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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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.”

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