The Marginalized Mainstream
by

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Somewhere between donning tongue-in-cheek tinfoil hats to symbolically deride those who label them conspiracy theorists and insisting they were “a fairly representative cross-section of the Democratic Party,” the gathered at a well-attended Yearly Kos panel on Reforming the Electoral Process cheered wildly at the suggestion that, well, whitey don’t know what he done got coming to him.

“By the year 2020 we will be a majority minority state which means we will have more people of Latino, African American and Native American heritage than of Anglo heritage and I’m really looking forward to the revolution at that time,” said Arizona State Representative Krysten Sinema, a self-described former socialist “bisexual criminal defense attorney who represents murderers.”

For a moment Sinema basked in the applause, and then said, “Um, I just said that on camera…oops!” Wink, wink. Tee hee hee. Viva La Revoluccion!

The whooping got even louder when Sinema urged the public financing of campaigns to remove “overweight white men” in favor of candidates “more like myself, individuals of an oppressed minority.”

The largely white audience guffawed as mightily as a gaggle of albino Opus Dei members in the throes of a mortification ritual. I can already envision next year’s Yearly Kos commemorative cilices. Some intrepid reporter without fear of death (not me) might have asked what Daily Kos readers would think of a politician at CPAC saying they couldn’t wait for the white revolution in predominantly black neighborhoods or when precisely defense attorneys became an “oppressed minority,” but, then again, in this postmodern world anyone without victim status simply suffers from a lack of ambition.

There was no such deficiency at Yearly Kos, where the attendees’ Christ complex heroically reduced all those with remotely conservative leanings into part of a demonic coven — Um, did you know the Cato Institute carries water for the Bush administration? — with special guest star Joe Lieberman as Judas. Daily Kos founder and Crashing the Gates co-author Markos Moulitsas went so far as to remark, “If Jesus were our next nominee he’d get dragged through the mud.” They already know how Satan would fare. He, after all, already won the vice presidency in 2004.

Yet the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Sinema’s “oops!” not-ready-for-primetime comments is instructive: Even as Kossacks summon antipathy toward all things mainstream to apotheosis, they wish concurrently and fervently to claim they are the real voice of moderation.

For example, during the Q&A session following Barbara Boxer’s speech, a young woman complained to the California Senator about how “convenient” some in Congress found it to think of Kossacks as “extremists.”

“We pretty much consider ourselves ordinary Americans, but I get the sense that’s not what they think of us,” she said.

“There have been so many efforts to marginalize us by the media and political elite because we had the temerity to feel passionate about politics,” Moulitsas likewise taunted during his keynote address. “How dare us riffraff demand a voice in our democracy? So they marginalize us. They say we’re extremists. We’re politically naive.”

BUT WHO IS MARGINALIZING the “netroots”? Howard Dean — whom Moulitsas all but claimed sole credit for installing as Democratic National Committee chairman — confided during his Saturday morning speech, “We actually have a whole department in the DNC, the internet department. What they do is read you all day long so they know what’s going on.” Of course, there’s a difference between listening to advice and taking it, right? Actually, according to Dean, “What you do every day has a significant effect on Congress…and that’s saying something.”

Okay, okay. So Dean is on board. Judging by the “we’re not crazy” rhetoric of Kossacks, one might assume Dean is the exception to the rule. Er, not exactly. “We don’t have a bully-pulpit, but we do have you,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said during his appearance. “We need you to be our megaphone.” Former Virginia governor and Democratic presidential wannabe Mark Warner at his Yearly Kos party at Stratosphere — rumored to cost $100,000 — gushed, “You guys are here to stay. You are bringing renewed energy to our party. This is the new public square, the new face of democracy and the new face of the Democratic Party.” Barbara Boxer told the gathered they were the “most powerful answer” to the “Foxification” of media, which to this crowd was the highest of high praise.

Ironically enough, the only skeptics in a convention center filled with more than a thousand “citizen journalists” insisting they are the antidote to the lapdog mainstream media seemed to be the — dim the lights, cue ominous background music — mainstream journalists.

Still, profess their undying love for dissent though they may, Byron York’s even-tempered reporting on the festivities earned him this pillorying from Moulitsas: “Byron is just another chickens[***] who didn’t serve his nation in uniform. Perhaps it’s because they would’ve cut his hair off in basic training, and like Samson, it would’ve destroyed his ‘evil liberal slaying’ superpowers.” And on the other side of the spectrum, when Maureen Dowd mused whether bloggers were “outsiders” who “just wanted to get in,” Moulitsas lashed out: “Maureen Dowd is an insecure, catty bitch.”

Nothing to see here, folks…just a not-extreme cross-section of the American left reasonably advancing the public debate.

I tend to agree with Slate‘s John Dickerson on this point. He observed, “By blogger standards, Dowd’s attack was a Swedish massage.” Before her column ran, Maureen Dowd sightings around Yearly Kos set hearts aflutter. The Times pundit stood at the head of an impromptu receiving line of fans hoping for autographs or pictures, responding to their gushing compliments with a wry little smile as if the machinations of the hoi polloi’s adulation in the presence of greatness are just so…cute…if a bit provincial. It will be interesting to see if she faces any sort of “netroots” backlash for gently ribbing people who call her and her colleagues obsolete.

NOT THAT I CARE. It’s sort of like the night I watched cops break up a rumble between rival groups of frat boys with tear gas — Where’s my popcorn? I could watch this fight all night. But it does suggest something about Daily Kos that it cannot brook even mild criticism from a natural ally such as Dowd.

Perhaps what is tragic about these outbursts is that there is an honest-to-goodness visionary aspect in Moulitsas. While his opening night keynote was fairly tepid and trite, panel appearances wherein he discussed long-term political strategies — he’s referencing the Goldwater to Reagan conservative build-up and thinking ahead to 2016 — to shift the few points the Republicans keep winning elections by into the left’s column were calmly brilliant, threatening to be derailed only by the ease with which he so often skids into over-the-top polemicist mode.

As someone whose views are outside the mainstream myself, I see no problem with the forceful rhetoric of the Kossacks when it is connected to some sort of ideological purity. “Without a doubt, Yearly Kos announced the arrival of Daily Kos as a political force,” blogger McJoan wrote on Daily Kos yesterday. And how can one argue? The newfound power and politicians coming a’knocking begs the question, however: How long can a movement based on righteous indignation survive acceptance?

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