by Chris Bowers, Thu May 24, 2007 at 12:23:29 PM EDT
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.