Five Inconvenient Truths For David Sirota

October 31, 2006

David Sirota’s latest factually challenged hit piece on the state of the Democratic party is much like his other works. He ignores certain truths in order to build his case. When those overlooked facts are inserted into his argument, it falls like a house of cards.

It has come to be expected that Sirota will pepper his writings with Marxist revolutionary rhetoric, and he doesn’t disappoint. No further in than his second paragraph does he launch into one of his trademarked snipes at President Bill Clinton’s (as he terms it) “embrace of corporate-written trade deals that crushed the party’s working-class base.” Inconvenient Truth #1: The economic policies of President Clinton created 22 million new jobs, produced the lowest unemployment rate in three decades, the lowest inflation rate in 20 years, and the lowest child poverty rate in three decades. Clinton put the most money in higher education since the G.I. Bill and cemented the longest economic expansion in history. Every economic class, every gender, every race, benefited from the Clinton economic plan. The party’s “working-class base” was hardly crushed.

Also in the second paragraph, Sirota once again rails about the “Democratic party elite’s” complicity in the Iraq war and their “rejection of the growing anti-war movement.” Inconvenient Truth #2: At the time military intervention in the Iraq war was being debated, there was really no reason not to believe the President. Even Howard Dean, the de facto-leader of the “anti-war movement” said on Meet The Press that he believed the President. In fact, in an interview with columnist David White after a Yale Club luncheon in late 2002, Dean expressed his approval of unilateral action in Iraq if Saddam Hussein failed to adhere to UN Resolution 1441. Combine this with the fact that any approval given by Democrats in congress for military action in Iraq came with the caveat that it would only come as a last resort and only after President Bush exhausted his diplomatic options with one final visit to the UN. The Democrats in congress simply cannot be faulted for the Iraq war. And since most of the country is now opposed to the Iraq war, the anti-war movement has been absorbed into the mainstream – the very mainstream that is about to vote these “vile” Democrats into majority party status.

Sirota claims “progressives are increasingly in a position to flex their muscles thanks to a convergence of factors: the rise of Internet fundraising, the ascendancy of blog and vlog (video blog) media and the crushing economic forces that are radicalizing previously apolitical middle-class constituencies.” Uh… ok. Inconvenient Truth #3: The “progressive’s” one and only claim to fame – Ned Lamont – will probably lose next week in the Connecticut general. Internet fundraising by “progressives” have been such a success for him that he recently had to add another $2 million of his personal money to the $8 million of his own money he previously contributed to the campaign. Internet fundraising is not yet the cash cow Sirota wants us to believe it is and, like blogs, it can and is being done by people of all political stripes. In other words, the effects have become diluted. Finally, as news reports linked daily on this blog show, it isn’t the “progressives” who are increasingly in a position to “flex their muscles.” It is the centrists of the party.

Next, Sirota betrays his “progressives as martyrs” mantra by admitting that, should the Democrats win next week, the more liberal of the party will hold the positions of power, creating a “giant faultline” between them and the rank and file members of the party (that would be us normal centrists, I suppose.) This rift, Sirota contends, will happen when the liberal leadership of the party begins passing “progressive” legislation. So here is Inconvenient Truth #4: Potential majority leader Nancy Pelosi has stated, and it has been widely reported, that her agenda only includes mainstream proposals that even the party’s most conservative members would mostly agree on.

But should the Democrats lose in 7 days, Sirota has prepared a cover story. Of course, the DLC and their shadowy tentacles of doom. While trying to assign credit to the netroots for a Democratic victory, he can’t fathom the possibility that people might actually be turned off by the shrillness of it. But even Pelosi agrees that most of the credit will be Rahm Emanuel’s (A DLC member) if we take the House, another inconvenient truth, #5, that steams people like Sirota.

Even in his closing, he is defiant. If we win this election, Sirota is promising “a fight.” No doubt he means one between the “progressives” and what he himself called the rank and file members of the party (the centrists.) Is he implying he want to thin the herd of “DINOS” from rank and file Democrats? What a joy to have such a “team player” on our side.

