Who Are Dems Listening To?

mcjoan highlights Paul Krugman's kudos to the Democratic base for pulling the Democratic Party to majority positions on Iraq and other issues:

Normally, politicians face a difficult tradeoff between taking positions that satisfy their party’s base and appealing to the broader public.... But a funny thing has happened on the Democratic side: the party’s base seems to be more in touch with the mood of the country than many of the party’s leaders. And the result is peculiar: on key issues, reluctant Democratic politicians are being dragged by their base into taking highly popular positions. Iraq is the most dramatic example.... It took an angry base to push the Democrats into taking a tough line in the midterm election. And it took further prodding from that base — which was infuriated when Barack Obama seemed to say that he would support a funding bill without a timeline — to push them into confronting Mr. Bush over war funding. (Mr. Obama says that he didn’t mean to suggest that the president be given "carte blanche.")

Certainly on 2006 that was true. But, is the Party listening to the "base" now on Iraq? What is the base saying? Are the Netroots clamoring for Reid-Feingold? Is the Party flocking to it?

I think Krugman is more accurate in this:

The only risk the party now faces is excessive caution on the part of its politicians. Or, to coin a phrase, the only thing Democrats have to fear is fear itself.

I think the base should think about that and consider whether it is pushing our politicians hard enough on Iraq and Reid-Feingold. I don't think we are

So who are Democratic pols listening to? Too many are listening to William Galston:

William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution, a Clinton administration domestic policy adviser and an early opponent of the Iraq war, said his party should note that voters appear just as worried that Democrats would withdraw from Iraq too quickly as they are concerned that Republicans would stay there too long. "I think it's important to distinguish between the desire to bring this agony to an end and the consequences of bringing it to an end in the wrong way," he said. "I can't prove this, but I believe Democrats will be held responsible if they are seen as advocating a course of action that doesn't take the consequences of failure into account. We cannot afford as a party to be either silent or blithe about the consequences of rapid withdrawal."

I can prove this, William Galston and Elaine Kamarck were dead wrong about the Politics of Contrast in the runup to the 2006 elections. They predicted it could not work:

Texeira and Halpin write:
The identity gap in politics has serious direct and indirect ramifications. Directly, voters hold the Democrats' lack of identity against candidates and the party as a whole; indirectly, the lack of identity undermines Democrats' abilities to capitalize on their strengths and enables the GOP to capitalize easily on Democratic weaknesses.
This is a critical point in my view. Too many pundits think that being mushy keeps people from lining up against you (think "values" voters) when you try to "soften" the contrast between Dems and the GOP on social issues. Kamarck and Galston were prominent in this group.

Kevin Drum wrote:

In other words, contra Galston and Kamarck, the liberal base is not really the problem a lot of people make it out to be. It's the Republican base that's far outside the mainstream.

Galston still does not get it. And I think too many Democratic pols are still listening to the failed Beltway political insiders despite their long track of being wrong just about every time.

And unfortunately, unlike pre-2006, when the Netroots and the base were firm against Galstonism, today the Netroots and the base have been wobbly on Iraq.

But now there is a proposal to fight for -Reid Feingold. Time for the base to save the Party insiders from themselves.

< More on Wisconsin's USA Biskupic and Georgia Thompson | Levin Sets The Stage For The Dem Cavein On Iraq >
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    Obama will probably respond (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by andgarden on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 09:39:37 AM EST
    to being called out by Krugman. That is one positive outcome, even if he uses the opportuinity to malign our ideas again.

    Respond? (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 09:48:34 AM EST
    You mean correct?

    Let's hope so.

    Would it no be great if we could all be for Obama?


    I see now I got it backwards (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 09:49:09 AM EST
    You expect him to ATTACK Krugman.

    Yes (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by andgarden on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 09:58:45 AM EST
    I'm expecting some Liebermanesque prattling about "too much partisanship." I hope Obama proves me wrong, though. Damn, why does he make it so hard for me to like him?!  

