Friday, September 28, 2007

The Center Holds: Netroots overstated

To get into the spirit of the '08, and brush up on the Clintons, I have just been reading Bob Woodward's The Agenda (1994) which covered the early days of the Clinton White House. One of my initial reactions was to be struck by the apparent shift in current Democratic politics away from the centrist rhetoric of the early 90s, the "New Democrats" . In fact, if we were to believe everything in the media (mainstream or blog) we would assume those days were over. My interpretation was that it appeared the Democrats had been enthusiastically adopted their party's opposition to the Iraq war to the point where they would take a stand of opposing most Republican policies, in a pronounced shift leftward (or at least towards populism - e.g. John Edwards), and the centrist was an endangered species.

Not so, according to David Brooks, here in the NY Times. Brooks suggests that:

Now it’s evident that if you want to understand the future of the Democratic Party you can learn almost nothing from the bloggers, billionaires and activists on the left who make up the “netroots.”

You can learn most of what you need to know by paying attention to two different groups — high school educated women in the Midwest, and the old Clinton establishment in Washington...In the first place, the netroots candidates are losing. In the various polls on the Daily Kos Web site, John Edwards, Barack Obama and even Al Gore crush Hillary Clinton, who limps in with 2 percent to 10 percent of the vote...Moguls like David Geffen have fled for Obama. But the party as a whole is going the other way. Hillary Clinton has established a commanding lead.

This does feel a little like a "emperor has no clothes" moment. The lead Hillary enjoys is now so blindingly clear, that it's almost hard to believe the amount of power that had been credited to the so-called "netroots" blogs and organizations who seemed destined to topple centrist Hillary along with any conservatives. Anyone remember August 2006, and the netroots hysteria surrounding the Lieberman-Lamont primary?

Could it be that the netroots movement may have been, to quote a Democrat of a previous generation, "all hat and no cattle"?