Left-Wing Loonies?

LEFT-WING LOONIES?….Jon Chait took a lot of abuse yesterday for writing a column that suggested it would be OK if Joe Lieberman won his primary race in Connecticut:

The left-wing blogs have taken after me for this, especially this passage describing the party’s left-wing activists: “These are exactly the sorts of fanatics who tore the party apart in the late 1960s and early ’70s. They think in simple slogans and refuse to tolerate any ideological dissent.”

Daily Kos has taken particular umbrage….After quoting my column, he proceeds in the next two paragraphs to call my column “obvious crap,” “intellectually dishonest,” and “bullshit.” Oh, and he also calls me a “moron.” Atrios, for his part, has taken issue as well. His counterargument, which I hereby quote in its entirety, is this: “Wanker of the Day.”

Simple slogans? Refusing to tolerate dissent? Can’t imagine where I got that idea.

If you think that I have no desire to get into the middle of this infantile shouting match, you’re absolutely right. At the same time, though, there is a massive misconception at the center of this argument that’s worth mentioning. At least I think there is, anyway.

Chait calls the Kos/Atrios wing “left-wing activists.” Marshall Wittman more colorfully calls them “McGovernites with modems.” But this is a serious misreading. In fact, if I have a problem with the Kossite wing of the blogosphere, it’s the fact that they aren’t especially left wing. Markos in particular specifically prides himself on caring mostly about winning elections, not fighting ideological battles.

Now, there’s no question that the left blogosphere is vaguely in favor of all the usual liberal goals: progressive taxation, decent healthcare for everyone, tolerance for minorities, and so forth. And, yes, they’re loudly in favor of these things. But let’s face it: with occasional exceptions here and there, these aren’t the things that consistently get their blood boiling. What does is two things: the war in Iraq and the almost criminal negligence and incompetence of the Bush administration.

So is the liberal blogosphere liberal? Of course it is. But to compare it to the left-wing radicals of the early 70s is to misunderstand it completely. Netroots favorite Howard Dean is no lefty radical, and at a policy level most of the high-traffic liberal blogs are only modestly to the left of the DLC ? except on Iraq.

Frankly, I wish lefty bloggers did care more about fighting over policy issues. Not only is it a healthy argument to have, but it would give us something to coalesce around if we win back Congress in November. As things stand now, though, I have a feeling that if we win in November the netroots won’t really have a very good idea of what it wants to accomplish, and will therefore default immediately to the longtime favorite game of liberals everywhere: the circular firing squad.

That may be too pessimistic on my part. Regardless, though, “McGovernites with modems” is about as far from reality as you can get. Chait and Wittman should know better.