Fractured Democrats, Part 2: Resisting the Right

The right's use of sex to take down Bill Clinton roused some of those most disappointed in his presidency to his defense in the internet trenches.

When Democratic Underground  was first formed (for background, see Part 1 of this series here), it was an ideal refuge for Gore voters from the indifference of the news media and the outright hostility of Bush voters in non- or bipartisan forums, such as Usenet‘s political groups (alt.politics, talk.politics.misc, my own hangout during the late Clinton years alt.current-events.clinton.whitewater, etc.) . I was attracted by the subtle aptness of the new site’s name. It did, indeed, seem as though Democrats who believed Bush had been illegitimately installed as “president” had been driven out of the public discourse. We felt, without too much exaggeration,  like a resistance army gearing for rebellion against a tyrannical regime.

DU became well known in certain circles for its weekly contribution to the national discussion, Top Ten Conservative Idiots, a satirical summary of ten of the previous week’s most stomach-churning (from a liberal point of view) acts or statements from right-wingers in politics and the media. Bush, Cheney, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh usually topped the list, which was often linked to on other boards around the net. Other DU staples were the Hate Mailbag, featuring actual letters from the enemy with all their misspellings and SHOUTING IN CAPITALS left intact; Questions for Auntie Pinko (I remember the name better than the content); and satirical ragings from an invented right-winger named Bob Boudelang. The front page often also carried an essay by someone on staff or a contributor. I had a couple of essays published there (including one just after 9/11) before I became a regular on its forums.

But DU wasn’t the only game on the left side of cybertown. It was just one of a thriving subculture of dissident websites that had actually grown up around reaction to the successful right-wing grassroots campaign to impeach Bill Clinton at the dawn of the world wide web.  The left watched in mixed horror and admiration for the way their counterparts on the right used the fledgling internet to spread like wildfire every smear that had ever been formulated about the Clintons (many of which, it’s true, came from the hot medium of talk radio) to build a groundswell in the Republican party for getting rid of the Clintons by any means necessary. Truth didn’t matter, just effectiveness as a meme, to use a word that was just acquiring its imprecise shade of meaning as a viral idea that can literally be copied, cut, pasted and clicked on to move from one contaminated mind to the next. It was a sickening spectacle and a clear, disturbing sign of where the Republican base was moving in the post-Reagan era. It wasn’t toward reason or, least of all, reasonableness. Continue reading

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