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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Partisan and Ideological Rorschach Test

I’ve written earlier about the long-running but intensifying debate within the blogosphere about the netroots’ orientation towards a purely partisan or more ideological stance. Mark Warner’s announcement that he’s running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia is proving to be something of a Rorschach Test for this difference of opinion.
At OpenLeft.com (a site founded in no small part to push netrooters towards an ideological orientation), Matt Stoller greets Warner’s “disgusting, Lieberman-esque” announcement with this categorical judgment:

Warner’s a centrist, not a partisan, and my guess is that this will turn a lot of people off who had previously ‘loved’ Mark Warner. If the Republicans can find a candidate, I think he’s going to have a bumpier ride than expected. He’ll still win, in all likelihood, but he’s going to be a bad Senator.

Note the planted axiom here that “centrists” can’t be “partisans.”
Meanwhile, over at DailyKos, Markos Moulitsas expresses zero ambilvalence over Warner’s decision:

Mark Warner was the most popular governor in Virginia history. Republicans, on the other hand, will face a bloody primary that will pit not just “moderate” versus conservative, but NoVa versus Southern Virginia. This Tom Davis versus Jim Gilmore contest should be positively bloody, and further deplete and demoralize a Virginia Republican Party in retreat.
About the only Republican happy today is George “Macaca” Allen, who is eyeing the 2009 gubernatorial contest. With Warner probably out of the picture, his chances for a comeback are much greater. But that’s a bridge we’ll cross in 2009. As for now, and with all caveats about getting too cocky and all, this seat will remain in the hands of a senator named “Warner”.

As some of you may remember, Mark Warner’s relative merits have always been a contentious issue in the progressive blogosphere. Matt Bai’s book The Argument has an entire chapter about Warner’s famous appearance at the first YearlyKos conference, which began as a lovefest and concluded with some mutual reassessment of Warner’s relationship to the netroots (Bai even suggests that Warner’s experience at YearlyKos had a significant impact on his decision to fold his presidential campaign).
Now we’re talking not about a Warner presidential run, but about a red-state Senate campaign. And it’s a road-sign in the partisan/ideological debate that such a candidacy is being hooted at in a prominent progressive site.
We’ll probably see even sharper disagreements if Bob Kerrey, an inveterate defier of ideological orthodoxy, decides to run for the Senate in Nebraska.

One comment on “Partisan and Ideological Rorschach Test

  1. Matt on

    I wouldn’t say I was stunned when I read Matt Stoller’s reaction, but I was fairly taken aback.
    Notice too the description of how Warner made his fortune — “honest graft”. Stoller doesn’t mince words — he accuses the governor of stealing a public asset (albeit in a legal way).
    I’m pretty sure we need that discussion of ground rules talking with each other. Sooner, rather than later.


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