I’ll admit that the Yearly Kos convention-goers make an easy target for ridicule. We’re old, we dress kind of funny, we’re a little geeky about computers, and political junkies of any persuasion are always a bit odd. Back in September 2005 a lot of the more traditional and cantankerous bloggsters went down to Washington DC to protest the war in Iraq. Some of the kewl kids thought we were wasting our time. But, those of us that went knew that what we were doing was important and empowering. A large part of the sense of empowerment that we shared in DC was not related to how many feet we put on the Mall, but about meeting our online friends in real life, and seeing a digital reality because manifest in the real world. Electron broadband blasts became real action in real time.
Yearly Kos has that same feel. Thousands of people are meeting all over this city and greeting each with their user names, discussing each other’s diaries, and the diaries of their favorite writers. And, it is all in a context where our votes are being courted by the Democratic leadership and presidential aspirants.
It’s heady stuff, and it’s hard to get my mind around how fast the Daily Kos community went from a place where we pissed and moaned to a place that has this kind of pull. On one level, it’s great. Even for the people that have been alienated from the Daily Kos community during its rise to prominence and power, this should be seen as positive development. But, all is not well in Kossackistan. I may be the first to bring this up, but it certainly would have been brought up without me being the one to say it. Especially after Mark Warner’s keynote speech.
Gov. Mark Warner
Markos introduced Mark Warner. And when he did so, he has very clear that he has not endorsed Warner for President in 2008. He also was clear that his friend Jerome Armstrong very much wants him to endorse Warner. And he was clear that he is impressed and pleased with Warner because he was the first major politician to agree to come to Yearly Kos, that by doing so he had lent credibility to the conference and led many other politicians to attend, and that Warner has shown a willingness to engage the netroots movement. Those are the facts. And I share those sentiments with Markos. Warner is coming after our votes and he is being very aggressive about it. That is not a bad thing.
But there can be no avoiding a controversy about the close relationship that is developing between Warner and Daily Kos. Warner was not only granted the keynote speech; prior to the speech he was allowed to pass out free Yearly Kos t-shirts with his face (not Markos’s or Wesley Clark’s, or FDR’s, or Russ Feingold’s, or Hillary Clinton’s, or Armando’s) superimposed on the front. And on the back, it says ‘Forward Together’ and ‘Authorized and Paid for by Forward Together PAC.’ That is Mark Warner’s presidential political action committee. Then we were all subjected to a Kennedyesque five-minute canned campaign infomercial. Then Warner gave a well presented and well received speech, emphasizing a Dukakis-like technocratic competency that was striking (if one hadn’t been expecting it) for its lack of ideology.
All of this came on the heels of Warner’s huge blowout part last night at the Stratosphere (an event that was in no way affiliated with Yearly Kos). The party was lavish, providing cocktails, a sushi bar, and carved meats and cheese trays.
Even before the Keynote address I was hearing a lot of grumbling about Warner’s decision to spend so much money buttering up the Kossack crowd. After the t-shirt and informercial stunts, I heard a lot more grumbling.
For some, the problem is a simple matter of how Warner is choosing to spend his money. But for others, the problem is that Mark Warner is a centrist candidate that has strong connections to the Democratic Leadership Council. And it is jarring to see Markos go from declaring war on the DLC to coming within inches of endorsing a DLC candidate for President over two years out from the election.
Let’s be clear about one thing. Markos did not endorse Warner. He was explicit about that. But he has given Warner a major platform to try to win over the Kossack community and to raise his profile from a little known Governor, to someone that might give (another DLC candidate) Hillary Clinton a run for her money.
And the question then becomes, “is this what Daily Kos wants? Has Daily Kos come to a point where they are going to cozy up to the Democratic Leadership Council?’ Why are we so opposed to Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman, if not because they supported the war and do not advocate leaving Iraq? How is Mark Warner any different in this regard?”
I’ve sat down with Governor Warner and discussed Iraq with him. I like Governor Warner and I know that he is torn over what to do in Iraq. I appreciate, really appreciate, his attitude towards the netroots, toward the progressive community, and toward me personally. I think he is a good man, and I think he should be taken seriously as a candidate. Not all DLC members are the same. There is a big difference between Lieberman, Bayh, and Hillary on the one hand and Warner, Richardson, and Vilsack on the other. Gore is a DLC candidate cut from another mold.
The way the Presidential race is shaping up, it looks like John Edwards and Russ Feingold are going to be the only non-DLC candidates with a prayer of winning. So, looking at Mark Warner makes some sense. At least he is listening, being respectful, and has shown us good-will. Hillary is busy in New York City this weekend.
So, I’m not bashing Mark Warner. I’m not questioning Markos’s gratefulness to Warner, or his decision to give Warner the keynote spot. But, I don’t think the Kossack community is ready to give up the fight for a more progressive candidate and more progressive politics a full two years before the election. And we are going to see a battle royale between those that think Russ Feingold or John Edwards are the proper candidates to carry the orange banner and those that are won over by coconut shrimp, and free kosmopolitans and t-shirts.