Scheiber (TNR) in NYT doesn't like Democratic success
by IseFire, Wed Aug 09, 2006 at 06:43:40 AM EDT
Kos calls it "people-power" politics; Noam Scheiber of The New Republic (TNR) in an op-ed in today's NY Times calls it the power politics of "Counter-Bushies" taking over the Democratic Party.
Scheiber fairly accurately describes in generalizations that limited space allows him, how the Democratic Party is being changed by a loosely-structured pragmatic liberalism movement successfully leveraging the Internet for fund-raising and organizing.
He describes it, but he doesn't seem to like it. And when given the Times' editorial pages to write about it, he whines.
The knight of The New Republic is in a dark mood; he barely hides his disapproval of the counter-Bushies. Maybe his term "Bushy" is meant to satirically make diminutive the most power small-minded President in the republic's history; but, somehow it instead seems a jab at his fellow Democrats who Scheiber, if he were less concerned with being clever, might simply name accurately: "pragmatic liberals."
His description of how the Democratic Party is changing is sometimes accurate. But not entirely. He writes that local interest groups, such as local unions, have less power nowadays in the Democratic Party, and liberals, apparently not localized, have more. He writes that liberals are forcing moderate Democrats to be more stridently partisan, at least in rhetoric, and might even be ruining the chances for moderate Democrats to get involved in politics. Scheiber spells this out, and relentlessly contradicts himself in the process.
Scheiber writes about the party's new liberal movement as if it somehow never manifests itself as local factions, such as--let us use an example--locally-active liberals in a Connecticut Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.
Scheiber seems unaware of the many commentators down-playing the influence of the impressive yet nebulous liberal "blogosphere" in the Connecticut Primary just ended, who conversely stress that pragmatic liberal rank-and-file activity "on the ground" in Connecticut is largely responsible for Lamont defeating Leiberman.
But Scheiber's argument that counter-Bushy Democrats will stifle ambitious, budding Democratic moderate politicians is the most unconvincing of all his arguments. Scheiber notes that Rep. Harry Reid is a moderate--was and still is--who Scheiber's straw-scented counter-Bushies like. Consider the case of Lamont, too: he was opposed to the invasion of Iraq; but, he's a moderate, and one who was almost certainly supported by many Connecticut Democrats more ideologically liberal than he is, for the very sensible reason that he--even as a moderate--was still more liberal than Lieberman who wasn't only moderate, but relatively frequently attacked fellow Democrats, and with an off-putting moralizing tone.
In the end, Scheiber comes alarmingly close to echoing the conservative Republican media machine's conflating of pragmatic liberals with ideological liberals. There are liberals who will only support candidates who have leftwing opinions on issues deemed relevant. These liberals, at the end of the day, are probably liberals first and Democrats second, and securing a Democratic majority in Congress and issues of the electability of candidates almost always matter less to them than a candidate's ideological purity. These liberals are what the likes of Fox News make all liberals out to be, especially those darn "bloggers," because it serves their partisan purposes to paint all critics as radicals.
And then there are pragmatic liberals, who are likely to support candidates like Scott Kleeb in Nebraska, another young, new moderate Democrat who belies Scheiber's claim that moderates' future in the Party is threatened. Kleeb is a practicing Roman Catholic and supports the war in Iraq. Yet, he is supported by many of the same "counter-Bushies" Scheiber fears. Importantly, Kleeb, unlike Lieberman, has no rich history of Democrat-bashing. Importantly, Kleeb is running is a very Republican district. Plenty of liberals, like me, understand the realpolitik implications of the Kleeb race and support Scott.
Scheiber would do well to expand his understanding of the historical contexts of the Democratic Party's changes. He needs to go beyond bemoaning how the Democratic Party is...well, becoming less like the Republic Party. Parties evolve, including their identities contra rival parties.
This movement of pragmatic liberalism is helping the Democratic Party currently. Democrats seem set to win many elections in November. The Democratic Party is getting its act together in terms of organizing and unifying its message, as well as being competitive in all 50 states. Fundraising is going quite well. One would think that a Democrat would be happy about these things. Yet, Scheiber seems disappointed. And to me, that seems positively Republican.