Kos Call

KOS CALL….In the latest issue of the Washington Monthly, Benjamin Wallace-Wells profiles the blogosphere’s favorite liberal, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos. And whether you love Kos or hate him, I think Ben captures something important in his piece:

The conventional wisdom is that a Democratic Party in which Moulitsas calls the shots would cater to every whim of its liberal base. But though he can match Michael Moore for shrillness, the most salient thing about Moulitsas’s politics is not where he falls on the left-right spectrum (he’s actually not very far left). It’s his relentless competitiveness, founded not on any particular set of political principles, but on an obsession with tactics ? and in particular, with the tactics of a besieged minority, struggling for survival: stand up for your principles, stay united, and never back down from a fight. ?They want to make me into the latest Jesse Jackson, but I’m not ideological at all,? Moulitsas told me, ?I’m just all about winning.?

….Moulitsas’s sensibility suits his generation perfectly. But it also comes with a built-in cost. Moulitsas is just basically uninterested in the intellectual and philosophical debates that lie behind the daily political trench warfare. By his own admission, he just doesn’t care about policy.

All political movements have both tacticians and theoreticians, so there’s nothing odd that Kos is all about tactics and prefers to leave the ideology to others. But there’s more to it than that. To a large extent, I think Kos is symbolic of nearly the entire political blogosphere, which tends to be far more a partisan wrecking crew than a genuine force for either progressive or conservative thought.

I’m honestly not sure what I think of that. Maybe it’s just the nature of the medium, and we should be happy to leave the serious thinking to the think tanks. At the same time, I have a feeling that it’s also a reflection of something that’s been obscured by the ever shriller noise machines on both sides: the death of ideology. Partisanship may be at an all-time high in Washington DC, but when you cut through the chatter, ideology may be at an all-time low.

I suppose I ought to defend that statement, shouldn’t I? And perhaps I will someday. For now, though, I’m just going to toss it out as food for thought. In the meantime, read Ben’s profile. It’s terrific.

UPDATE: Kos has a few factual corrections here. They aren’t super serious, but perhaps Ben will address them later.

UPDATE 1.5: Ben has indeed addressed Kos’s concerns. His correction is here.

UPDATE 2: Atrios suggests that political wonkery is sort of pointless these days given the modern Republican Party’s well documented lack of interest in serious policy. There’s something to that, and as a blogger who enjoys talking about policy I find this atmosphere pretty discouraging. Still, liberals will be back in power someday, and it would be nice if the blogosphere could help keep the wonkish embers glowing in anticipation of that happy day.

None of which is to say that Kos himself has to be a policy wonk. There’s plenty of room for all kinds.