My last post struck up a lively - yes, that's putting it gently - debate over moderation and lefty values... and that brought me back to a blog point I've been meaning to make since January: one good indication of the collapse of lefty ideas and political energy is the burnt wreckage landscape of the blogosphere.
The indications of this sorry state came to me in a passing conversation I had with Red, a while back, about how neither of us coud find many blogs to read, these days, that held our political interest.
And then Tapped, the blog at The American Prospect banned me from commenting.
Now the latter may seem ironically fitting or sublimely amusing, I admit: I'm surprised more blogmasters and mistresses don't ban my ass, frankly. And I always brace myself for a note from Melissa at Shakes summed up as "that's it, you're outta here."
But being banned at Tapped was amusing, to me, because they promoted me as one of the main Clinton backing bloggers, a recommendation that, at least for a while, boosted my readership and convinced me I was on the right track. They're liberal, I'm liberal... what could I possibly say to merit banning?
I still don't know (thanks, Prospect Webmaster for that timely reply!), but amidst the confusion, I found myself thinking... actually, this feels like a piece with the way the blogosphere is falling apart.
At the end of last year, several political blogs ceased operating, most notably Open Left, a commentary and lefty activist site. One of several lefty sites that evolved both out of the Dean Campaign and the world of Kos, Open Left was pretty much a daily read for me, and its absence is something I miss (some of its energy has flown back to Daily Kos, which I gave up trying to slog through long ago).
A few months ago I also took down my blogroll, partly because it wasn't fully up to date and maintained, and partly, as Red pointed out, because I hardly go to many of those spots anymore. And while part of the problem is blogger burnout - something I admit I've been struggling against myself - part of it, I think, is the slow burn of disintegration of the left in the Obama years.
It's well past the point to face that the "left" is in a state of general disarray and paralyzed with considerable inaction. As much as it's been hearteneing to see things like the weeks of unrest in Wisconsin, beyond that state's protests, there's been little energy anywhere mustered for liberal causes of late. Since the election's dramatic reversals, politics on the left has been in a kind of stasis - there's quiet rumblings of organizing for 2012, but little real enthusiasm for a fresh start, or anything like the energy which accompanied the 2007-8 primaries when so much seemed so crucially at stake.
Indeed, the lefty blogosphere has congealed into a string of "establishment" leaning and openly identified sites - from Daily Kos to Talking Points Memo to Center for American Progress to FireDoglake to American Prospect, and on - where well known names (like Kos, Marshall, Yglesias, Hamsher, Serwer etc) continue the familiar mix of alternately cheering and bemoaning the latest moves of the Administration and Congress. It's a given, in these circles, that Obama will run for reelection (and, in most cases, that we'll win) and that Congress looks to narrowly shft but the Senate will be Democratic and the House probably Republican. Outside of retirements, there's no energy to run primaries against Establishment leaders or most elected officials.
Beyond that are a collection of smaller sites, most with specific constituencies (feminists, blacks, gays, etc) and some better known, but probably less influential blog names - Melissa at Shakes, a smattering of Feministe and Feministing, Jeralyn and BTD at TalkLeft, Jack and Jill's bloggers, Sullivan Towle and Joe My God among gay men... and of course, Corrente, which probably best encapsulates the "outlier" left of non-Obama supporting, anti-Versailles left. And though they've found some traction on specific issues, few if any have meaningfully impacted the larger political debate or enrgized a kind of vocal opposition which would challenge the status quo, humming merrily towards 2012.
If I seem negative or disrespectful of any of these efforts, such as they are, that's really not my point. I'm not down on Melissa and Shakes (though I have my tensions with the tone of things there), and I'm not anti-Corrente, or anyone else. Its great, if nothing else, to find something, anything that expresses an alternative view and a fresh approach. But as I said in comments to that last post... there's just not the kind of activism or energy that I think is needed to translate anti-Establishment energy into concrete results.
The shorthand version of this is "we have no Tea Party" - and since August of 2009, I've been pretty consistent and vocal about the fact that it's the left, much more than angry conservatives on the right, who need a Tea Party in the sense that initially led those groups to have such unpredicatble force in various quarters in 2010. Democrats desperately need an urban movement that organizes the working poor to press for better representation and real results. We need the voices of hourly workers in retail jobs and we need to show up and be present - not for publicity stunts like Jon Stewart's ultimately silly exercise in niceness last year - but to raise our voices for policies that would help us, not hurt us, and to reassert ourselves as a constituency that doesn't just need to be addressed, but that will take action to replace people who don't listen.
I don't think it's all that remarkable, or controversial to point out that this dearth of lefty energy exists, and that the silence and inaction is part of the problem we're having watching Washington flail around, our political leaders making terrible deals and lousy compromises and defending the interests of the privileged and powerful. We can tak all day about the barriers that hold us back - the millions of dollars of special interests, or the Suprmem Court's decision in Citizens United, or the "Versailles" like qualities of a certain political elite - but that's not action, and we shouldn't pretend otherwise.
I said it before and I meant it - I'll show up, whenever and wherver peiople want to stand up to do more for people in need and challenge people with privileges to give them up and give back. I'll write about it, I'll push for it, whatever it takes. When I started blogging, it seemed lots of people shared that view and that energy. Now, not so much. I don't know entirely what happened, and I have only a modest idea as to why. But in the end... the point is, we need to move beyond that. Can't other people see that?