Markos Moulitsas speaking at Netroots Nation
Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas speaking at Netroots Nation 2022 during the closing keynote (Photo: Rich Erwin/NPI)

Wel­come to the inau­gur­al install­ment of NPI at Net­roots Nation 2022, a spe­cial lim­it­ed pod­cast series record­ed live from the David L. Lawrence Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Pitts­burgh. NPI staff jour­neyed to Steel City this past week to par­tic­i­pate in the nation’s largest annu­al gath­er­ing of pro­gres­sive activists.

As part of our con­fer­ence cov­er­age, we’re bring­ing you a series of con­ver­sa­tions with key move­ment lead­ers and elect­ed officials.

In this inau­gur­al install­ment of NPI@NN, we’re hon­ored to be joined by Markos Moulit­sas, the founder of Dai­ly Kos, which pub­lish­es news you can do some­thing about. Press play below to lis­ten to the audio, or read the tran­script below.


Read the transcript

(Note: this tran­script has been edit­ed light­ly for clarity) 

CAYA: Wel­come to NPI at Net­roots Nation 2022, a spe­cial lim­it­ed pod­cast series from the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute from the David L. Lawrence Con­ven­tion cen­ter in Pitts­burgh. I am your host, Caya Berndt. We are glad to have you with us for this install­ment. We are thrilled to be joined by Markos Moulit­sas, founder of the Dai­ly Kos! How are you doing, Markos?

MARKOS: Doing great. Thank you very much.

CAYA: Great, I’m real­ly glad to hear that! So just to start this off, would you mind telling our lis­ten­ers a lit­tle bit about your­self, your orga­ni­za­tion and what you do?

MARKOS: So I am the founder of Dai­ly Kos. I start­ed that twen­ty years ago. This is the twen­ti­eth year anniversary.

CAYA: Hap­py anniversary!

MARKOS: A big land­mark, for sure! And, we all got old­er some­how. I don’t know if that was to be expect­ed, but appar­ent­ly did­n’t have a choice. So twen­ty years ago, we start­ed this in a world where – and by start­ing this, I start­ed just blog­ging on a dinky lit­tle blog – it was 2002, and there was frus­tra­tion in the pro­gres­sive world because all the media voic­es were conservative.

Fox News was ascen­dant, Rush Lim­baugh dom­i­nat­ed the air­waves, the radio air­waves. There were no lib­er­al voic­es. There was a show on Fox News called Alan and Colmes — sor­ry, Colmes and Han­ni­ty. Colmes and Hannity.

Alan Colmes was the lib­er­al; Sean Han­ni­ty, which we know today, was a con­ser­v­a­tive. And Alan Colmes was your stereo­typ­i­cal wee­nie lib­er­al who just got beat up by Sean Han­ni­ty. It was designed to make lib­er­als look bad.

And so this was the envi­ron­ment in the rise of George Bush’s [pres­i­den­cy] after he basi­cal­ly stole the elec­tion. And then you have the war­mon­ger­ing towards Iraq and Sep­tem­ber 11th hap­pens, and you use that as an excuse to launch an inva­sion against an unre­lat­ed mat­ter, just because Bush Jr. want­ed to, I don’t know, set­tle a score with Sad­dam Hus­sein from his dad’s presidency.

I mean, it was just this crazy world and there were no lib­er­al voic­es. And you even had Joe Klein, [who] was a con­ser­v­a­tive colum­nist in Time Mag­a­zine, and he wrote some­thing – and he was sup­posed to be the lib­er­al! — and he wrote some­thing like “all right-think­ing peo­ple know that Sad­dam Hus­sein has weapons of mass destruction.”

And then there were peo­ple like me say­ing, “Well, we haven’t seen any of the so-called evi­dence. They can’t tell us that there is such evi­dence and what they show us is clear­ly not evi­dence. So, no, this is not quite right. And so, I like to say that there’s a mar­ket need for strong, pro­gres­sive, unapolo­getic, lib­er­al voices.

That’s what Dai­ly Kos sort of sprung out of.

And… what was it? It was 2002. So, just four years lat­er, a bunch of the com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers decid­ed they want­ed to meet offline. And that’s not my world — there’s a rea­son I’m a blog­ger. I’m not real­ly com­fort­able in pub­lic set­tings. But a bunch of the com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers want­ed to meet in public.

