The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

12 For 2012

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 2, 2012 @ 20:23

Continuing a fine annual tradition, it’s time to lay down a few markers for the coming year. It’s going to be a busy one, methinks…

  1. Starting at home, with yet another boring prediction, the Coalition will last the whole year. Get used to it, Labourites. It ain’t going anywhere.
  2. The Lib Dems will take a pounding in the local elections, especially in Scottish councils, where they will be wiped only for the saving grace that is a truly proportional electoral system. Predictably, it will all be dismissed, and the Lib Dems will accept it and carry on.
  3. David Cameron will finally conduct a proper reshuffle, though it still won’t be particularly far reaching. Osborne isn’t going anywhere and neither is Michael Gove. Lansley may be moved if the NHS reforms pass successfully to give someone else a chance. He will definitely be removed if they fail. The Lib Dems have such a paucity of front bench talent that there is very little room for manouevre… but maybe Nick Clegg will at least get a real portfolio at last, now the “political reform” agenda has vanished.
  4. Ed Miliband will remain Labour leader, in spite of generally underwhelming election results and another defeat to Boris in the London mayoral election.
  5. In Europe, the Euro crisis will be resolved with a “treaty”. The treaty will not get the UK’s blessing, and the EU will proceed into a closer union without the UK, creating overwhelming calls for an in-out referendum. If it starts looking tempting, expect Labour to back the idea.
  6. France will get a “Socialist” President as Sarkozy plunges to inevitable defeat.
  7. Rick Santorum will win the Iowa caucuses, but Mitt Romney will be the Republicans nominee for President.
  8. Barack Obama will squeak a narrow re-election against Mitt Romney.
  9. The Democrats will either lose control of the Senate or it will be an exact 50-50 tie, with Joe Biden, VP, suddenly finding a reason to exist. The Democrats will not re-take the House, but it will be close. This disastrous deadlock will result in two more years of pathetic governance in the States.
  10. Syria will continue to make a mockery of the West – and the uprising will eventually be brutally suppressed. Meanwhile, the rest of the Arab Spring becomes stillborn, and the tendency towards strong, authoritarian governments in the region will persist.
  11. Iran will successfully navigate the year without there being any progress on disarmament, and there will be no military activity of any sort. However, the West will begin sounding the war-drums, and the useless public will buy it.
  12. And all the while the schizophrenic public will continue to ignore the fact that Afghanistan has been, and will continue to be, a catastrophic failure. More lives will continue to be lost, though Obama will, mercifully, confirm a long, slow, drawdown over the next few years.

And the usual bonus prediction… Manchester City will win this year’s Premier League.

See you at the end of the year!

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Problem #1 With Democracy: Voters Are Stupid

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 17, 2010 @ 09:44

One my my favourite pieces of news these past few days is this gem, which illustrates why – maybe – we have to be a little cautious about consulting the people too regularly…

… a Pew Research Center poll released Friday showed that nearly half of Americans incorrectly think the government’s bank bailout was enacted by President Barack Obama.

The Pew Research Center’s latest News IQ Quiz showed that 47 percent incorrectly said that the Troubled Asset Relief Program was signed into law by Obama, while only 34 percent correctly said that the bailout was enacted under the Bush administration.

All this despite the fact that, as far as I know, no Republican has ever come out and actually said the words “President Obama’s TARP bank bailout”, i.e. directly attributed this bailout to Obama. The reason is simple, because they would immediately be called a liar, trying to hide from the fact that it was President George W. Bush who created the program.

Because we’re all humans, and we all use our brains to varying degrees, people like to think they know what they’re talking about. Everyone thinks they can add 2 + 2; everyone likes to think they have some degree of critical thinking, but not everyone can get the answer of the 4.

That is the problem here. Republicans have done enough to muddy the waters, make the voters think the economic impact of the last 18 months is because of what Obama did, and nothing to do with those eight years of Republican regulation-removing, deficit-busting profligacy, shovelling shedfuls of cash to the rich in tax cuts.

Then they’ve let the voters take care of the rest, thinking there is some big-government conspiracy going on to turn America into a socialist paradise, whatever that is.

