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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: February 2012

Has Romney Finally Put Republican Elites At Ease?

This item is cross-posted from The New Republic.
Mitt Romney–and, for the moment at least, the Republican Party–dodged a bullet yesterday as he narrowly won his native state. Of course, it shouldn’t be an afterthought that he also won Arizona by a landslide, capturing all the 29 delegates it’s rewarding this year. The last few days, though, were filled with growing talk in Republican insider-dom that a Romney loss in Michigan would provoke a serious search for a late-entry candidate. And whether or not these would-be kingmakers actually did come up with a White Knight willing to take the plunge, the discussion alone could have been fatal to the inevitablilty/electability house of cards on which Romney’s campaign relies. Now Romney is back on track for the nomination, for the fourth time by my count. But he’s not out of the woods quite yet, unless Rick Santorum handles his loss poorly or begins to lose his financial backing.
Next week’s ten Super Tuesday contests remain a bit of a trap for Romney. He should win easily in his home state of Massachusetts, and will only face Ron Paul in Virginia. But in Ohio, Santorum has built a robust and steady lead in recent polls. And in the South, where Newt Gingrich remains a threat, his super PAC seems to be spending its latest infusion of money from Sheldon Adelson on strident anti-Romney attacks ads rather than any effort to hold off Santorum. Romney’s biggest threat is if, as with the Arizona/Michigan primaries, all the media attention focuses on the competitive states rather than total delegates: He could win a plurality of delegates on Super Tuesday but still “lose” in media perceptions if he falls short in Ohio and the contested southern states. If Romney does lose significant states on Super Tuesday, the most significant factor will be whether the GOP elites panic like they did after Santorum’s three-state sweep on February 7 and his subsequent rise in the polls–or if, instead, insiders begin to look at cumulative delegate totals, bank balances, and the declining feasibility of a late entry and figure that Mitt is “inevitable” again.
Is there anything in the pattern of votes last night that illustrates the likely direction of public opinion in the GOP electorate? It’s hard to say, particularly since the Michigan vote was skewed by Romney’s native-state status–and Santorum’s sizable crossover vote, some of which was clearly tactical. (According to the exit polls, Santorum beat Romney 53-17 among the 9 percent of primary voters self-identifying as Democrats, and ran just behind Mitt among the 39 percent calling themselves “moderates or liberals.”) But one distress signal for Santorum is that he lost among his fellow Catholics in Michigan, which some pundits are already attributing to his ill-advised criticism of John F. Kennedy’s position on church-state relations.
Expect an unusually intense spin cycle over the next 48 hours over these results. Aside from polls (both national and of the March 6 states), there is actually another contest prior to Super Tuesday: a caucus-with-straw-poll in Washington state on March 3. There’s also a just-announced candidate “forum” (the format is unclear) that same evening on Mike Huckabee’s Fox News show; Romney, Santorum and Gingrich have agreed to attend (no word yet on Ron Paul). A Public Policy Polling survey on February 21 showed Santorum with a healthy lead over Romney in Washington, with Paul running a relatively strong third. Don’t be surprised if whoever wins there calls it a harbinger for Super Tuesday.
So what can we learn from last night’s results? Romney’s wins banished the wolf from his door, and he again seems the likeliest nominee. It didn’t hurt that he won two major states despite a universally panned series of campaign gaffes (such as his Cadillac count) and mistakes (notably his decision to deliver a major speech at a nearly empty Ford Field). But he’ll only be free of the wolf entirely if he can win a series of primaries without another unexpected setback, and reassure his elite supporters that he won’t limp into the end of the campaign trail still begging the GOP’s conservative base that they can trust him to take on Barack Obama with the savagery and ideological rigor they demand.

TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira: Public Says Tax Rich, Cut Military Spending

Once again the conservatives have it backwards, this time regarding their assertion that the most Americans want no tax hikes or cuts in the military budget, notes TDS Co-Editor Ruy Teixeira in his latest ‘Public Opinion Snapshot.’ On military spending, Teixeira explains:

In a recent CBS/New York Times poll, the public overwhelmingly favored cutting military spending (52 percent) over cutting Social Security (13 percent) or Medicare (15 percent).

As for tax hikes:

And when it comes to taxing the rich, the public says bring it on! By a lopsided 67-29 margin, the public thought taxes on households earning $1 million or more a year should be increased to help deal with the budget deficit.

“The conservative approach to fiscal issues takes too many reasonable policy approaches off the table just because they don’t fit with conservative ideology,” Teixeira explains. “The public evidently agrees.”

Political Strategy Notes

Nate Silver’s forecast model rates the Michigan GOP presidential race “too close to call,” as a result of Santorum’s late momentum
Romney is understandably bent out of shape about Santorum’s robocall urging Dems to cross over and vote for him. Kos has a different take: “…If Santorum and Romney end up trading charges back and forth about how Michigan turned out, then good! That’s the point! This GOP nomination contest is a clown show. Anything that keeps it going, keeps Republicans in a state of chaos, and keeps Obama looking better and better in comparison is a win for us.”
Their policies toward Illiegal immigration have done serious damage to GOP 2012 hopes, especially in Arizona. But Adam Nagourney warns in the New York Times that it appears to be fading as an issue of concern, at least in comparison to unemployment and economic distress.
At the Daily Beast Howard Kurtz explores the prospects for Santorum’s bogus “class-based” pitch in MI and AZ. “…Does it really make political sense for Santorum to call President Obama a “snob” for saying everyone should have a chance to go to college? Will that line have particular resonance in Michigan, where the auto assembly line is no longer a guaranteed ticket to the middle class and whose voters are well aware that Santorum, as well as Romney, opposed the GM/Chrysler bailout?”
E.J. Dionne, Jr. sounds a convincing warning against Democratic overconfidence caused by the follies of the GOP primary circus. He sees the GOP cave on the payroll tax holiday and the recent correction of VA Republicans on the pre-abortion ultra-sound requirement as symptoms of a possible awakening of a new realism.
The Monitor’s Gail Russell Chaddock assesses the prospects for Dems’ holding retiring Ben Nelson’s Senate seat in her article, “If Bob Kerrey runs for Senate, can he save the majority for Democrats?
NBC Politics discusses the politics of rising gas prices in light of GOP fear-mongering: “A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows that though Obama’s approval rating on the economy has climbed, 58 percent disapprove of what he’s doing on gas prices.” Rick Newman’s US News post “Why $4 Gas Will Hurt Less This Time” takes a counter-intuitive look at the issue.
In her post, “What Do Republican Presidential Candidates Say on Foreclosure Crisis? Not Much,” ProPublica’s Lois Beckett flags a significant blind spot of the GOP presidential candidates Dems should leverage to their advantage.
The Morning Plum’s Greg Sargent has another good post on the white working class vote, this time on Romney’s inability to connect with it, explaining, “Among non-college whites across the board, Romney’s favorability rating is also at 37 percent. (Obama’s favorability among these voters is the same; yet a competitive Republican is supposed to have a very significant advantage over a Democrat in presidential elections.)”
The Nation’s Ari Berman has an optimistic data-driven answer to the question, “Who Will ‘Reagan Democrats’ Support in 2012?.” Says Berman, “Obama has a 43 percent approval rating among working class whites in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, higher than it was in 2008. At the beginning of 2011, Romney led Obama by around twenty points among blue-collar whites in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to internal polling by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. At the end of last month, Romney led the president by only three among such voters in these Rust Belt battleground states, a seventeen-point swing over the past year. “White non-college voters in these states moved drastically away from Obama and Democrats between 2008 and 2010, but since then they have come back to basically the same levels they gave Democrats in 2008,” says GQR vice president Andrew Bauman.”

Chait: Republican Majority a Rapidly-Fading Dream

Writing in New York magazine, Jonathan Chait offers a plausible explanation for the Republican leadership’s increasingly hysterical rhetoric — panic about demographic transformation:

…The modern GOP–the party of Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes–is staring down its own demographic extinction. Right-wing warnings of impending tyranny express, in hyperbolic form, well-grounded dread: that conservative America will soon come to be dominated, in a semi-permanent fashion, by an ascendant Democratic coalition hostile to its outlook and interests. And this impending doom has colored the party’s frantic, fearful response to the Obama presidency.
The GOP has reason to be scared. Obama’s election was the vindication of a prediction made several years before by journalist John Judis and political scientist Ruy Teixeira in their 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority. Despite the fact that George W. Bush then occupied the White House, Judis and Teixeira argued that demographic and political trends were converging in such a way as to form a ­natural-majority coalition for Democrats.