And that’s what birthed the first Year­lyKos, which became Net­roots Nation a few years after that [after the sec­ond con­ven­tion in 2007]. So it was the sort of col­lec­tive envi­ron­ment gath­er­ing of lib­er­als that did­n’t have a home in those ear­ly — not ear­ly days rel­a­tive to the world — but ear­ly days of this polit­i­cal era.

That’s the birth of what is now Net­roots Nation, and it real­ly fueled the use of online tools for polit­i­cal activism and polit­i­cal cam­paign­ing that is pret­ty nor­mal today.

CAYA: Yeah, I was gonna say it must be real­ly inter­est­ing, because twen­ty years, I mean, that’s not that much time. So it must be real­ly inter­est­ing see­ing how the news media land­scape has shift­ed, where you were like a lone pro­gres­sive or lib­er­al voice online, to now, where we have this abun­dance of polit­i­cal voic­es to choose from.

MARKOS: Yeah. I mean, the prob­lem is that those voic­es, you know, Face­book is dom­i­nat­ed by con­ser­v­a­tive voic­es. You have, obvi­ous­ly, cable news is very con­ser­v­a­tive. Fox News is very dom­i­nant, talk radio [is] still very, very con­ser­v­a­tive. So there are places that lib­er­al voic­es are more present, but we still don’t have any kind of sort of par­i­ty in media access to those lib­er­al voices.

And it’s a won­der that lib­er­al­ism has pro­gressed. And a lot of that is because lib­er­al­ism is very well rep­re­sent­ed in Hol­ly­wood and in our pop cul­ture, right?

Con­ser­v­a­tives in D.C. may be fight­ing a rear guard against abor­tion, against trans rights, against mar­riage equal­i­ty, and, you know, we still have Clarence Thomas [on the] Supreme Court say­ing he wants to roll back those rights.

So that fight is still being fought in D.C. It’s not being fought in the rest of the coun­try. I mean, when you look at polling on mar­riage equal­i­ty, on mar­i­jua­na legal­iza­tion, on abor­tion, the Amer­i­can peo­ple are very, very lib­er­al.

And so there’s this phe­nom­e­non that I’ve been tak­ing note of: that when I start­ed this, Repub­li­cans liked to say that this was a cen­ter-right nation. “Oh, this is Ronald Reagan’s cen­ter-right nation.” They’d repeat this over and over again.

They don’t say that any­more. They’ve giv­en up.

They know that they’re not a major­i­ty of this coun­try. They know that this is not a right coun­try, it’s cen­ter-left. And so that’s why they’re real­ly dou­bling down on vot­er sup­pres­sion, on using the struc­tur­al defects of our democ­ra­cy, such as the Elec­toral Col­lege, the unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­ate, unrep­re­sen­ta­tive Sen­ate, ger­ry­man­der­ing in the House…they’re using those defects of our democ­ra­cy to entrench minor­i­ty rule, because not only have they real­ized that they’re not a major­i­ty of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, they don’t want to even try.

CAYA: They’re build­ing a struc­ture that’s almost almost fail-safe. I mean, that’s the pur­pose of redis­trict­ing and ger­ry­man­der­ing, too, is build­ing these un-los­able dis­tricts to try to secure their power.

MARKOS: Yeah. They can’t win a fair fight. They’re not try­ing any­more. They used to at least pre­tend, but they’re not even pre­tend­ing any­more, now that they know they’re on the los­ing side. But this flawed struc­ture of our democ­ra­cy gives them an oppor­tu­ni­ty to entrench their pow­er despite pop­u­lar opinion.

But this is also where you’re see­ing the rise of the fas­cist right, where even the idea of democ­ra­cy is now a threat to them, because they can’t win on ideas, on their ide­ol­o­gy… they can’t win any­more. So if they can’t ger­ry­man­der, if they can’t use the elec­toral col­lege to retain pow­er, they are reserv­ing the right to use vio­lence and oth­er unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic means to retain power.

That’s what Jan­u­ary 6th was all about!