Meanwhile the Democrats are trapped. If they come out and challenge misperceptions like this, the Republicans can paint them for attacking a straw man, since no one actually said it in the first place. “Too busy trying to cover their tracks rather than resolving the financial crisis!” they’d say, making the voter even more suspicious of Democrats.

Such a good idea, but I'm not sure they'll cope with AV...

And naturally, as time goes by, voters with short memories soon attribute blame to the present government, regardless of what the actual facts on the ground are.

Yes, we all make factual errors from time to time. But this is more. This is about people wilfully ignoring reality because they have already decided only the opposite can be true. Correcting such a misconception, once its embedded in people’s minds, is almost impossible. That’s why levels of crime are so low, whilst people’s perception of crime is so stubbornly high, no matter what the politicians say.

Too many voters these days are think-they-know-it-alls, mistrusting statistical fact in favour of rumours, gossip, conspiracy theories, what Facebook/Twitter says, and downright lies. It’s far more exciting after all to believe that “they can’t be trusted” or “they don’t understand what it’s like to be one of us”. It distracts us from our mundane, boring, simple reality. And who wants that when we can pretend they don’t trust us to handle the truth?

Democracy will eat itself if such cynicism isn’t stopped.

But while we can change our politicians, we can’t change the electorate…

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Healthcare Reform Passes; Hell Freezes Over

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 27, 2010 @ 09:19

What's more scary: that some Americans actually believed this shit, or that the people behind this campaign were so cynical enough to dream it up?

I couldn’t let my final post of the week go by without making some comment on the success of the US Congress to, finally, pass a healthcare reform bill. A bill that was lauded as a “big fucking deal” by Vice President Joe Biden must have something going for it.

And it does. It makes a delicate step in the right direction for improving the lives of millions of Americans. It’s nowhere near where they need to be, but it will bring America closer to the rest of the civilized world in ensuring that thousands of people do not continue to die because they have no access to healthcare.

But you know what it is most of all? It, combined with recent international manoeuvres by Obama regarding Israel and the West Bank, and the gentle nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia, show that something is occurin’ once more in America. That something is our old friend, missing for almost a year.

Change.

I have been on a big downer about Obama during this healthcare fiasco. His handling of the situation over the last year has been poor at best. Weak. Wishy washy. Unclear about what he actually wants to achieve. Appearing to dither. Aloof.

That is, until the last few weeks, when he realised that it was time to get directly involved in the campaign, put his entire presidency on the line, no matter what the cost.

Really, we all knew there would be no “cost” to him. We all knew that his poll ratings were flagging because of the failure to deliver during this spectacularly long and boring healthcare debacle.

No sooner did the bill pass Obama’s ratings took a significant lift. Approval and favorability up by between 5 and 10% depending on the pollster. It seems the American people actually like success, and want change after all.

All of this is in spite of the fact that a plurality still disapprove of “the healthcare bill”. Of course, whenever a pollster has broken down the bill into parts, asking their opinion on the things within it, approval of it skyrockets. Just goes to show that Obama’s team have been extremely poor at explaining exactly what it is they’re doing, and failing to define their enemies as roadblocks to delivering all of these goodies.

But this event, hopefully, will be the Duh! moment of the year to the Obama administration.What they think of as risks are actually nothing of the sort. The public are easily misled by the media, especially one so eager to deliver “balance” by countering a Democratic opinion with a rabid Tea Party one, even if only one of those “opinions” actually has a basis in reality. Hint: it’s not usually the latter.

Obama should take a moment to enjoy this success, and use it to drive a hunger for more. It’s time for him to exploit his platform to deliver another major piece of reform before November (immigration, please!), for the simple reason that he will never again get a Congress this far in his favour.

Make hay while the sun shines, and all that.

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One-Term Obama?

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 13, 2010 @ 09:41

OK, maybe our expectations were a little too high...

It being a fine Saturday, what better excuse is needed for forgetting about our politics and thinking about politics in America again. Hey, it’s been a while!

The big hooha at the moment in the States surrounds Obama’s apparent further drop in support. Approval ratings are tanking, with them now being some way below the 50% mark, with the latest figure being 46%. Panic buttons are being hit across the Democratic party. Republicans holler with delight. Oh, those early days when this approval was sky high at 69% seem so far away now.

