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Monday, July 10, 2006

Focusing on the wrong thing 


Jim Geraghty wonders why the activists in the Democratic Party, who claim to be most concerned with victory, are focusing on a red herring:

What periodically baffles me is the fact that an increasingly influential, vocal-as-all-hell faction of the Democratic Party has looked at their current circumstances – minority in the House, minority in the Senate, shut out of the White House until Jan. 20, 2009, 31 red states, etc. – and decided that their biggest problem… the figure who is most deserving of their ire, whose defeat is the highest priority is… Joe Lieberman.

Imagine if the conservative bloggers got together and decided to focus an inordinate amount of their energy and rhetoric upon defeating… Arnold Schwartzenegger. Or Chuck Hagel. Or Olympia Snowe, or Arlen Specter. Many conservatives don’t like their stands on this issue or that issue; Pat Toomey got plenty of grassroots support a few years back. But the rage-to-irritated-tolerance ratio is positively milquetoast compared to the lefty “netroots.”

Even if you take the least conservative Republican lawmaker on the national scene, Lincoln Chafee, the disdain rises to making the face that you make when you smell sour milk. Many on the right would really like to see Chafee defeated in this year's primary. But there’s no equivalent “Rape Gurney Joe” nickname, no Powerline guys popping up in his challenger’s Mentos-ad-esque commercials, no damning the incumbent for intolerable “rudeness” because he interrupted his opponent.

Nobody is surprised the left hates Joe Lieberman. The question is, why are they so damned emotional about it? Why not be a little bit Vulcan, take Lieberman's vote to organize the Senate -- after all, party control of the Senate is a pretty big prize -- and his support on most social and economic issues, and move the heck on? Why doesn't cold logic win over, er, not logic? Because today's left, having escaped the influence of the private sector labor movement (which was all about compromise in the service of victory), no longer has any constituency that wants to compromise on anything. To be a true lefty, one needs to be ideologically pure.

This used to be a problem on the right, but the Republicans learned their lesson in 1964. That year, a very conservative GOP convention not only nominated Barry Goldwater, but it ferociously attacked the Rockefeller Republicans, right-wing fanatics screaming "dirty lover" at Nelson Rockefeller from the convention floor, on account of his divorce and remarriage. Moderate Republicans abandoned the GOP in droves, and Lyndon Johnson won a crushing popular and electoral college victory. The Republicans have since understood the need to move to the center, and the conservatives have been willing to countenance a certain amount of compromise in the service of victory.

The Democrats should have learned the same lesson in 1972, but apparently did not. Whatever happens in November, it will be fascinating to see how far left the activists push the leading Democratic presidential candidates during 2007.

CWCID: Glenn.

8 Comments:

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Mon Jul 10, 03:42:00 PM:

Actually, to be fair to the Democrats (at least the Clintonian DLC types), i think they understand the requirement to move to the center -- hence Welfare reform, ragging on Sistah Souljah, dropping universal healthcare, etc.

The problem is about projection of US power abroad. Many of today's passionate Dems are young and antiwar. The FDR/Truman/JFK dems are dying at a rate of 2.5mm per year. So you are left with Vietnam Dems and their figurative offspring, which tend toward anti-capitalism, anti-globalism, mistrust of America and pacifism. Boots on ground warfare they just can't stomach. If it can be solved from 10,000 feet or higher, that's moderate Democratic warfare...

They can't stand Lieberman and they want him out because of Iraq, and the tenacity of his support. Lots of Democrats authorized the war. Many prominent ones backed off on the vote and have backtracked, offering as their lam excuse that Bush misled them.

Horse puckey. To her credit, Hillary hasn't done that; and she's going to look smart for having held off, as the documentary evidence from Iraq spills forth about WMD and alliances with the Taliban and AQ.

Here's a prediction. Lieberman wins the primary and remains Senator from CT. Hillary get the Dem nomination in 2008 and defends the GWOT, OIF and makes the case that, in fact, Iraq was a just target (hence her vote) due to the documented relationships between Saddam and the Taliban, AQ and WMD evidence (now emerging).

But she loses anyway. To whom?  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon Jul 10, 06:58:00 PM:

Guiliani, McCain, Rice, and Powell are the most popular suggestions I've encountered thus far.

I don't think Powell would run, myself, and Rice only as VP. But including Rice (a rational, competent, educated person with conservative credentials, *and* a black female! [super bonus points for the Republicans]) as VP would counteract the knee-jerk "must vote for Hillary because she's a woman" that some people would feel, but not drive off the macho types who don't want a woman President at all, not to mention drive a wedge into the safest of 'safe' Democratic constituencies, blacks. (against what most people might think at first, this would likely secure a Republican sweep in the South, esp. LA, WV, and other Conservative Democrat holdouts)

Guiliani has great PR coming out of the gate (those 9/11 creds won't go away, and as a Washington 'outsider' will be untainted by anything the Bush administration did afterwards in either direction) and just might be able to swing New York all by himself. (one of the four reasons that Democrats ever might win national elections, the other three being Illinois, California, and Florida)

McCain, though I like him personally, I think has burned too many bridges (ideologically and practically) to secure a nomination.

