The president is surrounded by people who share Daley’s grasp on reality, none more important or better placed than Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and a fellow Chicagoan. But the picture is not so clear on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s inner circle is made up of long-standing veterans of gerrymandered House districts, virtually immune from Election Day challenge, just as she is. The wants and needs of “the Democratic base” count heavily for them, and Daley’s warnings may be resented or ignored.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s home-state party in Nevada is as closely tied to the unions as Michigan used to be in the days of Walter Reuther, and Reid views the world from that perspective.
As a loyal Democrat, Daley insisted in the closing paragraphs of his op-ed that his party is not doomed to ruin. It can still avoid anything more than a minimal setback in 2010, he said, if it will simply “acknowledge that the agenda of the party’s most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans — and, based on that recognition . . . steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan.”
OK, a few things. First, to suggest that Harry Reid “views the world” from a union-dominated perspective is simply mistaken. Is EFCA on the Senate schedule? No. Did Reid change course when labor opposed the tax on “Cadillac” health plans? No.
Second, Broder believes all people should be more moderate at all times — today’s column was almost comically predictable — but he’s wrong to scoff at the notion that Democrats should generate some excitement among the party’s activist base. Motivating the rank and file will likely be key to Dems’ success (or lack thereof) in the 2010 midterms.
Third, for Broder (and Bill Daley) to believe that liberals’ priorities have “not won the support of a majority of Americans” is, for lack of a better word, odd. Liberals pushed for a public option in health care reform, and a majority of all Americans agreed. Liberals supported a Medicare buy-in, and a majority of all Americans agreed. Liberals want a cap on carbon emissions, and a majority of all Americans agree. Liberals want an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and a majority of all Americans agree. On most issues, the liberal approach to policy issues is the mainstream approach to policy issues.
And fourth, note that Broder is pretty vague about what “moving to the center” would actually look like. “Ignoring the demands of the base” isn’t a substantive recommendation. “Ignoring the demands of unions” isn’t a substantive recommendation, either. “Steer a more moderate course” doesn’t actually mean anything unless it’s followed by some depth.
If Broder wants to see Democrats become more “moderate,” how about backing that up with something specific? It’s not as if he lacks a high-profile media platform. If he knows where he’d like to see Democrats go, he should say so.