CAYA: To bring back some­thing you were say­ing a lit­tle ear­li­er: I thought it was real­ly inter­est­ing how you were say­ing that there are a lot more voic­es, but it seems like some of the more right-lean­ing or con­ser­v­a­tive voic­es are still dom­i­nat­ing the pop­u­lar media forms that we can think about, like radio or tele­vi­sion. But I’ve noticed some­thing in jour­nal­ism, that… even pod­casts that I think are oth­er­wise okay, is that there’s this reluc­tance to refer to things such as Jan­u­ary 6th by what it actu­al­ly was. I mean, that was an insur­rec­tion. That was an attempt at a vio­lent coup. And there seems to be this desire to try to treat these things as legit­i­mate polit­i­cal strat­e­gy rather than polit­i­cal violence.

MARKOS: Right. I mean, in the last cou­ple of days, there’s been this push on Twit­ter, dri­ven by peo­ple like [pause] Meghan McAr­dle that, “oh, because we were mean to Mitt Rom­ney, that is why now you have this reac­tionary fas­cist right.”

And peo­ple are point­ing out well, you said that Barack Oba­ma was an ille­git­i­mate, non-Amer­i­can, social­ist, com­mu­nist Mus­lim who went to a rad­i­cal church, who’s gonna burn down Chris­tian­i­ty, and you know what? Democ­rats didn’t say, all right, you know what? We’re gonna vote for Louis Far­rakhan for pres­i­dent next elec­tion cycle. I mean, there is no excuse, but you see this phe­nom­e­non on the right, which is amaz­ing. And you see it in tra­di­tion­al media very much. They don’t wan­na give con­ser­v­a­tives agency for their deci­sions. It’s not their fault that they attempt­ed a coup! Jan­u­ary 6thers were led astray by cer­tain voic­es who were rad­i­cal­ized because lib­er­als were mean to John McCain.

Come on! They have agency, just like our peo­ple have agency. Peo­ple have the abil­i­ty to open their eyes, look at the sit­u­a­tion, and decide what to believe, how crit­i­cal to be about their news sources, and how to act on those beliefs.

It was clear that there was noth­ing stop­ping them from resort­ing to vio­lence [on] Jan­u­ary 6th, because they believed that what­ev­er the democ­ra­cy looked like, it was flawed. It was stolen, what­ev­er they… how­ev­er they ratio­nal­ized it. There was no evi­dence. The courts were very clear on this. Trump him­self could­n’t actu­al­ly show any evi­dence. He would just say: “every­body knows.”

It was very clear. And so they made a con­scious deci­sion just to go along with this because it’s what they want­ed to believe, not because that’s what the truth was.

And then we were sup­posed to believe that it was because some­body was […] being mean to Mitt Rom­ney? It was like talk­ing about how many hous­es he had. Nobody accused him of being un-Amer­i­can. Nobody accused him of being a dan­ger to democ­ra­cy, or being a Mus­lim, or being a com­mu­nist, or being any of the ene­mies of Amer­i­ca. We said he had too many houses!

CAYA: And some­thing I’ve been see­ing a lot of, with regards to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, is peo­ple hear­ken­ing back to when Repub­li­cans were trash­ing Hillary Clin­ton for her emails.

MARKOS: And that’s it’s like, there was no wrong­do­ing! There was no wrong­do­ing. It was­n’t against the law to have your emails. Col­in Pow­ell did it. Con­doleeza Rice did. And you asked peo­ple what was wrong with the emails, and they can’t tell you. But it was her emails! She had emails, they had secret emails, 40,000 emails. She turned them over. There were three emails that were clas­si­fied after the fact.

CAYA: Do you think there needs to be any account­abil­i­ty on the [field of] jour­nal­ism or the media, in terms of how they try to damp­en the sever­i­ty of some of these events and actions?

MARKOS: I think Twit­ter has been real­ly good as an instant feed­back mech­a­nism for the tra­di­tion­al media, and it’s clear that a lot of them don’t like it. They’re not used to being [checked], and it’s even worse than that. They’re used to being attacked from the right. Because the right had the mech­a­nism to real­ly raise voic­es and attack jour­nal­ism. Rush Lim­baugh would call them out, and the web was very, very right-lean­ing when I first stepped onto the scene.

