Now that I've gotten the obligatory retort from Brian Griffiths out of the way, I'd like to comment on Eric and Adam's posts on Gov. O'Malley's problems with key Democratic constituencies. Generally, I think they're right that O'Malley has lost a bit of momentum when it comes to leading on key progressive issues, including climate change, labor reform, and same-sex marriage. Part of that, I think, can be attributed to the fallout over the special session budget package last fall, which seems to have used up a lot of O'Malley's political capital. But, as Eric notes in passing, the General Assembly also deserves scrutiny here. Although Maryland is regarded as a state with a "strong governor" system, I think we've seen in the last few years just how much power the legislature -- in particular Mike Miller's Senate -- is able to wield. Recall, for example, that Nathaniel Exum's amendment to the Global Warming Solutions Act more or less killed its chances of passing this year. Likewise, Anthony Muse's opposition to same-sex marriage proved to be fatal for legislation legalizing it.
Connected with this is the fact that many of the Democrats in the General Assembly are not as liberal as we would like them to be, nor can they be easily pushed around by liberal activists and bloggers. Eric's map of partisan voting in Maryland, for one, shows that Democrats are doing much better in state legislative elections than partisan voting patterns would suggest. So while liberals should lament the slow progress on certain issues, they should also look at some of the structural factors that make getting their favored legislation passed more difficult.
Today's Postarticle on the new tough-on-big-business Public Service Commission under Gov. Martin O'Malley is a good read; despite the failure of the PSC to substantially mitigate the huge rate hike for Baltimore Gas & Electric customers, they've been aggressive in holding utility companies to account and in trying to lower overall energy bills for consumers through energy efficiency. Gov. O'Malley has gone so far as to call on the PSC to investigate the relationship between BGE and its parent company, Constellation Energy, and "determine whether customers should receive rebates and whether Constellation should be broken up."
All of which is fine -- it's good policy, not to mention good politics. Few people, after all, are going to come to Verizon or BGE's defense. What's peculiar about these populist impulses from O'Malley (think also of the living wage bill) is that, when on the national stage, he seems to go out of his way to shun any association with the progressive base of the Democratic Party. He has aligned himself with arguably the least progressive of the major presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, and co-authored a now-infamous op-ed with the Democratic Leadership Council's Harold Ford Jr., in which they sang the usual DLC anthem of bashing partisanship and praising centrism.
According to our oh so serious conservatives over at Red Maryland our site and readers sit on the fringe left because we had the temerity to question our Governor's dedication to populist values. Do I really need to point out to Brian Griffiths that a majority of Americans want to bring troops home from Iraq, that a majority of Americans want Universal Health Care, and that partisan identification among Democrats is much higher right now than it is among Republicans.
Perhaps Griffiths and Streiff feel the same ire rise in them when John McCain attends some Main Street Partnership meeting and trashes the values conservative Republicans hold dear.
I used to think O'Malley was a smart politician. Not perfect by a longshot, but ambitious, well-backed, with good instincts and the kind of charisma you can't buy. Becoming Governor was planned long ago. I'm not surprised on bit that he's getting even more into national politics - he wants to be the Pres one day and I'll not be surprised to see him running.
So what the heck is he doing running with the DLC crowd? Yes they have corporate money but they are basically Republican-lite. Think Joe Lieberman and you have their take on issues and loyalty to the Democratic Party.
Saturday was an historic day for the netroots. In our little conference here in mid-America, only in its second year, we were deemed important enough to merit a visit by almost every declared Democratic presidential candidate for the 2008 election. But we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves; the morning hours featured a few more panels and roundtables, with only one flaw -- as always, all the good ones were scheduled simultaneously. This needs to be a four-day event -- and hopefully we can get some more of us Maryland activists out here next time.
Arrived in Chicago yesterday in the early afternoon -- the time change was a welcome small favor -- and now I'm sitting here in the grand ballroom of the Hyatt Regency McCormick, waiting for Wes Clark to arrive to deliver his Friday morning keynote.
There are about 1,400 attendees here from all parts of the country. I went to a small MD/VA bloggers' caucus yesterday, and Teacherken from Daily Kos introduced us to the young man who started the process of liberating America from George Allen -- S.R. Sidarth, the Webb campaign staffer who was the recipient of the infamous Allen racial slur. I identified myself as a Frederick County Dem Central Committee member, and encouraged others in the room to join their own local committees. (If we want no more Liebermans, that's the best way to make that happen in the long run.)