    We'll see. (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:41:57 AM EST
    Netroots? (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by TexDem on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:06:59 AM EST
    In my readings it appears the so-called leaders of the netroots are in that conflicted position of trying to be (as they see it) relevant and the positions of their readers/posters which is far more pulling in the direction of getting out now, than they are willing to admit. It's as tho' they've joined the DLC. Or somehow feel that now that they've had an impact they don't want to over-reach not realizing that it was the over-reaching that created the impact in the first place.

    I could ramble on but I think everyone here takes my meaning.

    Afraid to risk (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by Edger on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:17:06 AM EST
    what they mis-perceive as a position of leadership?

    A leader must be able to take (none / 0) (#34)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:41:56 AM EST
    calculated risk.  A leader must be able to initiate change to remedy detrimental outcomes.  If you can't take caluculated risks when we are suffering from detrimental outcomes you never really were a leader!  Maybe you were just a good organizer or analyzer at a time when that was needed but you weren't a leader.

    Sorry I can't spell this morning n/t (none / 0) (#35)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:43:48 AM EST
    The readership (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:41:35 AM EST
    a minority of the readership I would say.

    Proably more followers than are willing to admit (none / 0) (#39)
    by TexDem on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 12:02:51 PM EST
    but there are also far more leaders than some would like to recognize. And not all the leaders have their own blogs, some are prominent posters.
    A prominent poster can be and is a leader, their informed or well researched opinions attract many who agree and some who disagree. But their prominence and the discussions that follow help develop all of our thoughts.

    There was a well-known ad (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by jpete on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:53:57 AM EST
    that had people trying to pull a donkey and suddenly one person appeared and kicked it!

    You're saying those days are gone; the net roots leaders are turning into donkey enablers?  Hmmmmmm.


    Like Move-On... (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Edger on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:59:10 AM EST
    btw (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by Edger on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:01:34 AM EST
    That would make a great name for a blog right about now.

    "Kicking Donkeys".

    How about "Kicking Jackasses"? n/t (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by cal11 voter on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:06:22 AM EST
    Well... (5.00 / 3) (#27)
    by Edger on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:11:30 AM EST
    Yes - that's more like it. But I was trying to be nice for a moment there. ;-)

    Heh (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:12:12 AM EST
    They ::need:: a good boot in the ass. (5.00 / 2) (#31)
    by Edger on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:28:12 AM EST
    Being too nice to Bush is a big risk.

    I finally had to bookmark your blog (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:45:56 AM EST
    You are a little ass kicker yourself aren't you ;)?

    I try. (none / 0) (#38)
    by Edger on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:56:33 AM EST
    I've got nothing compared to CD though. ;-)

    The parable goes like this; (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by TexDem on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:52:23 AM EST
    Farmer B is passing by Farmer A's field, Farmer A is waving his arms wildly and talking to his jackass which is setting down in the field. Farmer B shouts out to Farmer A and calls him over.
    Farmer B ask Farmer A; "what seems to be the problem?"
    Farmer A responds; "that damn fool animal doesn't want to do anything today."
    Farmer B says; "let me see what I can do."
    Then he reaches into his wagon and picks up a 2x4 and walks out into the field where upon he smacks the jackass in the head with the 2x4. The jackass gets up and starts pulling the plow in perfectly straight lines.
    Farmer A ask; "how'd did you know to do that?"
    Farmer B responds; "well first you have to get his attention."

    Some days (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Edger on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:13:13 AM EST
    I don't do 'nice' very well. :-( I'm working on it.

    DLC? Kind of strong words, no? n/t (none / 0) (#23)
    by cal11 voter on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:05:12 AM EST
    And is there an underlying problem? (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by jpete on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:49:30 AM EST
    Perhaps 'our leaders' should try leadership, vision and conviction.

    Or at least pretend to have it.

    Pretend (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:53:13 AM EST
    I really am not that hung up on it on Iraq.

    Getting it right now is what matters.

    The election is a year and a half away.

    The Debacle is NOW.


    yes, agreed. (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by jpete on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:56:56 AM EST
    But people with vision and leadership don't mirror the dithering that will always be found in the electorate.  There are always the worriers, the what-iffers.  That is something leadership can deal with and not reflect.  

    The puppetmasters revealed. (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by SeeEmDee on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:09:39 AM EST
    When the vast majority of the electorate move in one direction, and the de facto power elite moves in another, the top leadership of each party must bend knee to their true, corporate masters while hoping that they can water down and erode the popular positions arising from their base that challenges that suzerainty.

    That's why, despite the fact that it is obvious the people want a withdrawal from Iraq, the ones who are profiting so handsomely from the chaos it has engendered are dragging their feet about the inevitable withdrawal.

    This is serving to demonstrate just how naked the power grab by the corporatists has become.

    Ending the war will take leadership (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by walt on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 12:20:59 PM EST
    A couple of observations about members of congress: representatives & senators are not usually "leadership" material.  Congress really is committees, even sub-committees; it's a group grope where folks have to go along to get along.

    From among themselves, the House & the Senate select folks to run the committees, but those chairmen are not leaders.  In fact, I think that most leadership qualities are thoroughly beaten out of new congress members.  Waiting on some career committe member to step up with a bold, forward-looking idea is off in the tooth fairy neighborhood.  To coin a term: those folks are professional "consensus-ers."  And their view of the consensus comes from among themselves, not from USA citizen-voters.

    H. Clinton, Obama, Edwards & ilk are actually panderers to a form of groupthink.  Now add some grease to this long slide into the middle of the road in campaign bucks from the war industry, BigOil & AIPAC & you've got a first class run-up to total mediocrity.

    The leadership on getting out of Iraq will have to come from some other job description, not senator or representative.

    referendum in 2008 (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:11:37 AM EST
    It would be so simple to make the absolute deadline March 31, 2009 and try to turn the 2008 election into a referendum on absolute withdrawal.  From what I'm read here, the Repubs would be routed, and the Dems could claim credit for everything from 2009 on.  I'm sure the entire Dem party could unite behind the 2009 date and the presidential candidate would have no qualms.  Put it in the platform and make it the contract with America.  

    Do you read ::anything:: before you comment? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Edger on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:27:10 AM EST
    Maybe you need new batteries for your lamp?

    Heh (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:41:07 AM EST
    But cool it a bit.

    Let's not get nasty.


    not so fast (none / 0) (#12)
    by orionATL on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:45:58 AM EST
    much as i respect paul krugman,

    i think he is a tad overly optimistic about "the public's" knowledge and commitment on the issue of the iraq invasion.

    i will be more willing to believe "the people" are way ahead of their congressional leaders

    when i seem them fail to respond to a concerted right-wing ad campaign directed by the white-house

    featuring much emotion-arousing rhetoric  about


    and sacrifice,

    and courage (and the lack thereof, of course, democrats),

    and democracy,

    and "our boys"

    and our flag

    and amurica

    and "we're not quitters"

    and leadership,


    when the public demonstrates that they are too knowledgeable and rational to be persuaded  by this propaganda,

    then i would bet that congressional leaders will be a lot more inclined to lead the column forward rapidly.

    it has only been 4 years since april 2004

    when a neighbor driving a large, new, white pick-up stopped just past our house, backed up, and shouted to my wife and me as we worked in our yard,

    "kill more Iraqis".

    then he repeated the shout.

    that in response to my wife's two signs, posted on each corner of our lot that said

    "war is not the answer".

    does any one remember how committed the public was to  this good invasion in those days?

    and then there is a wapoop poll today that shows people are about evenly divided between funding and de-funding the war.

    under these circumstances,

    with an emotionally volatile issue like this,

    i would be one cautious congresscritter.

    moving forward to be sure, but not getting too far ahead of my troops.

    The polls dispute you (none / 0) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:52:26 AM EST
    maybe (none / 0) (#32)
    by orionATL on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:29:03 AM EST
    but the polls never tell the future.

    they only describe the immediate past.

    my point is that "the public" can change it's mind very quickly

    or, as i believe, can have its "mind" manipulated to change quickly.

    imagine, say,

    a strike on iran.

    what would public opinion be, re iraq and iran conflated, in, say, the first 6 weeks after that strike?

    what if you are a congressional leader caught in the immediate patriotic aftermath of that attack?

    my conclusion:

    you're right - the issue is partly courage.

    but i think i'm right too - the issue is partly timing.


    The Democratic base (none / 0) (#41)
    by Alien Abductee on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 02:30:37 PM EST
    is fired up if you believe Carville's new survey (PDF):

    As a starting point, 40 percent of the country says they are considering voting in the Democratic primary and 30 percent in the Republican. When we screen more tightly for likely primary voters, 34 percent are looking to participate on the Democratic side and 25 percent on the Republican - almost a 10-point advantage in actual engagement, a new and perhaps enduring feature of this landscape.

    Democratic primary voters are deeply opposed to the war in Iraq: over three-quarters say we should start reducing troop levels and not wait until the situation is more stable; in fact, three quarters strongly support reducing troop levels, compared to 50 percent of voters overall.

    That's who they know they darn better well listen to.


    Too Late (none / 0) (#15)
    by JHFarr on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:52:35 AM EST
    The Democrats won't ever do the right thing in time. That's as obvious as the sun coming in the window this a.m. Regardless of what they do choose to support -- be it the base or positions reflecting the caution of the previous commenter -- events have far outrun any possible remedy.

    Our troops will have to fight a bloody, catastrophic retreat under the very best of circumstances. The Republicans will blame this on the Democrats. That's an argument we can't afford to lose, so the best thing would be to stay 10,000 miles away from Bush's war, right now.

    You'll notice, however, that this isn't happening. Too goddamn bad.

    Your advice is not good (none / 0) (#18)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 10:54:04 AM EST

    Dems control the Congress now. Accoutnability is now theirs.


    I don't agree with you that our troops (none / 0) (#33)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:34:08 AM EST
    will have to fight a bloody catastrophic retreat.  I once felt that was highly likely but not with Patraeus at the wheel.  I don't like Patraeus much but fighting a bloody catastrophic retreat is not something he would do and the man does know what he is doing when it comes to organizing, planning, and the U.S. military.  I have no insider opinions or information about Patraeus and the surge,  I hope to someday soon if we could a get a few soldiers home from it. My current under informed opinion is that we would be attending a lot more funerals with this surge bull if Patraeus wasn't at the helm.

    Did Krugman define base (I don't subscribe)? (none / 0) (#21)
    by cal11 voter on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:01:33 AM EST
    Is it the party liberal wing?  Netroots?  Grassroots?  Polls of Dems?

    What did the election results of 2006 call for wrt to Iraq:  a change in policy or an end to the war?  Or neither?

    I think the Dem leadership in both the House and Senate are afraid of losing ground gained in 2006.

    You read the piece (none / 0) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:10:34 AM EST
    Do you think he did?

    I think he did not.


    I've only read what you have here, but I... (none / 0) (#30)
    by cal11 voter on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 11:17:45 AM EST
    don't see it.  I do think the Dem base (and the American public) is for ending this war in Iraq.  I don't know if there is consensus now about how best to do it, but I think there would be a minority in opposition to cutting off funds for the Iraq War provided our troops safety would not be at risk.  Dem leadership should show us that redeployment can be done without harming the troops.  Bush won't do it.

    the fear about retreat in 2008 (none / 0) (#42)
    by diogenes on Mon Apr 16, 2007 at 07:55:29 PM EST
    Various Islamic militants have a nasty habit of doing stupid things prior to western elections (the homegrown militants before the Spanish election, the Al Qaida video released before the 2004 election).  
    If the Dems run the 2008 election on the pull out of Iraq now platform and Al Qaida decides to stupidly  "encourage" us to pull out by blowing up an American bridge, that's a problem for the Democrats.  If I were them I wouldn't trust my fate to the "rational" mind of these terrorists, which is why the the Obamas and Levins probably want some semblance of party unity/shared responsibility on this.  Can't you see some terrorist blowing up a building in the US if and when Bush's hand is forced on this and gloating on al Jazzera about how weak Bush is?  They're already bombing Algeria and Morocco now even as the US is reeling in world opinion.  How stupid is that?
    At least wait until mid 2009, when electoral calculations don't enter into it and there is no lame duck to be kicked around.