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Speaking of supposed party members we’d just assume stay locked in the proverbial basement, former Republican-turned-progressive hero Arianna Huffington (Markos Moulitsas Zúniga being another) attacks both Rahm Emanuel AND Howard Dean for discussing middle-class tax fairness. Not progressive enough for a former McCain girl like Arianna, I suppose. There is no zealot quite like a convert.

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‘New Democrats’ and ‘Blue Dogs’ may tilt national party to center

October 30, 2006

“Progressives” vow to “replace” centrist Democrats who won’t tow the far left line

Shaila Dewan and Anne E. Kornblut of the New York Times explains this morning that New Democrats and Blue Dogs will control the House should the party gain control of it next week:

In their push to win back control of the House, Democrats have turned to conservative and moderate candidates who fit the profiles of their districts more closely than the profile of the national party.

“My guess is that if Democrats are in the majority, it’s going to be because of these New Democrat, Blue Dog candidates out there winning in these competitive swing districts,” Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin, co-chairman of a caucus of centrist House Democrats, said in an interview.

Collectively, the group could tilt the balance of power within the party, which has been struggling to define itself in recent elections. The candidates cover the spectrum on political issues; some are fiscally conservative and moderate or liberal on social issues, some are the reverse. They could influence negotiations with Republicans on a variety of issues, including Social Security and stem cell research.

There are two main groups of moderate Democrats in the House: the Blue Dog Coalition, a caucus of socially conservative and moderate members formed in 1994; and the New Democrat Coalition, a caucus of centrists formed in 1997. While there are differences between the two — the Blue Dogs tend to be more rural and Southern, with occasional alliances with Republicans, while the New Democrats are more suburban and wealthy and place a premium on party loyalty — there are members who belong to both. Both, of course, have a stake in helping the centrist candidates succeed.

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.”

The centrist movement was embodied by former President Bill Clinton, who rose to prominence through the Democratic Leadership Council, which embraced a so-called third way of politics and eschewed what it saw as outdated liberalism.

Yet since Mr. Clinton left office, Democrats have seemed to drift back in the direction of their liberal identity, nominating two presidential contenders who were seen as less committed to the moderate cause.

“The Democrats as a whole have begun to understand and recognize, as I did, that we have the extreme left and the extreme right, and 80 percent of America is in the middle,” (NC Congressional candidate) Heath Shuler said on a campaign stop last week at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. “People need to start working together.”

In this election cycle, the Democrats’ desire for a victory in Congress has overridden concerns that candidates like Mr. Shuler are too far right for the party base. But there are questions about what will happen down the line.

“I don’t think people like Shuler will be the core of the Democratic Party,” said Mark Bloom, a writer who is a volunteer for MoveOn.org, the liberal advocacy group, at its storefront office in downtown Asheville. “If people like Shuler turn out to not be progressive enough for my tastes, I’ll work to replace him.”

Fat chance, Bloom. One of the many things the narrow-minded fringes of both the left and right can’s seem to understand is that there are some areas of the country where their strict ideology just won’t play. In regards to Shuler, a “MoveOn” leftwinger hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of winning in a red state. To think otherwise is mere vanity on the part of MoveOn.

Great piece this morning by Joe Klein called The Year the Democrats Punched Back, about how the party of the Donkey was ready and waiting for the GOP attack ads this year, and struck back decisively.

Dana R. Fisher at the CSMonitor discusses how so-called “progressive” grassroots activism is little more than well funded astro-turf and how it may actually be hurting Democratic candidates.

Jonathan Chait reveals (again) for all to see that the Democratic party DOES have ideas (and good ones), but no one is reporting them. Thus, people tend to believe the GOP when they say Democrats have no ideas.

Democrats running for the House of Representatives actually have an agenda. Republicans aren’t saying why the Democratic agenda is wrong, or why their own is better. They’re just ignoring it.

If you’re like most people, you probably have no idea what that agenda is. Let me list it:

• Put new rules in place to break the link between lobbyists and legislation.

• Enact all the recommendations made by the 9/11 commission.

• Raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

• Cut the interest rate on federally supported student loans in half.

• Allow the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.

• Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds.

• Impose pay-as-you-go budget rules, requiring that new entitlement spending or tax cuts be offset with entitlement spending cuts or tax hikes.

