One of the more popular leftist weblogs on the Internet, Democratic Underground (DU) is owned by Democratic Underground, LLC (a limited liability company), whose proprietor is the Washington, DC-based David Allen, who goes by the nickname “Skinner” on the DU website. Describing itself as an “online community for Democrats and other progressives,” DU restricts its membership to those who are “generally supportive of progressive ideals” and who “support Democratic candidates for political office.”
Democratic Underground was launched on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2001, specifically “to protest the illegitimate presidency of George W. Bush and to provide a resource for the exchange and dissemination of liberal and progressive ideas.” Adds DU: “This website exists so our members and guests are assured that there are many others across the country who share their outrage at the unilateral, arrogant, and extreme right-wing approach taken by George W. Bush and his team, the conservative Republicans in Congress, and the five conservative partisans on the Supreme Court. We address the right in harsh terms, and we fully intend to make the word ‘conservative’ absolutely radioactive.” While DU “welcome[s] Democrats of all stripes, along with other progressives who will work with us to achieve our shared goals,” it professes to be “not affiliated with the Democratic Party” and does not “claim to speak for the party as a whole.”
The content of the DU website is provided mostly by its registered users (of which there were 93,364 as of August 13, 2006) who wish to make their opinions known via the blogs they post, the discussion forums in which they participate, or the articles they submit for publication. As of June 2006, more than 23 million blog messages had been posted on DU since its inception.
A regular feature of Democratic Underground, published each Monday, is the weekly “Top Ten Conservative Idiots” list, which highlights what DU considers the foolish deeds and utterances of those on the political right. President Bush and members of his administration are the most frequent targets in this section. The overall tenor of “Top Ten” is derisive and sardonic, as evidenced by these excerpts from representative posts.
Another DU feature, which formerly appeared each Wednesday but is now more sporadic, is The Plaid Adder column. The author of the posts in this section is a self-identified lesbian who describes herself as someone who “slithered into existence circa 1993, when I finally got an email account and joined my first electronic community (a discussion list for Star Trek fans).” “I have a real name, of course, by which people know me in real life, “she says. “You-all can just call me Plaidder.”) Some of her representative posts include the following:
September 14, 2005: “I accuse George W. Bush [and] his administration of parlaying the tragedy of September 11 into a massive con game whereby … they robbed us of our freedoms, our money, and our soliders in the name of security, without doing a single thing that would actually make us safer”; … “of treating the federal government as if it were their private treasury”; and “… of fabricating threats to America in order to serve their own purposes and line their own wallets, while diverting toward these imaginary threats resources which we now desperately need and no longer have.”
November 17, 2004: “When our Congress voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, they voted to authorize the point-blank execution of an unarmed wounded man in a bloodsmeared mosque in a burning city. That’s how we fight our wars now. Shoot first, think later.”
A Democratic Underground feature on Thursdays is titled “Ask Auntie Pinko,” an “advice” column modeled on “Dear Abbey,” where someone poses a question and “Auntie Pinko” replies. On December 1, 2005, Auntie Pinko wrote: “Cleaning up the mess left by Mr. Bush’s administration won’t happen overnight. Lying us into a war that has killed thousands of civilians and devastated hundreds of thousands is not on the same scale as a clumsy foreign policy speech or a poorly conceived international trade treaty. Ignoring multilateralism, using chemical weapons …, singular ineptitude in assisting our own citizens affected by a natural disaster, using questionable interrogation systems (and trying to cover up the most discreditable ones) — all carry varying degrees of odium and there are many people with long memories in the world. … I think it will take a very long time, indeed, for America to be trusted again.”
DU has established “Campaign Underground,” an online database of information about political campaigns, voting trends, and media. The website also has a feature called Demopedia. Modeled on Wikipedia, this is a reference source created aggregately by registered DU users, and can be expanded or edited by any user wishing to contribute.
On July 1, 2005, DU initiated “Activist Corps,” a group of more than 1,000 registered DU members who are committed to participating in official calls-to-action that are posted on the website. The first Activist Corps campaign — posted on July 12, 2005 — exhorted members to write letters to their local newspaper editors regarding Karl Rove’s alleged role in the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name. This effort resulted in the publication of more than 70 letters in newspapers across the United States. Other Activist Corps projects have included signing online petitions that urged U.S. Senators to reject the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, and writing letters of support to Cindy Sheehan, founder of Gold Star Families for Peace.