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People and Ideas

Right now, the internecine spats on the right are far deeper, nastier and stranger than anything on the left. Or maybe I’m looking at it from a skewed perspective. ~Andrew Sullivan

He is responding to Yglesias’ remarks on the unsurprising news that progressives are dominating in terms of online activism, organisation and activity.  Sullivan is missing the point here.  Yglesias isn’t particularly talking about people who have foreign policy disagreements.  He is talking about the demographic profile of the Democratic Party, which is, not surprisingly, rather more diverse than the GOP in most ways (don’t even get me started on Republican ideological diversity).  Despite the best efforts of the Mehlmans and Martinezes to make the GOP “relevant” to constituencies that don’t care much for Republican policies, the GOP’s core demographic remains and presumably will remain for the foreseeable future middle-class, married white voters with families.  Progressives lack this relative uniformity of background and interests, and so would need to be mobilised around policy issues and common enemies.  To put it another way, the wine and cheesers in New England may not have much in common socially or culturally with workers in the Midwest, but they are all interested–for different reasons–in having the government do similar things and also have a common loathing for the way Republicans have run things.  That is partly why the “netroots” are so preoccupied with what Jonathan Chait called propagandising: mobilising the shared opposition to Bush, the GOP and the Iraq war is a key factor uniting virtually all Democrats, so the “netroots” are trying to emphasise these things that such disparate groups have in common.

Online organising and advocacy are innovations that progressives have largely started during the Bush years.  It makes sense: it is a technology that does consolidate scattered audiences and more or less continuously communicate messages to allies, and this would seem to be especially valuable for those who have mostly lacked a populist megaphone of their own and whose geographical centers of strength are scattered around the edges of the country.  It also provides an outlet for those progressives who live in Republican-dominated states and who otherwise have few practical means to shape the debate.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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