Republicans disagree with all these items. Indeed, the reason these items are on the Democratic agenda is that Republicans in Congress have blocked them from coming up for a vote. So where’s the Republican rebuttal?

Now, I’m not saying that the GOP needs to hold some Oxford-style intellectual debate. But shouldn’t the party offer some rebuttal?

You know, “Raising the minimum wage would kill millions of jobs,” or, “Pay-as-you-go budget rules will require tax hikes or cuts in your Medicare benefits,” or, “Why should we waste billions of dollars preventing terrorist attacks that haven’t even happened yet?” These are just some off-the-cuff suggestions. I’m sure Republican political consultants could do better.

My point is, we’re not even getting a debate about a caricature of the Democratic position, let alone the actual one. Instead, we’re getting things like this: GOP Rep. John Hostettler of Indiana is running an ad warning that if Democrats take power and California Democrat Nancy Pelosi becomes House speaker, she “will then put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank, reprimanded by the House after paying for sex with a man who ran a gay brothel out of Congressman Frank’s home.”

What is the homosexual agenda? The ad does not say. (Apparently it involves raising the minimum wage and cutting the interest rate on government-backed student loans. I can just see it if the Democrats win — all those gay Wal-Mart employees, cackling with glee as they use their fat $7.25-an-hour salaries to pay off their suddenly puny college debts.)

Which is my point. Republicans don’t want an actual choice election, they want to run against a mythological Democratic Party so frightening that the voters overlook all the GOP’s failures.


Centrist Democrats Poised to Retake Congress

October 27, 2006

Irony? MoveOn, Kos, and other “progressive” voices have declared for the better part of six years how they were going to “take back their party.” But when it came time to cash in their chips, traditional moderate Democrats were their bankers. Janet Hook from the LA Times writes:

Republicans are ringing alarms about what the House would be like if the GOP lost control: a throwback to the unreconstructed liberalism of big-government activism, tax increases and a weak-kneed defense policy. They point with Halloween-season horror to the likely lineup of Democratic committee chairs, including Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) and other liberal old-timers.

But… many of the Democratic candidates most likely to be elected are cut from a different cloth… Among the party’s House challengers, 33 are conservative enough to be endorsed by either the Blue Dogs or the political arm of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Nearly all are on the Cook Political Report’s latest list of Democrats most likely to win seats now held by Republicans. The party needs to pick up 15 seats to win a majority in the House.

The article concentrates mainly on Heath Shuler, a probusiness, antiabortion North Carolina Democrat who currently leads his Republican opponent. Shuler, a former NFL quarterback for the Washington Redskins was actually recruited in 2002 to run as a Republican, but he turned them down. He stuck with the Democratic Party, his spokesman said, because he wanted to “help those who cannot help themselves — and that’s the Democratic Party.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last year made a point of recruiting conservative candidates and even some former Republicans for this year’s midterm election, in some cases muscling out more-liberal contenders who seemed likely to lose in Republican-leaning territory.

“The Democrats are going to retake the House of Representatives by electing conservative and moderate Democrats,” said Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), a member of the Blue Dog Coalition. “We’re going to move our party back to the middle.”


Heath Schuler, Rahm Emanuel, Harold Ford


Words of Advice From A Liberal to “Progressives.”

October 26, 2006

WCGreen has a piece causing all kinds of wailing and gnashing of teeth over at DemocraticUnderground:

“American Liberalism has it roots in the progressive movements that sprouted up around Abolitionists, who, if you remember your history, were mostly motivated by a belief in the All Mighty and a deep conviction that Slavery of any kind was contrary to the Biblical teachings of Jesus…

From abolitionist victories came the fight against corporate power, then called trust. This was the focal point that pulled in the Suffragette movement as well as those calling for public schools, public health programs, a federal income tax and a federal Food and Drug Administration to regulate the safety of the food system. People were dying, after all.

One key factor in all of this was that this urge to reform came from eastern Republicans and Midwestern populists. All through this spasm of “do-gooderness” ran a thread of religion, especially Catholic and Jewish, but also the more liberal protestant sects such as Unitarians. The Union movement was embraced by the immigrant Catholic and Jewish workers.

