In an earlier post, while criticizing Nader for a racist comment (a criticism I agree with), Jeff wrote:
… if I was someone who was instrumental in ensuring the election of George W. Bush to the White House, I’d hide my head in shame. [...] I will note that Nader is a big Kill the Bill guy. Now, I know that in and of itself doesn’t prove that killing the bill would be a disaster of Brobdingnagian proportions for the Democrats, one that would cause the party to spiral out of control for years.
Jeff, would you say Al Gore and Bill Clinton should hide their heads in shame?
After all, it was Gore and Clinton — along with the other “third way” leaders of the Democratic party in the 1990s — who chose to marginalize progressives. And once progressives realized they were being totally ignored, their predictable frustration created space for Nader’s 2000 candidacy.
But we’ve all learned our lesson, and will never take a chance on that happening again, right?
The White House does not view progressives as equal partners, as people who have legitimate concerns and priorities that need to be included in any deal. They still take the Clintonian view that the “left” can be appeased either through a few nice words in a speech, and if that fails, can be crammed down by being told they’re wreckers, being told this is the best progressives can get, being told that progressives are irrelevant (even while the WH’s defensive actions show they’re anything but irrelevant).
The White House hasn’t yet grasped that some basic and timeless rules of politics still apply: that you have to deliver something to your supporters to keep them on board.
I’m not a “kill the bill” person; I think we’re better off passing the bill and trying to improve on it. Nonetheless, it’s likely that kill the bill activists have made the bill marginally better than it would otherwise be (as Nate Silver argues). There’s an important lesson in that. The Obama administration expects progressives to meekly compromise our goals and priorities, over and over, while Obama and Reid rush to proffer a hanky every time Lieberman/Nelson/Snowe has a sniffle.
Elections aren’t won by the best policy ideas — if they were, there wouldn’t be a Republican in congress. Elections are won, by and large, by the side that works harder. In 2008, an angry and passionate left kicked the ass of a demoralized Republican party. We’re in danger of seeing that dynamic in reverse in 2010. Obama and the Democrats, by giving virtually nothing to progressives — not even a good fight — have demoralized the left. So who’s going to make the phone calls and knock on the doors in 2010, and in 2012?
Nader is a jerk, but the 2000 Nader campaign was a perfectly ordinary response by progressive Democrats to Clintonism. Lacking a home within the Democratic party, progressives looked elsewhere. I think the pain of George W. is too fresh in everyone’s minds for progressives to look for a new political home — yet. But if progressives are too dispirited to campaign for the Democrats in 2010, it’ll have the same effect.
And without Nader to scapegoat, who will Democrats blame if they get their asses kicked in 2010?