As for the key particulars of the demographic transformation, Chait observes,

…As a whole, Judis and Teixeira noted, the electorate was growing both somewhat better educated and dramatically less white, making every successive election less favorable for the GOP. And the trends were even more striking in some key swing states. Judis and Teixeira highlighted Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona, with skyrocketing Latino populations, and Virginia and North Carolina, with their influx of college-educated whites, as the most fertile grounds for the expanding Democratic base.

Chair believes the demographic dynamics were the real driving force behind the Obama phenomenon, not just his charisma.

…Above all his sweeping win reflected simple demography. Every year, the nonwhite proportion of the electorate grows by about half a percentage point–meaning that in every presidential election, the minority share of the vote increases by 2 percent, a huge amount in a closely divided country.

He argues that even Dukakis could have won in 2008, as a result of demographic change. He cautions, however, that the changes don’t necessarily translate into a permanent Democratic advantage because “eventually the minority learns to adapt to an altered landscape.” In addition, short term “shocks” like scandal, recession or war can reverse demographic advantages.
Chait adds that the tea party and the “apocalyptic rhetoric” are symptomatic of the panicked response of both conservative leaders and voters. He adds “What’s novel about the current spate of Republican millennialism is that it’s not a mere rhetorical device to rally the faithful, nor even simply an expression of free-­floating terror, but the premise of an electoral strategy.”
He believes it also explains the over-the-top voter suppression surge of the last three years.

None of this is to say that Republicans ignored the rising tide of younger and browner voters that swamped them at the polls in 2008. Instead they set about keeping as many of them from the polls as possible.The bulk of the campaign has taken the form of throwing up an endless series of tedious bureaucratic impediments to voting in many states–ending same-day voter registration, imposing onerous requirements upon voter-registration drives, and upon voters themselves. “Voting liberal, that’s what kids do,” overshared William O’Brien, the New Hampshire House speaker, who had supported a bill to prohibit college students from voting from their school addresses. What can these desperate, rearguard tactics accomplish? They can make the electorate a bit older, whiter, and less poor. They can, perhaps, buy the Republicans some time.

The 2012 election, Chait believes, is likely the GOP’s “last chance to exercise power in its current form, as a party of anti-government fundamentalism powered by sublimated white Christian identity politics. (And the last chance to stop the policy steamroller of the new Democratic majority.)” As desperate as the GOP strategy appears, the stakes are more than a little daunting for Dems, as Chait explains:

…If they can claw out a presidential win and hold on to Congress, they will have a glorious two-year window to restore the America they knew and loved, to lock in transformational change, or at least to wrench the status quo so far rightward that it will take Democrats a generation to wrench it back. The cost of any foregone legislative compromises on health care or the deficit would be trivial compared to the enormous gains available to a party in control of all three federal branches.

In short, either way, 2012 will be one of the most consequential elections since FDR’s 1932 victory. If any Dems needed a reason to go all in on re-electing the President, Chait’s article explains it well.

