Amid the oceans of ink on the Feingold censure proposal dust-up, WaPo columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. nails the heart of the dilemma facing Dems in creating a unified strategy. As Dionne says in his most recent column:
Democrats, unlike Republicans, have yet to develop a healthy relationship between activists willing to test and expand the conventional limits on political debate and the politicians who have to calculate what works in creating an electoral majority.
For two decades, Republicans have used their idealists, their ideologues and their loudmouths to push the boundaries of discussion to the right. In the best of all worlds, Feingold’s strong stand would redefine what’s “moderate” and make clear that those challenging the legality of the wiretapping are neither extreme nor soft on terrorism.
That would demand coordination, trust and, yes, calculation involving both the vote-counting politicians and the guardians of principle among the activists. Republicans have mastered this art. Democrats haven’t.
And then the nut question that requires a thoughtful answer from from all Dems who prefer winning to endless factional disputes:
Turning a minority into a majority requires both passion and discipline. Bringing the two together requires effective leadership. Does anybody out there know how to play this game?
Dionne is right. Surely there is some way that reasonable Dems can debate this issue and other questions of strategy and timing in a way that doesn’t fracture their shared oppostion to GOP domination. We’re not asking for a kumbaya love-in between Dem elected/party officials on the one hand and blogosphere/grassroots activists on the other. But it’s time for a mutual recognition that the circular firing squad has not served Dems well in the past, and better coordination on matters of timing and strategy would add some much-needed tensile strength to the greater Democratic coalition.
Doesn’t seem like a lot to ask.