Now, Liberalism seems to have forgotten its roots. The first word out of any Liberal should be how to recapture lost workers rights. For if our men and women can’t go to work and be treated with respect and are paid a living wage, what matters if they are gay or straight? What matters if you have the right to bear arms if you can’t even afford to purchase one?

Second, we need to reenergize the fight against monopoly ownership and support candidates who are willing to stand up for the corruption that consolidated corporate power has wrought upon this great country.

That’s it. All else will fall into place.

After the 1994 election, I went to a progressive convention in Detroit to find out how we could re-energize the Democratic Party. It was good idea, I thought, cathartic even. But after the initial bitch and moan session, they decided to break off into small working groups. The folks on stage, and this was a huge hall, about 1,500 people, started to count off the various caucuses and where they would meet. Gays over here, Lesbians over there, Pro-choice down in front, Hispanics over by the podium, you get the drift…. And they went on for a while and I it dawned on me right then and there why we had lost. I remember raising my hand, an out of place white guy in a suit, and the “facilitator” called on me and I said, in a half hearted attempt to bring a little humor to this wake, “Excuse me, where do the slightly pissed off white guys go?”

The three days were spent in workshops that were right out of a Newt Gingrich attack ad. A lot of feeling was discussed with little to no agenda developed.

It was then that I knew the Democratic Party was going to be in the wilderness for some time.

The people who were the backbone of the party were nudged out, the workers, the Catholics, the middle class were literally jettisoned in favor of lifestyle politics that was as foreign to them as America was to their immigrant ancestors.

Don’t get me wrong. I am strongly pro-choice and for the rights of gay couples to join in any union they wish. No one should be denied rights in the country, period.

But if we continue to be held captive by special interests groups that demand absolute fealty to their cause, we are doomed as a majority political party. And just where does that get our agenda?

People who claim, on this board, that Harold Ford or Bob Casey are the second coming of Hitler because they are Christian or Pro-Life or are against Gay Marriage had better wake up and smell the coffee.

Ask yourself this, would you rather remain forever in the minority, fighting the windmills in your mind, or would you rather have a seat at the table. Your choice.” (end)

I could let this stand on it’s on without comment. Honestly, what else is there to say? The writer is spot on with the observation that the Democratic party has been held hostage by multiple special interest groups, each demanding to have their ideas put forth. And even though his experience with this only begins in 1994, the problem began in the late 60s. Some people claim the Democratic party has no idea what they stand for, and that claim is pretty much accurate. Over the last 40 years, we’ve tried to stand for so much that no dominant definition of the Democrats has stuck in the public’s mind.

I’d like to draw your attention to an article by Michael Tomasky from earlier this year in which the author contends that Democrats should make “the common good” the prevailing theme of progressive politics and reign in the interest-group and group “rights” orientation that have held back our party for four decades. In regards to the Democrat’s historic opportunity to regain control of one of both house of Congress, Tomasky writes…

To seize this moment, the Democrats need to think differently — to stop focusing on their grab bag of small-bore proposals that so often seek not to offend and that accept conservative terms of debate. And to do that, they need to begin by looking to their history, for in that history there is an idea about liberal governance that amounts to more than the million-little-pieces, interest-group approach to politics that has recently come under deserved scrutiny and that can clearly offer the most compelling progressive response to the radical individualism of the Bush era.

For many years — during their years of dominance and success, the period of the New Deal up through the first part of the Great Society — the Democrats practiced a brand of liberalism quite different from today’s. Yes, it certainly sought to expand both rights and prosperity. But it did something more: That liberalism was built around the idea — the philosophical principle — that citizens should be called upon to look beyond their own self-interest and work for a greater common interest.

This, historically, is the moral basis of liberal governance — not justice, not equality, not rights, not diversity, not government, and not even prosperity or opportunity. Liberal governance is about demanding of citizens that they balance self-interest with common interest. Any rank-and-file liberal is a liberal because she or he somehow or another, through reading or experience or both, came to believe in this principle. And every leading Democrat became a Democrat because on some level, she or he believes this, too.

