Bill Bradley Describes VRWC in NY Times Piece Today

Sounding like a Seeing the Forest regular, in A Party Inverted, former Senator Bill Bradley today describes how the Right has built a network of organizations that have become the foundation for the Republican Party, and how this structure supports their candidates outside of the election cycle. This is a must-read!

To further the party’s ideological and political goals, Republicans in the 1970’s and 1980’s built a comprehensive structure based on Powell’s blueprint. Visualize that structure as a pyramid.

You’ve probably heard some of this before, but let me run through it again. Big individual donors and large foundations – the Scaife family and Olin foundations, for instance – form the base of the pyramid. They finance conservative research centers like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, entities that make up the second level of the pyramid.

The ideas these organizations develop are then pushed up to the third level of the pyramid – the political level. There, strategists like Karl Rove or Ralph Reed or Ken Mehlman take these new ideas and, through polling, focus groups and careful attention to Democratic attacks, convert them into language that will appeal to the broadest electorate. That language is sometimes in the form of an assault on Democrats and at other times in the form of advocacy for a new policy position. The development process can take years. And then there’s the fourth level of the pyramid: the partisan news media. Conservative commentators and networks spread these finely honed ideas.

He describes how this structure supports candidates. The Republicans have this massive structure in place so it doesn’t really matter who they run. As I have said here, just look at who they run and tell me they are better candidates!

At the very top of the pyramid you’ll find the president. Because the pyramid is stable, all you have to do is put a different top on it and it works fine.

It is not quite the “right wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton described, but it is an impressive organization built consciously, carefully and single-mindedly. The Ann Coulters and Grover Norquists don’t want to be candidates for anything or cabinet officers for anyone. They know their roles and execute them because they’re paid well and believe, I think, in what they’re saying. True, there’s lots of money involved, but the money makes a difference because it goes toward reinforcing a structure that is already stable.

To understand how the Democratic Party works, invert the pyramid. Imagine a pyramid balancing precariously on its point, which is the presidential candidate.

Democrats who run for president have to build their own pyramids all by themselves. There is no coherent, larger structure that they can rely on. Unlike Republicans, they don’t simply have to assemble a campaign apparatus – they have to formulate ideas and a vision, too. Many Democratic fundraisers join a campaign only after assessing how well it has done in assembling its pyramid of political, media and idea people.

There is no clearly identifiable funding base for Democratic policy organizations, and in the frantic campaign rush there is no time for patient, long-term development of new ideas or of new ways to sell old ideas. Campaigns don’t start thinking about a Democratic brand until halfway through the election year, by which time winning the daily news cycle takes precedence over building a consistent message. The closest that Democrats get to a brand is a catchy slogan.

This understanding of how much the Right is doing outside of the election cycle that directly affects elections is so important to get. From Win or Lose,

The Right’s machine is not oriented around the election cycle, it is constant, yet this is why they win elections. Their organizations provide a drumbeat of propaganda all year, every year, working with the latest PR and marketing techniques, utilizing the latest research into the psychology of persuasion, exploiting the latest trends, etc. Because its marketing is constant, their politicians have it easy — they just show up and echo the ideology that this machine has been pumping out and ride along on the rest of the resulting public opinion. Their politicians are almost interchangable, their work having been already done for them by the organizations, they have only to show up and say the right things and they have an automatic base of support.

Moderate and Progressive politicians, on the other hand, have to develop their positions each election cycle largely on their own, and communicate their ideas themselves. Everyone blames the Democratic Party for lack of vision, lack of marketing, etc. when the problem really is that there is not a comparable network of moderate and progressive ADVOCACY MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS organizations that are OUTSIDE of the party apparatus, supporting it, feeding it ideas, foot soldiers and voters.

Organizations on the Right, like the Heritage Foundation provide talking points, training, media skills, and most important, farm teams — EMPLOYMENT for thousands of “foot soldiers” for the Right! Almost everyone on the Right is paid, and paid well (which serves to buy their loyalty to the core group of funders, their ideology and their goals.) They follow a long-term approach, which is why recruiting lots of young people and finding them paid positions as foot soldiers is an important part of their operation. Eventually these people will become activists, candidates, etc. And by having an employed stable of professional pundits, speakers, activists, etc., they are able to bring their “wurlitzer” to bear on any issue at any time, as necessary.

