It's the reaction to them that's important.
It's a cold slap in the face, one that's overdue.
It's one thing to build a party, or a movement, as Kos has done. It's quite another to see that movement directed toward a goal, and directed toward actively confronting a party, really taking it over. That was the lesson Howard Dean himself tried to teach before becoming DNC chair, when he formed Democracy for America.
That's now taking place. The anger over at DailyKos, at Americablog, at Firedoglake, and elsewhere in the Netroots over what is happening now is palpable. For much of 2007 netroots bloggers were, when outraged, mainly outraged at President Bush. They cut their own party's leaders considerable slack.
No more. I hope, and expect, that the result of this anger will be a growing sophistication on the part of Netroots activists and a growing number of Netroots-inspired primary challenges, such as those now going on in Illinois and Maryland.
We don't just need more Democrats. We need better Democrats.
For most of this year it's as though these people were ignoring the key line of Howard Dean's 2003 speech. The democratic wing of the Democratic Party is not the party, it's a wing. It's the wing that must be at the heart of what the party is about, but it is, in the end, just a wing. A winning coalition has multiple wings, just as the Republican Party has a money wing, a religious wing and a racist wing, each one jostling for position and primacy, but all by November loyal if given a hearing.
Here's a piece of trivia for you. Democracy for America is now led by Dean's brother, James. That's right, gang, James Dean (left) lives.
There is a difference between a party and a movement. A party is a coalition, a collection of movements, which come together when they need to. A movement must have common beliefs, it must be strident, it absolutely must have unity, and it must be willing to confront its party when necessary to get its way.
This is a lesson conservatives learned the hard way. It's not something they saw clearly in 1967. At that time, they were just hoping for some influence. They were being dissed and dismissed routinely by the press, and by their own party's establishment. As a result they suffered through every liberal initiative of the Nixon Administration, they went along with the depredations of Watergate and suffered alongside everyone else. They didn't start gaining their true voice until the nomination fight against Ford in 1976 and the 1978 tax revolt. They didn't take power until 12 years after the thesis they led first came to power.
The challenge for the Netroots now is to accelerate that schedule, to learn from history, and to learn from the painful lessons of today that you support only those who support you, that you have a right and a duty to not just support Democrats, but to insist on better Democrats, Democrats with backbone, true Dean Democrats who will not back down before a fight.
Power won't be given to you. You have to seize it.
Learn the lesson, and use it starting today to put the democratic wing in charge of the Democratic Party.