Seriously, Folks? “Progressive” Kos Wants GOP Teabagger to Win?

The neocons have held a disproportionate share of the government and basically have run things for the last 32 years now.

When do we progressives get tired of that?

When do progressives, as a whole, stop listening to the professional left, and realize that most of these people know exactly nothing about how politics works? I’m getting really sick of these people saying things that demonstrate a complete numbness as to how politics actually works.

Politics itself is NOT ideological. If you think it is, then you need to learn the difference between ideology and politics. While our ideology (and common sense) tells us we need to wean the country off fossil fuels, politics delineates the strategy by which you actually wean the country from fossil fuels. Our professional left understands ideology really well, and they know how to press lefty buttons so that you’ll keep reading them and giving them money. But very few of them understand politics.

One of the latest examples of this is a short piece written by Markos Moulitsas on his “Daily Kos” blog. Check out the title:

Why I want Bob Kerrey to lose

Yes, you read that right. A prominent liberal, who spends a lot of time on television, parading as an expert on politics and its workings, wants the Democrats to lose a potentially crucial Senate seat because he doesn’t like one candidate running for Senate. Not only does this smack of something of a “purity test” that is better suited to the right wing; it also demonstrates a lack of understanding of the political system that is absolutely breathtaking for a guy who is regularly paraded as an "expert.".

It should surprise no one that Kos used to be a Republican, because he obviously still thinks like one.

He starts off by citing a paragraph from a piece from last weekend’s New York Times Magazine about Kerrey’s latest candidacy for the Senate:

Kerrey is adamant about enacting a bipartisan debt-reduction deal like the one the [Gang of Six] has proposed. When I asked him why he thought he could achieve what others have failed, he said, “I’ve actually given this a fair amount of thought,” and then he let me in on his theory of success. “It’s got to be somewhat larger. You’ve got to get it to the 10-, 12-senator range. At that point, you can start to have an impact. ”

Okay, not the most progressive thing in the world, I admit. Or is it? You'll note that the "Gang of Six" was quite useful, in that it made crystal clear that Republicans couldn't care less about deficits. But even assuming that the above is a conservative thing to say, one must remember that the man is running for Senate in NEBRASKA. 

Apparently, Kos doesn’t understand that, because this is his response. I apologize for reprinting the entire post, bu it's really short. 

Given the choice between a "Democrat" that will lend a bipartisan veneer to efforts to dismantle Social Security—the most popular and successful government program in American history—and a Republican that simply reinforces GOP efforts to do so, I'll take the Republican. Easy. Any day of the week.

It's not as if we're losing a voice in the Senate. The seat belongs to outgoing right-wing Democrat Ben Nelson.

The only benefit to Kerrey's candidacy is the millions that the GOP, Karl Rove and the rest of their allies will spend to (inevitably) defeat him. That's money that won't be available to dump on real Democrats like Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown or Tammy Baldwin.

Wow, no wonder this post was so short; there’s no way to support any of this.

Kerrey’s a Nebraska Democrat. He can’t win a statewide race by running as a full on progressive, at  least, not now. We have to do some groundwork if we’re going to turn Nebraska blue. It'll take a lot of grassroots organizing and a long, positive campaign to instill progressive values on the population as a whole. IOW, you have to convince about 10-15% more Nebraskans that our way is right, if you don’t want Ben Nelsons to keep winning there.

Also, Ben Nelson is NOT right wing. Mitch McConnell is right wing. Rick Santorum is right wing. Ben Nelson is a conservative, and there is a profound difference. Nelson has never voted against cloture, has never cast the deciding vote on an important bill, and he voted with Democrats more than 80% of the time. And he did have to grandstand a bit to keep his seat blue.

And I hate to break it to Kos, but there are no individual “voices” in the Senate. Or the House, for that matter.  The Senate operates as a body of 100 Senators, not as a series of 100 individuals. And since bills can’t pass without a majority (these days a majority of 60), the majority party  gets to make policy. No single Senator can do anything on his or her own; they need 59 others to agree. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what Kerrey says he wants, just as it didn’t matter what Nelson demanded. Unless a majority goes along with it, what they want will never happen. In other words, Bob Kerrey's voice won't matter on its own. But it would help keep Democrats in charge of the Senate, which one should take on great importance at this point in time.

But, just for the hell of it, let’s imagine Kos is right, that individual voices in the Senate DO matter. He's advocating for a teabagger over Kerrey. In what way does replacing Ben Nelson with a teabagger a progressive strategy? Basically, if Kos’ wish came true, Ben Nelson would be replaced by Deb Fischer. Here is her record, from her very own website. Please explain to the class exactly how rooting for this teabagging loon over Bob Kerrey would be a net plus for the progressive movement?

