by Chris Bowers, Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 10:50:21 AM EDT
So, as Matt already noted, in true DLC-nexus fashion, anto-democracy Stuart Rothenberg predictably thinks that Democrats are smart for ignoring their progressive activist base, and instead catering to "swing voters." As Matt points out, this doesn't make much sense, since the only polling on the subject shows that Iraq capitulation actually hurt Democrats.
However, leaving aside actual polling numbers for a moment, there are other reasons why catering to mythical, center-right swing voters and other 1990's chimeras should not always be the number one priority of the Democratic leadership. For one thing, swing voters don't contribute money, they don't volunteer for campaigns, they don't challenge right-wing media narratives, they don't keep Democrats active and energized to vote, and they don't expand the electoral playing field. Rather, these are tasks all carried out by the progressive activist base that Rothenberg thinks has "nowhere else to go" and which the Democratic Party "risks very little, at least at this point, in disappointing." The fact is that the resources and political machinery Democrats need in order to win elections are derived, in large part, from its progressive, activist base. Further, for all of the reasons mentioned above, which I outlined in more detail for an article for the Democratic Strategist), the rise of the progressive movement is the main reason that the Democratic Party has closed the resource and political machinery gap on Republicans since 2002. Thus, alienating that movement is extremely high-risk for Democrats, since participants in the progressive movement may not be swing voters, but they are certainly swing activists. Losing our support can be very dangerous.
Take the 2000 election as an example of this. Had that activist base not been alienated in 2000 as a result of 1990's DLC-nexus triangulation, Al Gore would have won the presidency without any Supreme Court cases or hanging chads. And I'm not just talking about Naderite voters when I make that claim, as virtually every progressive now understands that third parties do not lead to politically effective outcomes for progressives. Rather, I'm talking about the lack of activism progressives undertook on Gore's behalf, including the massive fundraising gap he faced, the anti-Gore media narratives that went virtually unchallenged, and the relative lack of boots on the ground for his campaign. The 2000 election showed that there are lots of places for progressive activism to go besides helping Democratic leaders we don't like all that much, including primary challenges for candidates like Donna Edwards and social justice movement work. Apathy doesn't work for progressives, but in the 1990's most progressive activism went to the social justice movement rather than electoral politics. Channeling some of that activism to electoral politics would have swung the 2000 election no problem, and as such we wouldn't even be in Iraq now.
Finally, that the progressive activist base was right on Iraq from the get-go actually points to another area where ignoring the progressive, activist base poses a risk for Democrats. We have a tendency to be correct on things like the Iraq war turning into a disaster, and ignoring us can not only lead to gaps in electoral resources and machinery, but also to horrendous, destructive public policy. As such, it would be wise for Democrats to take actions to ensure not only that progressive activism and resources keep flowing in their direction, but that progressive policy ideas do as well.