And so they were used to get­ting attacked from the right. They weren’t used to being attacked from the left, right. And it real­ly shocks them when that hap­pens, because it’s just so rare. But over the years, because of this relent­less assault from the right, you know, work­ing the refs, so to speak, it’s pushed the cen­ter of grav­i­ty, right­wards. So Twit­ter real­ly cre­at­ed a new mech­a­nism to hold account­abil­i­ty. These are pri­vate busi­ness­es. And I don’t say that in the very Demo­c­ra­t­ic-Social­ists-of-Amer­i­ca-way of like, they’re cor­rupt and this and that. They have cer­tain rights. And peo­ple have cer­tain opin­ions and that’s okay.

It’s also okay for lib­er­als to go like, you know what? [It’s non­sense that you say] Don­ald Trump exists because we made fun of Rom­ney’s 10 hous­es. I mean, that’s not an argu­ment that makes sense. Why are we, why is any­body repeat­ing it? Why has any­body giv­en it any credence?

The rea­son the con­ser­v­a­tives, have turned to fas­cism in Don­ald [Trump] Is because that’s what they always believed. We just did­n’t know it, because they did­n’t have access to the infor­ma­tion like they do today.

We thought that [the] John Birch soci­ety was a small, sort of fringey out­let… but the prob­lem with the John Birch soci­ety is that these lit­tle newslet­ters that they print­ed out and mailed just did­n’t reach enough people.

Now, you have Face­book. And that reach­es a lot of peo­ple and whoa, they all believe it! That’s what we are find­ing out. They’re all pre­dis­posed to author­i­tar­i­an­ism and fas­cism. Keep in mind, it’s also dif­fer­ent when it was just white peo­ple in pow­er, and they can’t han­dle that. So you had like Barack Oba­ma or a woman is run­ning for pres­i­dent, like, it broke them! They broke. And so, giv­en the access to author­i­tar­i­an mes­sag­ing, and the cre­ation of the con­ser­v­a­tive media bub­ble, and the rise of pow­er amongst for­mer­ly dis­en­fran­chised com­mu­ni­ties and peo­ples, has com­plete­ly reshuf­fled the play­ing field.

And that’s why we have the polar­iza­tion that we have today. If you look at white vot­ers, white peo­ple, the most lib­er­al lean­ing are those that live in cities, and what char­ac­ter­izes liv­ing in cities, is that you’re in con­tact with peo­ple of dif­fer­ent cul­tures and dif­fer­ent sex­es, gen­ders, and pronouns…and it’s okay. Like, it’s not scary. And so their appeals to racism, sex­ism, trans­pho­bia, and homo­pho­bia do not have res­o­nance with urban dwelling whites the way it does with peo­ple who don’t have access, who just aren’t present. Rur­al Amer­i­ca, basically.

CAYA: Who are more iso­lat­ed, and more like­ly to have a more homo­ge­neous sur­round­ing, and less envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors to com­bat some of the pro­pa­gan­da, the mis­in­for­ma­tion that they might be see­ing online.

MARKOS: Yeah, absolute­ly. And then you also lay­er on top that those areas are also the most eco­nom­i­cal­ly dis­ad­van­taged parts of Amer­i­ca. Cor­po­ra­tions left them behind for Chi­na and Mex­i­co decades ago. Nobody real­ly came in after.

The fact [that] the youth are leav­ing. There’s real­ly not much of an econ­o­my left over. Meth and oth­er oth­er drug addic­tion is heavy in those places.

And there’s a nihilism that Don­ald Trump real­ly appealed to. I mean, Don­ald Trump, his biggest appeal is that he said, “I’m gonna burn this whole thing down. I don’t take it seri­ous­ly. This thing, it’s a joke.” It’s polit­i­cal nihilism.

And that’s why Mehmet Oz, who comes in just as rich and has just as many hous­es, gets no trac­tion because he’s not a polit­i­cal nihilist. And it takes some­body like Don­ald Trump with the ego and the nar­cis­sism to try to real­ize that if it does­n’t serve him, it has no pur­pose, and he’s gonna burn it down. It’s easy to ral­ly around some­body like that, who does­n’t respect insti­tu­tions, the way they don’t respect insti­tu­tions, because insti­tu­tions have legit­i­mate­ly failed those people.

