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Dems Toughening Up?

When Tom Delay spearheaded the coup-by-gerrymander in Texas that netted the GOP four additional congressional seats in one brazen swoop, you could hear the Democratic jaws dropping from Passaic to Tarzana. But Delay's coup may prove a blessing in disguise, albeit a very good disguise, because it awakened many Democrats to the stark realization that, 'geez, these guys are playing hardball, while we're still playing patty-cake.' Now comes new hope that the Dems are gearing up for some serious strategic and tactical hardball of their own, according to Ronald Brownstein's second of two articles on the subject in today's LA Times, "Democrats Seek to Outmaneuver Republicans by Imitating Their Strategy." Please, may it be so.

Notes Brownstein:

Bush did split Democrats last week on legislation restricting class-action lawsuits 18 Senate Democrats joined with Republicans to pass the bill. But mostly, Democrats have unified behind a fervent resistance to Bush, which discourages internal dissent and aims more at mobilizing their core supporters than converting swing voters.

That direction is evident from the near-unanimous opposition among Democrats to Bush's Social Security and budget plans and the selection Saturday of Howard Dean, the left's great hope of the 2004 presidential campaign, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

In each particular, the emerging Democratic strategy draws more on GOP precedents than the Democrats' own tactics during the 1990s.

Those Democrats urging scorched-earth opposition to Bush's central proposals cite the relentless attacks by Gingrich, then the House minority whip, against the Democratic congressional majority through the early 1990s and the successful efforts by GOP strategist Kristol to deter Republicans from cooperating with Clinton on healthcare reform.

To discourage dissent, Democrats are also adapting Republican techniques. Though still not as tough as the GOP, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) is moving more forcefully than Gephardt, her predecessor, to threaten Democrats who back Bush with the loss of prized committee seats.

Privately, Democratic interest groups have discussed the creation of a liberal equivalent to the Club for Growth that would campaign against defecting Democrats. The online liberal behemoth MoveOn.org is already targeting ads at the one House Democrat Florida's Allen Boyd backing Bush on Social Security.

Any Democrats who support Bush's Social Security proposals will "face real consequences from the base of the party," warns Robert Borosage, co-director of the liberal Campaign for America's Future.