Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Highly Disappointed

This was going to be a blogging day off for me.  Lots to do, etc.  But recent events compel me to donate my two cents to the cause.

As someone who likes Sherrod Brown and whose feelings about Paul Hackett ran from ambivalence to deep skepticism, you might think Hackett’s departure from the race would make me happy.  In fact, I’m plenty upset about it.

Schumer and Reid are now denying putting the arm on either Hackett or his followers, but there’s no question that Rahm Emmanuel went to the press to call him out to drop out.  I’m hard pressed to imagine a scenario in which Hackett’s run ended happily – he either would have lost to Brown’s war chest or come out of the primary broke and bloody.  But I’m harder pressed to imagine a worse, more destructive end than this.  Emmanel did to Hackett essentially what the Bush administration did to Gen Eric Shisecki.  Not a good way to go.

I don’t know how damaging this will be because I don’t know how much support Hackett had outside the netroots.  All of this stinks of the Democratic Party’s disdain for grassroots politcs, but around here offline progressive grassroots activists strongly prefer Brown over Hackett.

What is lost is the possibility for a broad realignment based on Hackett’s no-bullshit personality, his war record and his conservative stance on guns.  Still today, I’m not convinced that Hackett would have avoided cratering, but now we will never know.

What distresses me the most is the damage done to the Ohio blogosphere.  The entire Brown/Hackett campaign has badly damaged this community that I love.  Plenty of fault lies on both sides for that; rather than play the blame game, better to acknowledge what has happened and try to clear the wreckage.  

I fear for example that the adjunct controversy over whether the author of High and Broad is a paid ODP staffer is just the beginning.  Whether or not he was, I still maintain that his takes were well thought out and had contrarian value.  But the controversy over his identity has made life harder for those of us who resist e-groupthink.  Thank God Tim Russo has met me or I might be next.

All of this, everything that has happened, is why I’ve resisted party politics in favor of issue advocacy for much of my adult life.  But unlike Eric at Plunderbund, I can’t go back that way.  Something -- presumably the combined politics of self-interest and the politics of fear of eternal flames – keeps Republicans from fracturing under similar strains.  McCainiacs support Bush despite far more despicable behavior than that alleged in the current instance.  

Meanwhile, the Republican Party has indeed been hijacked by extremists who mean to do harm to everything I hold dear.  Once upon a time, activism was a matter of conviction; nowadays it feels more like self-defense.  Activism in this case means more than just combating to the corruption and incompetence of the Republicans, it also means confronting corruption and incompetence within our party.

If you are with me on that point, have some time over the next couple of days and want to take one small step, consider this.  Tomorrow is the deadline for turning in petitions to run for precinct captain.  Each true progressive who wins as precinct chair is one more vote for those values in the local party.  Each local party with grassroots-friendly leadership is one more vote for those values in the State party.

Yes, people will cry that the whole structure is so hopelessly corrupt that none of this will make any difference.  As Russo said in Armenia:  What the fuck else are you going to do?

[I’ll update all this with links when Blogger lets me.]


Jill said...

Hmm, I'd like to offer an alternate perspective on the High and Broad thing, Pho, and whether the Ohio blogosphere has suffered a blow.

First, I don't know if you saw the Is there a Rabbi in the House post when it was still intact. It was just crazy, as in nonsensical, not in-line with what was being said and, to me, just plain provocative for provocation's sake.

Second, I have no prior record with H & B except one nice exchange of emails when he quoted me, as he had done others, but didn't attribute to me, though he attributed to the others. So, in a very wide-eyed not nasty email, I asked if he could fix the oversight and he apologized and did (I don't know if it's a he - just guessing).

Otherwise, I agree with you - I liked what was on the blog most of the time, though some of it seemed snidely partisan, I just come to expect that from some blogs and always remember that each blog represents the individual blogger, that's it.

HOWEVER, when the Is there a Rabbi in the House post went up, well, given that I'd already spoken with Redfern by then AND had received two emails from the ODP communications director by then, it was just plain weird to see me being kind of picked on as well as the whole questioning of Eric Fingerhut's sincerity.

I've not felt the blogosphere here coming apart. I actually just said to someone in it that I can't believe the support out there. If anything, the ODP supporters are no where to be read about. If they're supportive of how things have come down, if they believe in what they've helped happen, then why aren't they spreading that out there? That's what I would do - not so much as defend myself, but to say, Here's how it is - to help us make sense.