CAYA: Right. To go back to what you were men­tion­ing about… on the oth­er hand, we have some­body like John Fet­ter­man who is not run­ning a ”tra­di­tion­al” polit­i­cal cam­paign, who’s gain­ing a lot of trac­tion. And he’s not the only can­di­date that has been gen­er­at­ing a lot of enthu­si­asm among voters.

I think that some­thing that’s been on every­body’s mind late­ly has been: what are the 2022 midterms going to be look­ing like? I know that cer­tain­ly myself, I can’t speak for any­body else, but I’ve had my eye on the pri­maries, just to see how, okay, what are these gonna look like? What is Novem­ber going to poten­tial­ly look like? And the pri­maries have giv­en me a cau­tious optimism.

But I’m real­ly curi­ous to know what your per­spec­tive on what our chances are in Novem­ber, or how you think Novem­ber might be turn­ing out.

MARKOS: Yeah, no, “cau­tious opti­mism” is actu­al­ly a very good way to put it. Like, nobody’s cel­e­brat­ing yet, and don’t we dare cel­e­brate yet!

CAYA: Don’t jinx it! Hold your breath!

MARKOS: The con­ven­tion­al wis­dom in an elec­tion is that the par­ty in pow­er los­es about thir­ty to fifty house seats. And gen­er­al­ly, you’re gonna lose a bunch of Sen­ate seats, it spells disaster.

The rea­son is that the elec­tions are gen­er­al­ly a ref­er­en­dum on the sit­ting pres­i­dent. That’s just his­to­ry. Joe Biden is sit­ting around a 36% approval rat­ing. Some­body maybe has up to 39%. He’s bleak. If it were a tra­di­tion­al cycle, we’d be look­ing to get blown out and we’d just be try­ing to fig­ure out, how do we min­i­mize the dam­age? We’d be look­ing at 2010. But, I was say­ing a year ago, I was writ­ing about it, or talk­ing about it in my pod­cast, the Dai­ly Kos Brief, I was talk­ing about how this was not going to be a typ­i­cal midterm election.

The argu­ment was that, first of all, we knew that Dobbs was com­ing down the line and that the Supreme Court was going to elim­i­nate the right to an abortion.

Right? So that we knew that was gonna be a fac­tor. We also knew that it’s hard to have a ref­er­en­dum on the sit­ting pres­i­dent when the ex-pres­i­dent is also run­ning for pres­i­dent at the same time. So we know that Don­ald Trump gen­er­at­ed a great deal of sup­port. He actu­al­ly increased his num­ber of votes by about 3 mil­lion from cycle to cycle from ‘16 to ‘20. Joe Biden brought out eight mil­lion new Democ­rats, and that was not Joe Biden. Nobody loves Joe Biden, right?

That was Don­ald Trump. “Oh crap. Don­ald Trump!”

So, I knew that hav­ing Don­ald Trump on the bal­lot again this year was going to be a fac­tor. Now, I did­n’t know how much of a fac­tor… and a lot of it was the­o­ret­i­cal. it turns out that I was right. I’m not always right. I’m not brag­ging… but I was right about this.

Dobbs, I think, is the biggest fac­tor, and it actu­al­ly has gen­er­at­ed a dra­mat­ic increase in vot­er reg­is­tra­tion amongst women, amongst lib­er­al-lean­ing women, and men, too. And it’s look­ing like it might be, actu­al­ly, allies. It might not, it’s not nec­es­sar­i­ly con­ser­v­a­tives. They won. So the rea­son a midterm elec­tion is a ref­er­en­dum on the pres­i­dent, it’s obvious.

But what that also does, is that a president’s par­ty los­es his base of sup­port, los­es some inten­si­ty. One: because you got it, you won! So there’s a sense of like, mis­sion accom­plished! But two: because our polit­i­cal sys­tem does­n’t allow a pres­i­dent to deliv­er on his promis­es. (I can’t wait until I can say “his or her promis­es,” but, so far, it’s only been “his” so far.)

Biden, what he’s got­ten through has gone through so much com­pro­mise, it’s watered down. So every­body’s depressed and sad, upset and dis­il­lu­sioned. Why did we fight so hard for this? So there’s a lot of that, but what’s hap­pened now, Repub­li­cans are still very active. Nobody should be dis­abused of that because they’re still in the minor­i­ty. But — lib­er­als also feel like we’re in the minor­i­ty because the Supreme Court has just come in and said, “No, we’re in charge.”

