I was out of pocket travelling most of today, and initially missed the brouhaha over the alleged plot to get rid of Howard Dean as DNC chairman. Having now read my emails; the Ryan Lizza Plank post that seems to be the source for James Carville’s suggestion that Dean be replaced by Harold Ford; and the angry reaction of the blogosphere, my first thought is:Lordy, lordy. I’ve always liked Carville, as a guy with impressive strategic and tactical instincts, and impeccable partisan credentials. And I also like Harold Ford, who I suspect was as surprised as anyone by Carville’s dropping of his name. But this is a really bad idea, at a really bad time. In the wake of Tuesday’s victory, party committee chieftain Rahm Emanuel and Howard Dean appear to have buried the hatchet, and there’s a general sense among most Democrats that they both did their very different jobs during the campaign well enough. We do not need any purges at present, thank you. Since I’m sure it’s a matter of time before someone suggests the DLC is behind the Plot Against Dean (Markos has already indicated that his post-election attitude of sweetness and light and unity does not extend to the DLC, for whom he holds an especially personal, intense and consistent hostility), allow me to say that Dean’s long-range 50-state-strategy, and the broader insistence of the netroots that Democrats should not write off big swatches of the country, reflects what the DLC has been saying for eons. Hell, it was exactly what the DLC (and most explicitly, PPI president Will Marshall) argued for in the wake of the 2004 elections. There are undoubtedly legitimate differences of opinion about exactly how and how far to “expand the battlefield,” but this is actually one political issue where the netroots and the DLC tend to agree, against the ancient habits of the party professionals, who so often fight the last war in the narrowest possible trenches.In any event, James should get off the purge-Dean bandwagon, if indeed that’s what he’s riding, and focus his considerable talents on the very different challenges Democrats will face in 2008. I see nothing other than good things in the rear-view mirror of the 2006 elections.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
I read a Thomas Friedman column this week that really required a smackdown. So I supplied one at New York:
How much political capital should Democrats invest in a probably doomed effort to save the political career of Liz Cheney? Earlier this week, Never Trump Republican Linda Chavez penned a column urging Wyoming Democrats to take a dive this November in order to give the incumbent a chance to survive as an independent, assuming (as it safe) that Cheney will be purged in her own party’s primary. And now, in an apparent coincidence, in comes New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggesting a far more radical step by Democrats to align themselves with the small slice of Republicans who follow Cheney’s example in repudiating Donald Trump. He wrote:
“Is that what America needs in 2024 — a ticket of Joe Biden and Liz Cheney? Or Joe Biden and Lisa Murkowski, or Kamala Harris and Mitt Romney, or Stacey Abrams and Liz Cheney, or Amy Klobuchar and Liz Cheney? Or any other such combination.”
Friedman phrases this as a question, but clearly he thinks it’s a good idea given the “existential moment” America would face if Trump is allowed to regain the presidency in 2024. It’s a bit of a loaded question, too, since it postulates that nothing short of a previously unimaginable “sacrifice” by Democrats and Never Trump Republicans alike can stop Trump — and that it would, in fact, succeed in stopping Trump.
I certainly agree that Democrats dumping Kamala Harris to give their vice-presidential nomination to a conservative Republican who opposes legalized abortion and is a militarist by conviction and heredity would be a “sacrifice,” to put it very mildly. It would also be very, very weird. Friedman cites the recent establishment of a mind-bending coalition government in Israel to thwart Bibi Netanyahu as a development comparable to what he is suggesting. But as he acknowledges, Israel has a parliamentary system in which multiparty coalitions are the rule rather than the exception. A presidential system in which parties invariably run separate tickets for the top job is another thing altogether.
The U.S. has had exactly one example of multiparty fusionism in a presidential election. In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Republicans nominated Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee — then serving as U.S. military governor of Tennessee — to run with Lincoln on a “Union” ticket. The experiment did not turn out well, beginning with Johnson’s drunken inaugural address in 1865 and continuing with the racist solidarity he exhibited toward ex-Confederates after Lincoln’s assassination, culminating in his impeachment and near removal from office. There are important reasons politicians sort themselves out into major parties, which should be apparent in an era of polarization over issues other than the scofflaw behavior of Donald Trump.
Is the threat of Trump’s return to the White House the equivalent of the U.S. Civil War? Not in itself, I would contend, though that horrific development could lead eventually to grave conditions comparable if not equal to a civil war. The premise that a Biden-Cheney fusion ticket would uniquely doom Trump to failure is even more dubious. There has never been much evidence of a mass following for Never Trump Republicans, and such as it is, it is mostly composed of people who would (and did in 2020) gladly vote for Biden and Harris. The baleful effect that replacing Harris with Cheney on the ticket would have on Democratic turnout could easily offset or exceed the alleged benefits of bipartisan and trans-ideological fusion.
So Democrats should say thanks, but no thanks, to Friedman for the idea of submitting their party to some sort of unwieldy and unnatural coalition of national salvation, so long as there is the slightest possibility of beating Trump the old-fashioned way. Liz Cheney deserves great respect for the courage she has shown in defying Trump at the expense of her own career, and if Biden is reelected with her support, perhaps she deserves an ambassadorship, a minor Cabinet post, or a major sub-Cabinet position. But she has no business being at the top of the line of succession to a Democratic president.