Markos Moulitsas Zuniga was born to a Salvadoran mother and a Greek father in Chicago, Illinois on September 11, 1971. He and his family lived in El Salvador from 1976 until 1980, at which time escalating threats from local communist guerrillas forced them to relocate back to Chicago.
Moulitsas served in the U.S. Army from 1989-92 and was stationed in Germany throughout the first Gulf War. “I went into the Army as a Republican,” he recalls, “I came out as a Democrat … [W]hen you live side by side with … your fellow soldiers and you realize that they’re not a number, that they’re actually human beings and they have families, it’s a lot harder, I think, to talk about sending them to die for things that aren’t really that important.” On another occasion, Moulitsas said his political conversion was sparked by “that Clinton trooper story. ‘Troopergate.’ I thought it was so nasty, and the fact that there were so many real problems in the country and they were trying to make that stick.” (“Troopergate” was an early-1990s political controversy that centered around several Arkansas state troopers who claimed that they had arranged sexual liaisons for former Arkansas governor Bill Clinton and had helped him deceive his wife, Hillary Clinton, in the process.)
In 1996 Moulitsas earned two bachelor’s degrees at Northern Illinois University, where he majored in philosophy, journalism, and political science. Three years later, he received a JD from Boston University School of Law but never pursued a career as an attorney. He is known by his username and former military nickname “Kos”.
After completing his legal studies, Moulitsas worked as a project manager at a San Francisco Bay Area web-development shop. Then, on May 26, 2002, he launched the weblog Daily Kos, which he continues to maintain from his home in Berkeley, California. Moulitsas says he was inspired to begin blogging by the “stifling environment for liberal voices” during the George W. Bush administration. “If you criticized the president on any issue, domestic or foreign,” he asserts, “you were accused of being un-American and unpatriotic.” At first, Moulitsas published his blogs anonymously, mostly to prevent his employer from finding out how he was spending many of his work hours.
In 2003 Moulitsas supported Democratic presidential hopeful Wesley Clark. After Clark dropped out of the primaries, Moulitsas and his friend Jerome Amstrong (founder of the blog MyDD.com) were hired as political consultants for Howard Dean, whose presidential campaign paid each of them $3,000 per month for their services.
Beyond his work for Dean, Moulitsas for years has consulted on a regular basis with a number of powerful Democratic legislators including Harry Reid. In 2004 Moulitsas was invited by Senate Democrats to teach them how to better use the Internet as a fundraising tool, and in 2006 he worked with Democrat operatives to devise a strategy for the midterm elections. In 2007 The New Republic reported: “Last year, numerous top Democrats trekked to Las Vegas to attend YearlyKos, the liberal blog convention, where they sucked up to the attendees as relentlessly as if they were software executives.” “Now I can shape the political debate,” Moulitsas boasted in 2006. “The only way I could exert more influence would be if I were President.”
Moulitsas was strongly opposed to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. When four American civilian contractors from the private military company Blackwater USA were murdered and mutilated in Fallujah in April 2004, Moulitsas wrote: “Let the people see what war is like. This isn’t an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush’s folly. That said, I feel nothing over the death of mercenaries. They aren’t in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.” Dismissing claims that the slain contractors were innocent “civilians,” Moulitsas said: “Well, if your definition of civilian is anything non-military, okay. But then al Qaeda operatives are civilians, too.” Moulitsas’s remarks prompted several advertisers to withdraw their ads from the Daily Kos, but he refused to apologize. He did, however, defend and clarify his remarks in a blog post the following day:
“My language was harsh, and, in reality, not true. Fact is, I did feel something. That’s why I was so angry. I was angry that five soldiers—the real heroes in my mind—were killed the same day and got far lower billing in the newscasts. I was angry that 51 American soldiers paid the ultimate price for Bush’s folly in Iraq in March alone. I was angry that these mercenaries make more in a day than our brave men and women in uniform make in an entire month. I was angry that the U.S. is funding private armies, paying them $30,000 per soldier, per month, while the Bush administration tries to cut our soldiers’ hazard pay. I was angry that these mercenaries would leave their wives and children behind to enter a war zone on their own volition. So I struck back.”
In November 2004, Moulitsas established Kos Media LLC as a corporation to oversee the publication of Daily Kos as well as articles, books, and political comics.
In 2005 the New Policy Institute (NPI) hired Moulitsas to help it disseminate its pro-open-borders message to the broadest possible audience. Moulitsas announced that his efforts with NPI would be directed toward “building a Democratic Party that is focused on winning.”
During the United Kingdom general election in 2005, the British newspaper The Guardian hired Moulitsas to write elections analysis for its weblog.
Moulitsas abhorred Democratic legislators who supported the Iraq War, most notably U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman. As the Los Angeles Times noted in July 2006, Moulitsas “has made Lieberman’s defeat a personal crusade.” When antiwar challenger Ned Lamont defeated Lieberman for the Democratic nomination the following month, Moulitsas claimed partial credit, declaring that Lamont’s victory demonstrated that “even the most powerful, entrenched forces can be dislodged by people-power.”