We’re being told that the reason is simple. Americans don’t want Obama’s “socialist” take over of everything, from healthcare to the economy.

Time for a reality check. Obama was elected on the biggest wave of hope and optimism for change America has seen in decades. Obama’s program was by no means radical, being firmly rooted in the centre of American politics (centre-left doesn’t really exist as a concept over there). He looked good, he sounded great. The Americans gave him a thumping mandate, both personally and to his party.

14 months later – yes, that’s all it’s been – Obama’s agenda has stalled. Early small victories came to a crashing halt when the Republicans happened to stumble upon the strategy that has delivered so much success. Do nothing. Stop everything. Use every parliamentary trick in the book to ensure that Obama fails.

Obama has some responsibility for letting his useless Congressional leadership take care of the specifics. They have wasted the biggest opportunity in a generation to use full control of the legislature, having been held to ransom by a handful of truly awful Senators. Obama might have got a bit more involved at an earlier point. And Obama’s insistence on trying to get “bipartisan” legislation is a total waste of time, when the Republicans have no desire to take part.

And why would they? They’re doing awfully well out of Democratic failure to deliver. And now, because Democrats have no spine, the Republicans are able to claim that it’s all the Democrats fault for their internal squabbling and inability to govern. Republicans never needed 60 votes, after all.

To me, the narrative behind the approval ratings failure is simple. The American people wanted change. The American people have not seen any. Approval ratings don’t equate to masses Democrats suddenly wanting to vote Republican. No. It means Democrats lose interest. Republicans get fired up as the feel the tide turning. Independents feel let down by one side and start to consider whether maybe the other side could do a better job after all.

Meanwhile, the approval ratings continue to slide, as the nation gets bored to death by talk talk talk about healthcare reform, with still no delivery or end in sight.

But there was something Obama said last year that he ought to come back to…

President Barack Obama is “quite comfortable” with the prospect of being a one-term president in order to address the issues he is concerned about, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday.

If I’m wrong, and greater access to affordable healthcare really is not what the American people want, then Obama probably will be a one-term President.

But I’m willing to bet that if Obama can finally get round to strong arming enough of his errant Congressional party into supporting his reforms, his plans will steadily gather support when the Democrats can start to wheel out the laundry list of things the healthcare package improves for Americans.

The attitude of “I’m going to do what I think is right, because I have no electoral fears” may be the only way out of this mess. So what if you’re a one-term President but massively increased access to healthcare, cut the budget deficit and started the ball rolling on curbing the worst excesses of the insurance companies.

Obama must regain that confidence in his messaging that he displayed during the campaign.

Change takes time. Change takes guts. Change involves a mammoth battle with the vested corporate and selfish interests.

But I’m starting to doubt if Obama has the bottle to do it.

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State Of The Obama

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 28, 2010 @ 10:39

I suppose this is funny to Americans...

It says it all when Obama is craftily reminding everyone that he never promised that he alone would deliver change…

But remember this – I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone

And, you know what, he is right. I could have sworn I’d written about it before, but if I have I can’t find the post where I did, but it had always been abundantly clear to me that Candidate Obama was saying to the American people that if you want change, I can help you, but you are the ones who’ll actually have to do it from the bottom up.

After one year in government, Obama is now all too painfully aware of the defects in the American constitution, the goal of which is to ensure that real change is boringly slow, if not impossible.

He has faced the obstruction of a Senate, tied up in knots by its own ludicrous rules allowing a single Senator gigantic power to delay executive appointments. It seems ridiculous after a year, but there are literally hundreds of posts in the Obama administration that are unfilled or pending Senate confirmation.

Of course, too, there is the endless use of the filibuster that doesn’t actually require Republicans to do any real filibustering, which has basically changed the rules to say that 60 votes are needed to pass anything. And then, even when Democrats actually had a nominal 60 votes, they spent all their time squabbling over what they were going to do with their new-found power. Fortunately, that luxury is now going to be denied to them.

Meanwhile, the absurdity of a Supreme Court decision granting corporations unlimited power to finance political campaigns highlights just how much of a joke that institution has become.