Like WCGreen, Ed Kilgore of the DLC has his own personal experience to share on the matter:

It’s important to remember how central the interest group/group rights framework was to the Left until just this juncture of history. Back in 1988, one of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s best known prerorations invoked his grandmother’s beautiful quilts as a metaphor for the Democratic Party, and then proceeded through a litany of “the groups” (everyone from small business people and farmers to gays and lesbians), addressing each with the warning: “Your patch is too small.” I can remember listening to this powerful litany on the floor of the 1988 Convention in Atlanta and thinking: “Is that who we are? Just a bunch of groups linking arms to protect their stuff?”

So a tip of the hat to WCGreen for having the courage to say what needed to be said in the far left den of DemocraticUnderground.


Who Is Behind Heyjohn.org?

October 25, 2006

If you haven’t been visiting the netroots lately, you may be surprised to learn that “progressives” have been doing some research and have discovered Democrats running unopposed in Congressional districts are sitting on a combined $26,288,418. The point in this revelation is DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel shouldn’t be asking DNC chair Howard Dean for anymore money to win the November elections while Democratic congressmen have such a large surplus. On the surface, they have a point. The cash on hand is a huge asset if it could be utilized. But the point being missed is those funds were contributed to each of those individual candidates and many would take offense at it being doled out. Some already have at the very idea.

Now comes HeyJohn.org, an anonymous site calling for John Kerry to turn loose millions of dollars he has left over from his presidential run. Same reasoning from these folks as from the Kos crowd in the article quoted above – he has all that money, so he should give it to other candidates.

There is even a difference of opinion, or different interpretations of the facts, or when this election cycle began, combining to make this a real interesting dust-up among the left leaning blogs. I’m not going to cover all the details. I’m sure you’ve already read them.

The only difference, in my opinion, is that the researcher on dKos used his name. The heyjohn.org folks did not. But the purpose is identical – shame Democrats who have extra money into giving it to the DCCC or DSCC or individual candidates.

But who benefits if Kerry and the congressional candidates cough up their money?

The DSCC? The DCCC? Well, sure, but…

Traditionally, the DNC has supplemented the two congressional campaign committees. This year, Howard Dean had to be berated by Charles Schumer and Rahm Emanuel before he begrudgingly gave some cash.

Why? Because he is intent on his 50 State Strategy and his hardcore supporters are convinced that this strategy will somehow empower the “grassroots.” (nevermind that conservative
voters in red states who turn away from the GOP will NEVER be “progressives.”)

In addition, these Dean supporters are terrified that Dean, even though he has all but neglected the midterm efforts, won’t get the credit should we win the midterms in two weeks. On the one hand, they’re 100% loyal to Dean’s strategy that by it’s very definition is anti-battleground state and district oriented, yet they insist it is him who has put us in this
position to win.

So, if people like Kerry and Clinton and congressional candidates give up the bucks, Dean
and the DNC won’t have to.

I’m not saying Dean or the DNC is behind the heyjohn website, but they do stand to benefit from it should it succeed in it’s purpose. I believe that whoever is running the site have a misguided notion they’re doing it for Howard Dean.

13 days left, folks. 13 days…


The Year Of The Radical Center

October 24, 2006

WHAT? You’re not reading Centrist Democrats of America on a daily basis???

E. J. Dionne Jr. hits a homerun this morning with his piece in the WaPo:

President Bush’s six-year effort to create an enduring Republican majority based on a right-leaning coalition is on the verge of collapse. The way he tried to create it could have the unintended consequence of opening the way for an alternative majority.

This incipient Democratic alliance, while tilting slightly leftward, would plant its foundations firmly in the middle of the road, because its success depends on overwhelming support from moderate voters. That’s why a Democratic victory in November — defined as taking one or both houses of Congress — would have effects far beyond a single election year.

The Democrats’ dependence on moderate voters and moderate candidates belies Republican claims that a Democratic victory would bring radically liberal politics to Washington. In fact, the first imperative of Democratic congressional leaders, if their party is successful, will be finding policies, ideas and rhetoric to allow the party’s progressives and moderates to get along and govern effectively together.

The strategy pursued by Bush and Karl Rove has frightened most of the political center into the arms of Democrats. Bush and Rove sought victory by building large turnouts among conservatives and cajoling just enough moderates the Republicans’ way. But this approach created what may prove to be a fatal political disconnect: Adventurous policies designed to create enthusiasm on the right turned off a large number of less ideological voters.