That same theme featured prominently in Crashing the Gate, which Moulitsas co-authored in 2006 with Jerome Armstrong. Written as a blueprint for burying “conservative ideology six feet under,” the book advanced the argument that the Democratic Party needed only to adopt a “simple tactical shift” in order to succeed dramatically at the polls. In particular, the authors exhorted the party’s constituent groups—such as environmental activists, union representatives, and abortion-rights groups—to put party unity above their respective causes. They suggested, for instance, that “emphasizing the goal of reducing unwanted pregnancies as well as defending the right to choose would bring many into the fold who view abortion with some distaste but want to keep abortion safe and legal.” Moulitsas and Armstrong also attacked the Democratic “establishment” in Washington for allegedly neglecting “Netroots” activists and party supporters at the state and local levels.
Describing himself as “not necessarily a policy person,” Moulitsas in 2006 said his main concern was to help elect more Democratic candidates. “We support every Democrat that runs for office,” he declared. That same year, Moulitsas stated: “My long-term view is about building a movement with an ability to affect media coverage and the media narrative. The long-term goal is a progressive governing majority.”
In addition to his work with Daily Kos, Moulitsas at that time was a fellow with the New Politics Institute. In 2008 he became a contributing columnist to Newsweek magazine, and a regular columnist for The Hill.
In 2010, Moulitsas published a book titled American Taliban, which likened elements of the U.S. conservative movement to the Taliban, the Islamic terrorist entity that ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001 and has led an insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul ever since. The book’s official description read as follows: “America’s primary international enemy–Islamic radicalism–insists on government by theocracy, curtails civil liberties, embraces torture, represses women, wants to eradicate homosexuals from society, and insists on the use of force over diplomacy. Remind you of a certain American political party? In American Taliban, Markos Moulitsas pulls no punches as he compares how the Republican Party and Islamic radicals maintain similar worldviews and tactics.” Some noteworthy quotes from the book include the following:
After quoting former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay saying that “only Christianity offers a comprehensive worldview that covers all areas of life and thought,” Moulitsas likened Delay to an Islamic terrorist: “For DeLay, only Christianity offers a methodology for daily life, whereas for Osama bin Laden, only Islam does.” Moreover, Moulitsas called for conservative strongholds in the U.S. to secede from the Union: “I’m partial to ceding a portion of the Texas Panhandle to these wackos, naming it Dumbfuckistan, taking it off the federal dole, building a wall around it, and arresting anyone trying to enter America illegally.”
In an April 2010 television appearance on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Moulitsas characterized conservative Tea Party movement activists as “tea baggers” — a vulgar slang term signifying an oral-sex act — and then accused them of espousing all manner of evil: “They’re against democratic government, they’re anti-democratic… basically with just respect for democracy in this nation, I mean this is what the people voted for, and it’s one thing to oppose it on policy, it’s another thing to use the kind of exterminationist, eliminationist rhetoric that they’re using in appealing to violence and uh, and uh, that sort of thing.”
In 2011, Moulitsas became enraged when conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart published an entirely accurate report about the fact that Democrat congressman Anthony Weiner had been exchanging sexually explicit text messages and photographs with a number of teenage girls. Soon thereafter, Moulitsas allowed a Daily Kos writer to publish personally identifiable information about two underage females who had falsely told another media outlet — not Breitbart.com — that they were among the girls whom Weiner had been targeting. Defending his decision to print the story, Moulitsas said: “[N]one of this would’ve happened had conservatives not employed an ‘anything goes’ effort to destroy Rep. Anthony Weiner.”
In an August 2011 television interview with Keith Olbermann, Moulitsas said that, ten years earlier, Republicans and President George W. Bush had seen 9/11 as a “political opportunity,” not a tragedy, “because they were able to take that and use it to stifle their domestic critics, push through a radical agenda, try to silence anybody who opposed him [Bush].” Added Moulitsas: “It essentially won him another term in 2004 based on 9/11 because he wasn’t popular on any other matter. So, for Republicans, even today, 9/11 is the gift that keeps on giving. The fact that 3,000 people died is incidental to them. They don’t care about that. What was there was a political opportunity and he took it.”
In October 2011, Moulitsas explained that the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement had developed broad appeal because it spoke to the concerns of people who were “angry” at: (a) “a government willing to bail out rich investors on Wall Street while ignoring the plight of regular Americans”; (b) “Republicans on Capitol Hill demanding that the nation’s meager social [safety] net get torn to shreds, while protecting their wealthiest friends from feeling any of the ‘shared sacrifice’ the rest of us are supposed to endure”; and (c) “an economic system that has seen average annual household income flat-line for the last 20 years while the income of the top 1 percent has quadrupled.”
After a gun-toting, Trump-hating Bernie Sanders supporter named James T. Hodgkinson attempted to murder House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and other Republican congressmen and staffers on a Virginia baseball field in June 2017, Moulitsas wrote on Twitter: “Republicans are getting what they want,” linking to a quote in which Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano had said: “Why do we have a Second Amendment? It’s not to shoot deer. It’s to shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical!”
In March 2018, Moulitsas announced the launch of a new division of Kos Media, called Civiqs, which would function as a polling and data center to track public opinion on political candidates, issues, and elected officials on a daily basis.
As of July 2018, Moulitsas’s Daily Kos blog had 2.3 million registered users and 8 million unique viewers per month. The blog’s popularity has attracted the attention of many Democratic Members of Congress, governors, and candidates for public office over the years. A number of them have occasionally posted on the site, including such notables as John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama.
For additional information on Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, click here.
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