Kos Takes Sierra Club to the Woodshed

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Originally published: Friday, April 28, 2006

Readers of the Daily Kos, at least those who read Markos's blog entries, are by now quite familiar with his disdain for single interest "silos." Why, oh, why he opines, won't organizations like NARAL and the Sierra Club get on board with the Democratic Party and stop endorsing Republican candidates like Lincoln Chafee? Yesterday brought another tirade against the environmental advocacy group for endorsing the moderate Republican. Kos's logic is fairly simple. Endorsing any Republican, even one with a voting record consistent with the interest group's goals, assists the Republican Party to maintain their congressional majorities. The Republican Party as a whole does not further those same goals. Therefore, to endorse the individual Republican candidate, is "stupid." In other words, Kos wants non-partisan organizations to become nakedly partisan.

I wrote yesterday how Lincoln Chafee repayed the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters for their endorsement by failing to block the nomination of a polluter lobbyist to handle clean air issues at the EPA. And this polluter lobbyist is really, really bad.

I emailed the Sierra Club's national press secretary, David Willett, and asked him if the Sierra Club was still happy with the Chafee endorsement despite the vote, and the response:
Absolutely. If we only endorsed candidates who voted with us 100 percent of the time, we wouldn't support very many candidates, including many Democrats. Chafee IS an environmental champion and we support him.
Nice. Chafee enables 30-40 years of anti-environment judges and gives a rabid polluter the keys to our clean air office, and he's a "champion" of the environment.

I wish conservative issue groups were this stupid. And I wish ours were as smart as theirs.

According to Kos, Republicans have us coming and going, in terms of message discipline, centralized authority, and dogmatic adherence to the party line. Well, of course they do. They're Republicans. They're essentially autocratic. What Kos demonstrates with these little diatribes is that he is too. His formula for "winning" is to adopt the same "with us or against us" mentality that has defined the Bush Presidency. NARAL and the Sierra Club dare to endorse a Republican candidate, they have become the enemy. They are "stupid." They are "morons." If this kind of infantile name calling and bullying sounds familiar, it should. It's how Republican hard-liners talk. Kos increasingly reveals himself as a poor man's Tom DeLay. The only thing standing between Kos and a K-Street Project like racket is his current lack of power and resources.

Taking another page from the Republican playbook, Kos also plays fast and loose with the facts to make his case. In another recent tongue lashing of the Sierra Club, he does his best impression of Ann Coulter, by citing a source that was, itself, wrong about Chafee's voting record.

This may very well be the most moronic move by any organization this election cycle.
U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island is seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican senators in the country. But Wednesday, the national Sierra Club came out in support of him.

The Sierra Club is endorsing Chafee even though the group gave the senator only a 20 percent rating in its environmental scorecard in 2004.

The club said a vote for Chafee is better than a vote for a Democrat because of his position as a dissident within the majority party.

Um, guys over at the Sierra Club? Yeah, you, Carl Pope? How has Bill Frist and the Republican Congress been for your agenda? You know, the guys that Chafee enabled? And how was his 20 percent rating? That's all it takes to get an endorsement these days? Are you really that easy?

Of course, the idea would be to make Republicans the minority party. But good luck seeing your agenda continue to be demolished by the GOP leadership Chafee will continue to enable.

A 20 percent rating on environmental issues? Endorsing such a candidate would indeed indicate a serious lapse in judgment on the part of the Sierra Club, if it were true. But it's not.

Carl Pope, President of the Sierra Club, explains:

Update: The Sierra Club's endorsement was criticized in the blogosphere, where an inaccurate article misleadingly stated that Senator Chafee only had a 20% environmental rating from us. This number came from an article on a local Rhode Island TV station's website. The station has since removed that number. The League of Conservation Voters Scorecard currently ranks Senator Chafee at 90%.

Member of Daily Kos slouise217 exposes the erroneous reporting of the source Kos cites without scrutiny.

I looked up Chafee's record

In 2006 (yeah, only 2 votes so far)

100% pro-environmentalist

In 2005, on 19 votes

84% pro-environmentalist

In 2004, on 5 votes

20% pro-environmentalist

In 2003, on 20 votes

50% pro-environmnetalist

In 2002, on 14 votes

79% pro-environmentalist

In 2001, on 7 votes

57% pro-environmentalist

In 2000, on 7 votes

100% pro-environmentalist

In 1999, on 6 votes

50% pro-environmentalist

That's as far back as it goes.

So the reporter of this story seems to have deceptively quoted only one year of Chafee's record, and that year is his worst year.

Now, I don't know how other politicians typically do on these votes - the Sierra Club website's VoteWatch didn't seem to have an easy way to compare Senators side by side. But overall, Chafee's record is that on 80 votes in the past 7 years, he voted pro-environmentalist on 67% of the votes.

I am NOT saying that the Sierra Club shoulda given him ANY donations.

I'm just saying that the 20% rating, from one year, is not an accurate picture - it's not even from the last full year that he voted in the Senate. In 2005, he had an 84% pro-environmentalist record, and counting back from today through 2004, his record is a 73% positive rating.

Like I said, I don't know what rating most Senators get. I don't know what a good rating is for a Republican, since I didn't quickly find a site that ranked them like that, but it sure seems to me like this was a questionable presentation since it only mentions that one really bad year for him.

I guess slouise217 never got the memo about not confusing Kossacks with facts. Daily Kos enforcer Armando is quick to dismiss her call for credible journalism by redirecting the issue to the party line:


The Sierra Club does not consider the Majority Leader vote.


The most important vote on the environment in every Congress is the leadership vote.

Morons that they are they dont consider it.

As I explained in an older entry, Kos does not consider himself ideological. His entire focus is on crafting a winning agenda. I would go a step further and say that he lacks the sense of civic responsibility that should lie at the heart of politics. Like the current, eerily monolithic Republican Party machine, Kos has no love for small "d" democracy. Ed in Montana explains:

I have no trouble

With folks thinking that the decesion to endorse Chaffe was the wrong one. What I have trouble with is Kossacks not understanding that its one of the Club's strengths that they allow, and even require, that local members vote on whom to endorse in their own state. It's called grassroots democracy, which sometimes gives results that I don't like.

If folks don't like it, join the Rhode Island chapter of the Club and work to reverse it.

Bloggers should look closely a DKos's track record for winning endorsed races first (2 won and 13 lost) before casting the first stone at other political strategies.

So, not only does Kos expect special interest groups to sacrifice their ideals on the altar of team loyalty, his own losing streak rivals that of the Democratic Party he hopes to re-envision. Kos's entire winning strategy seems to be to browbeat people into a "Democratic Party right or wrong" loyalty. He dangles in front of reluctant donkeys the carrot of endless promises that a Democratic majority will advance all progressive causes. Two words: Zell Miller.

As Will Rogers famously quipped, "I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat." Democrats will never operate with the hierarchical discipline of Republicans. They can, however, be counted on to vote with Republicans on enough issues to gradually cede all power to the statist, corporatist agenda of the radical right. If anything, we need grass roots, small "d" democratic organizations to push harder against a Democratic Party that has come unmoored from the concerns of constituents. It is only through direct citizen action that a progressive agenda has any hope of moving forward. As kaleidescope points out, the Democratic Party, without the pressure of grass roots agitation and independent, non-partisan organizations, has never been and will never be an agent of progressive, social change.

So By Kos's Logic

The mid-sixties NAACP should've endorsed segregationist Democrats in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

Editor's Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I was banned from the Daily Kos. Said banning is explained here. I suppose some might say that my criticism of the agenda and social climate of the Daily Kos is just sour grapes. It's not.