Monday, August 6, 2007

Montana's left has decided -- Max is good enough

According to Charles Johnson's "Horse Sense" column, Sen. Max Baucus will not have a primary challenger.

Baucus has been sliding a bit leftish, mostly by emphasizing his CHIP legislation at every turn, and keeping his K-Street connections quiet.

Apparently, that was all the nod that Montana's left needed in order to quell their once burning desire to give Baucus a primary challenge in order to punish him for his deviations from liberal orthodoxy. Baucus has to be thinking to himself -- "wow, that was easy."

Actually, anyone who surfs around the lefty blogosphere in Montana has known for some time that there wouldn't be a primary challenger, given the increasingly friendly tone toward Baucus of late. The Baucus camp felt confident enough to start running paid ads on Left in the West and Montana Netroots, and did it by making the case most likely to win netroots hearts: "Keep a Dem in office," and "help build our majority in 2008."

As E.J. Dionne pointed out today when talking about the Yearly Kos meeting:

The key litmus tests for Kos and his many allies in the blogosphere involve not long lists of issues developed by the ACLU or the AFL-CIO, but loyalty in standing up against Bush and doing what's necessary to build a Democratic majority.

In other words, anyone who puts policy ahead of partisanship gets booted out the netroots door -- or is at least made to stand in the corner.

Dionne may have come to this on his own, but we suspect that he drew heavily from Jonathan Chait's famous article in the New Republic from back in May, in which Chait dissected the liberal netroots movement and came up with the conclusion that it is, first and foremost, a movement consciously modelling itself on the conservative movement -- which it perceives as being a take-no-prisoners partisan enterprise.

We might argue about how accurate Chait's take on the conservative movement was (would that we had actually been as organized, determined, and unified as he portrays,) but he made some excellent points. The article was and is well-worth reading.

But getting back to Baucus: before reading Chait's article, MH would have predicted a primary challenge from the left, intended to drive him in that direction. After reading Chait's article, we were certain that there would never be such a challenge -- unless the left were convinced that Baucus was 100% unassailable in the general election. Since winning is everything in the new liberal netroots world (at least according to Chait -- and now Dionne,) nothing that created enough dissension to risk the seat would be done.

The lack of a Baucus challenger from the left suggests that what MH has been saying for some time is apparently an opinion shared by our Democratic friends: Baucus is more vulnerable in this election than he has been in a long time -- and not just in the event of a Rehberg challenge.

Consider also the quick Democratic move to grab domain names associated with Bob Keenan. All of this should cause Republicans to consider this race to be in play -- because apparently Democrats do.


Wulfgar said...

You're over thinking it. Baucus isn't any more beloved by the Montana weblogs than he was before, CHIP not withstanding. Most of us online would love to see a primary for Max. But the "netroots" can't just wizard up a primary challenger, and I don't think any state Democrat has a desire to be crushed in a primary.

And, you are incorrect. The ads that were at LItW and MN weren't from the Baucus camp. They were from the DSCC.

Jay Stevens said...

Good post.

I thought I'd give you my own view of the goals of the left 'sphere, since I believe in them and aspire to them. (I wrote a post about it, after reading "," the Kossak/MyDD handbook for changing politics.)

You wrote, "In other words, anyone who puts policy ahead of partisanship gets booted out the netroots door -- or is at least made to stand in the corner."

Which is true. Here's the thing, tho', it's idiocy to dump a candidate because s/he doesn't vote "right" on all the issues. Like gun control or abortion. What's important is that the candidate will stand up against the bloc of Republicans when it matters. (Like, say, over warantless wiretapping and other radical executive powers.)

In that sense, our Netroots are more tolerant of diversity in ideology and policy than our activist forefathers. But once consensus on action is achieved, I expect my reps to act.

But one crucial goal of the Netroots that you leave out is that we're trying to radically transform the Democratic party into more aptly representing us, mainstream America. At the same time we're electing more Democrats, we're also electing better Democrats.

Yes, you could say, we're imitating the conservative playbook. But then, why wouldn't we? They changed the game and have consistently taken advantage of Democrats who appear not to understand the new partisanship in politics. I see a unified conservative bloc as a real threat -- to my pocketbook, job prospects, environment, and health and well being. So I would be foolish to not support my own, opposing bloc.

As for the MT scene...let's just say there's not much concern over here that Baucus will get a real race -- even if we wish he would, and even if we leftys have given potential opposition candidates the arguments to hammer him with.

Seems foolish to waste our efforts and money on a primary race against a candidate with high popularity ratings and a ton of money when we can help out critical races in New Hampshire, Maine, and Kentucky, say.

So there you go! The internal workings of the net activist, delivered to your doorstep!

Montana Headlines said...

W, you're probably right that I'm overthinking it. Perhaps wishful thinking it might be the case as well.

And yes, the ads were from the DSCC -- but with there being only 49 Senators in the Demcratic party, it was safe to assume that the Baucus camp was aware and was giving it a green light.

After all, if an angry liberal netroots were about to launch a campaign against Baucus, a request for such ad placement might have been perceived as a heavy-handed attempt to buy off a blog.

There I go again -- overthinking it.

Jay, you are really confident, aren't you? After all, you know that all of this inside info goes straight into my magic Karl Rove wristwatch-transmitter.

Seriously, you make a lot of good points. I think that there are cases where even Republicans would agree that Democrats are recruiting and electing better candidates. Just be careful not to become what you hate, in terms of partisanship.

And if the Democratic party has really taken a turn to where it is starting to be considered to be more important to reign in government excesses like warrantless wiretapping than work for restrictive gun laws or to fight any and all abortion restrictions to the death -- well, then things have definitely taken a turn for the better.

As to the Republicans changing the game, I'm not so sure. What happened was that Republicans started fighting back instead of rolling over -- and were determined to be a party that was at least on a parity with Democratic hegemony. You may be too young to remember all of those long and dark (from our perspective) years. What was it, 40-some years without control of Congress?

Democrats have no concept of what it means to be out of power for decades while your political, intellectual, and cultural opposition remake the country. Decades. Republicans had a Congressional majority and the Presidency for a grand total of 6 years, and you'd have thought the world was coming to an end, eavesdropping on sites like the Daily Kos.

Jay Stevens said...

I'm a child of 37, and I've lived under less than 10 years of Democratic rule...and what seems like an endless supply of Republican or conservative Democratic presidents...and our liberal wasn't so hot.

As for the world ending -- in six years, the GOP has reinvented foreign policy for the worse, started a war it can't win, and made a radical attempt to give the president authoritarian powers, instigating a constitutional crisis, the worst since Watergate...

I I am pining for the days of Bush, Sr!

Montana Headlines said...

Let's say someone was born in 1968 and will be about 40 at the time of the 2008 elections. I may be off a bit here or there since I'm doing this all from memory off the cuff, but you'll get the idea.

For the first 8 years of his life, he will have had a Democratic Senate and House, and Republican Presidents whose domestic policies were more liberal than Clinton's and whose foreign policies were more dovish than LBJ or JFK (not to mention being hampered first by a plurality election and then scandal.)

For the next 4 years, he will have had all-Democratic rule.

For the next 8 years, there will be a conservative Republican President, but the House will have been in Democratic hands the entire time, and the Senate in Dem hands for part of the time.

Then, it's Bush, Sr., who campaigned as though he was Reagan but governed like a moderate country-club Republican. And the House and Senate are Democratic.

Then, two more years of all-Dem rule.

Then, 6 years of a Democratic President and this now 26 year old will be seeing the first Republican House of his lifetime.

Then, 8 years of a moderate Republican, with 2 years of a Democratic House and 4 years of a Democratic Senate.

All told, this 40 year old will have had 6 years of all-Dem rule, 4 years of all Republican rule, and 30 years of divided rule -- only 8 of which had a President who was truly conservative, and him never having a Republican Congress.

Now, let's make that person a 70 year old, looking back at his life. He was born in the middle of FDR's second term, and for the first thirty years of his life will have only had 8 years of Republican presidents, and 2 years of a Republican Congress.

The first 56 years of his life, he will have seen a Republican Congress for exactly 2 years.

Add it up, and he will have experienced 28 years of all-Democratic rule, 6 years of all-Republican rule in two spurts more than 50 years apart, and 30 years of divided rule.

So, from the perspective of that 70 year old, all that has happened in your lifetime has been that the brakes have been (sort of) put on a fast-moving train, hardly slowing it down.

And let's not forget the Supreme Court. That 40 year old will have spent the first half of his life with a liberal court, and the second half with a moderate court. It can only be considered to be conservative now, for the last year, if you think that Kennedy is a conservative -- a highly contentious question.

Part of our perceptions are based on the fact that we are each toward the ends of our respective political spectrums. I see liberal where you see moderate or even conservative, you see conservative where I see moderate or liberal.

It is interesting that you mention longing for the days of Bush, Sr. Practically speaking, those were very good days for liberals, as will be the next two years -- better than the Clinton years in many ways, and maybe better than the Carter years.

Likewise, the six years of Clinton/Gingrich were probably some of the best years for conservative advances -- you won't get many Republicans to admit to being nostalgic for those years, but you can bet many are.