Then there is the impact all of this has had on the American people, who were anxious for real change quickly. Well, they just gave up. The coalition that brought Obama to power was eager and willing for quick reform.

It didn’t happen, and now they’re sitting on their hands.

They await real action from Obama. They were willing to do a lot of the work, but when they saw Obama being too distant, too aloof from the process – merely asking the Congress to send him a health bill – they got mightily pissed off when the delays and obstruction from the opposition actually worked.

Last night’s State of the Union may be a sign that Obama is going to be a bit more hands on in future. Obama must surely realise that if he doesn’t concentrate wholly on delivering domestic goods for the American people over the next year, his party will be decimated in the coming elections, and then he’ll soon see what real obstructionism is all about.

A year ago I would have said Obama was an absolute shoo-in for a second term. But if he doesn’t change the agenda, seize the initiative and bring his errant party under control, he will have a real battle on his hands come 2012.

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Goin’ Back To Massachusetts

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 20, 2010 @ 15:05

A song about a failing Democratic party being washed away on a tidal wave of apathy...

… sang the Bee Gees. And that’s exactly where failed Democratic candidate Martha Coakley will be staying today, after her humiliating defeat at the hands of the Republican machine.

The Democrat blogosphere is filled with much analysis today. Some of it good, some of it not so good. Reactions have varied from “it was a little local difficulty”, to a warning shot across good ship Obama’s bows, or the downright facetious, arguing Democrats never really had 60 votes anyway

Last night in my last post I was 50-50 about a Democrat win. Hence why I even tempered some of my usual scepticism. If this were an election in Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, i.e. a true swing state, then I would have had no doubts about a Republican win. But Massachusetts? Come on.

Some Democrats are trying to argue the solution now is to be true progressives, and go on a radical binge. Maybe. But Obama’s authority is now deeply undermined. The time to do that was at the start of the Presidency, when his mandate was at its strongest.

Congress, hardly known for its institutional bravery, is going to see this as an excuse to do nothing for the rest of the year. Why should they? After all, they try to do something for the American people and they get it shoved back in their face.

The problem is that, in this case, that is exactly what the Republicans want. Since Day 1, their agenda has been to slow down and stop anything and everything the Democrats want to do, because they know every little victory for the Dems amounts to a much bigger picture of demonstrating the change they want to bring to America.

It would be hard to believe that the American public’s minds have changed all that much in the space of 14 months. Back then there was genuine enthusiasm for a real fight to take down the special interests that are ruining America. How else could Obama have achieved such a ringing endorsement from the people? The message was CHANGE. The outcome has been anything but.

And, of course, I am exaggerating a little. Obama and Congress have indeed brought change over the past year. The verge of healthcare reform, no matter how much of a corporate boondoggle it is, is still an achievement. Actions on fair pay, the winding down of Iraq and Guantanamo, as well as that all important Supreme Court vacancy. Progress. Good stuff.

On the ground, however, circumstances changed. The extraordinary nature and depth of the recession demanded a change of emphasis. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. And laying the smackdown on the banking sector that had just taken the American taxpayer for a serious ride. That would still have all fitted his campaign strategy perfectly.

Obama missed the boat there.

Instead, they got mired in an eight month battle which displayed the worst excesses of partisanship, the divide in the Democratic party, and exposed a massive streak of entrenched special interest lobbying at the heart of the very same party whose ostensible figurehead – Obama – was elected to sort out.

The modern age of politics is as much about the message as it is about actually governing. We decry it, but we can’t deny the reality. Obama has let his agenda get seriously off kilter with what the American public wanted from him. Instead the message got lost, and the only good deeds that were being done were just not enough to sell the change rhetoric to an increasingly disinterested, cynical and misdirected electorate.

I’m sure Cameron’s team will be observing the lessons from Obama’s past year closely…

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All Eyes On Massachusetts

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 19, 2010 @ 22:59

No time to blog properly today after a surprising deluge of work, of the piss-taking variety, but my political antennae are currently firmly tuned to the special election for Ted Kennedy’s old seat in the Senate.

If a Republican manages to win, in one of the bluest states in the Union, it will spell curtains for Obama’s midterm efforts in November. It will mean that it is already too late for the Democrats to convince the coalition that brought him to his epic victory in November 2008 to come out for him again.

But it is too early to write the obituaries. Maybe the Democrats will manage it after all. Maybe they’ll even get a stonking win and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.

Even if they do though, this is a sign of how difficult the fight is going to be this year. The Republicans are strongly motivated. Democrats are beleaguered after a year of internal warfare and ceaseless pandering to the right and the special interests, after being elected on a promise to deliver major reform to the country.

Some might counter that a Democrat loss may be the kick up the backside they need.

Possibly. It’s hard to be sure. But I wouldn’t bank on it.

In any case, Obama is not a man to take risks.

My disappointment rating moves up just another notch…

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More American Elections = Fun, Fun, Fun

Posted by The Futility Monster on November 28, 2009 @ 10:11

The cheap way of doing things...

Psephologists worldwide are always excited when it’s a US election year. The main reason is that nobody does elections quite like the States. Big spending, big personalities, big media agendas, vast levels of polling data, unbelieveable detail in demographic targeting. And certain races catch the eye to become real battles getting the Hollywood treatment.

So next year we’re in for a treat. Not only will we see the demise of the Labour government, but later on in the year will be the first genuine test of how the USA will react to the so-called Democratic supermajority control of the legislature and the executive branches for the first time in some decades.

Elections to the US House of Representatives happen every two years. This pretty much means that as soon as they’re elected, the poor buggers have to go out and start campaigning again. Luckily, they’re helped by extremely favourable incumbency rates. But to some extent, they’re favourable for a reason: they work hard to bring home the bacon to their district.

With that in mind, the vast majority of Congress members will have been doing as much they can to raise the cash for next year’s election. However, certain races have the luxury of being the recipient of campaign cash from the national parties. And, at the moment, only one side of the aisle has the readies… at the ready. On top of that, certain races get lots of attention from the netroots, which can raise extremely large sums of money at the drop of a hat.

But money is obviously not the most important factor. Maybe we should be grateful of such a small mercy. In mid-term elections, enthusiasm is critical. How motivated are your base to come out when the big draw of the Presidency isn’t around? When the “coattails” effect isn’t in action…

Well, this survey (bottom of the post) gives us an answer. 40% of Democrats say they’ll either be “not likely” to vote, or definitely won’t vote. On the other side, just 14% of Republicans say the same. And when you consider that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans, that’s a lot of apathy amongst the Democratic base.

Generically, Democrats still hold the lead. But there are a lot of people who are very upset with both parties in Congress. Democrats can only hope that they either don’t vote at all, or choose not to take their anger out on the Democrats by voting Republican, in the usual protest vote strategy that one normally sees at a mid-term election.

In any case, elections aren’t fought generically. They are personal battles. And in the heart of the Republican party right now is an ideological one as well. This is very likely to result in much more conservative candidates than usual. Will that appeal to mainstream America? Or will the fired up nature of the Republican base get the Democrats out in force too?

And yet, while Democratic popularity has taken a nosedive over the last few months, courtesy of Congressional failures to get healthcare reform rolling, and a resurgent Republican party lying about every issue under the sun, they haven’t covered themselves in glory. Americans have extraordinarily unfavourable views of the Republican leadership – and a 70% unfavourable view of the Republicans in Congress in general.

How, in such circumstances, could the Republicans possibly gain?

The answer lies in whether Obama can find it within himself to deliver the goods to the nation. He seems to be forgetting that just a year ago his agenda was given a very positive reception by the American people. An agenda that was far more progressive than what is currently making its way through Congress.

He is wasting his mandate by not insisting on the policies that the American people actually voted for, and which continue to be popular in national polling.

Healthcare reform is key, but so is the environment, and, of course, getting the economy up and running again. Which means getting people into work.

Governing is a far more difficult job than campaigning. But what’s disappointing so many of us Obama fans right now is that we believed that if anyone could thread the needle, if anyone could use their leadership skills to bring Congress on his side, it would be Obama.

A year to go, and there’s all to play for. But if Obama messes the 2010 election up, his presidency will be effectively over before it’s even started.

America can do without that.

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Democrats Throw Away The Baby And The Bathwater

Posted by The Futility Monster on November 4, 2009 @ 16:04

chris-christie

Chris Christie (R) may indeed be corpulent, but it probably shouldn't be an election issue...

Over in the US, it’s been a pretty remarkable off-year election season.

The three races that became nationally significant were gubernatorial battles in Virginia and New Jersey, and a Congressional seat in the House of Representatives in the 23rd district of New York. The first two slots were previously held by Democrats, and the final one was held by a Republican.

The results are now in, and every seat has flipped. New Jersey, traditionally seen as rock solid for the Democrats, now has a Republican governor. Virginia, a state critical to the Obama tidal wave, also has a Republican governor, delivered in a landslide.

Meanwhile, in perhaps the result of the night, rural upstate New York now has its very own Democrat representative, after a spectacular implosion in the Republican field when a third party right-wing crank going by the name of Doug Hoffman managed to split the vote between the mostly moderate electorate. Oh, and he caused the official Republican to drop out, with the blessing of the national Republican party.

There is much to digest from these results, but in truth, the lessons to be learned are simple.

In Virginia, the Democratic candidate spent almost the entire electoral cycle running away from popular Democratic ideas, like, I dunno, improved access to healthcare. He seemed to forget that Obama carried his state on that very same agenda. Sure, everyone wants their own man, but perhaps the Democrats really picked the wrong candidate here. After all, exit polls from the state suggested that were the 2008 election to be rerun, Obama would still win with the same percentage…

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the incumbent Democrat suffered a disappointing defeat when it had seemed he’d done so well to bring himself back in the game. I suspect the key thing that brought him down was a rather miserable governing record, the usual level of anti-incumbency during a recession, and a relentlessly negative campaign that even enjoyed a joke at the expense of his opponents fatness. In any case, it is a very poor loss: New Jersey is a solid “D” state, and to see it being thrown away again suggests that the candidate not wise. Perhaps he should have been “retired” before the voters did it for him.

Finally, NY-23 delivered the coup de grace of the evening. In a place which hasn’t elected a Democrat for an enormous length of time, they now have one. Why? Largely because the Republicans haven’t shown themselves as fit to govern. What a shamble, to tear their own party inside out and end up backing the third-candidate.

What they demonstrated was that there is no room for moderate Republicans in the new GOP. The Party of Palin and Limbaugh is now well on course for nominating a religious variant on a Barry Goldwater style candidacy for 2012, which will achieve a very similar electoral outcome. Pariah status is imminent. It’s all the logical conclusion of the George W. Bush playbook that brought the economic capitalist die-hards into bed with the religious right. Their funeral, I suppose.

In summary, Democrats have gotta find that spine that I wrote about last week. They need to be brave enough to be a truly progressive Democrat, because that is where the mainstream of America is, regardless of how much the corporate dollars and the talking heads on Fox News try to insist otherwise.

If they can’t do that, and instead sacrifice themselves to the lobbyists and see themselves held to ransom in the Senate by the fringe of an increasingly radical and suicidal Republican party, they’ll piss off the entire coalition from young to old that brought Obama to power.

And then they won’t see government again for a very long time.

Finally, for the record, in the immortal words of Meat Loaf, two outta three ain’t bad.

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In Praise of Daily Kos

Posted by The Futility Monster on October 23, 2009 @ 08:00

Bit "socialist" for America, but it has plenty of fans...

Bit "socialist" for America, but it has plenty of fans...

One of my favourite blog sites on the net is Daily Kos. I was a religious reader of the material in the run up to American elections in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Inbetween then, I still check up on a regular basis. Primarily because US politics interests me, but also because the site fascinates me greatly.

The fragmented, bottom-up nature of American politics is why a site like Daily Kos can thrive. For the uninitiated, it is a site with a very strong “liberal” (American definition) bent, run by a benevolent dictator known as Kos.

Kos contributes one or two posts a day, but a team of others each day (new posts usually emerge at least every half hour) write most of the content. Most of them are volunteers who have worked their way up through the site community. Users are free to churn out their own posts, known as diaries, each of which can be featured or promoted in some way. In some respects, it is its own blogging platform, only the chances of getting noticed are quite generous, and the community are very much prepared to engage with you.

