Five Questions: Interview with blogger Digby at Netroots Nation 2013

This is the fourth of the seven Five Questions interviews I conducted at Netroot Nation 2013. The interviewee this time was digby, who mistresses the site (yes, I enjoyed writing that) digby’s Hullabaloo, one of the pre-eminent left-wing sites on the Net.

digby has a center (and a calmness) that encompasses us all. I’m certainly more to the left, and much more inclined to play offense, than most of my brothers and sisters; yet digby, as you’ll hear, encompasses my views as well. This was a delightful interview, and one I looked forward to. It took some scheduling — she was much in demand — but well worth it.

A word about the venue (and my voice). It took us a while to find a room with some quiet, and we had much of it (quiet) until we didn’t. The room had been used for a lunch — the leavings looked rather good — and the lunch effects had not been cleared. Great; an empty room. Little did we know the cleaning staff was due to arrive while we were talking. At 17 minutes in you’ll hear a lovely cell phone ringtone for about 10 seconds. I edited out the clanging of dishes — and my begging for more time before they cleared away the rest of them — but the cell phone tone was uneditable.

Also, my voice betrayed me. I have several allergies, all of which affect my throat. I’d love to say I was coming down with something. The truth is more prosaic — convention food. By which I mean, forgive the occasional frogginess.

That said, voilà digby and her comments. She mentioned climate in the first minute. A record, but not by much. Almost everyone mentioned climate before I did.

Five Questions with digby


I began by asking digby the same three questions I asked everyone this year — Is the U.S. approaching tipping points? Which tipping points will hit first? How will climate play out in the next few years? — and like most other interviewees, she mentioned climate before I did. Her thoughts on money and politics are also instructive, and yes, she’s as pessimistic as I am about money’s control of both parties.

At 12:27 she begins her answer to the fourth and fifth questions. I asked her assessment of the future of blogging and the future of the Democratic party. I did not anticipate the answers she gave.

It’s a fascinating interview. Listen:

A few samples:

■ About money in politics and her frustration about finding a solution (at 4:57):

People talk about “we need a Constitutional amendment to take money out of politics.” Do you have any idea what a heavy lift a Constitutional amendment is? For anything. … [About an amendment to eliminate money from politics] Imagine the flood of money that would come in to stop such a thing.

■ To the second question — Which tipping point will catch us by the heels first? — she answers (6:20):

I would argue that the capture of our politics by big money has already caught us. I think we’re seeing that played out. … We basically have a corporatist majority on the Supreme Court.

She has much more on this subject, but ouch. When someone as reasonable as digby says it may be over on the Big Money issue, that’s saying a lot.

■ She sees climate as I do — that “catastrophic change” is coming if we don’t react now. Did you know that digby is from Alaska? (I didn’t.) She says the Alaskans today know things are very different, even though it’s the state that Sarah Palin comes from. She’s possible that people will wake up to climate change in time, since that wake-up is happening around us. Glad to hear it; I agree.

■ And at 17:20 (immediately after the intrusive ringtone), digby talks about the Democratic party. As one of the three leaders behind Blue America PAC, she knows whatof she speaks. She sees the Money, including the Money controlling the Democratic leadership, and she sees that progressive Democratic candidates also see that. She says that for the first time, she doesn’t have to teach prospective progressive candidates what progressivism actually is.

My “Open Rebellion Caucus” gets a mention (at 22:12 and following), and again, digby sees what I see — that there is one. I won’t mention names here, but she does.

Thanks to her for all of these insights.

All Five Questions interviews

Here’s the complete list of this year’s Five Questions interviews. These will be published over the next few weeks in this order:

■ Sam Seder of
■ Dave Johnson of Campaign for America’s Future and
■ Richard (RJ) Eskow of Campaign for America’s Future and Huffington Post
■ digby of Hullabaloo (this interview)
■ Marcy Wheeler of
■ Joel Silbermanactor and media trainer — almost every good congressperson on our side, Joel has worked with them
■ GottaLaff, actress, writer, director and co-proprietress of

I’ll update this list with links as the interviews are published. Thanks for listening.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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14 Responses to “Five Questions: Interview with blogger Digby at Netroots Nation 2013”

  1. lew2048 says:

    Only literary intellectuals have been able to remain in the Progressive ideology. As the world is still run by people who didn’t get much Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and as we all share Newton’s Clockwork Universe, that is the default model, shared by citizens, MSM and academics.

