Burying the Lede: 'Progressive Wing' Dominates the Democrats

Liberalism is dominant in the Democratic Party, the "progressive wing" and the "Net roots" are triumphant. But in confirming that fact with a Dan Balz "news analysis," The Washington Post used headlines on Thursday morning's front page that beat around the bush (or Bush). On page one, it was "Choosing a Candidate, and More: For Democrats, Party’s Tone and Image at Stake." Inside the A section, the headline after the jump was also vague: "Democrats Also Choose a Style of Leadership." The lede is clear, buried inside in paragraph seven:

Two Democrats who do not always see eye to eye on issues agree that there is substantial unity in the party on the big questions. "The big arguments of the last years have been won by progressives, partly in response to the populist outrage against Bush," said Robert L. Borosage, co-director of the liberal Campaign for America's Future. He noted that no candidate is running as a defender of the Iraq war, that all support universal health care -- a shift from where the candidates were four years ago -- and all have moved away from the Clinton administration's free-trade policies, including both Clintons.

So there are two sides: old-time ultraliberals who want to shout liberalism from the mountaintops, and establishment liberals who want to wear a "centrist" suit of armor, even if it doesn’t fit very well. Back to Balz:

Ron Klain, who was chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore in the Clinton White House, agreed that President Bush has helped unify Democrats but added: "I also think some of the credit goes to President Clinton for having governed very successfully for eight years, and having put in place a policy framework that by and large is a framework that our party still embraces today." Klain described the framework as one that embraces fiscal responsibility, a pragmatic foreign policy and what he called centrist social policies. [!] He noted that all the Democratic presidential candidates support that framework. Klain also credited the progressive grass roots and the "Net roots" of the party for helping to give candidates cover on a more ambitious agenda for restructuring the nation's health-care system."This is a place where the progressive wing of our party -- everything from progressive groups like the labor unions, progressive think tanks, progressive blogs like [Daily] Kos -- is seen within our party," he said. "They've collectively been saying to the candidates: 'Look, you can be more courageous, you can step out on these issues, you can have strong, robust proposals on these programs and there will be support for it.'"

The story is not unanimous. Balz quoted former RNC chair Ken Mehlman suggesting those "robust" liberal stances will make Democrats politically vulnerable. But Ron Klain’s centrist poses aren’t half as odd as John Edwards (whom Balz only describes as a "populist") insisting his slashing rhetoric against corporate greedheads isn’t ideological:

Edwards's populist candidacy, which targets the Washington establishment and the cozy relationship between corporate power and the political parties, would seem to represent a clear ideological rebuke to Clintonism. But Edwards rejects that interpretation of his candidacy. "I don't think it's ideological," he said in an interview Monday. "I think it's about having a party that is truly representative of a cross section of Americans and working people, and saying no to these entrenched interests....I honestly don't believe this is ideological."

And liberals think denying global warming is odd...

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis