I found this place because an old friend of mine talked about it. Well, actually I knew about it, but my friend's recommendation held a lot of weight for me. This person wasn't a fool and didn't vouch for things that weren't productive. This person was and still is opinionated and practical. This person did not spend their time talking to people who were debating without a the possibility of a productive end to the discussion.
I had floated around various early blogs including the one that basically was the baseline low-bar example of how useless political discourse could be on the internet - ABC's political blog was the blog to which I refer. A thoughtful comment challenging anything that the Bush Administration was doing at that time would more often than not draw a response along the lines of, "You should have been aborted at birth like you people want other people to be." Worse stuff was posted and there was basically no community or site moderation - just a free flow of hateful nastiness.
Anyway, I imagined that internet discussions could be productive, but it was not until I discovered Daily Kos that that ideal came to be a reality.
When I arrived a lot of years ago now, there were not so many members. The site wasn't a place where most politicians made an appearance. It was just a place where thoughtful people who cared about their country came together to discuss all kinds of rather disturbing things that we are seeing play out largely directed by the Bush Administration, but also disappointingly with rather regular assistance from the Democratic Party. Most people around here came here because they had a certain vision of America and our government and because we weren't happy with what the Democratic Party was doing.
This site provided a very welcome outlet for my frustration with the failures of the Bush Administration with respect to basic American democratic (with a little "d) values. It also was a place where Democrats (with a capital "D") could be criticized. Cogent and thoughtful arguments were made in favor of change both on the Presidential and the Democratic Party front. It wasn't enough to say, "They suck!!" for either target. It was not enough to say that a Democrat's decision was "good" just because they were a Democrat.
It was incumbent upon those making critiques to make cogent and productive arguments against the status quo of that era. LOL - Armando was merciless. Foolish, ignorant, poorly reasoned arguments were challenged and the posters were tortured unrelentingly even if their point was fair and correct. If they could not adequately defend what they were saying when challenged, the sharks circled smelling blood in the water. Was it tough, mean and confounding on some level? Yes. Absolutely. But for the most part it was fair - and this place was never held out as some safe haven for the feint of heart.
What I loved about it was that it was a place where I learned things that I did not know almost every single time that I spent time here.
Oh sure it was fun to find a place where people would recommend a comment when people said, "Bush sucks!", but it was way more than that - way more. The reason that it was "more" is that those cheap, but reasonably accurate shots, were generally attached to diaries and other comments that covered tough topics like the Iraq War, Torture, Domestic Government Spying, The Patriot Act, Weapons of Mass Destruction That Were Non-Existent, etc.
I believe that Daily Kos played an important role in turning the tide and helping the Democrats to win the House and Senate back in 2006. The Democratic Establishment really did not like us and had no clue how to harness our power at the time, but they were smart enough to accept the help they received and they won back power in Congress. They seemed to have adopted the productive advice offered for free and daily for years that Democrats must be different from Republicans if they expect to take votes from the GOP camp. It was more complicated than that, but the root of the course change came from the Democrats finally distinguishing themselves from Republicans in meaningful ways - one significant example being that Democrats started to question the Iraq War - an unthinkable question before the 2006 cycle. John Edwards was the first to publicly recant his initial support for the war. Everyone hates him now, but I m still grateful that he did that. I don't much care whether or not he was sincere or executing a political strategy differentiating himself because he helped open the flood-gates.
Democratic politicians started to recant and started to talk about ending the war. They weren't going all John Kerry saying that they were "for it before they were against it" - they just started to disavow themselves. They simply said in so many or few words, "It has to end." That was productive progress. It was big, productive and important.
Barack Vs. Hillary...
All seemed right as rain for the Democratic Party and the country as a whole at the outset of the Democratic Presidential Primary season. Neither candidate seemed to notice that there was a recession/depression starting to set in during their early campaign. But no matter, there were other super important issues to debate like whether or not Obama would go into countries like Pakistan to attack terrorists without permission or diplomatic warning - but not only did a lot of Obama people defend this notion - but they also attempted to make the rest of us who might question such a move out to be traitorous to the Democratic Party. They argued that Obama was going to be better than Bush and that he was "anti-Iraq War" and so any response to his statements about invading another sovereign nation to kill terrorists was overblown or even traitorous to the Democratic cause. Sure. Fine. Except that it turns out that Obama was dead serious; he has not shown any restraint in using drones to kill terrorists and other wedding goers; and yes he did kill Osama Bin Laden - as far as we know - oh shut up on trying to accuse me of CT here - and get real about the fact that ALL administrations are going to play cards that none of us are ever allowed to inspect. I believe this Administration got Bin Laden, but I am not fool enough to believe that ANY administration in history has been completely forthright in their accounts of Secret Squirrel activities that have been carried out well outside the public view. That's why Bush never seemed credible - aside from the fact that he already came to the table with half-truths of his own, he was in DC and operating within the confines of the Federal Government Agencies that oversee state secrets and those people often enough lie about mundane issues just because they don't know anything else.
So, really what inspired this diary and my title is related to the specific issues only to the extent that these issues provoke.
When provoked the Republicans now scream "Scandal!!!" and then, "Impeachment!!!". But they aren't trying to be productive. Putting civil servants in jail for "targeting political activity" isn't going to change the fact that the applicable laws are totally screwed up and confusing. It won't change the fact that the agency is underfunded.
Even when unprovoked the Republicans scream about the deficit, debt and the economy, but they aren't being productive. They call for austerity and then the White House (confoundingly) joins in pretending that they don't really want that, but doing everything they can to foster the adaptation of austerity. Liberals here disagree with the Administration's push toward austerity, but it isn't because we "hate" Obama. It is because we disagree with him.
We believe in productive responses. We believe that in times of hardship finding ways to add to an equation that shows a deficit is better than finding ways to further subtract from an already anemic balance sheet.
We also believe that the debate has to be about real numbers and evidence - not about platitudes about "community organizers" or "Constitutional professors". We believe that the debate should be productive for the people of the United States - the people who aren't living in the White House - not riding the train home to some lovely house from Wall Street - about the people who live here in this country and are just trying to figure out how to get by in this economy and in the face of so many powerful and intrusive forces.
I don't give a damn whether or not anyone goes to jail as much as I care about whether or not people can not only survive this economic hardship, but also can eventually restart their quest to prosper.
Thanks for listening.