The Netroots have been arguing about the 2008 campaign since the day after John Kerry lost, but the debate turned ugly when Armstrong revealed his vote in the February 12 Virginia primary. "In the end, what compelled me to vote for Clinton was looking at someone that seemed practical about the battle we have on our hands and looking ready to engage in the fight," Armstrong blogged that day. "I'd rather be part of the fight than be told to stay on the sidelines because I'm too partisan."
Armstrong had long voiced concerns that Obama's campaign was too personality-driven and too reliant on the votes of Independents and Republicans. But his official endorsement made readers go ballistic. "Voting for the DLC candidate makes you part of the fight? Come on," wrote one commenter. Another suggested, "If you aren't a part of her campaign, you really oughta try to sign up and get some of those $$$ while you can"--a dig at Armstrong's past campaign work for politicians like Howard Dean, Jon Corzine, and Mark Warner. A group of far nastier comments were deleted.
At Daily Kos, commenters were ripping
Armstrong to shreds. One user wrote, "MyDD
isn't even a pro-Clinton site these days. It's just a toxic waste dump
dedicated to throwing slime at Obama and hoping it sticks. … I know that Kos
and Jerome are friends and partners, but it's perhaps time for
Clintonites and Obamabots were ferrying
between the two sites, "recommending" posts sympathetic to their
favored candidate (thus ensuring more prominent placement on the page), and
brutally attacking one another in the comment sections. In late March,
Armstrong, upset by name-calling between Clinton and Obama supporters on MyDD,
barred new user accounts on the site for a week. The sense of betrayal among
fellow Netrooters after his
The fight got even weirder in April,
when the Huffington Post unearthed
an audio recording of
has been happy to do the Clinton-bashing. Straw polls conducted among Daily Kos readers throughout the
primary cycle consistently showed
Kos's endorsement capped a difficult
After announcing her departure from the
site, Alegre was the subject of insults by dozens of commenters. Moulitsas fumed
on the site's front page, "People expect me to give a damn that a
bunch of whiny posters ‘go on strike' and leave in a huff. When I don't give a
damn, people get angry that their expectations aren't being met." Of
There's no doubt that the tone of the
Netroots' Clinton-bashing has veered rather far from policy substance. After
the Huffington Post scoop, Daily Kos
front page writer Dana Houle wrote a bizarre diary
(one he didn't post to the homepage) recounting how his impressions of Hillary
Clinton had changed since 1992, when he saw Bill Clinton give a speech at the
University of Michigan. "It was the night I learned the term MILF, and it
was applied to Hillary Clinton," wrote Houle. In the same post, he
described seeing a couple in the crowd at the
The Netroots has always had a hostile streak, and it's natural that as the Democratic Party and the Netroots themselves began to wield more power, some of that hostility would be directed inwards. Its denizens are also a relatively homogeneous bunch--largely male, middle-aged, college-educated, and upper middle class. The Democratic Party is a diverse coalition reliant on African Americans, single women, union members, and Latinos. Compound that demographic gap with the impersonality and frequent anonymity of the online world, and it seems inevitable that feelings would be hurt, and that some progressives would feel unwelcome in the clubhouse.
Armstrong sees no permanence in the
ruptures that have emerged--both he and Moutlitsas stress that they have
remained friends throughout the campaign. Armstrong has seemed to accept
"I don't think division within the Netroots is all that big of a problem in terms of unifying the Party," Armstrong says. "The people who participate in the Netroots are the most loyal Democratic voters. It's other voting blocs that are more problematic."
And while he's right that people who spend a lot of their discretionary time on progressive websites aren't likely to abstain or vote for Republicans, he may be too cavalier about the toll of this struggle on his movement. "I've always gotten the impression there that women didn't really hold a high place in their heart," Alegre says, referring to the male leaders of Daily Kos. "I'd go back. But I don't know if I'd be welcome after the stink I caused."
Dana Goldstein is a staff writer at The American Prospect.
By Dana Goldstein