I know - my expectations often don't represent others, or reality. But I don't feel the blogosphere is in danger of being any more fractious than it's ever been, and I do think that there are things that should be revealed to better explain what the heck was happening at H & B in the end.


Anonymous said...

Okay, I must say that I have always viewed a blog as an online diary and something that CAN be one says that blogs have to be bipartisan.

Anonymous said...

What got me more than anything else was that a democratic paid media staffer was posting stuff that if not clearly anti-semetic at bare minimum appeared anti-semetic. It was also the least sporting time to possibly post an attack on Fingerhuts faith considering he'd already dropped out. Its better it came out now than closer to a campaign and its better BFD and BSB than powerline or LGF.

dirtgirl said...

Thanks for saying that. I share your frustrations about the left blogosphere.

Personally, I wish H&B had stuck around. Party insider or not, his views were his and had value. One thing that frustrates me is that the blogs can be an echo chamber. A diversity of views (even including ones coming from inside the establishment, assuming they are only part of the picture) is a good thing. It challenges our firmly-held opinions and forces us to consider the other side. Sometimes people screw up and say something stupid and the rest of us call them on it. I don't think he made a fatal mistake and should be run out of town for it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that John got run out of town so much as he realized his blog jeopardized his own employment. If not being liked by Russo could make him take his blog down that would have happened a long time ago. He just wasn't willing to have his name associated with what he was writing.

Pho said...

Jill and A2

I in no way defend H&B's Fingerhut post. I think even he recognizes that it is indefensible now, though an apology in his farewell message would have been nice.

My point was that suspicion is rampant in the Ohio liberal blogosphere, most recently exemplified in Russo's BFD posts purporting to out him. Whether or not Model500 is an ODP operative, fact is, it's hard to swim against the tide without being accused of having a paid interest in your point of view. I've been accused in comment fields elsewhere of being paid by Sherrod Brown and Ted Strickland, among others, to which I invariably reply "I wish!"

Which brings me to A1 (and once again I plead with anonymice to give us a handle of some sort). Yes, political blogs have a viewpoint. But there's a difference between having a viewpoint and being paid to put out opinion and pretend it's simply your personal thought. I don't object to paid operatives blogging, but I object to people pretending to be regular folks and in fact being paid operatives.

If a guy making peanuts for a small grassroots group is willing to disclose his interest, if Live from Dayton is on hiatus for the duration of the Studebaker campaign, people who are truly connected can surely be expected to make those connections public.

Anonymous said...

The progressive activists were certainly all lined up behind Brown. The middle-of-the-road, average people, never-been-active-before-but-are-very-interested-in-Ohio's-future were on fire for Hackett. I know a ton of such people who are walking around feeling like their blossoming interest in getting involved was chopped off at the knees and who are talking about total retreat. They certainly are not interested in working actively for Brown. If Brown thinks he can win statewide election on the backs of progressive (and labor)activists, well, more power to him. I am not so convinced.

Jill said...

Anon just before me: I hope you don't mind if I try to run with the logic you offer.

If what you say is true, then Hackett was indeed a catalyst for the spark inside people wanting to be, waiting to be sparked. That's a great thing.

But is it really helpful, or accurate, in the long run, to believe that only if and unless it's Hackett, those folks who've know been roused have no good reason to keep their interest level up?

I don't know - I mean, I listened to the audio of Hackett from Ohio 2nd and frankly, he appealed to me more than ever before because of how personal he sounded. Not that everything else he's said up until now wasn't him, but somehow, his explanation of the friction and it's effect on him and the way it's made him see the situation - so, so real and honest. To me, more real and honest than I perceived him to be any other time (again, I take responsibility for this being my perception - whether or not it's what Hackett himself would say about what's been "him" the most).

Anyway - I think of this analogy: I'm followed the small schools reform effort, whose success relies on school leaders supporting and making change. But leaders leave and others come in. They system, the infrastructure, the enthusiasm, can't evaporate with the leader.

I'm not a "party" person, but I know what my values are. I plan on continuing to find and push for my values to be represented.

