alien & sedition.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
  Tom DeLay Is Smoking Grass(roots)

America's favorite criminally-indicted exterminator has been keeping busy lately. His blog has come a long way since the days when he had to shut off comments because, well, nobody likes him. Now it's slick, conversational, and steeping in the aura of netroots authenticity. Most of its posts, naturally, seem to involve a fixation with Nancy Pelosi.

Next to a banner ad for the Bugman's new book (No Retreat, No Surrender - to which, one might add, Just Disgrace), the "About the Blog" blurb makes an earnest pitch:
The importance of the blogosphere in shaping and motivating the current conservative movement is unquestionable- not only has it served as an important tool in breaking through the liberal MSM clutter but it has helped to keep our elected officials true to principle.

This blog is meant to further the online discussion in the marketplace of ideas.
The peculiarly Republican interpretation of "keeping true to principle" has a lot to do with DeLay's own early retirement - not to mention his party's current Congressional exile. DeLay himself was a leader in finding new and often wholly inverted ways to define "principle." He also figured out how to look fabulous in a mugshot - give the man some credit.

So, like I said, he's been keeping busy. Eve Fairbanks of the New Republic caught up with the Hammer and found a man determined, apparently, to become the right's version of Kos, Howard Dean, and Eli Pariser - all rolled into one. Besides the blog, his new projects include: TDGAIN promises to be organized in every congressional district in America, to "advocate for conservative first principles." Its members are promised the chance to both "Communicate with Tom DeLay" (by reading his newsletter) and "Help Tom DeLay" (by, well, it's unclear - but petitioning will probably be involved). As a special bonus:
You will also receive insider updates on Mr. DeLay’s schedule including appearances, events, and book signings both in your area and nationally.
Lucky you!

Like TDGAIN, the CCM "will organize in all 50 states" and do grassrootsy-things. The CCM site also reveals the true story of the progressive grassroots:
For six years now, former leaders of the Clinton Administration have studied and surpassed the conservative grassroots network, creating a liberal coalition unprecedented in its size, scope, and funding. This is the network that beat conservatives in 2006 and handed Congress back to the Democrat Party – and that was just the warm-up. The liberal Shadow Party has been built for one reason: to elect Hillary Clinton President of the United States in 2008. They have the money, the organization, and the coordination to do it, and there is no conservative network capable of standing in its path. Until now.
That's right folks: the entire progressive movement was built by and for the Clintons. It's fascinating, actually - this is the same mindset that reacts to 9/11 by fixating on Saddam Hussein. Complex phenomena are simplified and personalized - and very often attached to people who in fact have nothing to do with them. Meanwhile, you can almost hear the rumbling low-register voice of the movie trailer: And only one man could stand in their way....

Tom DeLay doesn't just want to grow the conservative grassroots. He wants to rip up the soil, plant his own seeds across the nation, and control every inch of the turf. He wants to be the sun toward which every blade turns. Having been expelled from the corridors of power, DeLay intends to marshal his forces out on the lawn. Fairbanks quotes Paul Weyrich on the Bugman: "He wants to run the outside."

None of it sounds much like real grassroots organizing as you or I know it. It's more like astroturf, on a grand scale. And there's a certain unsettling mania to DeLay's effort. As Fairbanks describes it, the man who once put the fear of God into the Republican Congressional caucus now "sees a need for such harsh discipline in the grassroots." But while he swings around rolling out the plastic turf, his real motives emerge:
DeLay's mission to save the conservative grassroots isn't driven only by an ideological calling, the fulfillment of the American Passion's prophecy. There's also revenge. The activist troops he's now so eager to captain are the very ones that failed to come to his aid enthusiastically enough when he was under siege a year ago. "He was extremely frustrated at the end" of his time in Congress, notes Weyrich, because he "thought that he did not get the kind of support from the outside that he felt he was entitled to." Now DeLay has the chance to take over the grassroots and mold them into an obedient force. Says Weyrich, "He's thinking to himself, If I construct an organization. ...'"
Fairbanks interviews a few conservative activists who say that DeLay's efforts are bound to come up against resistance:
Several conservative activists told me they find the idea that they need DeLay's training distasteful, as if he were on a mission to civilize savages. "I don't think it'll work, because conservatives are very individualistic, and they don't take well to people dictating to them what they need to do," says one.
I'll let you make your own judgments as to whether that's an accurate portrayal of the conservative psyche. The real problem for DeLay may be that he's not the only disgraced conservative trying to build Conservative Grassroots Machine 2.0. As Fairbanks points out, Dick Armey's got a gang of his own. And we've already mentioned Newt's new network.

Three former conservative leaders of Congress. Three under-employed ideologues. Their machines failed to save them from their own corruption and incompetence. So, with nothing else to do, they've set themselves to building better machines. It's easy to mock - really, delightfully easy - but take this new flurry of activity in the conservative movement as a warning. Armey, Gingrich and DeLay may be politically dead, but they're building armies of zombies to carry on anyway.

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Critical analysis of the American conservative movement from a progressive perspective. Also some stuff about the Mets.

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