Not only are we gonna throw out abor­tion, but you know what, here, we’re gonna give you a list. We’re gonna lit­er­al­ly write down how we’re com­ing after same-sex mar­riage, we’re com­ing after con­tra­cep­tion, we’re com­ing after sodomy laws and oh, you know what, maybe we won’t come after inter­ra­cial mar­riage, but that’s just because of Clarence Thomas, and it’s in his inter­est not to come after that.

The under­ly­ing judi­cial opin­ion and the under­pin­nings of all those rights is the right to pri­va­cy. And that also includes inter­ra­cial marriage.

All those things are actu­al­ly now on the bal­lot and they have said so, and they are basi­cal­ly say­ing, “We’re in charge. We’re in charge.” So now, lib­er­als are feel­ing under siege and dis­em­pow­ered and that’s very, very motivating.

So both sides are now at a lev­el that sort of looks like 2020-type of inten­si­ty. It’s a [pres­i­den­tial] gen­er­al elec­tion inten­si­ty, not a midterm inten­si­ty. So that alone has already reshuf­fled the play­ing field. And then, of course, Trump is not only back on the bal­lot, like we assumed he is, but he’s crim­ing his way to… how many pos­si­ble indict­ments? I don’t think a lot of peo­ple are gonna be like, “okay, now, I was gonna vote Repub­li­can, but now, because of the of the Mar-a-Lago raid, now I’m gonna vote Dem now….” I don’t think that’s happening.

But what’s hap­pen­ing, is that there is real­ly one swing demo­graph­ic in the entire coun­try. Every­body’s locked in fifty-fifty. The only peo­ple that go back and forth are col­lege edu­cat­ed, sub­ur­ban white women.

They are the rea­son we lost Vir­gini­a’s gov­er­nor’s race last year, the rea­son we almost lost the gov­er­nor’s race in New Jer­sey, that should not have been com­pet­i­tive. So last year I was like, oh my God. Oh crap. Repub­li­cans were out­per­form­ing Don­ald Trump’s num­bers by about three points last year.

So if you take it fifty-fifty, twen­ty-twen­ty, and you give Repub­li­cans three points, they take the Sen­ate, they take the House. After Dobbs, after the Supreme Court deci­sion, there’s been three par­ti­san races, spe­cial elec­tions in the House. The Democ­rats, on aver­age, has out­per­formed Joe Biden, eight points in those three races. That’s not even includ­ing the Kansas abor­tion race [bal­lot mea­sure], it’s a dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ment. And if this con­tin­ues until Novem­ber, we’re gonna win two to four seats in the Sen­ate, and we’re gonna keep the House.

CAYA: Thank you very much for that. Big if… and cor­rect me if I’m wrong, but I think it real­ly is going to have to come down to mak­ing sure that peo­ple [are] get­ting out to vote, because I think that a lot of peo­ple have been dis­il­lu­sioned by… we worked so hard to get Joe Biden in. And what are we real­ly get­ting in return? Peo­ple maybe fear­ing that it might not be worth it voting.

Do you agree with that statement?

MARKOS: I mean, no. I think that’s where we were before Dobbs, like I said, Dobbs has reach, and you know, it’s one of the things that’s kind of amaz­ing. And I haven’t seen this in recent his­to­ry, in any his­to­ry that I’ve seen, actu­al­ly… I’m not gonna say it’s nev­er hap­pened, ‘cause I haven’t done the research, but at least when I was pay­ing atten­tion, so in the last twen­ty years, I haven’t seen this bifur­ca­tion between the pres­i­den­t’s num­bers and the num­bers of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic — his par­ty’s — candidates.

I mean, Biden is in the thir­ties. You have some­body like John Fet­ter­man in the, like, high fifties, which, for in the mod­ern day, any­thing above forty, you’re doing pret­ty, pret­ty well. You look into Wis­con­sin with Man­dela Barnes, you look at our can­di­date, Val Dem­ings in Florida.

You look at our can­di­dates in North Car­oli­na and Ohio, and we are actu­al­ly look­ing pret­ty good, despite Joe Biden. And what’s hap­pen­ing is that, instead of it being a ref­er­en­dum, which would depress, like what you just said, it’s a ref­er­en­dum on the Supreme Court because, holy crap, we got­ta do some­thing, because they’re com­ing after our rights. And it’s a ref­er­en­dum on Don­ald Trump, because look, he’s there, and he is try­ing to run for pres­i­dent again.

