Ellen O. Tauscher (CA-10) decided to do a preemptive counterattack against the left-wing of the Democratic Party the week before the elections. Maybe she is trying to reassure Boeing, Wal-Mart, and Pfizer that the new wave of Democrats will be every bit the lap-dogs of their industries that Tom DeLay and the K Street project have been. Maybe she is just a stupid person. But we don’t need this fight right now. Here Is what she said.
Representative Ellen O. Tauscher of California, a co-chairwoman of the 47-member New Democrat Coalition, said that 27 of the top 40 contested House seats were being pursued by Democrats who have pledged to become members of the group, which says its chief issues are national security and fiscal responsibility.
“I think there’s tremendous agreement and awareness that getting the majority and running over the left cliff is what our Republican opponents would dearly love,” Ms. Tauscher said, adding that this was something “we’ve got to fight.”
They are not so much overreacting as they are stepping on this week’s message. I am reminded of a Buddhist aphorism. A young monk and an old monk come to a stream where an attractive young lady is crying. Her leg has been badly injured and she cannot forge across the stream. The young monk says that they are prohibited from touching a woman and that he is sorry but they cannot help her. The old monk says, “Get on my back”, and helps her across the stream. After the woman goes on her way, the young monk is outraged and asks the old monk how he could have done such a thing. The old monk turns to the young monk and says, “I have already put her down and you are still carrying her.”
That’s how I feel about Stoller and Bowers’ seemingly sudden outrage at the DLC’ers of the Democratic Party. We always knew that winning a majority in Congress was only the first step in a much longer process. We knew that Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer were recruiting moderates, hawks, and social conservatives and stifling primaries. Chris and I were both early supporters of Chuck Pennacchio’s protest run for Pennsylvania Senate. We accepted the outcome of that primary and focused our efforts elsewhere, in rebuilding the Pennsylvania party from the ground up.
For long-time readers of this blog, it should come as no surprise that I feel this way. While we have a lot of members, including but not limited to the Liberal Street Fighter crew, that are utterly disenchanted with the Democratic Party, I have argued that we can and will change the party over time. I have argued that a victory this fall will be a boon for progressives beyond what most people probably expect. For example, I have written about the Black Revolution in the House should we take control. I have written about the impact on judicial candidates in Democratic Senate. I’ve written about why I have faith in Speaker Pelosi. I wrote about how surprisingly progressive a Democratic House will be. And I wrote a piece on why the DLC will not be emboldened by a takeover of the house.
In other words, I have taken it as a given that the party is going to be waging an intramural struggle after these elections. I have been mostly concerned with demonstrating confidence and optimism in the face of determined attacks from my left about the futility of progress within the two-party system. But, I have never denied that there are many reasons to be pessimistic and despairing. So, it almost seems like I’m watching Casablanca and Bowers and Stoller are “shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” Of course there is rot in the heart of our party. What do you think the whole Lieberman fight is about? One man? Or is it about Democrats like Jane Harman, James Woolsey, Tom Carper, Marty Peretz, and the rest of the crew that labors for ever bigger military budgets and ever more interventions in the Middle East?
This is a two-party system, and the powers-that-be own considerable parts of both parties. Together they have failed us in the post-9/11 world. Both sides need to be purged. But that is not what this week is about. This week is about the first major step in the process. It is not the time for purity tests.
Several years ago there was a fire in girl’s school in Saudi Arabia. Many of them burned to death when the religious police forbade people to rescue girls that were not modestly dressed. Well, our country is on fire. We knew that. It isn’t any great surprise that a considerable part of the Democratic Party is both partly responsible for setting it ablaze and afraid of the consequences of the resulting structural damage. Will their house, built on raw expressions of unilateral power and aggressive empire, continue to stand? Are we going to go put out the fire, or stand around asking if the victims deserve to be rescued?
There are reactionary forces in American politics. This has been the case forever. It was true in 1933, when right-wingers attempted to overthrow FDR in the business plot. It was true in the late 40’s and early 50’s when the second red scare was launched. It was true when Kennedy and LBJ felt obligated to intervene in Cuba and Vietnam. It was true when Nixon ruled the roost, and when Gerald Ford launched Team B. And it has been especially true ever since Ronald Reagan took power in 1981.
All though this history progressives have been winning their own little wars. Desegregation, the Voting Rights Act, expanded rights for women, gay rights and recognition, the EPA, and other victories have come with the defeats. These victories were never Democratic victories, they were progressive victories. None of them would have been possible without significant Republican support. But we can no longer find progressives in the Republican Party to work with, so we must work on purifying the Democratic Party.
We already knew that. But first things first. We need to put out the fire, and it doesn’t matter if we have some moral qualms about the rectitude of the people being consumed by the fire. When the problem is a nail, you use a hammer. After November 7th, the problem will no longer be a nail. And we will need to find a different tool to do the job.
The young monk wonders what we are doing sullying our principles by carrying people like Ford, Casey Jr., and Heath Schuler across the stream. The old monk says, I have already put them down, but you are still carrying them.
After November 7th, the netroots, at least people like Stoller, Bowers, and me, will not be carrying these people over the water. We will have moved on…to defeating them in their next primaries.