This is Dislocation, Not Division
by Chris Bowers, Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 11:17:47 AM EDT
In an article for Knight-Ridder, Steven Thomma and has his terminology wrong:What to do or say about war divides Democrats
BY STEVEN THOMMA
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
Antiwar and anti-Bush fervor, growing among rank-and-file Democrats, could push the party to the left and is creating a rift between activists and the party's leaders in Washington.
Many outside-the-beltway Democrats want the party to turn forcefully against the war in Iraq and to investigate, censure or even impeach President George W. Bush should the party win control of Congress this fall.(...)
And nationally, one poll shows that more than eight out of 10 Democrats now think the United States should have stayed out of Iraq. The same poll for CBS News, taken in early April, showed more than three out of five Democrats want U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, even if the country isn't stable. Didn't it ever occur Thomma that it is a little strange to write an article claiming Democrats are divided and then cite poll numbers showing that more than 80% of Democrats hold the same opinion about the war?
Thomma has his terminology wrong in this article. Democrats, both among the rank-and-file and among the activist base, are not divided on Iraq (or even censure, which is supported by 70% of self-identified Democrats). If Democrats were divided on Iraq, then they would be like Republicans. In September, when CBS asked a question on withdrawal that was more than a simple either / or question crafted by the Bush administration, 75% of Democrats said America should withdraw some or all of our troops, while only 19% said America should maintain or increase our current troops level. By contrast, Republicans were divided right down the middle, as 42% said we should withdraw some or all of our troops, and 50% said we should maintain or increase our current troop level. 75%-19% versus 50%-42%. Tell me again which side is divided.
Democrats outside of the marshmellow center Washington D.C. are far, far more numerous than Democrats inside Washington D.C. When the Democratic "leadership" holds positions in contrast to the vast majority of self-identified Democrats, then what we have is not a division. That is, instead, a dislocation. Particularly on Iraq, the Democratic leadership has, in many cases, become dislocated from the party that they ostensibly represent. Dislocations of this sort take place when new power structures arise to better represent the Democratic activist base and rank and file than the leadership.
Whatever is generating conventional wisdom among the Democratic leadership, it clear is not the same set of institutions that generates conventional wisdom among the activist base and the rank and file. I submit that the new people-powered progressive movement, with the netroots as its beating heart, is now more capable of swaying Democratic opinion on matters such as Iraq than is the Democratic leadership. Whenever a small minority in control of an institution holds an opinion that is in contrast to the vast majority of the membership of that institution, a change inevitably occurs. Either the leadership shifts and moves back in line, or the leadership itself is replaced. That is the only way dislocation of this sort is resolved. With people like Howard Dean moving into leadership positions, and current leaders like Evan Bayh moving back into line, I imagine the dislocation will eventually be resolved by a mix of the two options. Dislocation of this sort does not last forever, so I'd appreciate it if writers like Thomma would get their terminology straight while they still have the time.
Oh, and I agree with Thomma that being anti-Bush and anti-Iraq war are left-wing positions. As someone who believes that progressive positions are majority positions, I could not think of two better examples (here and here) of what it means to be left-wing.