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Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Times Doesn't Get #TheResistance

I wasn't going to post again tonight, but I keep seeing this same story pass through my Twitter timeline.

I believe that Kenneth Vogel of the Times is conflating #TheResistance with the Bernie vs. Hillary fighting... but I'm not sure. Decide for yourself:

It started as a scrappy grass-roots protest movement against President Trump, but now the so-called resistance is attracting six and seven-figure checks from major liberal donors, posing an insurgent challenge to some of the left's most venerable institutions -- and the Democratic Party itself.

It may no longer be a scrappy grass-roots protest, but that's largely because both the Democratic establishment and the "insurgent left" have embraced it. Mr. Vogel or his editor could have easily run a Twitter search and found Democrats from basically the entire spectrum of the Party, as well as independents both to the left and the right of the Party, and even some #NeverTrump Republicans. But he didn't. It wouldn't have been as juicy a story. As a Hillary supporter who is both ideologically pretty far to the left but a proponent of building up the Democratic Party's infrastructure rather than burning it down, I've written several posts stating that Democratic donors needed to provide more money to new groups, even though I've expressed some pretty harsh skepticism about the possibility of it happening:

But I digress. One of the reasons I was so excited about a Hillary Clinton presidency was the potential for a liberal-leaning Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United and start to take at least a chunk of the money out of politics. We're pretty clearly going the other way for at least the next decade or two. So we're going to need money. We can't pretend we don't, and we can't pretend that it wasn't big money that built the other side.
I continue to admire the goals of Indivisible, but it's really, really tough to get to the right conclusion when you're starting with the wrong premises. And until people like them acknowledge that they need to fight fire with fire, we're going to keep trying to douse gunfire with water because we learned the wrong lessons from history (and metaphors).

Well, if Vogel is right and it's happening, this is fantastic Back to him:

The jockeying between groups, donors and operatives for cash and turf is occurring mostly behind the scenes. But it has grown acrimonious at times, with upstarts complaining they are being boxed out by a liberal establishment that they say enables the sort of Democratic timidity that paved the way for the Trump presidency.

Isn't he contradicting himself here? His headline is, "The Resistance, Raising Big Money, Upends Liberal Politics." If they're raising big money, that's a ton more money than they had before November 9th, when they didn't even exist!

The tug of war — more than the lingering squabbles between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — foreshadows a once-in-a-generation reorganization of the American left that could dictate the tactics and ideology of the Democratic Party for years to come. If the newcomers prevail, they could pull the party further to the left, leading it to embrace policy positions like those advocated by Mr. Sanders, including single-payer health care and free tuition at public colleges.

Mr. Vogel, if you haven't noticed, the Democratic Party has been moving to the left since 2006, and especially since 2011. Read its damn convention platform. Better yet, read Hillary Clinton's book. She's for free tuition at public colleges (with the exception of for people wealthy enough to easily afford it), and while I don't believe she endorsed single payer health care (I'm with her on that; I don't care if it's single payer, as long as it's universal and good), she did endorse lowering the Medicare age to 55 (like she did in the campaign), and even explored Universal Basic Income, which is a position that's even further to the left than single payer health care. The entire Party is within a fairly narrow ideological window at this point.

The upending of the left comes amid a broader realignment in American politics, with the Republican Party establishment also contending with a rising rebellion, driven by pro-Trump populists.

This is also totally off. The Republicans are not facing a rising rebellion; they are being themselves. They've been moving in this direction for decades; Trump is the candidate their party's primary voters overwhelmingly supported because he is what the party is now, and frankly has been at least since the time of Newt Gingrich. They're also pretty homogenous policy-wise. A President Marco Rubio would not have pursued policies considerably different than Trump has, and he probably would've been more successful. There's a reason that no matter what Trump does, not ONE of the 240+ Republican members of the House will even utter a word about drafting articles of impeachment.

Just as the new forces on the right are threatening primary challenges to establishment Republicans, some groups on the left have begun talking about targeting Democratic incumbents in the 2018 midterm elections.

Wake me when there's a Democratic challenger from the left that has a serious chance of unseating an incumbent Democrat. I wouldn't be surprised if one or two did, but that's pretty inconsequential.

Entrenched Democratic groups are facing growing questions about the return on the hundreds of millions of dollars they have spent over the years. Groups affiliated with Mrs. Clinton “spent so much money based on a bad strategy in this last cycle that they should step aside and let others lead in this moment,” said Quentin James, a founder of a political committee called the Collective PAC that supports African-American candidates.

Boy, did Vogel have to dig for this guy. His PAC spent a grand total of about $25,000 in 2016. Quentin Jones isn't exactly a player.

Mr. James’s committee is among more than three dozen outfits that have started or reconfigured themselves since the election to try to harness the surge in anti-Trump activism. In addition to political committees, grass-roots mobilization nonprofits and legal watchdog groups, there are for-profit companies providing technological help to the new groups — essentially forming a new liberal ecosystem outside the confines of the Democratic Party.

This is really light on the details in a place in the story where Vogel could be making his case. He doesn't provide much in the way of his details, and it leaves him without much of a case.

While the new groups gained early traction mostly on the strength of grass-roots volunteers and small donations — and with relatively meager overall budgets — they are beginning to attract attention from the left’s most generous benefactors.

“We’re in a disruptive period, and when we get through it, the progressive infrastructure landscape may look different,” said Gara LaMarche, president of the Democracy Alliance, a club of wealthy liberals who donate at least $200,000 a year to recommended groups. “There may be groups that have been around that don’t rise to the challenge, and there may be some new groups that do rise to the challenge, while others fade away.”
The Democracy Alliance has helped shape the institutional left, steering more than $600 million since its inception in 2005 to a portfolio of carefully selected groups, including pillars of the Clinton-aligned establishment like the think tank Center for American Progress and the media watchdog Media Matters.
But this year, the Democracy Alliance hired Archana Sahgal, a former Obama White House official, to help the new anti-Trump groups, and it suspended its intensive vetting and approval process to recommend donations to a host of groups created since last fall’s election.
The Democracy Alliance distributed a “resistance map” to its donors in July including new groups focused on converting the anti-Trump energy into electoral wins, such as Flippable, Swing Left and Sister District, as well as legal watchdog groups and others focused on mobilizing protesters, such as Women’s March and Indivisible.
Perhaps no group epitomizes the differences between the legacy left and the grass-roots resistance like Indivisible. Started as a Google document detailing techniques for opposing the Republican agenda under Mr. Trump, the group now has a mostly Washington-based staff of about 40 people, with more than 6,000 volunteer chapters across the country. The national Indivisible hub, which consists of a pair of nonprofit groups, has raised nearly $6 million since its start, primarily through small-dollar donations made through its website.

Indivisible was started by former Congressional staffers. That's not exactly anti-establishment.

Yet Indivisible has also received funding from the tech entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, as well as foundations or coalitions tied to Democracy Alliance donors, including the San Francisco mortgage billionaire Herbert Sandler, the New York real estate heiress Patricia Bauman and the oil heiress Leah Hunt-Hendrix.
And an advocacy group funded by the billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros, a founding member of the Democracy Alliance and one of the most influential donors on the left, is considering a donation in the low six figures to Indivisible. Mr. Soros has already donated to a host of nonprofit groups playing key roles in the anti-Trump movement, including the Center for Community Change, Color of Change and Local Progress.
Indivisible would “gladly” accept a check from Mr. Soros or his foundation, said an official with the group, Sarah Dohl. But, she added, the group is committed to ensuring that money from major donors does not become a majority of the group’s revenue “because we want to maintain our impendence both from the funders and from the party.”

Soros has been funding liberal-leaning groups for years, including ones that have been new. And he's only considering making a donation to Indivisible. I hope he does, but does that mean they submitted a grant application, or he had a chat with a friend about it? This is some seriously weasel-wordy stuff from Vogel.

The group may start a political committee that could support primary challenges in 2018 against Democratic incumbents, Ms. Dohl said.

They "may." It "could." Weasel weasel...
“It’s not a secret that we would like to move the Democratic Party further left,” she said, adding that “the party will only get to where it needs to go if it has groups like ours pushing them to do the right thing.” She cited her group’s aggressive opposition to Republicans’ initial efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act at a time when she said Democratic congressional leaders “didn’t really have a strategy.”

I'm not sure that's fair, but if Indivisible was largely responsible for saving the ACA (and they played a role, just not the biggest), there are very few Democrats that wouldn't thank them.

Established liberal groups like the Center for American Progress haven’t always been as forceful, Ms. Dohl said, though she added that the think tank “has gotten better at calling on Democrats to stand up and speak more boldly than they have in the past.”

Yes. CAP and other groups are getting better.  That's an acknowledgment that the groups are getting closer ideologically, not further apart.

The divisions have sometimes spilled into public view.
The leader of a group founded by Mr. Sanders called Our Revolution castigated the Democratic establishment as arrogant “dictators” who want to control the “terms of unity” after her group’s activists were met by barricades outside the Washington headquarters of the Democratic National Committee when they visited in July to deliver petitions supporting a liberal policy platform.

OK, we know that there's still some division between Hillary voters and *some* Bernie voters, but 1. Bernie isn't even a Democrat, and 2. most Bernie voters ended up voting for Clinton in the end, and not too many that didn't will receive much support from Democratic donors. Besides, how popular is Our Revolution? If I'm measuring by Facebook, the Democratic Party (just its one main group) is liked by more than five times as many users as Our Revolution is.

And Ms. Hunt-Hendrix has urged progressive donors to boycott Democratic establishment-aligned groups like the centrist think tank Third Way and the nonprofits spearheaded by David Brock, the former conservative journalist who became a leading Clinton supporter and founded Media Matters and the opposition research outfit American Bridge.