How can we call these people “progressive” when they advocate for the least progressive candidate to win on a regular basis? When the choice is between a conservative-leaning Democrat and a right wing loon, how does a real progressive come down in favor of the right wing loon? 

Why do we listen to former Republicans tell those of us who have been progressive since we were kids, when they tell us how a progressive should think? Even if he’s not purposely undermining the progressive movement, an article such as this does exactly that.

These people are always on about messaging. What the hell kind of message is our professional left sending, when they are actually advocating in favor of a teabagger. And if he claims he's not doing that, then he doesn't know how messaging works, either. 

This year, because of the 2006 election that swung control of the Senate to Democrats, there are 23 Democratic seats up for grabs (including Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman), while only 10 Republicans face election. Since Democrats only have 53 seats right now, the odds are actually against the Democrats keeping the Senate. If they lose net four seats, Miss McConnell would become Majority Leader, all of the committee chairs would become Republicans, and would have Republican majorities. Basically, if Kerrey loses, there is a chance that other Democrats, including the three he lionizes above, would have no power to do anything. For anyone to think there is anything to gain from having Warren, Brown and Baldwin in the Senate minority is just ludicrous. Is that why we want those progressives to win? So that they can lead filibusters against Republican lunacy? That’s not very progressive. 

Wishing Bob Kerrey loses is about as NON-progressive as it gets, folks. And this is why we lose. Our highest-profile professional lefties are ex-Republicans who claim their "politics" has changed, but they retain a right wing mentality. They can only think in ideological terms, and have no clue how politics actually works.

If you don't want Kerrey to win in a landslide, you're NOT a progressive. 


  1. Milt, you are so right.
    I remember these so-called progressives from back in 2000. They said ” there is no difference between Al Gore and GW Bush, so I’m voting for Nader.” If 600 of them had been a little bit less stupid and not wasted their votes, this country would not have wasted a trillion dollars, 4000 American lives and 100,000 Innocent Iraqi live as well. We might have reigned in Wall Street and prevented the great recession.
    There is a reason we have history…we are supposed to learn from it.

  2. The only way your tactics have any chance of success if you have demonstrated an ability to deliver on your threats. In other words, “promises” instead of “threats.” What people like Greenwald, Sirota, and their followers have demonstrated conclusively throughout the past few years is that they have no ability to deliver. They don’t have the ability to swing an election, most of the people like you have no activity on the local level of the state parties, and quite frankly, your knowledge of basic civics sucks.
    That’s why your tactics fail constantly. No one believes you, and the reason is that no politician pays attention to people who never show up to vote, make threats about withholding support when they’ve never demonstrated support in the first place, and most frequently aren’t even their constituents.

  3. No, Crist does not undermine my argument, it undermines yours. Let’s see, Markos went with Crist “because he could win.” So he was supporting a conservative Republican, who was running as an independent, who had said he would caucus with the Republicans in the Senate.
    I also have a functioning memory, and they weren’t supporting Halter because he was a “populist,” it was because they wanted to beat Lincoln and in the process, painting him as a “true progressive.” Lying about it, IOW.
    Oh, I also remember Markos endorsing (although he walked it back a bit) a Republican in a congressional race. BTW, the Democrat won despite that. I know that, because it was my congressman, and yes, I’m politically active as well – and have been for a long time.

  4. Gee whiz… that was such great analysis that had nothing to do with this article.
    You’re also wrong.
    1. I don’t adore Obama and my loyalty is not unconditional. So you gt that wrong.
    2. You quote Greenwald and Sirota, who demonstrate ZERO knowledge of how the process actually works.
    3. The way to get politicians to do what they need to do is to offer support, to make sure they know you have their backs. You also need to get them the tools they can use to get things done.
    4. Who the fuck are YOU to decide that whatever YOU want to happen with the system matters more than what everyone else wants to happen in the system. No one gives a flying fuck what you think. as an individual. Each Rep and Senator is beholden to ALL of the people in their district and state, and they are NOT beholden to ANYONE ELSE.
    5. The president can’t do much of anything on his own. You see, it’s called a Constitution. You might try Googling it at some point, and reading it. The Founders purposely limited the president’s powers. Therefore, to get MOST things done, you’ll have to give a president the tools to get the job done.
    Our government is chosen by democratic means. Nothing other than appealing to a majority of voters.
    Here’s a clue, genius. It’s been 40 years since progressives have been relevant to the system. The way you recommend has NOT WORKED. As a result, neocons have pretty much had their way since 1980. I’m sick of you assholes telling us to keep doing things the same way that hasn’t worked for a generation.
    Now, next time you comment, at least make it a comment on the article I wrote. And I don’t allow personal attacks of anyone on this blog. So stop.