    Newton’s mental model of the universe, our shared reality, is greatly simplified : the equations that implement that universe don’t have exponential feedbacks, therefore do not have mathematical chaos, and therefore their future is a Newtonian Clockwork Universe, predictable to the infinite future.

    Most importantly, there are no thick-tailed distributions of risk or effort in the Progressive universe. Thus policy makers and other members of government do not spend most of their time dealing with the consequences of the last extremely-unlikely alignment of subsystems that produced the latest catastrophe, which nobody expected. Fukushima, for example. Bear, Sterns, for example.

    In such a universe, only dummies can fail to anticipate effects of their actions, and the possibility of blowback is therefore minimized. This universe is smooth, predictable, operates the way really smart people expect it to, and therefore a meritocracy works well.

    The map is not the terroritory, the Newtonian Clockworse Universe is not reality.

    Progressives (of both the Left and the Right), need to read Taleb’s books to understand why the last 100 years of progression of Progressive ideology and political control has been such a disaster : 2 full-scale World Wars, a Depression, lots of little wars, genocides, … No government anywhere in the world that has pursued Progressive ends has achieved a sustainable system : they are all over-indebted at every level of their government, over-taxed, have too many retired people for the number of jobs their economies now produce, have insolvent banks, a cartelized economy that is no longer performing well. Also, most have very strong political trends to authoritarian government, a diminution of human freedom. Every Progressive country will have very major political problems in the next few years.

    You really need to read Taleb in order to understand the Universe that we both live in, and how the source of these disasters lies in the simplified model of the universe you think you inhabit.

    And, btw, that is also why you are so far off base on the gun control issue. Very difficult to believe you can have done more than cherrypick data to come to the conclusions you push.

  2. Bruce says:

    Nyahhh! Another milquetoast Obamanable Baracquiescent who Totally CENSORED her entire commenting feedback section in the months prior to the Baracketeer’s re-selection and (despite dig’s promises to reopen them early this year 2103) has not re-opened Them YET! Sigby Ducks!

  3. Tetra7 says:

    Does this mean that she regrets banning all the regular left-wing Obama critics from Hullabaloo’s comment section last year?

  4. Bill_Perdue says:

    ‘Progressives’, unionists, Social Democrats. the SP and the CP, some of the NAACP leadership and the remnants of SNCC and groups like the MFDP have been buried in the Democrat Party for decades and what to they have to show it.

    The Vietnam war and it’s legacy of warmongering and the mass murder of civilians, up to and including genocide are owned by Democrats (and Republicans).

    Civil Rights and voting rights laws that were limp to begin with are now being eliminated. Medicare/Medicaid have been under continuous attack since the day Obama took office, and combined with his union busting and renewed attacks on Social Security are also owned by Democrats.

    The wars of the Clintons and Bushes, continued by Obama, are joint ventures of Democrats and Republicans as are increasingly severe attacks on the Bill of Rights.

    Everyone now understands that environmental disasters will inevitably lead to die offs of animal and plant life and large scale fatalities among our species and that it’s too late to stop a lot of that. At best, and with enormous effort, which ill never come from either ruling party, we can ameliorate some of them. But the die is cast. We’re in for it. Democrats and Republicans have made the situation much, much worse.

    The idea of working in or through the Democrat Party to effect ‘progressive’ change has proven to be a chimera, a fantasy. Far from helping, Democrat politicians and their Republican cousins are the enemy.

  5. salsolomon says:

    That is downright scary. Since, Obama has let the cat out of the bag by being the first president ever to propose cuts to Social Security, even if he does not actually cut it, Hillary will be likely to take it from where Obama left. Don’t you just love the supposedly liberal Democratic party?????

  6. karmanot says:

    The scary thing about the Hills run will be the thought that the Republicans will gas up its usual clown car and she will win. I

  7. karmanot says:

    It is such an enormous problem Gaius, particularly when our most brilliant advocates operate ‘the inside game.’ Digby, Jane and John certainly do that to great effect, but it doesn’t seem to be moving at all. I agree with Hayes. My particular example is Bernie Sanders, who always talks liberal, socialism and progress and gets absolutely nothing done. Don’t get me wrong, I have enormous respect for him, particularly in our Vermont days, But, NOTHING comes of it except talk, talk, talk……Can I bring up Obama now?

