March 7, 2007


The Almost-Rans (Ezra Klein, March 6, 2007, NY Sun)

In the days before dropping out, Mr. Vilsack offered a perfect case study. Asked about Social Security at a candidate forum put on by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, he suggested decoupling the program from wages and indexing it exclusively to prices, which rise more slowly. A decade ago, not an eyebrow would have twitched. His proposal was just the sort of deficit hawkery and independence-from-the-AARP in which the moderate Democratic Leadership Council -- which Mr. Vilsack chaired -- specialized. But progressives, who have watched President Bush appropriate Social Security's possible fiscal problems as a rationale for privatizing the program, would have none of it. Outrage erupted across the blogs, and Mr. Vilsack walked the suggestion back the next day. He dropped out only days later.

A few days before Mr. Bayh dropped out of the presidential race, back in December, John Judis published an article in The New Republic Online detailing the senator's votes on a particular bete noire of progressives: the 2005 bankruptcy bill. "[T]hey were minor votes," wrote Mr. Judis, "and probably ones that Bayh expected the greater public (but not the credit companies) to ignore." But now, the online Left was around to care and complain. Those revelations served as the last straw for most progressives, whose judgment of Mr. Bayh followed that of blogger Markos Moulitsas, who had remarked, a few days earlier, "I don't know why anyone would want to be the Joe Lieberman of 2008, but I guess Bayh wants the title. It's his. Congrats to him." Mr. Bayh left the race a week later.

Even Mr. Warner, who enjoyed a good deal of progressive support, made few missteps, and was featured on the cover of The New York Times magazine, unexpectedly ended his bid last October, citing that old standby: family reasons.

What these candidates had in common was not, as Mr. Vilsack would have you believe, a lack of funds. Mr. Warner and Mr. Bayh were both robust fundraisers with bank accounts stretching into the eight digits. They left, instead, because they couldn't win. There was no room in the Democratic primary for centrist technocrats with an appetite for compromise and an aversion to big-picture progressive thinking. In other words, there was no room on the Left's right. The Democratic electorate no longer appears willing to trade ideology for electability. Indeed, they no longer seem to believe that's a choice they have to make.

Who'da thunk it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 7, 2007 8:52 PM

It is Dem extremism that is ruining the Republican Party as well.

With no real competition in the field of ideas, the Reps run as slightly more rational, but refuse to enact good policy, and opt for corruption and log rolling instead.

Where (other than Bush) was Rep. leadership on Social Security. The pigs ignored Bush and passed pork instead.

They are the better party, but barely.

Posted by: Bruno at March 7, 2007 11:07 PM

Bruno: Not a dime's worth of difference? Live babies and guns say otherwise.

As to the article, it is rendered confusing by use of the repeated word, "progressive" to describe reactionaries fighting Social Security reform like mad dogs

Posted by: Lou Gots at March 8, 2007 4:22 AM

You can't privatize SS until the GOP has 60 Senate seats and that takes time, not "courage."

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2007 7:41 AM


You may be right, but in 2005 Bush did not 'push' any plan, and Congress (the GOP leadership) refused to even discuss the issue. A lot of congressional Republicans were naysayers, even though there were members in both houses who won elections in 2002 and 2004 by campaigning on SS reform.

That's called fear. Which is in opposition to courage, is it not?

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 8, 2007 11:02 AM

No, it's reality, which is in opposition to fantasy.

Posted by: oj at March 8, 2007 11:07 AM