  5. Thought you’d like this, Milt – via Greenwald:
    “…Uncritical adoration and unconditional loyalty breed an arrogant, insular, unaccountable political class; as David Sirota argued when Obama “evolved” on marriage, those who reflexively defend Obama in the name of Election-Year political loyalty (or who demand that criticisms be stifled until the election) are the prime impediments to progress.
    By contrast, demands, pressure, criticism, threats to withhold support, and confrontational tactics breed a healthy respect and even self-interested fear among political leaders, along with responsiveness. This is why I argued when Obama announced his “evolution” on marriage equality that motives are irrelevant. What matters is what politicians do, not why they do it. And the way to make them do what you want is to demand and pressure them using every possible tactic, not to sit back and cheer and hope they do it out of the goodness of their heart.”
    Now shove it up your ass, you fucking moron.

  6. NO! Kerrey can’t change the Social Security system on his own, for one thing. And replacing him with a teabagger won’t exactly make Social Security more secure, will it?
    See, this is the problem. Everything you AND Markos believe is binary. Everything is either black or white, and life doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t MATTER whether or not Bob Kerrey wants to preserve Social Security. He needs 59 more votes, PLUS a House majority. Of course, on 90% of the bills the rest of the Senate Democrats vote for, he can be counted on to vote with them. If you replace him with a teabagger, not only do you endanger the majority, but you get one more vote AGINST the Social Security you claim to love so much.
    Stop thinking of politics as a smorgasbord. You have TWO choices in 99% of races; Democrats or GOP. A vote against a Democrat is a vote for a Republican. Democrats have to win most races, even if you don’t like them, because without a majority, Progressive Democrats have zero chance to effect policies.

  7. 1. Apology accepted. But then you lecture me on an “across-the-board perspective in terms of tough races/” There is no such thing. There are 468 races this year, and they are all different.
    2. MOST of the money spent in politics does NOT come from the party, exactly. The DNC money is allocated based on need and candidate quality. But ideally, they WANT everyone to win by ten points. And believe it or not, not all landslides are apparent in September.
    3. As for you final point about “veneer,” again, it doesn’t matter. DOES NOT MATTER. Kerrey won’t have more than a 1% influence on policy. I would also point out that both you AND Markos are so focused on Kerrey’s rhetoric that you’re blinded. The records of both Nelson and Kerrey are BOTH not as bad as he’s claiming claiming. Kerrey voted with Democrats almost 90% of the time. Now compare that to the teabagger who Markos is rooting to win.
    And again; how “progressive” do you imagine you are, if you root for Kerrey to lose, and Democrats end up with 49 Senators. All of those “real” Democratic Senators will have NO POWER. That’s really “progressive.”
    It’s you people who demand purity who are keeping the goddamn right wing in power. I hope you realize that someday.

  8. I’m not a fan of purity tests, but if there is one thing I think Democrats should stand for to be Democrats it would be preserving Social Security. Can we agree that should be a basic test?

  9. Ok firs of all, please stop telling us what people in electoral politics do “all of the time.” You have no idea.
    Delaware leans Democratic most of the time. I don’t know why anyone would have given up that race under any circumstances.
    You really don’t know what you’re talking about, but I want you to consider the rationale you just made for Markos’ support of Crist. It was to keep Rubio out. Yet, NOW, he wants a full blown teabagger to win in Nebraska because he doesn’t like Kerrey? That doesn’t strike you as a tad hypocritical? Think about it and get back to us.
    And I don’t give a shit how much money he raised for Democrats. It’s completely irrelevant. Even if he leans Democrat, what he writes and his purity test for what a Democrat “should be” undermines the party in the long run, as I explain in the article you either didn’t read, or read and didn’t understand. If we end up with 49 Democrats in the Senate, it won’t matter one little bit how many Democrats are progressives, because they’ll have no power. If he and you think Kerrey should lose because he’s not “good enough” you demonstrate a galling lack of knowledge of the process. Please stop lecturing us, because you don’t know what you’re talking about. At all.

  10. I apologize for my tone, and my assumptions. It was misdirected frustration from dealing with non-professionals recently complaining about stuff.
    Regarding the narrow wins, that was intended to be from an across-the-board perspective in terms of tough races. The candidate obviously wants to win by a lot, but if someone is looking from a bird’s-eye-view and trying to allocate resources nationally, they don’t want to put lots of money into a candidate and then have it be a landslide. That would mean some of the money could have gone into other races so two (or more) seats could be won instead of just the one. If the candidate wins by a landslide, barring unusual factors like a major scandal, they were already going to win.
    As to your final point, I still don’t see the logic of giving bipartisan veneer to bad conservative proposals.

  11. People who work in electoral politics give up races all the time. The notion that they don’t is…naive at best. I can’t speak to Nevada in 2010, but it’s not my recollection that people were actually giving up on Reid and his machine. I CAN speak to Delaware in 2010 though, given that I was intimately involved in that campaign, and I know for a fact that nobody was giving up that seat as a lost cause before O’Donnell. It was regarded as tough to win, but not a lost cause by any means.
    As for Halter, I think the argument was that he was a populist (not necessarily a progressive) who could potentially win against the GOP in Arkansas and would be better than Blanche Lincoln who was fully on the side of the big corporations/lobbyists. By the time they recruited Halter, it was clear that Lincoln was a lost cause, too. She ended up losing by double digits in November, if I recall correctly.
    I feel like the Crist point undermines your argument here against Markos. Kendrick Meek — who was not a great candidate and probably too progressive for the state — was never going to win that election (again, a lost cause situation), but Crist had the potential to win the election against Rubio. Markos supported him only after Crist switched to independent. His thinking was that it was better to have Crist elected and caucusing with the Dems than to have Rubio elected to the Republicans. I thought that was consistent with your line of reasoning about supporting Kerrey to hold the Democratic majority?
    I get the argument for holding the majority, and it’s important. If he’s the 50th or 51st seat (depending on the VP), then yes it’s important, but I’m not counting on Kerrey in my math to get there, because I don’t think he can win. The number one reason I don’t think he can win is because he clearly doesn’t want to. His heart is not in it at all.
    Here’s another thing to consider: Markos raised over $1 million in the 2010 cycle for Democrats. This cycle he’s raised over $955,000 so far. In the 2008 cycle, he raised over $2.4 million. Almost $4.4 million over 3 cycles. So while I sometimes question some of his specific positions and claims, I don’t question his commitment to electing more and better Democrats (which often requires a balancing act between both the more and the better). I don’t get why he generates such anger from people.

  12. All of that, and I don’t think you even read what I wrote.
    What the hell happens if Kerrey loses? A far right teabagger will take his seat. That’s better than Kerrey?
    I DO work in electoral politics, and have for most of the last 40 years, you condescending moron. And if you think we want out candidates to win by no more than 2-3 points, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. ANY campaign HOPES for a landslide. Ask most of the progressives in Congress, who often win with at least 60% of the vote if it’s more fun to squeak by with 51%. That literally makes zero sense.
    I’m a progressive, and have been a progressive since I worked on then McGovern campaign when I was 14. So don’t tell me what a “real progressive” should want, and then throw up bullshit like the above. Kos is a decent guy, but given that he used to be a Republican and then suddenly became a “progressive,” he doesn’t have the credibility to preach to me about progressive politics.
    And that last paragraph is pure BS. Progressive goals can only be achieved AFTER we get rid of the right wing. If you haven’t figured that out after 32 years of losing to neocons, then you’re hopeless. And if you think electing a teabagger to replace Nelson for the next six years would be better than having Bob Kerrey and either keeping the majority or creating a larger majority, I want to say, put down the crack pipe. Seriously. Stop pretending you know how politics works, because you don’t.
    One more time, genius; Nelson voted with Democrats more than 80% of the time, and Kerrey voted with them even more than that. Deb Fischer, the teabagger will vote against the Democrats 90% of the time or more. In what alternate universe is that “progressive”?

  13. This is a pretty lame response. Nowhere did in his post did Markos say he considered a “waste of resources,” and for someone who “actually works in electoral/party politics” you should know that you never give up an election (or you shouldn’t) before the election contest is over. That’s the same line of reasoning that had Harry Reid as a “dead duck” in 2010, along with “why bother?” in Delaware the same year, because, after all, everyone “knew” the Republican was going to win. That was before Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell appeared as the opponents.
    It’s also helpful to remember Markos’ history. This is the same person who was giving tongue baths to Charlie Crist to run for the Senate in Florida. That there was a progressive Democrat running at the same time was ignored. He’s also the person who helped pour massive efforts into the Arkansas primary, and if you didn’t actually read Bill Halter’s record, you’d have thought he was the second coming of Paul Wellstone, instead of a rather conservative Democrat.
    You may not consider Kerrey “progressive,” but the reality is that you always want to win that seat – and keep it Democratic – so you control committees, and have a reasonable chance of getting your bills through. One might note the number of “progressive” bills which have left the House in the past year and change. After all, Markos considered the Republicans taking it over to be a good thing as well.

  14. I really didn’t get that one. I did get the immediate response of “Why I DO want Bob Kerrey to win.” It’s not like Bob Kerrey is some kind of blank slate. Ben Nelson has a more conservative record that the Senator he replaced, which just happens to be Bob Kerrey.
    And we all see how this has been going… Kos doesn’t like this guy because of Social Security, that guy because of immigration, the other guy because of the NDAA, some other one because of the war 8 years ago… Pretty soon you want so many of your own to lose that you’re in the minority, where you get nothing but a chance to stew for 6 years.
    But then, poli sci majors made it a point of honor among themselves to avoid taking any math.

  15. This is a pretty bad critique, which doesn’t seem to have followed the Nebraska situation too closely, or Bob Kerrey’s career, or Markos Moulitsas’ position on this. Markos Moulitsas doesn’t want Bob Kerrey to win the seat in Nebraska because a) it’s a waste of resources that could be going elsewhere (Kerrey doesn’t want to be running and is going to lose it anyway), b) Bob Kerrey was notorious for and instrumental in making the national Democratic Party less progressive when he was in office a decade ago, c) he has voted for and advocated for really bad things (Iraq War, privatization of Social Security, etc.), d) it’s not a “purity test” that you want Democrats to support preserving Social Security (Kerrey does not) when it’s THE biggest/most important Democratic legislation in the past CENTURY, and e) his whole argument was that it’s worse to have someone inside your own party advocating for Republican policies than outside your party. This last point is especially valid and apparently really hard for some people to understand. From an internal standpoint, Kerrey has more influence in the caucus as a Democrat than as a Republican. Did Ben Nelson ever vote against cloture? You say he didn’t, and I assume that’s true, but I know for sure that he delayed Harry Reid from holding the votes at all until he got what he wanted. From an external standpoint, the average voters will look at the total number of Democrats in the Senate and blame all of them when the Senate can’t pass good things or passes really bad things. From 2009 to 2011, Harry Reid had 59-60 Democratic Senators, but several were pretty conservative (including the retiring Nebraska Senator, Ben Nelson), and they worked from within to undermine, obstruct, and water down legislation. But all the public saw was 59-60 Democrats regularly failing to accomplish anything or passing bad legislation. That ultimately hurts the (progressive) Democrats a lot.
    Also, I’m sorry, but as someone who actually works in electoral/party politics, you don’t really want your candidate to win by a landslide unless it’s going to happen anyway with minimal effort and funds. You want to win by 51% so you’ve allocated the most efficient quantity of time and money to the race. For Kerrey to win in a landslide in Nebraska would require a gigantic expenditure of resources that could be going elsewhere. He’s most likely going to lose, but ideally you want him to win with a hair over half the vote so you can focus more of your attention elsewhere. In particular, if you’re a “Progressive,” and accepting your overall premise, you should want Kerrey to just barely and a more progressive candidate in a different tough race to win by a lot to show support for that agenda.
    Anyway, I recognize the argument for retaining the majority (though if you’re counting on Kerrey for that, you might want to give up now, considering how unenthusiastic he’s been on the campaign trail), but that doesn’t accomplish progressive goals so much as it blocks worse Republican goals, given how small a Dem majority will be.

  16. A little over two years ago, I walked away from Daily Kos, and nothing in the intervening time has made me want to go back there. What was, a major irritant is the full fledged, outright ignorance about basic politics Markos and his front-pagers evince. Simple things like “how a bill is passed” and why it’s important to have control of Congress – which means you need the “blue dogs” and the “conservaDems” if you’re going to have that – are startlingly waved aside as irrelevant. They’re more interested in “purity,” and “talking the talk” than “walking the walk.”

  17. I’m so glad I never got mixed up with Daily Kos. Why would anybody on the left want Bob Kerrey to lose? Honestly?
    It is this mentality that has kept us in the wilderness for the last 3 decades. How can this Markos character believe that losing this seat to a teabagger is somehow the better option? Look at what they’ve done to the House of Representatives. Do we honestly need more teabaggers in DC?

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