July 11, 2010

VOTED FOR OBAMA, GOT PELOSI:

Tennesee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, says his party must be more centrist (Dan Balz, 7/09/10, Washington Post)

Bredesen called the new health-care law "a missed opportunity," saying Democrats would have been better off politically if they had been able to put together bipartisan reform. He said efforts by a small, bipartisan group of governors to offer ideas for doing so were rebuffed by Congress.

The governor's comments reopened a long-standing schism within the Democratic Party between its liberal and centrist wings. Centrists held sway through much of Bill Clinton's presidency but the energy shifted to progressive and grassroots activists during George W. Bush's eight years in the White House.

The economic problems brought huge increases in federal spending under Obama, which has triggered a backlash among Republicans and many independents, although many liberal activists have been disappointed in Obama for not pushing harder to implement an even more progressive agenda.

With Democrats looking at potentially substantial losses in the midterm elections, the debate about the direction of the party is likely to flare again. Bredesen, coming from a southern state that has trended toward the GOP for some years, has long been an advocate for a more centrist party. His comments on Friday reflected his acute concerns that the Democrats' current problems are partly self-inflicted.

The Tennessee governor was particularly critical of the Democratic Congress. "We have put a lot of Democratic policies in the hands of committees and committee chairs who are not members of the New Democrats," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 11, 2010 5:31 PM
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