Yes. If you couldn't, the Republican base wouldn't be as successful as it is.
Ezra says that progressive should support the health care bill, no matter how bad it is, because otherwise nothing will pass. Well, yes. That's true. But if we're talking about bad bills, progressives and liberals shouldnt want them to pass. If we're talking about health care bills that are actually worse than the status quo, then we don't want them to pass.
And, more importantly, does Ezra want the base to fight for anything at all? It sure doesn't seem like it. Look at this:
There's no successful model for blunting the power of centrists to write -- or kill -- the final compromise. President after president has found himself foiled by congressional centrists. George W. Bush never truly managed to bring Susan Collins, George Voinovich, or Olympia Snowe to heel. His tax cuts were smaller than he wanted, his Medicare expansion was pricier than conservatives liked, and his attempt to privatize Social Security was batted back. Bill Clinton fared little better. The hardest votes are the people who don't fundamentally want to vote for your agenda, not the people who do. And those are always the votes you get last.Honestly, this isn't difficult. The Democratic party is already "infighting". It's just that it's a one-way fight. The "centrists" (read: right-wingers) are mowing down progressives again, and again, and again. Progressives aren't getting a damned thing out of this Administration or this Congress, and they're sick and tired of it.
The outcome of this strategy, then, seems to be that the Democratic Party pretty much collapses into infighting and fails to pass its top priorities and loses a bunch of seats in the next election. The media explains that the liberal Nancy Pelosi and her liberal House Democrats caused the electoral disaster, or that Democrats couldn't agree on an agenda. Long term, I'm not sure who that helps.
And Klein's historical analogies don't hold water, either. In ALL of those cases, the Republican base showed tremendous power in holding the government's line. No, they didn't get everything they wanted, but they have got one hell of a lot more of what they wanted than liberals are now.
The reason why? Because they will be obstinate. They will run primary challenges. They will choose to lose a district rather than compromise their principles. They do it, because they know that during the next vote, and the one after that, and the one after that, the reaction of the higher-ups in the party will be "can we sell this to the base". Democrats clearly couldn't give a damn about their base. (Certainly journalistic Washington doesn't.)
Klein (and Yglesias, and a lot of the other disappointing former-bloggers-turned-washingtonians) doesn't get that many progressives see no future whatsoever for them in the curent Democratic party. They aren't going to be listened to, they aren't going to be respected, and the country will just keep moving in the Republicans' direction until the whole damned thing burns.
Whether the Dems lose seats in 2010, or in 2012 is totally irrelevant. Progressives aren't the Democrats. They aren't part of the team, nor will they ever be. Progressives are in it for good policy and good governance. Nothing more.
No, the base has to confront the fact that it will not be listened to, not ever, unless they put their foot down.
So that's exactly what they must do.