The Democrats’ lead in the polls can be thus explained by two factors: the energy of a passionate phalanx of voters desperate to use this election to rebuke Bush, and the disenchantment of moderates fed up with the failures of Bush’s governing style and ideology, notably in Iraq.

A survey this month for National Public Radio in the 48 most-contested House districts makes clear that anti-Bush energy is this election’s driving force. While only 22 percent of those surveyed by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner strongly approved of Bush’s performance in office, 44 percent strongly disapproved. This points to a huge enthusiasm deficit for the Republicans.

But the survey also showed that the Democrats’ 51 to 40 percent lead in these competitive districts came not just from liberals but also from self-described moderates, who favored the Democrats by 59 percent to 34 percent. There are twice as many moderates as liberals in these key districts, so moderates are the linchpin of Democratic chances…

… There has long been talk about the rise of a “radical center,” made up of voters essentially moderate in their philosophical leanings but radical in their disaffection with the status quo. This looks to be the year of the radical center. If it is, the Democrats will win. And if they win, their task will be to meet the aspirations of a diverse group of dissatisfied and disappointed Americans. Not an easy chore, but one that certainly beats being in the opposition.

Rather than try to outdo him, I’m going to quote Daniel at Thought Theater on this:

I may be presumptuous in saying as much but I believe that this article along with other articles and growing commentary being disseminated in the media is the initiation of what I would call a moment of clarity whereby the nation comes to a halt to reevaluate its direction and reconcile the actions of its recent past. Let me be clear. I am not suggesting we engage in a moment of blame…though many would be so inclined and likely justified in doing as much…but rather a moment where we mutually reaffirm those values that connect us as Americans and begin to reject the politics of division and the rhetoric of absolutism. We are a great country when we are focused on the things that unite us rather than focusing on the issues that seek to pit one group against another in order to amass power.

If Daniel is correct, then we can thank the GOP for at least one thing – after 12 years of the most partisan and nasty politics we’ve seen as a nation, through the impeachment of one the greatest presidents of the 20th century, through wars, recessions, and stained blue dresses, the Republicans finally succeeded in pushing us to the point where we’ve thrown our hands up and said, “NO MORE!”

File this one under “Centrists must be exterminated” category, though this time the calls for hunting us down are coming from the Right and not the Left.

“Tell us, why, again, Republicans need 55 senators?” Rush Limbaugh asked not long ago. “Why do we need 55 senators when we have so many malcontents and traitors in the bunch? And they all happen to be from the Northeast, and they all happen to be moderates, they all happen to be liberals.”

In that spirit, the National Federation of Republican Assemblies set out to rid the party of this threat. It set up a “RINO Hunters Club” to “root out and hunt down” the squishy centrists who are “Republicans in Name Only.” The Club for Growth ran candidates to defeat them. Last week on his radio show, Sean Hannity blasted the RINOs again, saying they were costing good conservatives their jobs.


Reign Of The Centrists? Moderate Democrats Have Republicans Running Scared

October 23, 2006

Centrist Democrats are running even with or leading their Republican opponents in House and Senate races across the country, GOP strategists believe Reagan Democrats are leaving their party, and for the first time, Hillary Clinton is leading John McCain in a hypothetical White House match up.

“The days of Democrats’ having to check 28 boxes before they run are over,” says DSCC Chair, Senator Charles Schumer. “We want to win.”

Newsweek, in their spotlight on Tennessee Congressman and Senatorial candidate Harold Ford taps into a truth this week that centrists have known for sometime now. People are tired of the partisan bickering from the left and the right and are ready to cast aside the ideologues and move the country forward.