And he’s already crim­ing his way to every­thing, and oh my God, he wants to do more of those crimes! And then you have a Repub­li­can Par­ty that can’t quit Don­ald Trump, for what­ev­er rea­son, when he has objec­tive­ly been bad for… every­thing. He’s cost them the White House, only the third pres­i­dent in a hun­dred years to not win reelection –

CAYA: Only pres­i­dent to be impeached twice.

MARKOS: You got that. But even if you’re like a Repub­li­can, he costs you the White House, he costs you the Sen­ate, he costs you the House, he costs you a cou­ple, sev­er­al dozen state leg­is­la­tures… objec­tive­ly, he has been bad for them! He’s brought more peo­ple out and I think that’s what they look at. He’s brought out more of our peo­ple, and he’s doing it again this year.

CAYA: I think that they cling to him because as you said, Repub­li­cans know that they can­not win by legit­i­mate polit­i­cal means. So they turn to scorched earth tac­tics and author­i­tar­i­an­ism and fas­cism, and Don­ald Trump is the per­fect vehi­cle for that. How­ev­er, I don’t think that that strat­e­gy is sus­tain­able in the long run, because, like you said, you have the swing-around where every­body else starts mobi­liz­ing behind get­ting that ener­gy out.

MARKOS: Yeah. And the oth­er piece is their core base – old­er, white, rur­al men–are dying. Like, lit­er­al­ly, they’re dying and youth are extreme­ly lib­er­al. They’re more lib­er­al than I am. You know, I’m fifty, and gen­er­a­tional­ly they get more and more lib­er­al. And they don’t vote at high rates now, ‘cause no young peo­ple have ever vot­ed in high rates.

It’s been the chal­lenge of every Demo­c­ra­t­ic lib­er­al cam­paign in his­to­ry. I mean if you don’t believe me, look at Bernie Sanders, right? The youth love him, but they did­n’t vote. That’s why he lost every [com­bined] pri­ma­ry. Because the peo­ple that form his base are not high vot­ing peo­ple. It’s a chal­lenge, but they’re gonna get old­er and they’re gonna die off. So demo­graph­i­cal­ly, they’re falling off. It’s slow going.  I mean, this isn’t hap­pen­ing, and this is why they’re try­ing so hard. This is why they’re try­ing so hard, to use those levers of our flawed democ­ra­cy to lock in a minor­i­ty vote. Because they know that demo­graph­ic cliff is hap­pen­ing. They don’t want to actu­al­ly have to do the work to rebrand and rebuild.

It can hap­pen! I mean, Repub­li­cans were trashed after Water­gate in ‘76, and yet four years lat­er they won the White House [with Ronald Rea­gan], right? I mean, this is not some­thing that would doom them.

If they went back to being like, “okay, you know what, we’re the small [gov­ern­ment], we’re the low tax par­ty who believes in lots of Pen­ta­gon spend­ing.” That’s their gig, and, you know, find some issues here or there that would appeal to sub­ur­ban, col­lege-edu­cat­ed white women. School-relat­ed issues, [for example].

So there is a place for them to rebuild, but they don’t want to actu­al­ly even sur­ren­der a lit­tle bit now. So this is becom­ing an exis­ten­tial election.

We have an oppor­tu­ni­ty, because of Trump and because of the Dobbs deci­sion on abor­tion, we have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to actu­al­ly get that fil­i­buster-proof major­i­ty. We need two seats in the Sen­ate to get rid of the fil­i­buster, expand the Supreme Court, grant state­hood to D.C., grant poten­tial state­hood to Puer­to Rico, at least give them a ref­er­en­dum to decide whether they want it or not.

And if they want it, to grant it!

To ban par­ti­san ger­ry­man­der­ing, to pass a vot­ing rights bill that guar­an­tees vote by mail, that guar­an­tees access to the polls.

I mean, these are things that can hap­pen if we win this Novem­ber. And if we don’t, we are in a real­ly bad place. This is not fearmongering.

