Sunday, October 19, 2014

Netroots Obit

Do the right thing do the right thing
do it all the time do it all the time
make yourself right, never mind them 
--Diversionary, Ages and Ages 

Since you're gone the nights are getting strange
since you're gone nothing's making sense 
--Since You're Gone, The Cars 

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity 
--The Second Coming, W. B. Yeats

  This is still a free country,
 ladies and gentlemen
--1964 Republican Convention,
Nelson Rockefeller 

The Florida Netroots coalition, and its national affiliates, was a hopeful nascent political upwelling that began during the early days of internet social networking. This is its obituary.

Back in the early days (less than a decade ago, a millennium in internet years), some constituents from within the Florida Democratic Party sought to rally and harness a hopeful spirit of rejuvenation from within the ranks. The time seemed right: Karl Rove, et. al., had finished savaging any shred of decency left within the Republican party machine. The gig was up for the "compassionate (not) conservatives". Or so it seemed.

"Netroots" is a portmanteau of "internet" + "grassroots", coined in 2002 to describe the gathering energy displayed across the internet, primarily through blogging and other platforms promoting activism and connectivity via the internet. The culmination of the fury was seen in mid-decade elections; by 2010, Netroots was breathing its last.

Newt, Rumsfeld, GWB and the cast of regulars were growing stale and ossified, providing the ground from which Netroots sprang. Could the Democrats snatch victory from the jaws of defeat wrought by a party machine honed on emotional fail-safes like "family values" and gun rights, and ostensibly wholesome positions like anti-gay marriage, abortion rights and every other thing which became handy whipping boys for the burgeoning dysfunction of a once-great nation?

Alas, Netroots had no Karl Rove of its own and no platform -- only an amorphous passion, and a passion without purpose flames out fairly quickly.

And so it was with Netroots. There were conventions, and like all such events, there was grandstanding, glitter and celebration. Then, like waking up to a hangover on a too-bright day, the lack of a core directive led to its dissipation. Morning in America gave way to a languid afternoon and dull twilight all too soon.

Entre flash mobs performing Andrew Lloyd Webber songs in malls and cat videos.

The passing of Netroots indicates the Democratic process is in severe jeopardy. The death of grassroots activism -- especially in the age of easy internet networking -- may coincide with the slow, inexorable death of Democracy, as American political thought has been based in grassroots movements since the inception of the Republic.This is now lacking.

What remains are the corporations and the mega-rich who can dump millions into election propaganda pitched to an electorate which makes its decisions based upon 30-second agitprop commercials. There is no counterbalance, and this does not a wholesome and vital Democracy make.

Netroots was not the one-stop solution to a corporate, highly-factionalized politics, but it was a beginning, too-soon snuffed out. Perhaps it collapsed under the weight of its own largely superannuated history. Civil rights issues have been institutionalized, to greater or lesser successes, but the party did not seem to have any new issues to array on its platter.

Since the Democrats had been fighting for civil rights for so long, it poked around in that cabinet and found the only skeleton remaining -- gay rights. So this full enfranchisement on the basis of sexual orientation is coming to pass, but then what? The Democratic Party hasn't said, and that may be because there is nothing there but a mule, which is not to say any more of a fast-mover than an elephant, but just not too different.

The question remains: why would the  Democratic Party cede key terrain necessary to maintain a robust rivalry?

Netroots is not telling.

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