Imagine my surprise this morning, twelve years later, as Democrats come back into the majority in the House with a huge, decisive victory and the Senate is poised to tip as well and the press seems to be interpreting this election as a .... repudiation of the soft and squishy hated liberals. (Again, they are taking their cues from Rush Limbaugh who is also spinning the election as a loss for liberals.) The narrative is suspended in amber.He then extensively quotes Rick Perlstein at TNR, who points out that while the hand-picked DCCC candidates were defeated as often as not, the "netroots" was pretty thoroughly successful, and the successful candidates were often hardly the "Conservative Democrats" that the media seems to pretend they are. Best example is right here:
It's wrong, of course, just as the earlier one was. This election proves that the Democrats are the mainstream political party. We just elected a socialist from Vermont and a former Reagan official from Virginia to the US Senate. We elected a number of Red State conservatives, true, but we are also going to have a Speaker of the House from San Francisco. We cover a broad swathe, ranging from sea to shining sea with only the most conservative old south remaining firmly in the hands of the Republican party. The idea that this is some sort of affirmation of conservatism is laughable. It's an affirmation of mainstream American values and a rejection of the Republican radicalism this country has been in the grips of for the last 12 years.
And I'm sorry to have to inform all the kewl kidz and insiders, but this is largely due to the re-emergence of an active, vital, progressive base. Despite the fact that we aren't goosestepping around shouting about our Victory For The Homeland the way the Gingrich Jugend did in 1994, a revolution --- not of ideology, but necessity --- is underway.
It was a pattern repeated across the country. New Hampshire's 1st District delivered Carol Shea-Porter, a former social worker who got kicked out of a 2005 Presidential appearance for wearing a T-shirt that said turn your back on bush. That might have been her fifteen minutes of fame--if, last night, she hadn't defeated two-term Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley. For the chance to face him, however, she had to win a primary against the DCCC's preferred candidate, Jim Craig--whom Rahm Emanuel liked so much he made the unusual move of contributing $5000 to his primary campaign. Shea-Porter dominated Craig by 20 points--and then was shut out by the DCCC for general election funds.Digby's basic point is absolutely valid- that this shouldn't be considered a victory for the "New Democrats", or "Centrist Democrats" or whatever label they're trying to haul out. To be blunt, they didn't do a damned thing.
It was, first and foremost, a loss by the Republicans. The Dems kind of backed into this victory, which was handed to them by a party so absolutely unable to govern properly that even a deathgrip on the public discourse, a huge cash advantage, and well-worn talking points couldn't support them. The Republicans lost, and nobody can forget that for a second, because they're going to be much more effective now that their weakness at governance isn't an issue.
(Paradoxical, but true.)
It was also victory for Howard Dean and the netroots. Yes, Holy Joe won; incumbency and massive Republican support gave him the edge. The netroots still helped get people elected, though, by funnelling money and support to candidates that needed it, who had a shot, and didn't have the imprimitur of the Powers That Be. Howard Dean, on the other hand, provided the 50 state initiative, which ensured that the Dems had the support to compete in states that they would have been completely helpless in only a year ago. If anything this election was a vindication of Dean's strategy. If anything, this is his victory.
It's going to take more than one election victory, however, to get the media to change its tune. This was just a first step. Welcome though it is, there's a lot more to do.