So the question here is why doesn’t “our side” have a similar infrastructure in place? I’ve spent a lot of time studying this problem and have developed some theories. And I have some ideas about how to begin to counter what the Right is doing.

Now go here and give them some money so they can fight the Right, here to study up on what has been happening to us, and here to read up on Progressive Infrastructure to give “our side” a voice.

Blog Change Coming Friday

On Friday Seeing the Forest is going to switch over to its new site. That site will be at Seeingtheforest.com.

The blog you are reading now is located at seetheforest.blogspot.com, and I currently have a “redirect” set up for Seeingtheforest.com that sends everyone here. On Friday we leave Blogger and blogspot (and all the problems) behind for good. I will change the “name servers” for SeeingtheForest.com to point to the new blog. Many of you won’t have to do anything because you’ll just be sent to the new location automatically. But people who have bookmarks set to “seetheforest.blogspot.com” will continue to come to this site. I suspect that most blogs that link to Seeing the Forest are linking to that incorrect address. So if you find yourself wondering why Seeing the Forest is not being updated, it is because you are looking at the old blogspot site, missing out on all the fun.

I know that some of you fear change, and a few of you can be very excitable, so I have worked hard to make sure the new blog looks just like the current one. (Yes, I messed up a perfectly good template to do that. Over time I promise to make it look better. But I just had to get away from blogger before anything else!) And I know that many of you depend on Seeing the Forest for your very life essence. Yes, I recognize and respect and shoulder the tremendous responsibility that you have entrusted me with. With which you have entrusted me. So I will make sure that there are posts here on Thursday and posts there on Friday, and continuity of the flow will be assured. AND I will make sure that anyone who comes here to the blogger location will be able to get to the new location. On top of that I have made sure that all the links and archives at the new location are correct. So you can find old Seeing the Forest posts to read on slower days, and relive better times.

How the Liberal Media Myth is Created

Everyone should read eriposte’s series at The Left Coaster, How the Liberal Media Myth is Created. I insist.

The series covers how this myth is created using:
Part 1, “tone” of media coverage
Part 2, “catch-phrases” like ‘right-wing extremist’ v. ‘left-wing extremist’
Part 3, “newspaper headlines”
Part 4, “topics” covered
Part 5, “think-tank” citations
Part 6, surveys of journalist ideology or voting preferences

Finally Leaving Blogger

I been bloggered so long it looks like up to me.

I’m finally going to leave Blogger. Oh my God they give bad service!!!!!!

I signed up a Moveable Type account at LivingDot, and will start the process of getting to know the new software and setting up a blog template. I’ll switch over soon. Not sure how to handle the last two-and-a-half years of archives… but I’ll figure it out.

If you have Seeing the Forest bookmarked or blogrolled, make sure you are using “seeingtheforest.com” as your bookmark and not the “http://seetheforest.blogspot.com/” address. Seeingtheforest.com will always point to the current Seeing the Forest blog.

P.S. I have been trying to post this since last night but Blogger keeps crashing.

Insulting Bloggers

The National Press Club Welcomes … Jeff Gannon?

You’ve heard of Jeff Gannon. He’s the right-wing male prostitute that the White House was using as a shill to deflect critical press questions. Well, now the National Press club is including him on a panel (1st paragraph only) as a — BLOGGER!!! And, of course, they aren’t putting any actual bloggers on the panel.

Yes, the same day that the prestigious Washington, D.C., journalism organization plans to present a lunch talk by former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, it will also allow the former White House reporter/sex site operator to be on a panel discussing bloggers and online journalism.

Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, resigned his job with the conservative Talon News last month after it was revealed he had used a pseudonym, had little journalism background, and had ties to male escort Web sites.

