A Daily Dose of Kos

Mar 25, 2011 No Comments

Markos Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of the Daily Kos, a popular left-leaning blog. He is also a columnist for the DC newspaper, “The Hill,” and a contributing columnist at Newsweek. The Daily Kos has an average of 600,000 visits per day, and over 20 million visits per month. Moulitsas also helped organize the first ever political blogger convention, YearlyKos, in 2007. The event has been held every year since, under the new name Netroots Nation. Moulitsas lives and works right here in Berkeley, CA with his wife and two children.

Before enlisting in the army, you were a member of the Republican Party, but now you’re a flaming Berkeley liberal and head of the DailyKos blog. Was there a specific event that made you see the light and switch political parties or was it a gradual transition?
I wouldn’t characterize myself as a “flaming Berkeley liberal”. In fact, I’m a downright right-wing corporatist whore compared to many of my fellow Berkley-ites. I’m a very libertarian minded person, taking the Bill of Rights seriously (including the 2nd). I’m extremely pro-small business, even as I see government regulation as necessary when corporations get so big as to infringe on my freedoms. And big business is just as capable of infringing those freedoms as government is — something that traditional
libertarians don’t seem to mind.
But by no means am I a down-the-line liberal doctrinaire. In fact, I’ve been very clear in my lack of patience for old-school 60s-style liberalism. Our country, culture, and economy have evolved significantly in the past several generations. I prefer to focus on what makes liberalism relevant today, than whatever fantasies old liberals have about the 60s. And of course, that
oftentimes puts me at odds with true flaming liberals.

You’ve worked on both Republican and Democratic campaigns in the past. Did you notice any differences between how the two parties run their campaigns? Similarities?
I was a teenager in the 80s last time I looked at the inside of a Republican campaign, and even the last Democratic one — Howard Dean’s in 2003, is now approaching the decade mark. Given the speed in which the political culture and technology is changing, any observations I might have are already dated.
President Obama just finished his first year in the White House. Although the economy improved, Obama’s approval ratings went down. Do you think Obama fulfilled his campaign promises? Has he done enough on such issues as education and job creation? Will he be able to achieve everything he mentioned in his State of the Union address or is he setting impossible goals for himself?
Obama came into office promising transformative change. His governing hasn’t matched that rhetoric, more concerned with bipartisan Republican support than in passing the best legislation possible. When policy gets subsumed by process, you have a recipe for disaster because voters don’t give a shit about process, they just care about results.
Someone cashing her social security checks doesn’t wonder, “Was the social security act passed by a bipartisan majority?” If a government program is good, how it was enacted is irrelevant.

Bill O’Reilly compared your blog to the Nazi Party and the KKK and claimed that the website “sells hate” and is full of lies, which personally, strikes me as ironic considering he’s, well, Bill O’Reilly. Is this type of criticism typical for your blog? Have you heard worse?
Conservatives don’t like me, and there’s no reason to like me. They’re used to weak liberals who’d rather “take the high ground” than get down in the muck with their enemies and fight fire with fire. So after years of beating up on professorial weenie liberals, they suddenly face someone who isn’t afraid of their bullshit, who isn’t afraid to fight tough, who isn’t afraid of their smear efforts and attacks. They got a free ride for decades, but with the long-overdue rise of partisan liberal media, that has come to an
end. It’s not just me, it’s the likes of Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, the media watchdogs at Media Matters, countless bloggers, a revitalized American Prospect, and so on. The partisan liberal media may be small, but we’re growing rapidly, and we’re taking the fight directly to them.
The more they attack, the more I sense that I’m striking a nerve. And quite frankly, it’s pretty much a new experience for them. It’s funny seeing them flail and try to find attacks against me that stick. Karl Rove whines that people say “four-letter words” on Daily Kos! Apparently, it makes his eyes bleed. O’Reilly has called me everything but Genghis Khan. Glenn Beck calls
me a “marxist”. Ann Coulter says I’m “pint-sized, girly-voiced, Frito * Bandito*-accented”.

During the 2008 Democratic primaries, you accused Hillary Clinton of “fomenting civil war in order to overturn the will of the Democratic electorate.” This comment was widely criticized as inappropriate. Looking back, do you believe that your words were too harsh (or perhaps not harsh enough)?
Clinton stayed in the race far after she was mathematically eliminated from winning using only pledged delegates. The only way she could win, against this is the math, was by getting unelected superdelegates to overturn the will of the voters. That would’ve meant civil war. It was mathematical equation, and objectively true. Any time you overturn the will of the voter, it’s war. Luckily, the superdelegates had more sense than her campaign did.

Do you see the recent Massachusetts senatorial election as a sign
of another Republican Revolution?

Massachusetts was a sign that an excellent candidate will beat a disastrously bad one every single time. The Democratic candidate may have been the worst candidate fielded by either party in a decade. But yes, Republicans are revolting — against their new senator, Scott Brown, who has shown a willingness to vote with Democrats. That’s not what they hoped for
when they got their 41st senator.  In any case, barring a party change, and even if he were to switch, he’s on borrowed time. That seat will be retaken by the Democrats in 2012.

What is your opinion on the tactics of the UC administration and the students to handle this financial problem? Do you believe that either group is correct in its approach?
The state is out of money because Republicans in the legislature can use their tiny minority to block the kind of budget reforms and tax hikes that would get us out of this budget mess. If the state has no money, then nothing the students do can replace those missing dollars. So what can students do? Agitate for a new constitutional convention to rewrite the state’s Constitution. California is now ungovernable. Also, get involved electorally and help defeat Republicans who are blocking sensible
governance. There is definitely room, as was just done in Oregon, to raise taxes on the wealthiest individuals and corporations to drag this state out of its financial mess. But it won’t happen as long as Republicans, eager to destroy the state’s government, stand in the way. This is an electoral matter, not a policy one that students can protest into submission.

Your blog is an example of how journalism is changing due to the rapidly-expanding technological world. Do you think the collapse of print journalism is inevitable? If so, what major impact (negative or positive) will that have on our society?
I’ve never understood the fixation with medium. Journalism will always exist, it will just migrate to whatever media citizens are consuming. Newspapers will do more video, television stations will feature more text, everyone will move to digital devices like the iPad and smartphones. I haven’t read a newspaper in its dead tree format in over a decade. I still prefer print magazines to their websites, but I expect that to change once I get my iPad and can “flip” through the pages of a magazine on my little
tablet. I finally got a Kindle last December, and I’ve read more books in the last three months, than I had the last three years combined. Some people cling to the tactile feel of print; me, I prefer the convenience and tree-friendly attributes of digital.

You’ve made a number of television appearances, including the Colbert Report. Any chance Colbert would have been your first choice of candidates had he not stepped down (or had either party allowed him to put his name on the ballot)?
I think government is serious. I laughed at Colbert’s antics, but his place is in that studio poking fun at our nation’s politics, not in a committee room trying to actually run things. He’s too funny to be wasted in government.

Spring 2010

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