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RX for 'New Democrats' in TNR Article

Kenneth Baer’s article“Rebuilding Project” in The New Republic is generating some buzz in the pro-Dem blogosphere. Baer, a former Gore speechwriter and author of “The Politics of Liberalism From Reagan to Clinton,” challenges “New Democrats” – loosely defined as Democratic moderates and conservatives gathering under the Democratic Leadership Council umbrella – to do some soul searching. Says Baer:

It's not that New Democrats don't draw bright lines where they differ from the liberal-left. It's that they don't do the same when it comes to those on the right. To undo the damage--and restore themselves to the level of influence they enjoyed during the early 1990s--New Democrats have to explain not just who they are, but more importantly who they are not.

Baer’s article defines the core values of “true New Democrats” - and makes some revealing distinctions between sub-groups in the Democratic spectrum. To become a more relevant force in today’s Democratic Party, Baer urges New Democrats to refocus their arguments:

For New Democrats to reenter today's debate about the future of the Democratic Party, they must reclaim their identity as the modernizing, reformist wing of the party…Put another way, New Democrats need to be just as critical of those who would simply pare back the brain-dead ideas of the Republican right as they are of those who espouse the brain-dead dogmas of the Democratic left.

Baer’s challenge merits serious consideration from the New Democrats. But he should have also urged them to ease up on the demonizing of MoveOn and other liberal groups within the Party (and vice versa). Policy differences between different Democratic constituencies must be vigorously debated in order to find the common ground, but the insult-trading between liberal and conservative Dems serves no one but the GOP.