Thursday, January 19, 2012

Democrats Follow The Money Not Their Grassroots

 The online protest  yesterday of the two anti-piracy bills was quite a success with, as Talking Points Memo reports, "tens of thousands of websites going dark or 'censoring' parts of their U.S. homepages in protest."  It received an enormous amount of sympathetic media attention, with most editorials nationwide expressing opposition to the legislation.  The end result was a huge shift in Congress:  "Numerous Republican former co-sponsors of PIPA have shifted sides, and far more lawmakers on both sides who hadn’t yet taken a stance have finally come out against the bills"

This is all great news, and with Obama's opposition and the recent introduction of an alternative in the House, it is looking as if these two poorly conceived bills will go down to defeat.

But a disturbing question lingers -- why more Republicans than Democrats have turned against the bills.  As David Dayen explains, "the problematic figures here are the institutional Congressional Democrats, the ones who don’t have an election coming up, or whose seats are safe, who simply welcome the campaign checks, mostly from the entertainment industry, and the power and influence that goes along with them."

This is infuriating.  With good reason, Markos Moulitsas (aka Kos) vents:
It's been a while since we've seen Democrats this tone deaf, this oblivious to political reality.
You have an entire wired generation focused on this issue like a laser, fighting like hell to protect their online freedoms, and it's FUCKING REPUBLICANS who are playing the heroes by dropping support?
Those goddam Democrats would rather keep collecting their Hollywood checks, than heed the will of millions of Americans who have lent their online voice in an unprecedented manner.
Are they really this stupid? Can they really be this idiotic?
Are they really going to cede this issue to Republicans, hand them this massive public victory, then get left with nothing but public scorn when SOPA and PIPA go down in flames?
The answer to all these questions, rhetorical as they may be, is "yes."

The internet, as Dayen points out, has the power to call attention to issues that would otherwise remain outside the public discourse and cause a shift in politicians who are responsive to public opinion.
The problem is that this power relationship only works when the politicians listen to their grassroots. And in general terms, that describes the Republican relationship to the Tea Party, not the Democratic relationship to their grassroots. The Tea Party has struck fear into their party; the progressive movement inspires laughter. And that’s why you saw the movement you saw yesterday.


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