Very few Democrats support Third Way at this point. It's been irrelevant for a long time. They flirt with running Michael Bloomberg, another non-Democrat, every four years, and never do. And Media Matters is a pretty liberal organization and I believe it's doing just fine. American Bridge occupies a totally different space. I don't recall the last time I heard the name.

Those groups represent a “neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party” that embraces “broken tactics” and an “uninspiring” agenda “more focused on defeating the right than on creating an economy and society that lifts up all people,” Ms. Hunt-Hendrix wrote in an op-ed article this year for Politico.

Anyone who is using the term "neoliberal" in 2017 should be ignored.

Matt Bennett, an official at Third Way, challenged predictions that the new wave of resistance activism would substantially shift the axis of the party. “The idea that all the energy in the Democratic Party is on the far left is premature, and is going to turn out to be the worst prediction of the 2020 cycle,” he said.

Once again. You can't use a quote from a member of an organization that doesn't even really ever support Democrats to demonstrate a split in the Democratic Party!

Mr. Brock and Ms. Leger both said that their groups have been providing research, polling, training and other resources to the new groups, which they cast as a boon to the left, rather than a threat to more established groups.
“The resistance is strongest when everyone has access to our resources,” Mr. Brock said. Ms. Leger said, “These grass-roots groups play a different, unique role, and their energy is something the progressive movement hadn’t seen in decades.” And a D.N.C. spokeswoman, Xochitl Hinojosa, praised the new groups for their work to “bring about progressive change and elect Democrats.”

So David Brock is actually on board with these groups? I've written a number of posts imploring him to do so. If the guy you're holding up in your story as one of the main enemies of the new groups is funding them, how the fuck is that division? And the DNC is supportive of these new groups too!

Yet one major Democratic donor, the Virginia real estate developer Albert J. Dwoskin, said the fluidity in the universe of liberal groups would cause some donors to sit on the sidelines “to wait to see which ones have any legs whatsoever.”

I honestly don't even know what this means.

And veteran Democratic operatives are concerned that the proliferation could further fracture the left, widening ideological divisions and leaving groups fighting for resources.

Veteran Democratic operatives like who? Not David Brock, apparently. Name names, Kenneth.

That doesn’t bother Dmitri Mehlhorn, a political adviser to Mr. Hoffman, the billionaire founder of LinkedIn, who has brought a venture capital approach to politics, seeding a wide array of new groups on the left.
“The Democratic Party has been fractured,” Mr. Mehlhorn said. “We believe that by investing in different people and groups to try different techniques that good ideas will emerge.”

OK, what he calls "fracturing" seems to me to be more like "opening to new ideas." But who's he funding?

Among Mr. Hoffman’s donations are at least $1 million each to two of the groups suing Mr. Trump’s campaign, his administration, businesses and associates

Is there a single member of the Democratic Party that doesn't support suing Donald Trump? I mean, there are some on the far left that appear to be against it because they say that Russia didn't have a role in the election. Pretty much every "establishment" Dem believes they did.
 — United to Protect Democracy, started this year by a former Obama White House lawyer, and Integrity First for America, which will be unveiled later this year by the pioneering New York trial lawyer Roberta A. Kaplan.

Someone who worked for Obama? How is that not "establishment?" Also, of course there are new groups that have been started to specifically sue Trump that didn't exist before. He's only been in the White House for nine months!

A Silicon Valley-like competition between start-ups might not be the best thing for the left right now, warned Rob Stein, a longtime Democratic strategist who helped create the Democracy Alliance to provide structure to the institutional left.
“Having a thousand flowers blooming at the beginning of a new era is generally a good thing,” Mr. Stein said. “But when you’ve got your back against the wall, too many new blooms can cause message and operational cacophony.”
He warned that the combination of ideological and structural divisions, along with a national party weakened by changes in campaign finance laws, could “make it very, very difficult for progressives and Democrats to drive a coherent message in 2018, and to align behind a single candidate in 2020.”

Once again, we have "can," and "could." Bernie Sanders taking a shit on a photo of John Podesta on the steps of the Capitol "could" split the party.

#TheResistance is not the Democratic Party coming apart. While there are divisions in the Party, to be sure, it's providing the rallying cries which have the potential to strengthen its Vogel's article provides little evidence this is happening, and mostly betrays its own premise.

Why does the New York Times publish content like this? The article in itself could sow more seeds of division than exist now. If they'd behaved more responsibly over the last couple of years, we wouldn't have a madman on Pennsylvania Ave. (well, when he's not golfing or throwing paper towels). They haven't taken much responsibility for that. Now they're putting out crap that might re-elect him?

I'll close by reiterating something I wrote in May:
The Times really is a Jekyll and Hyde publication. They break some of the most important stories in the world, and yet they've helped Republicans cover up bombshells and attacked Democrats for no good reason. I have some theories as to why, but it's safe to say that they're not coming at the news from the right perspective when we see ads like this:

That's exactly what Vogel's doing. Being part of the story. I believe the appropriate term is "journalistic malpractice."