Dawnfire's 5 minute political brainstorm with the reminder that I hate domestic politics and don't ever delve *too* far into it. They're dirty.  

By Blogger Johnny Nobody, at Mon Jul 10, 07:36:00 PM:

As a "leftist," the reason I would like to see Lieberman's retirement happen this fall has little to do with ideology. The two biggest reasons:

1. He gives cover to Republican initiatives which can then claim bipartisan support, and he similarly adopts not only Republican positions but also rhetoric. He also appears on TV shows and argues on Republican terms, when he ought to refuse to concede even the basis of the discussion.

2. He sells out important votes and only votes "the right way" when it no longer matters. For example, he claims that he fights Bush's far-right judicial nominees by pointing to his vote against confirmation for Alito. But he voted for cloture, ending the Democratic filibuster. Many others did the same thing, but he seems to do it every time.

Also, he said that those who criticise the President on the war undermine our nation, which I think is a pretty f'ed up thing to say.

He also defended Catholic hospitals' right to refuse to supply emergency contraception to rape victims by saying it's only a short ride to get to another hospital.

Just a few reasons off the top of my head. It's not an ideological purity test for me, my dislike is based on his symbolic actions.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jul 10, 09:55:00 PM:

Uh, Johnny, you just did a marvelous job of reinforcing the point of the post. Going into details would be unnecessary and redundant.

Forest. Trees. Some eyesight required.  

By Blogger Johnny Nobody, at Mon Jul 10, 11:10:00 PM:

If a Republican senator constantly criticised Republicans, made it harder for Republicans to win an election, and made it more difficult for Republicans to enact their legislative agenda, don't you think there would be a primary challenge to him or her?

I don't care how many issues are grounds for agreement with Lieberman. He makes it more difficult for his party to achieve their ideological ends.

I'll clarify one point:
Question: Why shouldn't Catholic hospitals provide emergency contraception to rape victims?

Answer 1: The state shouldn't meddle in the affairs of a private, religiously affiliated institution.

Answer 2: Connecticut is a small state, and it shouldn't take more than a short ride for a woman who has just been raped to go to another hospital.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jul 11, 12:05:00 AM:

Man, this really is like attempting to explain electromagnetism to a nematode.
I'm going to overuse capitals, maybe that will help.

Look, the WHOLE POINT of the article is that the Netroots (attempting to be nice here)claims to be about TACTICS, NOT IDEOLOGY. Tactics can help the Democratic party WIN, after which they have a PRAYER of promoting their ideology. Once more, WOTHOUT WINNING, your chance to promote your ideology is NIL, ZERO, ZIP, NADA, BUPKISS.

You, on the other hand, presumably a part of the Netroots movement, cannot seem to relax your requirement for complete ideological purity in the interest of WINNING.

I can't believe I have to explain this to a lefty.

The fact that you cannot grasp this concept reassures me that the Republican majority in Congress is safe as houses, and that the netroots movement is DOOMED to fail, as it's adherents cannot understand it's basic philosophy.

/caps off.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Tue Jul 11, 03:54:00 PM:

A couple of thoughts - as to republicans who wander off the party line, I can think of several who are not subjected to the inane vitriol aimed at the former VP candidate -- Lincoln chaffee, Chuck Hegel, Arlen Specter, John McCain -- to name but a few.

Lieberman is impressive precisely because he thinks independently, intelligently, seriously and logically. Does his record often conflict with Democrats? No mroeso than McCain's departs from Republicans.

As to Catholic Church Hospitals -- I think you answered your own question. The state shouldn't be mucking around with a private institution. The victim can get access to these products someplace else.

Finally, I do think that the vitriol emanating from the far left is inherently dangerous, because it is a minoritarian view which seeks to impose its policies by fiat rather than through democratic processes of forming consensus. The far right isn't immune to the same tendency, by the way, but at the moment its the left minority most out of step with electoral results and resulting policies. they seek to gain the prmacy of their policies therefore via the courts, via bureaucratic warfare and other non democratic means. It is exceedingly dangerous, and must be made transparent and defused.  

By Blogger demosophist, at Tue Jul 11, 08:56:00 PM:

"The FDR/Truman/JFK dems are dying at a rate of 2.5mm per year."

At that rate it'll be another 12 to 15 years before it reaches our knees...

But seriously, this "young activist" generation you're talking about is pretty far from "pure." Granted, those of us who came of age in the 1960s had a lot of faults to outgrow, but the main cause that defined the era was well worth fighting, and from it came Freedom Summer, the Voting Rights Act, and many other adjustments that deepened the republic into the kind of place that now incompasses so few self-contradictions that they have to be invented. Compared to that generation, these "young activists" haven't the ghost of a vision or cause that could put them in touch with anything that's not entirely vanity.

But actually these "young activists" are a pitiful minority within their own generation... so let's give credit to the majority who seem to have surprisingly good sense given the sort of education system that raised them.  

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