Responging to this, The Agonist has organized An Open Letter To The National Press Club

Members of The National Press Club,

We, the undersigned bloggers, are very concerned about how liberal political bloggers are being systematically under-represented and belittled in the mainstream media, academic settings and media forums. By being intentionally excluded away from these venues, we are effectively pushed out of the discourse of opinion-leaders. The result is that the conventional wisdom about blogging, politics and journalism, as it concerns liberal blogs, becomes a feedback loop framed by the Conservatives and their media allies.

Indeed, just a few weeks ago, The Brookings Institution hosted a panel that originally included no liberal political bloggers and yet while including numerous conservative political operatives in the event. We registered our protest and the Brookings Institution’s response was simply to invite a few liberal political bloggers to attend, yet not sit on the panel, as we had originally insisted upon.

Today, however, we are faced with an entirely new situation that is more insult than misrepresentation. The discredited conservative media operative Jeff Gannon, nee Guckert has been invited to sit on a panel at the prestigious National Press Club to talk about the scandal surrounding his access to the White House and more generally, the similarities and differences between bloggers and journalists. Guckert’s token liberal counterpart will be a gossip blogger and sex comedy blogger. While we have nothing but the greatest respect for Mr. Graff and Ms. Cox we believe that neither represents bloggers who write about hard-nosed politics. And as for Mr. Guckert, he isn’t a blogger, he’s barely a journalist, and not a single political blogger involved with the Gannon/Guckert scandal, or otherwise, has been invited to sit on the panel to counter Mr. Guckert’s arguments.

Therefore, we the undersigned bloggers, respectfully but firmly insist that a serious political blogger such as John Aravosis, of Americablog.org be included on the panel to fairly and accurately represent our industry and us. Mr. Aravosis has agreed to our request that he serve on the panel as our representative and is available should such an invite be forthcoming.

This situation is simply unacceptable. We will push back against the growing bias and sloppiness we see in the mainstream media as it concerns serious political blogging. If we do not we will never achieve any semblance of balance in the media. If we do not, we abdicate our ability to tell our own side of the story. If we do not we leave it to others to define us and defame us.

Please call Julie Shue at the The National Press Club and politely insist that they include John Aravosis of Americablog.org at their event. Here are there numbers: 202-662-7500 or 202-662-7501.

Sincerely,

Sean-Paul Kelley, http://www.agonist.org
DCMediagirl, http://www.dcmediagirl.com
Ezra Klein, http://ezraklein.typepad.com
Echidne of the snakes, http://www.echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com
Amanda Marcotte, http://www.pandagon.net
Mark Karlin, Editor and Publisher, http://www.BuzzFlash.com
Matt Stoller, http://bopnews.com
Democratic Underground http://www.democraticunderground.com/
Lindsay Beyerstein http://majikthise.typepad.com
Shakespeare’s Sister, http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com and http://www.bigbrassblog.com
Bob Brigham, www.SwingStateProject.com

Housing Bubble/Crash

Putting Stock in Property,

“This is more exciting than a mutual fund,” Boome said. “It feels safer too. You buy a piece of dirt, you feel you’ll always have a piece of dirt.”

[. . .] They’re cashing in retirement funds, selling stock and taking out second mortgages. They’re pouring the money into real estate, often in distant states, often without seeing the property.

“Markets are ruled by either fear or greed,” said Robert Campbell, a San Diego investor who has written a book on timing the real estate market. “At the moment, it’s all about greed. Huge numbers of people are buying in at very high prices.”

Economists have been wondering for at least a year if real estate is in a manic phase that will end unhappily.

Angry Bear: Housing: Speculation and the Price-Rent Ratio

I was going to link to and quote from a number of recent articles, and then I found Housing Crash Blog, and its links to recent articles on the subject. So just go there.

Moderates, Academics, and Democrats

Recently on Kos and MYDD there’s been a discussion of the left blogosphere which traces back to an old post by Kevin Drum. The gist of the discussion is here:


If you remove Atrios, the left blogosphere is neatly divided into two mutually-linking spheres: the moderate/intellectual (academicky) types – Drum, DeLong, Yglesias, TPM, Tapped, Crooked Timber – and the left activist types – Kos, MyDD, Digby, Left Coaster, Pandagon (only this one surprised me a bit). Even at the modest 5-link level, none of these blogs link to anyone on other side.

Here are a few points I’d like to add to the discussion:

The moderation of the journalists (TAPPED, Marshall) has a lot to do with the fact that the career path for committed, aggressive liberal Democrats is pretty puny. What you see on TV, on the talk shows, and on most of the newspapers is almost entirely conservative Republicans, centrists of both parties, and apolitical professionals. Beyond ideology, ambitious journalists can’t afford to offend important people in the biz, even if they are egregiously dishonest, and from time to time all of them make a point of saying nice things about whoever they think is the least loathesome guy on the other side of the aisle.

Bob Somerby is the person they don’t dare to be. Recently he applauded a statement of Josh Marshall’s about the dismal state of reporting on this issue or that, but pointed out that Marshall had failed to name any names. Somerby is almost always right, but he names names and has made too many enemies.

The people at TAPPED have slammed Somerby whenever they’ve gotten the chance, and lo! — Nick Confessore just got hired by the New York Times.

I think that the collegiality of academia, combined with excessive doses of Orwell and Gandhi, tend to incapacitate academics for the kind of gutter fighting you need when you’re facing Rush Limbaugh, Karl Rove, and Grover Norquist. I think that the habits and ways characteristic of academic institutions are the problem, and I think that many of these habits and ways are also characteristic of the various other kinds of large institutions where Democrats tend to make their careers. The Republicans hire semi-criminal entrepreneurs, and it works for them.

Finally, Ivy-League whiz kids bring a lot to the party, but I think that they’re too influential. They tend to have a pretty limited class experience, and even the ones who come from non-elite backgrounds can be careerists intent on escaping from their past. To put it simply, I think that the Democrats should hire more people from SW Texas State and fewer from Harvard.

Before I get accused of being a know-nothing Maoist-Populist wrecker, I don’t think that anyone should be purged because of their background. But I do think that there’s been a skew in the Democratic Party which should be corrected. The Democrats’ populist roots are still featured at Roosevelt-Kennedy nostalgia fests, but are not very evident in the party’s real-time activities. Republican populism is fake, but it works.

And finally — as always, I think that the big fact of today’s political world is that there are no good guys on the other side of the aisle, and that Democrats should quit looking for them.

(Temporarily out of retirement).

Update – Also Ian at Blogging of the President

Funny, or Scary?

Here is an example of the kind of e-mail you get when Fox News gives out your blog’s name:

No wonder you sound like a liberal faggot – you look like a queer.

And, many of you have seen the kind of comment that they leave:

Kerry lost not because he was a bad candidate, but that he represents bad ideology. Dave Johnson lives in a state that other than voter fraud in King County would probably be a red state. Funny how the blue states are mainly on the least coast and the party there is made up of limousine liberals, sissies, and union thugs. The left coast is made up of faggots, baby killers, and religion haters. Dave Johnson must be a queer.

They are from the same guy, who identifies himself as a “Colonel.” But they are a few days apart – that’s what creeps me about this one, coming back later and finding my picture. For the record I live in California, not Washington, and do not write comic strips. I was a video game designer 20 years ago. (The reporter was very nice and hard working and made an honest mistake with that.)

Government DID Help Saudis Leave After 9/11!

New Details on F.B.I. Aid for Saudis After 9/11

The episode has been retold so many times in the last three and a half years that it has become the stuff of political legend: in the frenzied days after Sept. 11, 2001, when some flights were still grounded, dozens of well-connected Saudis, including relatives of Osama bin Laden, managed to leave the United States on specially chartered flights.

Now, newly released government records show previously undisclosed flights from Las Vegas and elsewhere and point to a more active role by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in aiding some of the Saudis in their departure.

The F.B.I. gave personal airport escorts to two prominent Saudi families who fled the United States, and several other Saudis were allowed to leave the country without first being interviewed, the documents show.

The key for me line in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 movie was: Imagine how the press and conservatives would react if, after the Oklahoma City bombing, we learned that Bill Clinton had helped get Timothy McVeigh’s family out of the country.