Should Progressives Care About 2010?
Two of my favorite online writers, Chris Bowers of OpenLeft and Nate Silver of 538.com, had an interesting exchange that touches on a perennial issue of concern to Democrats: should self-conscious progressives (using the Progressive Caucus definition of that term) care if a bunch of "centrist" or conservative Democrats in the U.S. House lose in 2010?
Chris says, basically, no. His reasoning is that there is already a "non-progressive majority" in the House, and that non-progressive Democratic losses might well strengthen the hand of the Progressive Caucus in the Democratic Caucus at large. He also suggests that some of the seats lost by the kind of Democrats he doesn't like might be picked up by the kind of Democrats he likes down the road.
Nate offers a rejoinder that looks closely at the 39 most vulnerable House Democrats and argues that Chris' generalization of them as non-progressive is quite questionable. Choosing the three most difficult (and significant) House votes as a measure, he notes that 18 voted with the leadership and the administration on all three; 27 voted "right" on two out of three; and only two went the wrong way on all three. Since Speaker Pelosi undoubtedly gave some of these Members a "pass" on one or more of these key votes, they seem less than monolithically rebellious, and the idea that replacing them en masse with (typically) right-wing Republicans as a matter of indifference is a dubious proposition.
Neither Chris nor Nate directly addresses the obvious issue that it matters to Democrats if they actually control the House or not, and neither really gets into the question of whether at least some of the endangered Democrats accurately represent the views not only their districts, but of Democrats in their districts. Chris is clearly focused on the relative power of the Progressive Caucus vis a vis the Blue Dogs, but as Nate points out, 39 of the 53 Blue Dogs aren't endangered at all.
I understand that OpenLeft was founded with the explicit goal of moving the congressional Democratic Caucus to the left, and is determined to get progressives to place a higher premium on ideology (and real-life policy results) than on blind partisanship. But Nate's right to question the sort of one-step-back, two-step-forward logic that is indifferent to gains by a rabidly conservative GOP so long as it damages ideologically "unsound" Democrats. It's not clear we as a party or a country can afford that sort of "long view."