No Enemies to the Right: The Defining Element of the GOP Primaries

This item is cross-posted from The New Republic.
There was, last week, a brief but thrilling moment in the GOP presidential contest: It seemed like, for the first time, a candidate would be attacked for being, not too liberal, but too far right. Back in the day, that wouldn’t have been too unusual, as when George H.W. Bush, in a remark that would haunt the rest of his career, mocked Ronald Reagan’s supply-side convictions as “voodoo economics.” This year though, in a fight universally described as among the nastiest in recent history, all the attacks have been in just one direction: from the right.
This has obviously been the thrust of the endless criticisms of Mitt Romney, who has evolved from 2008’s movement conservative champion to 2012’s Republican in Name Only–even as his own policy positions have become increasingly conservative. But Romney has recently used the same tactics against his current rival, Rick Santorum. With Santorum roaming across the land like a firebug, suggesting that American liberty itself could not survive another Obama term, did Romney or his surrogates go after him for conservative extremism? Of course not: Santorum was blasted to hell and back for being a fiscal liberal or even for being in the “liberal wing of the Republican Party.” Suddenly his much-regretted endorsement of his Senate colleague Arlen Specter became a Mark of the Beast that obliterated his many years of service to the conservative cause; his votes (along with most other Senate Republicans) for George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit–understood at the time as central to Karl Rove’s master plan for building a conservative majority in the electorate–proved he was just another RINO.
This is the same pattern we’ve seen throughout the election: far-right politicians attacked for their lefty positions. When it became time for Team Romney to take down Rick Perry a peg or two, it didn’t go after the Texan for flirting with secession. No: The successful assault on Perry was all about his unconscionable sympathy for the children of undocumented workers. Similarly, Newt Gingrich never drew a bit of fire for his constant anti-Muslim demagoguery or his attacks on the moral fiber of food stamp beneficiaries. He first got into trouble for daring to question the political viability of Paul Ryan’s draconian budget proposals. Later on, Romney and Ron Paul led a joint attack on Newt for once expressing a belief in global climate change (and worse yet, appearing with Nancy Pelosi in an ad on the subject) and for allegedly criticizing Saint Ronald Reagan. When Gingrich rose from the dead yet again, he was definitively put down by Romney and his super PAC for the crime of receiving lobbying dollars from Freddie Mac, which, as every wingnut knows, conspired with ACORN and poor people to destroy the housing market and the financial system.
Even poor Herman Cain took flak for supporting TARP, and worse yet, for once serving on the board of a Federal Reserve Bank–the source, as Ron Paul taught, of all sorts of inflationary looting. And when Michele Bachmann was temporarily riding high back in the summer, none of her opponents took occasion to suggest she was a theocratic zealot who probably couldn’t carry five states in a general election. In the unwritten Code of 2012, it was simply impossible to be too conservative to be president.
Last week, though, it seemed like that dynamic might have finally changed. As Santorum’s attacks on the “false theology” of Obama and liberals gained press, sparking fresh attention to his past excommunications of liberal Protestants as outside the Christian fold, two opinion leaders on Team Romney opened a second front on the fiery Pennsylvanian. Matt Drudge put up lurid headlines and links about Santorum’s now-infamous 2008 Ave Maria University speech explaining American history as a “spiritual war” between God and Satan. And the designated conservative blogger at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, called Santorum a “reactionary” for trying to attack the use of contraception instead of sticking to the safer culture war ground of abortion and same-sex marriage. Could it be that the “fiscal liberal” Rick Santorum was actually looking too conservative for the GOP?
Not for long. At Wednesday’s candidate debate in Arizona, Romney (again, with assists from Ron Paul) was back to attacking Santorum as a big spender and Washington insider, who couldn’t be trusted to decimate federal spending or savagely confront the hated partisan foe. And if Santorum manages to win in Arizona or Michigan, we’ll likely be hearing less from Team Romney about his “spiritual warfare,” and more about his alleged fidelity to the “liberal wing of the Republican Party”–which might be more properly described as an amputated limb.

There is a disturbing new trend in Republican and conservative rhetoric– describing opposition that is entirely legal, legitimate and democratic as “bullying” “intimidation” “totalitarianism” “thuggery” and “attacks on democracy.”

When a political party that was previously committed to the norms and rules of a democratic society begins to descend into dangerous political extremism, there are a number of key warning signs.
As previous TDS Strategy Memos have noted, among the first is the widespread adoption of the philosophy of “politics as warfare.” TDS has documented this change in the thinking of the Republican Party and along with it the rise of other disturbing trends such as the acceptance of measures to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters and the idea that it is legitimate to paralyze the operations of government in order to achieve partisan political objectives.
Another very significant and dangerous warning sign of growing political extremism, however, becomes evident when a political party embraces the idea that any expression of opposition to its extremist political agenda – even if expressed through entirely legitimate democratic channels — is actually quasi-fascist in character and presents a threat to democracy rather than being an example of democracy in action.
As Republicans have encountered powerful and widespread public opposition to their 2010 agenda, they have increasingly begun to express this view. In recent weeks the following quite disturbing notions have been circulated in the Republican and conservative world.

