Why Some Democrats Are More Scared Of Bush Than Their Base

By now, I'm sure most people have seen this:
Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break -- the second recess since the financing fight began -- and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush.
This isn't just a reporter putting words in Democratic mouths. As Matt showed earlier today, several specific Democrats are actually scared of Bush on this. Now, if you think it seems more than a little inane to be scared of a guy whose approval rating just hit an all-time low today, especially when it comes to a war which just reached its all-time low in terms of support today, and when, on Tuesday, centrist beltway firm GQR released a report showing that Republicans were being significantly damaged by the Iraq War debate, then you are probably right. I mean, given all of that, there is an outside chance you are right. Maybe.

But there is something else going on here besides a bizarre fear of continuing to oppose the least popular president in thirty years on the least popular war in fifty-five years, and a fear of prolonging a debate that was causing Democrats to win over voters in frontline House districts. Keep in mind that while a demoralized progressive activist base has negative repercussions for Democratic electoral fortunes in general elections, in terms of intra-party power struggles, a demoralized, progressive, grassroots activist base actually strengthens the position of neoliberals, LieberDems, and the DLC-nexus within the Democratic Party power structure. If progressive grassroots activists are too demoralized to make small donations, the party becomes more reliant on large donors. If we are too demoralized to run for party office or challenge sitting Democrats in primaries, the establishment Democratic power structure are never held accountable for running ineffective campaigns or selling out the base. If we don't use the strength of the progressive movement in the 2008 presidential primaries, then the influence the DLC-nexus, neoliberals, and LieberDems have in determining the direction of the Democratic Party increases. And on and on. In other words, there are those who benefit internally from a demoralized, inactive, progressive grassroots base, even if the party as a whole is damaged. We all saw this from 1994-2002, when the Democratic Party was regularly defeated in general elections on a scale not seen since the 1920s, and while the DLC-nexus simultaneously solidified a unprecedented level of control over the Democratic Party establishment.

For example, the idea that Hillary Clinton would be facing any serious challenge to the Democratic nomination without the expansion and maturation of the contemporary progressive movement and open left in the last four years is preposterous. That isn't to say that she has no support within the new movement, but just to state the obvious: she has less support within the movement than do other candidates, and far less support within the movement relative to the rest of the Democratic rank and file. Further, that isn't to imply that the only support candidates like Obama and Edwards have comes from the progressive movement, but once against to state the obvious: each candidate is greatly buoyed by the support he is receiving from the movement. Yet further, I do not mean to imply that there is an active "demoralize the grassroots base" strategy being undertaken by the Clinton campaign. I just wish to point out that one of the reasons some Democrats might be less scared of the activist base than they are of Bush is because a demoralized grassroots base actually has positive, intra-party side effects for some Democrats. See Lieberman, Joe for more information on that subject.

Maybe a better way to understand the situation is to state that some Democrats are more afraid of Bush than they are of a demoralized, progressive, grassroots base. After all, there are probably some Democrats who wish, for example, that the progressive blogosphere never came into existence, because then no one in the base would be calling them out on a regular basis. We are a direct threat to the long-accrued power of many members of the Democratic establishment, but only when we are active and energized. Given this, why should any of our favorite punching bags be afraid of doing something that would demoralize us? In fact, there are probably many who are eager to demoralize us. This is worth remembering whenever Democrats do something--secret trade deals, Iraq funding capitulation, lobbying reform collapses--that gives you the urge to thrown in the towel on intra-party activism. A demoralized grassroots base removes one of the main checks against Democrats who run amuck. Personally, after a short period of dejection, I now feel that the ways some Democrats have screwed up in the last couple weeks-- secret trade deals, Iraq funding capitulation, lobbying reform collapses--is a useful splash of cold water to remind me of how much work is left to be done in our intra-party struggles. I hope, as time goes on, more and more of us feel the same way. We will only lose over the long-term if we give up because of the short-term.

Tags: Democrats, DLC nexus, Machine, progressive movement (all tags)

Comments

21 Comments

The question is,

why is it so difficult?

Send it back, send it back again. John Edwards is right.

Congress you need some courage!

by dk2 2007-05-24 12:42PM | 0 recs
AMEN..

what is UP with these spinless Democrats?  I know they read the polling as we do, and Americans want us out, timeline, benchmarks, the whole shebang.  PERIOD.

This is not our problem, it is BUSH's problem, period.  As for these presidential candidates, I am waiting for what Obama is going to do.  If he signs this, I will relinquish my support of him and go fully behind Edwards.  I expect NOTHING from Clinton, and if she signs it, she is going to have great difficulty getting the Democration Nomination, she will.

