Stuck in the middle without you

The traditional political wisdom of modern Presidential campaigns follows the Nixon Plan from 1968: run to the right (left for Democrats) in the primaries, then back towards the middle for the general election. Primaries having become even more prevalent and influential since then, most candidates understand they must at least appease their party’s base to win the nomination, but must also appeal to the more moderate “swing voters” and independents to be elected. In 1968, we should recall, Democrats were coming off one of their best-ever midterm sweeps, winning commanding majorities in both House and Senate. Yet, the Democratic Party was divided sharply between those who supported LBJ’s Vietnam policy and those opposing the war altogether.

In 2008, it will be a Republican President’s war, but the Democrats remain divided into two distinct camps: one wishes we could win in Iraq but believes we cannot, the other wishes we will lose. Nutroots guru Kos has gone so far as to threaten the moderate DLC, although they haven’t blinked. Kimberly Strassel has more for the Wall Street Journal below the fold:

“They’ll find their way back to the middle. And if they don’t, they won’t win.” So says a blunt Harold Ford Jr., chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, of his party’s current crop of presidential candidates. The question is just how many would-be Democratic presidents recognize the wisdom of his words.

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Making it harder is that this newly energized left is directing inordinate firepower on the DLC itself, in a crazed, purist drive to purge any group that would exert a moderating influence on the Democratic Party. New Republic scribe Noam Scheiber let loose a few weeks back in a New York Times hit piece, calling the DLC “radioactive” and “quaint,” gloating that its “fading influence was good news for the entire party,” and arguing that it should just get lost. Markos Moulitsas, chief flogger-blogger on the Daily Kos, this week slammed the DLC as a group that wants to “blur distinctions with the GOP,” and reveling that Democrats had won in 2006 because liberals like himself had “forced” Americans to pick sides.

The real target audience for these pronouncements is the Democratic presidential field, and the threat is clear: Touch the DLC, and you will be (to use a favorite, medieval Kos word) “punished.” At least a few activists danced a victory lap, too, a few weeks back when every last Democratic candidate spurned the DLC’s annual convention in Nashville, instead turning up at Mr. Moulitsas’s YearlyKos event in Chicago.

Read the whole article at the link supplied. The far left wants to win, but not at the cost of ideological purity. Centrists are to be purged; there can be only one Party Line.

It is eerily reminiscent of the 1912 Republican Party, which controlled all three branches of government and had, comfortably, for some years. The Progressive wing, led by former President Theodore Roosevelt, split from the Party establishment enabling the election of Woodrow Wilson. The divide in the Democratic Party is not so stark as that of the Republicans of the last century, but neither is their grip on power so firm.

Economics, Democrat style
Fingers in the wind