The reason this site grabs my attention so much is that it is a powerful tool of grassroots activism, and has been recognised as such by numerous Democratic politicians and figureheads. Senators, representatives, wannabe politicians, party bigwigs… even Michael Moore… huge numbers of these people have accounts on the site. And, all the while, it has retained its distinctive identity. Writing diaries on Kos, somehow, in no way makes the site feel institutionalised. Unlike, say, when Cameron writes on ConHome, or Nick Clegg writes on Lib Dem Voice.

How did it achieve such a unique position? Its success has partly flowed from its good timing and beneficial political culture. American politics, due to its federal nature, has always been dispersed. Every four years the parties attempt to unite to put together a Presidential platform, but the marriage of Southern conservative Democrats with liberal elites from Massachusetts is most peculiar. The net result is that, until recent decades, there had always been an absence of national political leadership.

Now, however, sites like Daily Kos can consistently articulate a philosophy across the entire nation, uniting Democrats under the same banner – and with the same vision – for the very first time. Presidential campaigns, on the other hand, have always been uneasy coalitions, forced to compromise their values for the sake of what they perceive to be electability, in the eternal quest for the middle ground.

American politics had been crying out for arenas in which people could work the disparate threads together into a shared policy framework. Daily Kos achieves that; and its goal was made even more possible by the presence of George W. Bush in the White House.

Yes. Nothing beats getting people to rally round your cause than being in opposition. Even better when that person is so bitterly hated and has done all he can to wind you up that you’re just itching for the opportunity to get even.

Then, there was the final piece of the jigsaw: money.

Money makes American politics go around. And, by George, they need lots of it. How fortunate, then, that this new network of grassroots activists are also rather generous. So much so that, by tapping into their conscience, one can release great streams of micropayments.

This is where the site truly excelled, and why Democrats had to sit up and take notice of it. Never before had it been so easy for a liberal Democrat in deepest Alabama to pony up some cash for an obscure fellow Democrat in Ohio to win the race for a state office previously of no great concern to anybody. It was, in effect, a great way of supporting your party despite knowing full well that they’d never win in your area.

Now, all of a sudden, Democrats across the country had a much wider cause to support. And with so many races to choose from, the competition of who could be the best, most worthy Democrat for all that cash meant the site could continue being fiercely loyal to its principles. At last, there could be one truly united wing of the Democratic Party, fully supported by real people, not a mere artificial creation of lobbyists and corporations.

In some respects, all of this makes Daily Kos more like a pressure group. It isn’t a political party. It doesn’t run for office, instead trying to influence those who do. Power without accountability.

Only, it is accountable. The internet age means everything can be fact-checked easily, words can be requoted endlessly. You can’t hide from your record.

But there’s just something more to it than that. The level of activism on the site is impressive. And you can bet that for every active user there are hundreds, if not thousands, of readers – each of whom has at least some interest in the project. There aren’t many pressure groups that can boast of such a highly engaged membership.

How’ve they done it? There is a well developed sense of community at its heart. That, at last, there are “people like me” all over this vast nation. But not just politically, on a personal level too. The user-generated nature of the diary section means that great emotional stories: of unemployment, of hardship, even of sexual orientation, mean the site has a remarkable community ethos, one completely missing on any British political blog. Just as the human-interest story is a powerful way to command audiences on TV, so too it is on the web.

As the site has grown stronger, it has expanded into an entire portal which even had its own election results service and now a regular polling feature done by an independent research agency. Success breeds success.

As an outsider, the way the site has evolved in such an organic manner is truly impressive. None of it feels forced or fake. It’s grown from one man’s blog to an American media empire, and yet one that still has its feet firmly on the ground – perhaps helped by its humanity.

Even with a Democrat in the White House, the project is not complete, and never will be. Now it’s all about holding Obama to his promises. And even then, there remain plenty of other offices throughout the nation Democrats don’t hold. Even if they do, there are often better Democrats who can be put in their place.

That’s why it will always have a role in American politics.

Will there ever be an equivalent here in Britain? I mused a few days ago that it seemed rather unlikely.

But tomorrow I’m going to go into the reasons why I think that. How enthralling…

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