|But as I've noted, these forces are organizing themselves to undercut progressives and are seeking to position Obama as a moderate, like Clinton. In Seattle, I'm seeing this play out as a vicious media hit on Burner, a cooperative set of attacks by local Democratic and Republican political consultants (who both served as sources for this Time magazine piece by Amy Sullivan) and the Seattle Times.
The structure here is similar to what you see in DC and around the country. As reported by Josh Feit in the Stranger, some of the political consultants are bought off by AT&T and co, and even some of the 'liberal' ones work for both sides, as Erica C. Barnett showed in her reporting. Burner, who did not come out of this establishment, defeated a Blue Dog Democrat in the primary, using her support from the netroots to first clear the field (of Rodney Tom, a local developer who chose to drop out and endorse Burner) and then win the primary. This primary candidate, Jim Vaughn, then turned around and endorsed Reichert, realizing that he agrees with Reichert "on all the major issues and the only difference I could find was that I am pro choice and Dave is pro life." Vaughn lavished praise on Reichert and the Blue Dogs and noted he was "tired of going to work each day and getting taxed to death (over 50 different taxes in our state) to pay for someone to sit at home and abuse unemployment, the welfare system and worker's compensation."
The Seattle PI, the more liberal of the two major papers, decided to show its bipartisan credentials and endorse Reichert, as did the Tacoma News-Tribune and the conservative Seattle Times. Even liberal journalists like Eli Sanders of the Stranger in the alternate weekly drove an odd sort of anti-netroots conventional wisdom, choosing to overlook polling data to make an anti-Darcy case. Sanders analogized this latest fiasco over Burner's degree to the 'macaca' moment of George Allen, as if a falsified attack from a Republican is equivalent to a long legacy of racist slurs and actions revealed by a bullying comment towards an Indian-American campaign worker. The NRCC is focusing on this race, one of the few incumbents in the country they are spending money to defend, and they have even set up a phone bank in the basement in DC to make thousands of calls out here.
Burner isn't just opposing the DC establishment in terms of issues like FISA and by putting forward plans like a Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, she's also fighting through this local set of kingmakers. In 2007, she began a stint as a co-chair of The Committee for a Two-Newspaper Town, a citizens lobby (partially funded by labor) to prevent the Seattle Times from putting its competitor out of business.
In the 1980s, the Seattle Times and the Seattle PI struck a deal to combine non-news operations and split the profits in a special Joint Operating Agreement. The Times publisher, Frank Blethen, wanted to get rid of this agreement in 2003, as it would lead to the end of the Seattle PI and allow the Times to become a local monopoly. There was a four year lawsuit between the Blethen and the owner of the PI (Heart). In addition, a citizens committee emerged to fight Blethen, citing a compelling public interest to gain standing in the case and seeking to keep both papers open. The committee successful intervened in the case and Blethen cited them as a reason to settle with the PI.
The net payout from the Seattle Times to the Heart company as part of the settlement to keep the Joint Operating Agreement going was $24 million. That's $24 million that Burner, as one citizen activist among many, helped cost Blethen and the Seattle Times. As they say, don't make someone mad who buys ink by the barrel. Only, Burner ignored this rule just as she ignored the rule to be silent about a bipartisan consensus to enable illegal wiretapping, and fought successfully for a diverse media in Seattle. Now Blethen is getting his revenge via his reporter Emily Heffter's 'scoop' that Burner falsified her degree (a charge repudiated by Harvard ex-Dean Harry Lewis). This hit piece is part of a series of slanted articles going after Burner for, among other things, her association with the netroots. And the local TV stations are extending credit to Media Plus, Reichert's media buyer, who is lending money to Reichert, to let him push this charge around on TV.
The pushback from the progressive populist space has been fierce. Heffter is thoroughly embarrassed by her shoddy reporting job, the Seattle Times changed its headline (without explanation, of course), and a response from Lewis is online. Dailykos is doing its own polling and has helped raise massive sums to aid in pushback. And the volunteer operation here is stuffed to the gills, which will hopefully solidify the Obama vote behind Burner.
But what's important to understand is that the lies from Reichert are not isolated tactical events, but are laundered and pressed firmly by a whole series of interlocking Democrats, journalists, media business executives, and Republicans threatened by progressive populists like us that look to the public and not the good ole boys for legitimacy. At every step, progressive populists are going to encounter this nexus - the consultants, the journalists, the publishers, the magnates, all couched under the rubric of 'moderate' Republicans and 'conservative' or 'Blue Dog' Democrats.
The only way through this thicket is to have these fights and slash through the branches, one at a time. Backing candidates who rely on us and not the establishment network makes us stronger, and them weaker. It's not that we're giving to Burner or Grayson or Franken or anyone else, it's that we're freeing them from having to kowtow to people like Steny Hoyer, Frank Blethen, Michael Bloomberg, and their servants like reporter Emily Heffter. It's a complicated set of steps we've taken, but it's working. Obama has repudiated lobbyists in his campaign, and has acquired massive amounts of power and influence through his ability to inspire trust in the electorate. Unlike Burner, though, he did this both through the networks of the establishment and the progressive populists; he doesn't need any of us to get elected and never did, and he's shown that through his vote on FISA and his whipping for the bailout.
Obama, though, is not just a guy, he's a franchise, a network of people currying favor and looking for jobs and seeking to impose their own stamp on the world through differing ideas about how to govern. And by fighting through these thickets, by helping people like Burner and Merkley into office, we help give Obama and the people in his orbit a little bit more space to make the choice to be a progressive populist.