I don't know much about Paul Hackett, but I have to believe that he would not want those who trusted in him to withdraw from being active. Admittedly, only he can say whether my speculation is accurate or not.

Tim Russo said...


H&B was a complete fraud. there is nothing positive about that. i don't care how contrarian he was (speaking as quite the contrarian myself), it was paid ODP press releases spun into an anonymous blog. that is not contributing against a culture of "e-group think", it is fraud.

not only that, it rather amazingly leapt into the near anti-semitic on the day that Eric dropped out. that is stunning on its own, but even more stunning that this is a paid ODP staffer doing this.

it's going to get uglier....i hear that kohlstrand is now fingering his boss, brian rothenberg as the H&B blogger, who also happens to be a Jew. how contrarian is that?

bryan said...

pho, while i disagree w/ the view that hackett was mr. netroots, i know things look a little different in the activist community in summit co.

i can tell you that hackett had enormous support from real ohioans. in my years doing this sort of thing, i have NEVER seen the kind of response paul had statewide.

who knows how this would have ended. for now, i'm just wondering what else could possibly go horribly wrong with democrats in ohio this year.

p.s., thanks for being a reasoned voice in the ohio blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

Look. I agree the H&B blog on Fingerhut was stupid, and the author seems to admit that. But Tim Russo is acting like a lunatic about it.

I mean, around 2,500 Americans are dead in Iraq. We are no safer against terrorists now than we were on 9/12/2001. Washington DC is run by lobbyists and mean-spirited right wingers.

In Ohio, Republicans have put the state government up to bid to the highest bidder. Millions have been lost or stolen. I could go on and on if I had the time.

And Tim Russo is out of his mind over one stupid blog?

THAT, my friends, is why Democrats/liberals/progressives (whatever) lose every election.

Jill said...

Anon above me - Hmm - where exactly did he or she who blogged at H & B say that he or she knows that what they did was stupid?

I can appreciate the need to move on, but just so you know, I was mischaracterized and bordeline maligned in the post, by name. I also left a very lengthy and specific comment. I've not received anything from anyone - via email or a post on my blog or a phone call - that demonstrated someone feeling that what was written was in poor taste, stupid or otherwise incorrect.

So - please - if I missed something in the comment thread here, I'd be thrilled if you made it more obvious to me.

Pounder said...

H&B was pure propaganda masquerading as just a blogger. I think the question next is was it sanctioned ?

I think this goes to the root of the dysfunction at ODP that is alienating a lot of people and not just the net roots.

As for kicking Hackett out it was sheer insanity. Whether he would of won or lost he was clearly bringing fresh energy and new faces into the process something we must have to win. Now it's like all the oxygen has been sucked out of the room and that Hackett energy and buzz is getting replaced by the usual Dem bashing in the media

For me I think it's all symptomatic of our leadership not being effective people persons preferring instead to use brute force - which would be fine if they operated from a position of strength, but they don't.

Redfern needs to show some real leadership real soon and get a handle on this. firing some people would be a good place to start. Right now ODP looks and acts like crony central, and sadly for Strickland he has tied himself to the hip with them.

pdh said...

Hi all from one of those middle-of-the-road, average, never-been-active-before-but-is-very-interested-in-Ohio's-future people who was on fire for Hackett.

The money I sent to Hackett was my first ever political donation ... & I was a freshman in college when Kennedy was killed. I have become deeply disturbed by both what the Republicans are doing to the country & at the ineffectual response of the Democrats. Hackett was such a breath of fresh air!

Then Sherrod Brown manages to almost single-handedly poison the entire political atmosphere of the state & beyond by his actions. I will never vote for him, much less work for him. Moreover, I have become suspicious of anyone associated with him. If Brown loses by one vote to DeWine, too bad. Let Redfern vote twice if he's worried about my vote.

But I still feel I must do something because there are still nasty people out there, gnawing away at the foundations of the country that my granddaughter is going to grow up in. So I think I'll pick one of the OH-18 candidates & work for him ... & leave the rest for other people to worry about.

Have a nice day!

grandpaboy said...

Pho, you had the sense to put out even the hint of conflict of interest on your blog. That H&B didn't undercuts whatever they brought to the table.

Like the botched primary, it's made me rethink my positions. Not because they swayed me, but showed me how I don't want to carry myself. It feels like we're trapped in the sausage factory.