We’re in a real­ly bad place because they are sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly erod­ing peo­ple’s rights to vote and keep key bat­tle­ground states like Ari­zona and Georgia.

And if we don’t win in Penn­syl­va­nia, Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan… I mean, these are all con­test­ed guber­na­to­r­i­al statewide [races]. Sec­re­tary of State offices, we have elect­ed posi­tions, and those are crit­i­cal Supreme Court jus­tices in these states. This is all on the bal­lot. So either we turn out and we do every­thing we can to win, top to bot­tom, or we’re in a bad place. But I’ve nev­er seen that kind of you know, dis­tinc­tion between the two of pos­si­bil­i­ties: like, expand the Supreme Court and D.C. state­hood, or the end of Amer­i­can democracy!

I wish I was exag­ger­at­ing, but I’m not!

CAYA: No, you’re not! So, we are approach­ing the end of our time. And I’m not going to pre­tend that we have a lot to be hope­ful about. There is… like you said, that cau­tious opti­mism, but the past four years have been hard. The past two years have been bru­tal, but the fall of Roe v. Wade, and the [loss of the] rights to pri­va­cy and bod­i­ly auton­o­my have been espe­cial­ly pun­ish­ing for all of us.

So the final ques­tion that I like to ask every­body is: in these times, what is bring­ing you joy?

MARKOS: I mean, I’ve got my two kids. I’m a sin­gle dad. My old­est is right now in the Army. He’s fin­ish­ing up his infantry train­ing, he’s going to ranger school…he’s amaz­ing. And I’m gonna be doing a keynote tomor­row here, and I’ll be talk­ing about how, at the first Net­roots Nation, he was two years old, and I had him on my shoul­ders and… when I was giv­ing my keynote, I men­tioned Har­ry Reid was gonna be speak­ing lat­er, and he starts angri­ly scream­ing and every­body at the hall thought it was hilar­i­ous. And I was mortified!

And that lit­tle kid, who was on my shoul­der, scream­ing at the name “Har­ry Reid” is now fin­ish­ing his infantry train­ing, and he is soon to be going to ranger school. So I’m incred­i­bly proud of that.

And I’ll be going to his grad­u­a­tion in four weeks, in Georgia.

And then, my daugh­ter, who is just the smartest per­son. She’s fif­teen, she’s queer, and she’s like this incred­i­bly fierce trans rights advo­cate, to the point where her trans friends are like, can you like low­er the tem­per­a­ture a lit­tle bit?

I mean, it’s actu­al­ly hilar­i­ous. She’s frickin’ amazing.

And…she suf­fered. She’s very social. She suf­fered dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, and she had some pret­ty severe men­tal health issues. So I had to step back from work a lit­tle bit and real­ly deal with get­ting her healthy, and she seems to be out of the dark­ness. She’s com­ing back and, there’s this vibrant… she just sent me a video of her play­ing piano, and she had­n’t touched the piano in prob­a­bly over a year!

And like she’s play­ing piano again.

I’m just so incred­i­bly thrilled that, at this time par­tic­u­lar­ly, I can refo­cus on the bat­tle ahead, towards Novem­ber, because she is back in a good place. She does debate… she’s turn­ing into a lit­tle me! She’s a lit­tle arguer and it’s like, “oh my God, am I that annoy­ing? Holy crap, I need to re-cal­i­brate myself!” [laughs]

With­in a month, she, as a begin­ner, she was already on the var­si­ty squad.

So it’s real­ly cool to have these kids that are so incred­i­bly tal­ent­ed in dif­fer­ent ways and are doing dif­fer­ent things. I get incred­i­ble joy from them.

I mean, that’s why we do every­thing and they’re just fun. Yeah. I love my kids.

CAYA: Thank you for that. That was Markos Moulit­sas, founder of Dai­ly Kos. Tune in next time for our next install­ment for NPI at Net­roots Nation!

For NPI, I’m Caya Berndt.

About the author

Caya is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor based out of Spokane, Washington, writing about Lilac City politics, the Evergreen State's 5th Congressional District, and related politics. She previously hosted the inaugural episodes of NPI's PNWcurrents podcast. She works at the Unemployment Law Project and is a graduate of Central Washington University, with a bachelor's degree in liberal arts and sciences. Caya also has a minor from CWU in law and justice.

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