• That recall elections are not exercises in democracy but rather attacks on democracy.
• That when members, financial contributors and observers of a non-profit organization protest actions with which they disagree, they are behaving as “gangsters”, “bullies” and “totalitarians.”
• That when the actions of powerful individuals are “exposed to the public view,” this represents “releasing the liberal thugs on them”, “intimidation” and “corrodes democracy.”
• That when Democrats decide to use the same fundraising techniques as Republicans, noting as justification the role of wealthy funders like the Koch Brothers on the conservative side, this represents “an attack on [those individuals] first amendment rights” and an attempt to “intimidate and silence” them

As Democrats will quickly note, in each of these cases there are comparable or even more extreme examples of precisely the same behavior on the Republican and conservative side that long pre-date the current examples (e.g. the demonizing of George Soros or the organizing of boycotts against companies with gay-friendly or pro-choice policies).
But the existence of a double standard is a secondary issue. Far more important is the fact that these current Republican/conservative criticisms are not directed at the substance of the particular debates in question but rather at challenging the basic legitimacy of exercising democratic rights themselves.
This point must be strongly emphasized and underlined. Actions such as (1) supporting recall election campaigns, (2) deciding to criticize or withdraw financial or other support from an organization with which a person disagrees, or (3) criticizing or publicizing the actions of individuals whose actions materially affect American political life are all actions that are utterly, absolutely and entirely legal and democratic in character – regardless of whether it is progressives or conservatives who engage in them. The deeply troubling underlying implication behind the recent conservative criticisms of these actions is the view that when such challenges are directed against Republicans or conservatives they are inherently illegitimate, thuggish and undemocratic.

Obama’s Apology Serves American Ideals, Protects Our Troops

Juan Cole blogs today on the uproar over the burning of old copies of the Qur’an at the US military at Bagram Base in Afghanistan, which has already claimed the lives of U.S. serivice men, as well as Afghanis. The tragedy is made more horrific by demagoguery on both sides amplifying animosity in Afghanistan and the U.S.
We can’t control bigotry in other nations. But when it is practiced by Americans, it should be called out, as Cole does:

Newt Gingrich and now Rick Santorum have slammed Obama for apologizing. Santorum called the gesture weak. (This stance is sheer hypocrisy from someone who has complained that Obama is ‘waging war on religion’ !)

No one should be surprised by the reaction of Muslims in Afganistan and other Arab nations, nor that their protests would escalate into violent protests. It’s right to condemn those violent protests, but it’s also important to understand its causes, in this case the perception of Muslims that their sacred scriptures have been disrespected by an occupying military force from half-way around the world.
There is no question in my mind that President Obama did the right thing in apologizing for the Qur’an burnings. A cornerstone of American values must always be respect for all religions — that’s the American way of our best ideals. Not apologizing for the burnings would the equivalent of insulting millions of people who belong to one of the world’s most widely-practiced faiths. It would also exacerbate animosity towards American troops in Afghanistan and perhaps elsewhere.
The President did the right thing. But the most important lesson for the Obama administration would be that the longer we occupy Afghanistan, the greater the chances for such incidents to occur.
Meanwhile, Santorum, Gingrich and their Republican echo chamber enablers are playing a risky game for political advantage, and one which has the potential for endangering American troops. They should be held accountable by the media and the electorate.

CA Key to Dem Hopes for House Majority

The Associated Press has a pretty good update on Democratic prospects for winning back the 25 seats needed for control of the House of Representatives. Dems have good opportunities in several states, but the AP article indicates that several races in CA could give Dems an edge:

…House Democrats’ path to power starts in Elk Grove, Calif., heads down to sunny Modesto and then rolls through the Central Valley to Riverside as the state’s friendly redrawn congressional districts and a number of GOP retirements offer Democrats their best opportunity for victories in November.
…Democrats envision gains in California, with the potential for four to eight seats. Illinois, Florida and Texas are fertile territory to increase their numbers. Even though Texas’ new election map remains in limbo, Democrats saw potential gains in the Republican-drawn version and figure court-approved boundaries will only get better as they take into account the state’s growing Hispanic population.

In all, Dems are focusing on 36 races nationwide, 7 of which are in CA. Recent polling indicates that Dems have a decent chance. As the AP notes, “An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll in January found that 47 percent of adults favored Democrats controlling Congress, compared with 41 percent who preferred Republicans. That was the Democrats’ biggest edge on that question this election cycle.”
The AP cites significant Democratic vulnerabilities as a result of unfavorable redistricting, Democratic retirements (21 Dems vs. 15 Republicans) and pro-GOP super-PAC’s. Yet, Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sees a Dem edge in momentum, “We’ve gone from a gale force wind against us a year ago to a sustained breeze at our backs going into November…We’ve outraised the Republicans, we’ve outrecruited them in candidates and the House is very much in play…”I haven’t promised anybody 25 or more,” he said. “I am promising that it’s going to be razor-close.”