A big topic among the netroots is, as one might expect, Internet policy -- making sure that broadband Internet is accessible to all Americans, and that people doing politics online aren't subject to unnecessary regulations, either from the government or from the telecom industry. Matt Yglesias, reporting from the YearlyKos convention in Chicago, muses on why this is so:
People -- lots of people -- want to hear Copps talk about telecommunications regulation and what they can do to help fight for a better regulatory environment. And the people aren't lobbyists for phone companies or cable companies or television networks or anything. They're ordinary citizens (relatively speaking) who've gotten interested in telecom regulation and doing public interest activism on that topic.
This is, in my view, one of the aspects of the netroots that gets most overlooked in the media coverage I tend to see. This nexus of issues is an area where until very recently the conversation was entirely dominated by interested corporations. There was no equivalent to labor unions or environmental groups to anything else in civil society to way in. And now there is! It gets much less attention than anti-war activism or sending mean emails to journalists, but these telecom and media regulation issues are a very big deal to the netroots. People didn't just show up to hear Copps speak (and he's not a very good speaker), but gave him a standing ovation when he took the podium and are laughing at his broadband policy jokes (which aren't, in my view, especially funny). And it's not just an audience of obsessives, either, of the dozen or so people I recognize here none of them are specialists in this area as such.
Unfortunately, Free State Politics is not going to the big progressive confab, YearlyKos, this weekend in Chicago. But in the interest of solidarity, I'd like to follow some of the topics that will be discussed there on this blog, and how they apply to the Maryland political scene. To start off, here's Chris Bowers talking about a subject near and dear to my heart: Support from progressive donors for the progressive blogosphere, and progressive activists in general:
It is remarkable what a couple million dedicated progressives can do when they have a place to freely congregate, talk and organize. What I call the progressive working class is just another term for the progressive grassroots, which, I believe it is fair to say, had atrophied during the 1980's and 1990's. By serving as the largest media that is directed primarily at the progressive grassroots, the progressive blogosphere has helped to more fully tap the potential of the progressive grassroots. This is an absolutely vital service, since it impossible to have a successful political movement, or even a successful political party, if your grassroots activist base feels apathetic, disengaged, and alienated from the organization, party or "movement" it is supposed to be supporting. The progressive blogosphere has helped re-connect, excite and more fully engage "working class" grassroots progressives after the corporate dominance of the 1990's, and the failure of many liberal and progressive elites in stopping one conservative power grab after another over the past ten years. Finally, there was a place for them too, a place where other progressive grassroots activists were talking with one another and fighting back.
Given this, to leave the progressive blogosphere in its current state of under-funded, perpetually near-collapse subsistence would be one of the biggest mistakes in the entire history of the progressive donor community. Even though the economy for progressive, political donations surpasses $1B annually, the entire economy of independent, progressive, political blogging is less than $10,000,000 a year (and most of the that goes to a handful of larger websites). Considering that the progressive blogosphere provides as much activist support to the Democratic and progressive cause as any other constituency, the lack of money directed toward the progressive blogosphere is, quite frankly, scandalous. There are even a few advocacy organizations, not to mention larger newspapers, which run on annual budgets surpassing that of the entire progressive blogosphere. To allow such an important development in the progressive ecosystem continue to starve is a travesty.
Over at Open Left and other activist blogs, they're celebrating the fourth annual Blogosphere Day, in which the left blogosphere rallies to support some progressive campaign that isn't getting the support it deserves. In 2004, it was Ginny Schrader; in 2005, it was Paul Hackett; in 2006, it was Ned Lamont; and this year, it's progressive PAC ActBlue:
ActBlue allows small donors to organize themselves to raise real money for progressive candidates. With money, especially early money, driving so much about political campaigns today, from a candidate's credibility with the MSM to the perceptions of whether the campaign should be targeted by party committees and national PACs; from the ability to attract quality staff to the ability to do effective early targeting, polling, analysis, and research- early money is essential. And ActBlue allows regular folks, rather than just special interests, to organize themselves and get in the game. It allows all of us to influence how campaigns are perceived, and how well they are organized. Today, on Blogosphere Day, please give directly to ActBlue to allow them to keep building and expanding their ability to help all of us. Supporting ActBlue directly, allowing them to expand their reach, will do more to strengthen progressive politics than any other contribution you could make.