And yes, congress needs courage and they needed it YESTERDAY.

by icebergslim 2007-05-24 12:55PM | 0 recs
Sending it Back

There is nothing wrong with presenting good legislation on a president's desk, knowing that it'll get vetoed. And repeatedly doing so, especially given the mood of the people, is a manifestation of American will, not political obstinancy.

Our Congress had a chance to shine today. Instead, they acted like a gambler on a losing streak nervously counting their chips.

by episty 2007-05-24 02:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Why Some Democrats Are More Scared Of Bush

So let's make them scared of a reenergized progressive activist base!

Stay in it for the long haul, put pressure on the capitulators, donate to and work for the anti-war members and candidates.  Let the centrists fund the rest--they are going to do so anyway.  But we need to focus on electing more of our candidates and not waste time on primaries against centrists who are going to win anyway.

by Mimikatz 2007-05-24 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Why Some Democrats Are More Scared Of Bush

I think we need to pick one and make his life miserable even if he wins.  But it would be sweet if one of these lost.  The only reason Lieberman is still there is because they didn't have a law to prevent him from running in both.  So as long as the same thing can't happen, I think we should go after Hoyer or someone really prominent in a primary.  It would really scare them.

by pioneer111 2007-05-24 02:03PM | 0 recs
We are NOT demoralized

From what I'm reading, the progressive base is NOT demoralized.

We are pissed off, betrayed, angered, saddened, whatever.

What I think we are most feeling, though, is how we exact some consequences on the sell-outs we supported, and how we replace them with representatives who actually care about the views of their constituents.  

Payback is a bitch.  

by leftvet 2007-05-24 12:42PM | 0 recs
Democrats Need Powder Milk Biscuits

Maybe this will work: Democrats Need Powder Milk Biscuits

by Virt 2007-05-24 01:02PM | 0 recs
Why?

Agreed...

So why do you think that the DLC/HRC wanted to put Harold Ford Jr in the DNC?

Also, Howard has been pretty quiet about the 50 State Strategy, which we need to start ramping up now -- after maybe a large influx of cash?  From where?  

http://electioncentral.tpmcafe.com/blog/ electioncentral/2007/mar/30/howard_dean_ bringing_in_big_money_for_the_dnc_from_m ajor_donors

Each grassroot progressive needs to act like hawks with regard to their congressmember, just as much as the lobbyists are.  The votes we have today, if we don't start taking notice and action will be the votes in September and in 2008, 2009.

Face it... we have a big problem in the Democratic Party.

by SandThroughTheEyeGlass 2007-05-24 01:08PM | 0 recs
Scared of Bush

This is the whole "Karl Rove" complex coming back around again. We saw it prior to the 2006, with no shortage of pundits and politicans warning that the democratic strategy of challenging Bush on the War would come back to bite us in the ass, because the GOP machine said so, and Karl Rove had "the numbers".

These fears never materialized, and I would argue it was because they had no basis in reality. We saw similiar warnings heading into this war funding debate, despite the fact that the public overwheliming supports the democratic position on this issue.

It seems to me to be part of the corporate Media Strategy; make up a headline that says "Some say Democrats will pay a price because of (blank)" and then fill it in as we go along. I find it humerous that CNN was running a similar headline yesterday after announcement of the compromise ("Will Democrats pay price for Compromise?"). If the Democrats sent the exact same supplimental to Bush as the one he vetoed CNN would have ran the same headline, just adjusting the headline a tiny bit("Will the Dem's pay a price for challenging Bush?").Either way the Dems are always portrayed as weak and/or stupid.

I think we need to take this time (now through September) to not get mad at who voted what way (although feel free to do so), but to instead redouble our efforts to force an end to this. We need to continue to speak out on why the occupation of Iraq is weaking our national security. But we also must remember that the people are with us on this issue (regardless of what CNN or some consultant say), but their congressmen might not be, so we must work twice as hard to make sure that those Congressmen and Senators hear the voices of their consitutents, as well as rational arguments for why this needs to end now, not in another six months.

by bjschmid 2007-05-24 01:10PM | 0 recs
Let's pick a fight. A big fight.

Let's pick some democrats who have been voting especially badly on withdrawal and time lines that are in safe blue districts and ramp up the pressure. We should pick more than one as I don't think that would shake things up enough. We should pick three or five or ten, whatever is reasonable and manageable financially and logistically.

We should focus our angst on those that are voting especially badly who are in solid blue districts.We're more likely to be successful in bringing them around or successfully primarying them and then winning the general.

Our effort should involve a co-ordinated effort between:

National bloggers
Local bloggers
National progressive groups
Local progressive groups
MoveOn.org
Votevets.org

We may gain more traction down the road with primarying someone if we select those that are also bad on other issues that are likely to resonate with democratic primary voters in their district. If it looks like we're serious in holding specific members feet to the fire as well as building towards a serious and well funded primary of those that don't fall into line we're going to shake up our caucus and scare the hold outs into doing the right thing.

