Fractured Dems, Part 4: The Rightward Drift of DemocraticUnderground

Before the changeover to DU3, which I wrote about in my last post, Democratic Underground’s rules for posting in its forums were last modified in August of this year, about a month before the #OWS movement was front-page news. “Failure to abide by these rules,” the introduction to them warned, “may result in your post being removed, your thread locked, or your posting privileges revoked without warning.” A sampling demonstrates the administration’s bare tolerance for politics left of the Democratic center:

  • This is a website for Democrats and other progressives [sic].
  • Do not personally attack any individual DU member in any way. Do not post broad-brush attacks, rude nicknames, or crude insults toward a group of DU members.

  • Do not post support for non-viable or third-party spoiler candidates in any general election.
  • Do not post disrespectful nicknames, crude insults, or right-wing smears against Democrats.

On the face of it, the second bullet point, adapted from many previous iterations, looks like a fair (and balanced) warning to both sides of the primary wars of 2008–team Obama and team HRC–not to attack each other. Not being inside the administrators’ heads, I won’t presume that they didn’t intend it to be taken that way. The effect, however, was that by the time those revised rules were posted, most of team HRC had long before either been driven underground or “tombstoned”–as a ban from DU was called because of the image of a tombstone (with the epitaph “Here lies a disruptor. He disrupted badly.”) that replaced the offender’s avatar on their member profile page. But those primary wars had continued by proxy, it seemed to me, in battles with moderators and more and more with a stable of Obama faithfuls who were quick to gang up on anyone who made the slightest criticism of the president’s performance. Continue reading

DemocraticUnderground and the Fracturing of the Democratic Grass Roots, Part I

A couple of days ago, I accidentally stumbled upon a fascinating American subculture I was not well aquainted with:  the prickly, stranger-shy cluster of rightist (though many self-identify as “liberal”) Hillary Clinton voters who were so enraged by the alleged (not to imply falsely alleged) chicanery between Team Obama and the DNC during the 2008 Democratic primaries that they picked up stakes and headed for any hill they felt sure Obama or the Democrats hadn’t defiled with their presence.

In my ramblings on the internet over the last few years, I have encountered many a Clinton supporter of the left who was driven to internet purgatories where other disaffected or disaffiliated Democrats gathered to share solace and critiques of Obama’s America with lefties (Greens, Naderites, Marxists) who had given up on the Democrats as the best hope for progressives long, long ago.  Indeed, I’ve lately felt much more comfortable with the left-wing victims of Obama’s serial betrayals than with Obama supporters, one of which I nominally was in 2008. But this was my first encounter with the radicalized centrists and center-rightists in the Clinton contingent who felt the sting of the Party’s betrayal.

Let me tell you:  radical centrism is a trip!  I’m sure my new friends in this subculture would find such an amused anthropological assessment of them annoying. To them I can only say, I’m sorry. I can’t help it. You’d be laughing at yourselves too if you could only see yourselves through my eyes.  But I’m going to try to set aside my amusement with them, which owes mainly to their strangely and almost uniformly vicious defenses against anyone not in their club–e.g., me, in my clumsy attempts to learn more about them–and try to focus on my observations about what this group tells us–tells me, anyway–about the Democrats’ prospects in 2012 and beyond. My main interest is in how the party’s recent past and future connect with the rise of #OccupyWallStreet. My hypothesis: The story of grass roots Democrats in the 21st century is one of numerous parallel threads of ordinary Americans’ political desires being thwarted by indifferent or even hostile political institutions, and this may be the beginnings of a new American Revolution. Continue reading