came to reach for power -- in 1980 and again in 1994 -- the right was ready.
The left will never be able to match the financial resources and corporate patronage that helped make the conservative renaissance possible. But it must try to match the patience and dedication with which that movement was built -- despite the many setbacks it experienced along the way.
There is no other way. Even if Dean somehow survives and wins the Democratic nomination, he'll still have to contend with a political system and media establishment that is almost completely dominated by the Republicans and their conservative clones in the Democratic Party. Even if he defeats Bush this fall, he would still -- in all likelihood -- have to deal with a GOP-controlled Congress, bent on destroying his presidency. For progressives -- as for conservatives in 1964 -- the long road is the only road to power.
Whether progressives have sufficient discipline and staying power to finish the journey is another story.
I note that many of Billmon's commenters think that he is overreacting to the Iowa results, that things aren't are dire as he paints, and it's possible that they are right, in one sense, but that they entirely miss the real point of what he's saying.
Whether or not Dean can come back from Iowa and go all the way, and regardless of the furtunes of any of the other progressive candidates, the problem which Billmon is addressing (at least in the part of the entry that I quoted above), is a systemic one, created over the course of the last 30 years or more by the concerted and directed work of conservative activists, and that is not going to change even if the Democrats take back the White House in 2004. That, to me, is an extremely important point, and that is the nub of Billmon's post.
The right-wing infrastructure of think-tanks, captive media, conservative punditocracy and so on -- all the things that we refer to when we speak of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and the Mighty Wurlitzer -- will still exist, will still be incredibly well-funded and will still have extraordinary political and social power (despite very strong evidence that the American people, given the choice, do not essentially agree with the goals of that movement or of the policies with which they aim to achieve those goals), even after the Democrats take back the Executive branch.
It's not conceivable to me that anyone who lived through the attempted overthrow of an elected Democratic President via trumped up scandals and irrelevant charges, and the subsequent taking of the White House by an unelected Republican candidate, can have any doubt whatsoever of the power that the right-wing wields. The expectation that electing a Democrat to be President is going to turn things around is unsupported by the evidence of our recent history -- but that doesn't mean that it isn't vitally important!
Clearly, looking at the extensive damage to this country and its international reputation and relationships that Bush has managed to do in a mere three years must bring any reasonably intelligent and caring person to the conclusion that electing a Democrat is vitally necessary, if only to stem the tide, and, one would hope, start the process of reversing some of that damage.
But that can only be a beginning, and what Billmon is addressing is the long-term needs of the liberal or progressive movement to counter the rightward trend and move us back to some semblence of rationality and humanitarianism in this country's policies towards its own citizens and the citizens of the world.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.