Two weeks before the midterm elections, the Democrats’ fate lies not in the hands of the party’s much-dissected antiwar left but with a handful of careful, calculating centrists like Harold Ford. Just a few months ago, Republicans were heralding Ned Lamont’s defeat of Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut’s senatorial primary as the end of the Democratic Party, its surrender to the angry extreme. But spend a few minutes with Sen. Charles Schumer, the strategic mastermind behind the Democrats’ effort to win back the Senate, and Lamont’s name barely comes up. (For the record: Lamont is trailing Lieberman, who is running as an independent, by as much as 17 points in the latest polls.) Instead, Schumer is talking up the “common sense” candidates running in states like Tennessee, Missouri and Virginia—candidates who don’t sound much like Democrats even when they’re assaulting Republican opponents over the war.

For two years the Democratic political establishment has been unabashedly applying one litmus test to candidates: their ability to win. In the Senate, Schumer took flak from activist groups when he backed candidates like Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, who is anti abortion rights. In the House, Demo-Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Rahm Emanuel corralled a group of Iraq and Afghanistan vets to run as “macho Democrats” against Republican incumbents. At Howard Dean’s Democratic National Committee—well, who’s even heard anything from Howard Dean? He’s largely taken a back seat to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in making the Democrats’ prime-time case. “The days of Democrats’ having to check 28 boxes before they run are over,” Schumer says. “We want to win.”

The current wave of centrism in the Democratic party has it’s beginnings in the shadows of the disappointing midterm elections of 2002 when Democrat Phil Bredesen, a New Jersey-born businessman who had served as mayor of Nashville, won Tennessee’s governorship after framing himself as a cultural conservative and economic reformer. Democrat Tim Kaine, in turn, won the governorship of Virginia running as a “sensible centrist,” seceding another moderate Democrat, Mark Warner. These high profile centrist Democratic wins in red states contradicted the belief of the netroots that centrists could no longer win in red areas.

Marianne Means gives an abbreviated rundown on centrists in the midterm elections:

For years, voters have complained about the strident, partisan atmosphere in the nation’s capital, where compromise and cooperation have become dirty words.

Moderates have had a rough time, shunted aside by ideological radicals who scorn any middle way as hopelessly outdated. But this fall, the center is actually holding in lots of states. The prime example of this is Kansas, which has earned a poor reputation in recent years for extremist Republican politics.

Things got so bad the situation inspired a popular book, “What’s The Matter with Kansas?” by Thomas Frank.

Nine former prominent Republicans are running there for office as Democrats, saying they are fed up with the GOP. Paul Morrison is running for attorney general against Republican Phil Kline, who has demanded the names of abortion clinic patients and fought to defend teaching standards that question evolution. And Mark Parkinson, a former chairman of the Kansas GOP, is running for lieutenant governor alongside the centrist Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius.

Elsewhere, there are the two Nelsons – Democratic senators in conservative states once listed as among their party’s most endangered incumbents but now considered safe. Bill Nelson of Florida is miles ahead of Republican Katherine Harris, who as secretary of state was so blatantly biased toward George W. Bush during the 2000 balloting fiasco that moderates, independents and Democrats are still outraged. Ben Nelson of Nebraska votes with his GOP colleagues more often than any other Democratic senator, which blunts rival Pete Ricketts’ efforts to brand Nelson as an “ineffective” Democrat in a GOP-controlled political environment.

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, running as an independent after losing his Democratic primary to a more liberal challenger, Ned Lamont, is also currently ahead in the polls. He lost the primary because of his support for President Bush’s policy in Iraq, although he insists if elected he will caucus with the Democrats.

In Virginia, Sen. George Allen, a standard-issue right-wing Republican, is in a dead heat with former Republican James Webb, now a moderate Democrat.

In Pennsylvania, right-wing firebrand Sen. Rick Santorum has already been written off by the GOP, outdistanced by a moderate Democrat, Bob Casey. Sen. Mike DeWine in Ohio also appears to be toast.

Many factors play into this rejection scenario, but the trend clearly is toward moderates this year. The public is weary of extremist rhetoric and marginal cultural issues. While most of us believe Bush has pandered to the issues of the religious right too much, religious conservative activists feel frustrated that they haven’t gotten more.

Moderates have a discouraging record of failing to get out their voters. It is the hard right and the hard left who are usually motivated to support their heroes. But this year the intensity factor is with the mushy middle, which is where the majority of us instinctively belong.

Former President Bill Clinton is out there trying to reinforce that mood, talking up the joys of “the dynamic center” where political discourse contributes to the common good.

