But it was Obama supporters for whom Buffenbarger saved his most vitriolic contempt, and he proved that the Democratic Party's coalition is nothing if not fragile. Channeling Howard Beale from the movie "Network," he yelled into the microphone, "Give me a break! I've got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius- driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies crowding in to hear him speak! This guy won't last a round against the Republican attack machine. He's a poet, not a fighter."
That might be a bit offensive if it wasn't so hysterically overwrought with pathetic conservative stereotypes. The message is also clear: the idea and hopes of progressive creative class activists are those of a fringe elite, not those of the national majority. As such, creative class progressive activists should stop their complaining, fall in line, and funnel their resources to those who represent the national majority. The exasperation Buffenbarger shows toward those activists for not just falling and line and doing what they are told, as per usual, is palpable. It is also reminiscent of what he thinks of Andy Stern:
Buffenbarger said that Andy Stern is wrong in his central point about the labor movement: in fact, unions have as much power as ever. The problem, as Buffenbarger sees it, is one of public relations and messaging. All the unions need to do to reverse their fortunes, Buffenbarger said, is to speak up louder. To that end, Buffenbarger has proposed that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. spend $188 million to create, among other things, a Labor News Network on cable TV. ''There is no bigger organization than the collective labor movement,'' he told me. ''Even the N.R.A. doesn't have 13 million members. But they act like they do, and I think that's where we fall down. We need to act like we do.''
In a speech earlier that morning, Buffenbarger took on Stern, portraying him as an arrogant usurper and comparing him to ''a rather small peacock.''
Where does Andy Stern / progressive creative class activists get off questioning the almighty leadership of labor / the Democratic Party? And more the same can be said for deep red state Democrats:
A co-chairman of Hillary's Michigan campaign and has a line that's sure to drive a whole bunch of red state governor's up the wall:
"Superdelegates are not second-class delegates," says Joel Ferguson, who will be a superdelegate if Michigan is seated. "The real second-class delegates are the delegates that are picked in red-state caucuses that are never going to vote Democratic."
Again, the message is clear: red state Democrats should give up on winning where they live, fall in line, and support Democrats in other, winnable places. We can't win in red states, so we don't care what red state Democrats think. That sentiment is virtually identical to the notion that grassroots progressive have nowhere to go other than Democrats, so what they think is also inconsequential. And the result has been the creation of an Alliance of the Ignored between grassroots activists and red state Democrats that is now successfully rebelling from the Democratic status quo on all fronts:
When this alliance runs afoul of the Carville's and Begala's of the world, once again it does so primarily because of strategic differences, not because of ideology. Carville and Begala generally represent an older tactical vision for the Democratic Party. This was a vision that was dominant from 1988-2004, when Democrats heavily employed triangulation, focused almost entirely on the narrow targeting of a few "swing" districts and demographics, and when television advertisements and repetitious talking points aimed at mushy-middle, low information voters were the primary tools utilized in all national Democratic campaigns. Wealthy donors and high-level consultants liked that strategy because it kept money flowing to the latter in the form of hefty commissions, and because it kept Democratic policy where the former would like it to be. Most state parties and progressive activists hated that strategy because it basically dictacted that their electoral concerns were either not important, or something from which the Democratic Party needed to actively distance itself.
Not only is Obama favored by a 2-1 margin among grassroots progressive activists, as I discussed earlier today, but he has shown particular strength within deep red states. So far, Obama has won all but one state that Bush won by double-digits in both 2000 and 2004: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Utah. In fact, Obama has won all of these states by 14% or more, and collectively they account for more than half of his pledged delegate advantage. Oklahoma is the only state that twice went for Bush by double digits that Clinton has won so far. With eight of the remaining thirteen states falling into this category, the calendar continues to look favorable for Obama.
So, the activist class war is not just about envelope stuffers growing tired of their efforts being wasted by an ineffective leadership. It is also an expression of frustration by both red state Democrats and grassroots progressives at being taken for granted by that ineffective leadership. Howard Dean used this alliance to secure the party chairmanship and now, three years later, Barack Obama appears set to use it to secure the presidential nomination. A powerful alliance has been formed in the Democratic Party between activist groups that share a palpable sense of being taken for granted by a failed party leadership. It is only in the context of this alliance that the seemingly vacuous Obama campaign slogans of "Yes, We Can," and "Change You Can Believe In," begin to fill up with real meaning. More than any ideological or policy difference, I believe it is also what ultimately underlies Obama's coalition.