New D-Corps polling: Some Democratic messages are on target, others miss what’s really happening. The on-target messages set up an effective electoral choice but the off-target ones could give the GOP a chance to challenge the President’s economic record.

The President and the Democrats are indeed doing very well at the outset of 2012, and the Republicans are doing pitifully. They are not unrelated. Republicans in Congress and in the primary battles are driving independents into the Democrats’ camp and consolidating and energizing parts of the progressive base. There is improved optimism about the macro economy and the President’s approval rating is up to 50 percent.
But Democrats should keep their wits. Nearly all the gains have been produced by the Republican slide, not Democratic gains. Both parties and politicians are reviled. And most important, the voter has not seen personal economic gains and Democrats are no more trusted on handling the economy – the heart of this election. Some of the emerging Democratic messages are on target, but others miss what is really happening and pose considerable risks. The on-target messages set up an effective electoral choice around the middle class, but the off-target ones could give the Republican nominee a platform for challenging the President’s economic record.
See the full report Here
Voters are still very negative about the economy and their lives and a large majority of 56 percent want a change of economic direction. Voters report no improvement since last June in their job situation, experience with reduced wages and benefits, and health insurance coverage. Fewer have fallen behind on their mortgages, but this is a weak recovery at the personal level.
While Republicans have collapsed on nearly everything, 44 percent continue to trust them on the economy – unchanged over four surveys back to August. Just 40 percent trust the Democrats on the economy – about the same as the party’s average for 2011. The stubbornness of the Democrats’ disadvantage on the economy should be a lesson if they are really to prevail. These are still tough economic times.
Thus, it is critical that Democrats get to the right economic narrative that allows the President and progressives to identify with what is happening in the country, create an aspiration for the country and the middle class and pose a big choice with the Republican nominee.
Based on the State of the Union dial group research and this new national survey, we have to say the jury is out on the Democrats’ current economic narratives.

Do “Liberal Party Activists” Control Democratic Party?

So as TDS readers know, I’ve recently taken on heavy blogging duties at The Washington Monthly. And by “heavy,” I mean coming within shouting distance of the insane pace of productivity set by my predecessor at the Political Animal blog, Steve Benen (who is now working for Rachel Maddow at MSNBC).
In any event, in addition to continuing to post original stuff when time permits, and cross-posting material from TNR, I’ll be periodically blurbing items from the Monthly that may be of particular interest to TDS readers.
Today I’d point to a brief analysis I wrote of a new study of Democratic and Republican ideological cohesiveness–and the political implications for both parties–by Todd Eberly published recently by the Third Way outfit. Here’s an excerpt:

[M]y main beef with Eberly’s take involves his conclusion:
“The real question for Democrats is whether liberal party activists will cede control of the agenda and allow the party to move in the direction of its moderate, non-activist voters.”
Do “liberal party activists” control the agenda of the Democratic Party? I don’t think so.
I must have missed the moment when the major Democratic candidates for president in 2008 (or for that matter, 2004) embraced the single-payer approach to universal health coverage that is undoubtedly popular among “liberal party activists.” I also failed to notice newly elected president Barack Obama supporting nationalization of the banks, or a multi-trillion dollar economic stimulus package, or reversal of Bush administration policies on surveillance, at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. Obama sure did go to the mats on behalf of the “public option” on health insurance–in itself considered a major compromise by “liberal party activists”–when the deal when down on health reform, didn’t he? And hey, Democratic congressional leaders most definitely saluted when “liberal party activists” demanded crackdowns on or actual expulsion of Blue Dog Democrats who were voting against major party legislation, didn’t they?
I could go on and on, but you get the point. A Democratic Party that could not bring itself to levy sanctions on Sen. Joe Lieberman after he endorsed and campaigned for the GOP candidate for president–which enraged even some “centrists” like me–is hardly in the grip of “liberal party activists.”

There’s more, and if you’re interested, just follow the link. The bottom line is that Democrats can and must manage ideological diversity, but it’s not a simple matter of demanding the submission of “liberal party activists.”