Philosophically, he makes great sense.

In regards to Harold Ford, Jr., the focus of the Newsweek article, he is definitely not your father’s Democrat. He is your grandfather’s. Strong on national defense, traditional family values, and not afraid to talk about his faith, he is cut from the same cloth as Harry Truman and John Kenney, much like the other centrists in races this year.

In Washington, Ford was eager to prove his conservative bona fides. In his new job, he sought out the conservative Southern Blue Dog Democratic caucus and became one of only three African-American members… Though no one could ever mistake Ford for Ted Kennedy, he isn’t always the off-the-reservation Democrat he makes himself out to be. According to Congressional Quarterly, Ford supported his party upwards of 85 percent of the time in most years since Bush took office.

Speaking of Rahm Emanuel, which DonkeyDigest often does, read this piece in the Washington Post. An interesting analogy can be drawn from the description of Emanuel eating an obviously sloppy roast beef and mustard sandwich and his obsessive drive to win back the House for the Democrats.

“There’s no clean way to do this.” He says.

Emanuel pulls no punches when dealing with the GOP. Discussing the candidate he recruited to run in the congressional district of retiring Illinois Republican Henry Hyde, Emanuel says, “They call Tammy Duckworth a cut-and-runner when she left two legs in Iraq?” he shouts, jabbing a finger in the air, drawing stares from around the deli. “How dare they! I’m going to give them the medicine that they’ve been giving out. That’s what shocks them.”

“Rahm is part of the young breed that people call the new Chicago machine,” says Don Rose, a longtime liberal activist who worked for Mayors Jane Byrne and Harold Washington. “They’re not ‘dem’ and ‘dose’ politicians. They know the difference between red wine and white wine. They’re not driven by ideology, and they play to win.”

Even within the White House where he worked for Bill Clinton, few were safe from aggressive instincts for winning. He once marched up to the newly elected Tony Blair in the Oval Office, where he and Clinton were preparing to go out for their first joint appearance. “This is important,” Emanuel said to the British prime minister. “Don’t fuck it up.”

But if the Democrats do sweep back into power in a couple of weeks, one has to wonder just where the extra voters will come from. Tim Reid from the Times has the possible answer.

Republican analysts believe that (the GOP’s) problems are rooted in the return of white, blue-collar voters to the Democrat fold, a generation after Ronald Reagan wooed them to the Republican cause.

The “Reagan Democrats” have been a cornerstone of Republican electoral success for the past 20 years, especially in the Midwest, still the battleground for presidential contests. By the early 1980s, these traditional Democrat voters — both rural and urban lower middle-class — no longer saw Democrats as their champions. Socially conservative, they were attracted by Mr Reagan’s simple message of moral values, fiscal responsibility and national security. Millions fled to the Republicans and stayed.

Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster and one of the strategists behind the party’s 1994 takeover of Congress, told The Times: “The (Rick) Santorum race shows that Reagan Democrats are returning to their roots. Economic issues among blue-collar social conservatives are now subsuming concerns about social issues.

“The Republican party has failed them. It didn’t cut spending. It wasn’t honest. It hasn’t controlled immigration. On issue after issue it didn’t do what these voters expected.” Mr Luntz says that this political remigration of Reagan Democrats — which if realised next month would represent a profound change of the American political landscape — is occurring across the Midwest, where the economy is arguably an even greater issue than Iraq.

Here’s a shocker. For the first time in any poll, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has a comfortable edge over Sen. John McCain in a hypothetical match up for the White House, but take away her maiden name and McCain has a better shot of landing in the Oval Office – but not by much.

So say the results of a CNN poll released Friday by Opinion Research Corp., which asked 506 adult Americans whom they preferred among potential 2008 presidential candidates. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Asked if they preferred Hillary Rodham Clinton to McCain, respondents gave the Democratic New York senator and former first lady a 51 percent to 44 percent advantage over the Republican Senator from Arizona. Remove “Rodham” and McCain had a 1 percentage point advantage, 48 percent to 47 percent.

The results fall within the sample’s margin of error, so there is a “good chance, but not a statistical certainty” that Clinton’s maiden name would help her in a match up against McCain, said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director.