Democrats are getting an early glimpse of an intraparty rift that could complicate efforts to win back the White House: fiery liberals raising their voices on Web sites and in interest groups vs. elected officials trying to appeal to a much broader audience.
Hey, Jim, I got an early glimpse of that intraparty rift, too. It was called the year 1951. What's up next for you, "Spring Training Crowds Suggest Some Fans Don't Like the Yankees"?
These activists -- spearheaded by battle-ready bloggers and making their influence felt through relentless e-mail campaigns -- have denounced what they regard as a flaccid Democratic response to the Supreme Court fight, President Bush's upcoming State of the Union address and the Iraq war. In every case, they have portrayed party leaders as gutless sellouts.
First, liberal Web logs went after Democrats for selecting Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to deliver the response to Bush's speech next Tuesday. Kaine's political sins: He was too willing to drape his candidacy in references to religion and too unwilling to speak out aggressively against Bush on the Iraq war. Kaine has been lauded by party officials for finding a victory formula in Bush country by running on faith, values and fiscal discipline.
Because remember, Democrats, the Republicans have already shown the intraparty rift which will complicate efforts to retain control of the White House with that Harriet Meiers business. Or Schiavo. Sheesh, I thought VandeHei would never shut up about it, whichever one it was.
Really, now: why is this a story? Is there a prize out there somewhere for the One Millionth Rehash of the Lefties Obstruct Democratic Electoral Success story? 'Cause I'm not sure why anyone got lathered up over Tim Kaine, or who it was, for that matter, but I assume they were voicing their own opinions. As for Alito, I'd like to hear from someone who doesn't regard the Democratic response as flaccid, which by the way is pronounced "flak' sid", not "flassid". Sorry, pet peeve.
That leaves us with Iraq, where, if I understand correctly, moving to the right will not actually connect with some untouched central core of the poll-responding populace.
"The bloggers and online donors represent an important resource for the party, but they are not representative of the majority you need to win elections," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who advised Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. "The trick will be to harness their energy and their money without looking like you are a captive of the activist left."
Man, that is what I love about the Democratic party. It's the real party of opportunity, the only one where a Kerry advisor can still lecture the country on what it takes to win elections.
The blogs-vs.-establishment fight represents the latest version of a familiar Democratic dispute. It boils down to how much national candidates should compromise on what are considered core Democratic values -- such as abortion rights, gun control and opposition to conservative judges -- to win national elections.
Either I need a shower or VandeHei just plopped an unrefrigerated week-old mackerel in the middle of page six. I've got no problem with calling "abortion rights" a core Democratic value, excepting that the battle is more properly over reproductive rights, which itself grows out of the actual core value of privacy, or placing personal liberty over state intrusion. But gun control? Is gun control properly a core Democratic value? And "opposition to conservative judges" just convinces me that VandeHei was typing so fast he'd forgotten how the sentence began.
[Blah blah, Web emerges as powerful political force, blah blah Howard Dean.]
The closest historic parallel would be the talk-radio phenomenon of the early 1980s, when conservatives -- like liberals now -- felt powerless and certain they did not have a way to voice their views because the mainstream media and many of their own leaders considered them out of touch. Through talk radio, often aired in rural parts of the country on the AM dial, conservatives pushed the party to the right on social issues and tax cuts
Or, The Sketch Book of Rip Van VandeHei. If you want to rewrite history it's generally best to choose a period the majority of your readers have no knowledge of. Ronald Reagan was president in the 80s, Jim; he's the guy they renamed one of your airports for. The Press was already behaving like a good lapdog, and the Moral Majority was all the rage. "Conservatives" didn't feel powerless; they played powerless on the radio, on teevee, and in the papers, something they'd been doing at least since Nixon's "Silent Majority" speech. And it's difficult to understand how one is out of touch on abortion rights, the war in Iraq, and, for that matter, gun control when one holds essentially the same positions as the majority of Americans. But I guess that's why I don't write analysis for the Post.