  8. Salsolomon says:


    Thanks for your reply. It’s great to see that you are so upbeat about this rebellion thing. My best thoughts and hopes are that this rebellion occurs – the establishment Democratic party truly needs to comes to its senses. Strangely though, we keep getting news that Hillary will indeed be the presidential candidate in 2016. That will make her the third DLC-favored Dem to be the Democratic presidential candidate (with Bill Clinton and Obama being the other two). It seems to me that the establishment Democratic party has become a subsidiary of the DLC. In other words, the Democratic party has now become a Republican party with a different name. A rebellion is very very much needed.

    Again, thanks for the good work GP. Kudos to you. Kodos to others who are working towards it.

  9. GaiusPublius says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Salsolomon. As for digby, she’s working the inside game (see my reply below), and both the inside push and the outside push are needed.

    I’ve had a number of face-to-face conversations with her, and also joint interviews (for ex, on Virtually Speaking) and I never fail to feel her integrity. I don’t think “fold” is a word I would use. She sees what I see; we may (or may not) disagree on tactics, but beating up the dominant neolib Dems is one side of our pushback. Keep in mind, she’s a big fan of Chris Hayes, and Hayes is on record as saying, the only solution to climate change is civil disobedience. I totally agree.



  10. GaiusPublius says:

    Thanks, Ford. Yes, and I’ll have more to say about working outside the system in a bit. As I’ve said elsewhere, we need a critical-mass rebellion among the “governed” and we may well get it. The next Keystone civil disobedience will be greater than the one before, and more and more people are “getting it.” That’s just one example.

    But I wouldn’t underestimate the rebellion in the Dem caucus as well. Grayson and Takano got over 40 signatures for their No-means-No No-cuts letter. That letter was opposed by other “liberals” in the CPC like Jan Schakowsky. It produced a split, and the leaders of the CPC, Grijalva and Ellison, joined the G-T letter. We need that split and we’re getting it.

    My point — we have to start somewhere, and we have. Watch the Keystone issue. Watch Holt’s anti-NSA Patriot Act bill, once it rolls out. Watch TPP once it comes to a boil. Watch both the streets (and the NSA-surveillance-enabled police reaction), and also the Dem caucus. If things accelerate on both fronts, we’re moving in the right direction. That’s all we can do — play the game hard, move the ball in the right direction, and make RJ Eskow’s Pascal’s Wager with the Future.

    I appreciate the question; thanks for giving me the opportunity to answer it.


  11. Salsolomon says:

    Great work GP. Appreciate you and your convictions a lot, my friend.

    I still worry though that Digby (and others), as she usually does, will fold and end up supporting the Democrats eventually, as she always does. However, what the Democratic base needs to do is (just like the Republican base holds a tight leash on the GOP) hold a tight leash on the GOP. However, Digby, Jane Hamsher never do that. They all talk tough, but fold eventually. And, that has always helped the Democratic party to keep moving right. Sigh…….

    I have come to the conclusion that the Democratic party is a lost cause. And, it will be too late, until progressives figure that out. Actually, it already is too late, and progressives are not in close to scratching the surface on this sham of a liberal party we call the Democratic party.

  12. Ford Prefect says:

    Outside of your posts, GP, I can find no indication of an Open Rebellion Caucus. Yes, there are a small handful of Dems who are interested in actually making good policy, but the vast majority are not going to upset the apple cart. Rush Holt, for example, wants to roll back the PATRIOT ACT. That’s really great! The problem is, he isn’t going to get more than six votes or so. The Democrats are now fully documented as completely behind the surveillance state. Why, they won’t even call Clapper and Alexander on the carpet for their particular felonies, so why should Democrats be considered as anything other than complete sell-outs?

    I’m glad Digby has finally woken up to the fact the system is broken and wholly captured by corporate interests. The executive, congress and judiciary are all bought. This rather flies in the face of your ORC, which doesn’t actually exist outside of some wishful thinking.

    If the system is broken, then any hope necessarily lies outside that system, yes?

  13. GaiusPublius says:

    Fixed it. Thanks, Danalan.


  14. Danalan says:

    The link to Hullabaloo is broken – you left out the ‘:’ after http. Correct link:

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