After the press spent last weekend gushing over liberal bloggers with nothing but glowing coverage of the YearlyKos convention in Chicago, the media's fascination with the Netroots continued with reckless abandon this weekend.
On Saturday, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, to be followed by a debate on Sunday's "Meet the Press" between the head Kossack and the chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, Harold Ford, Jr.
Are media recognizing the power of the Netroots, or just trying to assist their efforts to move the Democrat Party further and further to the left?
Regardless of the answer, Moulitsas continued to posit in the Post the same absurd assertion from his keynote address last weekend that he and his ilk represent the center of American politics (emphasis added):
A new day is dawning for the progressive movement. The distrust between Net-roots activists and more traditional progressive players in the party establishment and issue groups has given way to respectful cooperation as we all adjust to new technologies and the promise they hold for institutional change.
Last week, at the YearlyKos convention, all these players came together to celebrate our newfound unity and to organize for the coming battles in 2008 and beyond. The DLC was nowhere to be found -- unless you looked in Nashville, where its members continued to preach, in empty halls, about the "vital center." Even the Democratic presidential candidates have figured out where the heart of the party now lies: with the new, unashamedly progressive movement.
The DLC had two decades to make its case, to build an audience and community, to elect leaders the American people wanted. It failed.
Its members number in the hundreds, compared with the millions that the people-powered movement can claim, and they are reduced to attacking our movement from the studios of right-wing Fox News and pleading that in the next election they'll really prove that the mushy, indistinguishable "middle" is where the American people want to be.
Their time is up. The "center" is where we stand now, promoting an engaged and active politics embraced by significant majorities of Americans.
Every time you hear someone on the far left state that his or her political opinions represent the center of American politics, you really have to wonder what the color of the sky is in their world.
On the other hand, you have to give Moulitsas credit, for unlike Al Gore, at least he's willing to debate folks he disagrees with. But, he had better be at the top of his game, for the Post published an op-ed of Ford's on Tuesday, and the former Congressman is clearly loaded for bear (emphasis added):
Some liberals are so confident about Democratic prospects that they contend the centrism that vaulted Democrats to victory in the 1990s no longer matters.
The temptation to ignore the vital center is nothing new. Every four years, in the heat of the nominating process, liberals and conservatives alike dream of a world in which swing voters don't exist. Some on the left would love to pretend that groups such as the Democratic Leadership Council, the party's leading centrist voice, aren't needed anymore.
But for Democrats, taking the center for granted next year would be a greater mistake than ever before. George W. Bush is handing us Democrats our Hoover moment. Independents, swing voters and even some Republicans who haven't voted our way in more than a decade are willing to hear us out. With an ambitious common-sense agenda, the progressive center has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win back the White House, expand its margins in Congress and build a political and governing majority that could last a generation.
In fact, Ford seemed to be pointing a cautionary finger right at Moulitsas and his ilk:
As the caucuses and primaries approach, candidates will come under increasing pressure to ignore the broader electorate and appeal to the party faithful. But the opportunity to build a historic majority is too great -- and too rare -- to pass up.
In 2006, conservatives lost the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party, and, as a result, both chambers of Congress.
A similar battle is being waged in the Democrat Party, with just as significant ramifications for the upcoming elections. As Kimberley Strassel wrote in Friday's Wall Street Journal (emphasis added):
The far left has found something to unify it -- hatred of George W. Bush. Technology has given it the means to organize; what the right found in talk radio, liberals have found in the "netroots" Internet, from Moveon.org to Daily Kos. Its activism has of late overshadowed groups like the DLC, which still believe in such creaky notions as ideas. Even Mr. Ford, who took over the DLC chairmanship in January, is willing to admit his outfit has been eclipsed: "The DLC and other moderate groups have struggled a bit to find not only our voice, but a way to be heard."
Making it harder is that this newly energized left is directing inordinate firepower on the DLC itself, in a crazed, purist drive to purge any group that would exert a moderating influence on the Democratic Party. New Republic scribe Noam Scheiber let loose a few weeks back in a New York Times hit piece, calling the DLC "radioactive" and "quaint," gloating that its "fading influence was good news for the entire party," and arguing that it should just get lost. Markos Moulitsas, chief flogger-blogger on the Daily Kos, this week slammed the DLC as a group that wants to "blur distinctions with the GOP," and reveling that Democrats had won in 2006 because liberals like himself had "forced" Americans to pick sides.
The real target audience for these pronouncements is the Democratic presidential field, and the threat is clear: Touch the DLC, and you will be (to use a favorite, medieval Kos word) "punished." At least a few activists danced a victory lap, too, a few weeks back when every last Democratic candidate spurned the DLC's annual convention in Nashville, instead turning up at Mr. Moulitsas's YearlyKos event in Chicago.
Yet, the celebration might be very premature:
Congress alone should be cause for the DLC's concern. Nancy Pelosi shrewdly presented her party as more centrist in last year's election, yet upon winning tossed the gavel to her liberal wing. Egged on by activists, Congressional Democrats have spent eight months fighting for surrender in Iraq, tanking trade pacts with Latin America and South Korea and maneuvering to institute backdoor socialized health care. This undoubtedly has something to do with Congress's approval rating, which now stands below that of even President Bush.
And the presidential candidates? Mr. From says he's happy that none of the front-runners have so far "gone off the deep end," but this might be considered faint praise. The one grown-up on national security has been Sen. Joe Biden, who barely registers in Democratic polls. Hillary Clinton has come out against even a South Korean trade deal; this from the wife of the DLCer whose own free-trade impulses (at least his first term) delivered Nafta and GATT. Barack Obama produced a little shiver among his party's fiscal disciplinarians when he recently blurted out (at the Kos event, in case you were wondering), that he'd be happy to run up deficits in the name of greater domestic spending.
Mr. Ford, for his part, has dark warnings for those activists selling the line that last year's election is proof that their liberal ideas are now "mainstream," or that Democrats' reputation on national security and the economy is so secure that the candidates run no risk going left. "That's called short-term memory," he says, with a few references to Carter, Mondale and other ghosts of failed Democrats past.
In fact, Moulitsas' ego seems to be getting the better of him when he suggests that he and the Netroots were responsible for Democrat successes in November 2006. As Strassel pointed out:
The party's most impressive gains last year all came from politicians straight out of the DLC cast. Four governors spoke at the DLC convention this year; all four had beat Republicans. The vast majority of the pick-ups in the House came from DLCers in red states in the South and Midwest. The Senate wouldn't be in Democratic hands were it not for Montana's Jon Tester.
"The reality is, without the DLC, and without candidates who subscribe to our platform, Democrats wouldn't be in the majority today. If we abandon that group, we will lose the majority and we will lose the White House," says Mr. Ford.
Certainly, conservatives hope Ford is right, and that Democrats will foolishly follow the inexperienced Moulitsas into the river.
That said, Markos better be prepared tomorrow, for Ford is a lifelong politician, not just some guy with a laptop and an Internet connection.
*****Update: Freeper "Roscoe Karns" offers a humorous Photoshopped pictorial of how this debate might look tomorrow.