Thursday, October 29, 2009


That headline's meant to be provocative ... but I'm looking at the response to Democrats (and the one semi-Democrat) who are threatening to block a public option, and I'm thinking about our side's standard angry response (Primary them! Withhold support next time they run! Run a campaign revealing their betrayal of Democratic principles!) and I'm thinking that the emptiness of such threats was made perfectly clear on November 7, 2006, when all that had actually happened to Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont still couldn't beat him -- in a very blue state. If overthrowing the top dog is your goal, you damn well better succeed, because if you fail, you look weak. Progressives failed in Connecticut in 2006. What smart politician wouldn't get the message?

So when I'm at Politico and I'm reading that MoveOn is threatening to withhold support from senators like Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, I just roll my eyes. You think these people are afraid of MoveOn? In their states?

I keep pointing you to Gallup's survey of political ideology by state. The states in which these Democrats were elected break down this way, based on poll respondents' descriptions of themselves

Arkansas: 43% conservative, 16% liberal, 36% moderate
Nebraska: 39% conservative, 19% liberal, 39% moderate
Louisiana: 47% conservative, 14% liberal, 35% moderate

If that's the voter breakdown and these voters voted for a Democrat, then they didn't want that Democrat to be a liberal. Threats from liberal groups aren't going to help.

I know, I know: liberals and moderates favor the public option, and if you put together a coalition of liberals and moderates and give them what they want, surely you'll be reelected. But liberals and moderates aren't adequately politicized -- they don't stand up for what they want. They don't vote, or withhold votes, based on fealty to progressive (or even moderate) principles -- that's the message of Connecticut '06.

(And there are a hell of a lot more moderates than liberals in Connecticut -- 41% of Connecticut residents are moderates, and only 24% are liberals, according to Gallup. Conservatives are 31% of the electorate -- yup, there are more conservatives than liberals in Connecticut. There are more conservatives than liberals in all 50 states, because most non-red states are dominated by mushy moderates.)

I think wingnut Republicans are extremists who believe insane things -- but I envy thir level of political engagement. They know what they want and they vote accordingly. They've engineered a coup in upstate New York's 23rd congressional district, and they're making Charlie Crist sweat in Florida. Right-wingers know how to rally a base -- and, ultimately, politicians -- around an ideology. Our side has learned in recent years how to get whoever happens to be called a Democrat elected -- but no more than that.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need to make more liberals in this country. We need to politicize more ordinary Americans the way the right-wing crazies have. We need a politicized, demanding voting bloc politicians fear. Until we have that, Conservadems know they're free to tell us where we can stick MoveOn.

No comments: