The votes haven’t even been counted and the Democratic Civil War has begun.
A generational crisis always results in a battle within the newly victorious party. This is usually a war between insurgents and establishment figures, or between the New Thesis and the Old Anti-Thesis.
- In 1966 Goldwater conservatives fought Main Street conservatives.
- In 1930 progressives fought populists within the Democratic coalition.
- In 1894 Populists fought urban Democrats.
- In 1858 Republican abolitionists fought with moderates.
Notice that, in all these cases, the short-term saw a figure from the moderate side moving the party toward the New Thesis. Nixon was nominated to beat Reaganism. FDR had to bridge the divide within his party between urban liberals and southern populists. Theodore Roosevelt co-opted the Progressives against the Populists. And Lincoln was nominated as a moderate alternative to outright abolitionists.
The same sort of thing is beginning right now, within the Democratic Party, between a Clintonian Establishment wing, which embraces moderation as a virtue and lobbyists as its allies, and the Netroots voters who want large-scale reforms.
Below are two articles that illustrate the current divide:
Centrist Democrats Poised to ReTake Congress writes Donkey Digest. He’s right. This election is not going to be a progressive wave, but a Democratic one. Progressives (and DailyKos is lumped in with them) have embraced people like former Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler, now favored in NC-11, and his views on social issues are not at all to their liking.
In fact, the Kos contingents’ insistance on turning "red to blue" guarantees this will be the case. In the last week of the campaign it’s harping on races in Nebraska, in Idaho, and in Wyoming where the Democratic winners are certain to be far to the right of what a San Franciscan like Markos Moulitsas would like.
Now let’s look at the other side.
Rahm Emanuel, the Democrats’ own Tom DeLay writes Down with Tyranny. Howie Klein argues here that the DCCC has supported conservatives where liberals could have won in many districts, and still isn’t bringing in as many winners home as his Netroots efforts. "Progressive and grassroots Democrats have rallied behind the right-of-center
Emanuel shills for the sake of party unity, while Emanuel, Schumer and their
cabal have done all they could to undermine progressives," he complains. (Here’s a MyDD post along the same lines.)
The only place where this Civil War is being played out for real right now is Connecticut, in the race between Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont. The secret to Lieberman’s success is that people who think like Emanuel still support him. This is also key to the passion of Lamont supporters, who still think their man can pull this out. Other than Iraq there are few issue differences between the two men. But Lieberman gets his money from corporations and PACs, while Lamont gets his (well, whatever he doesn’t give himself) from Netroots types. That’s plenty of difference for Democrats.
I can guarantee that the first political fight of 2007 is going to happen within the Democratic Party. The Netroots crowd reads campaign finance statements. They know who is naughty and who is nice in regards to taking money from business. They’re Internet-wise to the games corporations play for favors. They will be ruthless in calling Democrats out who play such games.
Nothing will happen next year except investigations and strife in both parties. Congress could spend twice as many days in session (they spent 100 days in session this year) and not get as much done as they did in 2006.
Which, in a way, is fine. This is what a generational crisis looks like. Until it is resolved, the fight goes on. Well beyond November 7, 2006.