We can do this with leadership and effort. It would, I think, be perhaps the best use of the anger, frustration and betrayal we're all feeling right now. If you agree with me then start offering up names for consideration along with a case for why.

by Quinton 2007-05-24 01:23PM | 0 recs
I couldn't agree more.

This is the only answer. We need to put a face, or a few faces, to the anger and betrayal we feel, and we need to punish them politically. We need to committ to focusing on the few we pick and not get distracted, and we need to make them stay up night worrying about all the money and bad press we're raising. We need a list of people willing to call their offices--each person once a month or once a week or whatever--and to fax, and to attend rallies.

We need to harness our anger. We need to personalize this. If we do this for the few, the others will take notice.

We also need leadership on this, from some of the Heavy Hitters ...

by BingoL 2007-05-24 01:32PM | 0 recs
Re: I couldn't agree more.

So, who would you put on the list? We'll have a better idea after todays vote, but there's been enough previous votes that we should be able to pin point some great targets already.

by Quinton 2007-05-24 01:46PM | 0 recs
Re: I couldn't agree more.

Tauscher for one ... anyone know what the deal with her getting primaried is?  How I'd love for Steny Hoyer to get primaried as well.  That would surely shock the establishment

by Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle 2007-05-24 01:51PM | 0 recs
Re: I couldn't agree more.

Tauscher for sure. I think blogswarm is all over that one. Maybe he'll poke his head in and let us know. I'd love to see Rahm go down over the new trade deal and the last one amongst other good reasons. I believe there's a number of blue dogs who vote poorly but are actually in safe seats.

by Quinton 2007-05-24 01:55PM | 0 recs
Re: I couldn't agree more.

Well, I'll tell you what I'd do.

I'd have Chris, or Hunter, or Meteor Blades, or McJoan, or whomever, post a diarly (maybe bi-weekly to start, then weekly) on dKos, here, Booman, etc., asking commenters to mention in the subject line the name of the Democrat (with whatever caveats: blue districts, etc.) they think most deserves targetting for righteous anger and replacement via primary. I'd ask people to pledge specific numbers of hours and dollars, too, against their chosen target.

Then we'd compile a list of name and votes. See who's in first, who's in second, etc. Then my cadre of volunteers (which is where I personally would come in) would contact every Democrat with more than X number of votes, and  tell 'em they're on the list. (To try to leverage the power of this, though we'd still only focus on the worst three, or whatever). Tell 'em if they're moving up the list or down, and how many hours/dollars they've got against them.

I'd keep this up ... forever. Except at certain points, we'd figure who was in the Top Spots o' Doom, and start trying to collect the money and the volunteer hours.

In other words, I'd make picking the targets actually part of the targeting. Keep the pressure on, steady, drip drip drip drip drip.

But that's all off the top of my head while I'm feeding the baby, so take with a grain of mashed carrots.

by BingoL 2007-05-24 01:57PM | 0 recs
Re: I couldn't agree more.

I like it, Bingo.

by joyful alternative 2007-05-25 01:44AM | 0 recs
Re: I couldn't agree more.

Hoyer would be a good place to start.

by pioneer111 2007-05-24 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Why Some Democrats Are More Scared

Once we win the primary, we have as good a shot as any other Democrat in the general election.

by meelar 2007-05-24 01:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Why Some Democrats Are More Scared Of Bush Tha

Like my DKos sig says, "We aren't expecting the Democrats to save us. Rather, we're working through the Democratic Party to save the country."

Yeah, I'm depressed and demoralized about the Capitulation Bill.  But that's only for a couple of days.  Can't avoid it entirely, because you've got to let yourself feel what you really feel.  But I'm not gonna wallow in it, nor am I going to confuse that feeling with 'giving up on the Democrats' or some such.  It's been years since I expected them to save us, and nothing about their failure now changes the fact that they're still the best tool handy to change the country with.

So it's a couple of days of being bummed, then get away from the 'puter and enjoy the 3-day weekend ahead, then back to normal on Tuesday.

by RT 2007-05-24 01:32PM | 0 recs
Chris, Post this on Dkos

I think this is a fabulous diary.  A little depressing to think about, but it is something that we all need to think about and perhaps act on.

I think the title might be better if it were something like

Why Democrats in DC may want a demoralized base.

Just some suggestions.  Thanks for the thoughtfulness you share.

by pioneer111 2007-05-24 02:11PM | 0 recs
Some Democrats Are More Scared Of MSM attacks

Really good insights, Chris.

I have no doubt that many candidates are afraid of how the MSM will portray them in their districts and home states. The MSM is not the ally of progressives.

by FishOutofWater 2007-05-24 05:27PM | 0 recs

Diaries

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