Calling a Truce: Ending the War within the Democratic Party

Calling a Truce: Ending the War within the Democratic Party

Last fall’s disastrous elections should have taught the Democratic Party many lessons. The list opens with the minor and tactical (it should not parade before the public a national chairman who delivers himself of ill-advised and oafish outbursts before the election and then appears at the National Press Club the day after the wipeout to announce that the party had “a good night”); it proceeds on up to the profound and historical (is the Democratic Party as presently constituted even capable of coming up with innovative ideas?).

But the chief lesson is this: the first thing the party needs to do is to make peace within itself. Nothing grated on me more in the days after the election, or struck me as more fatuous and dangerously wrongheaded, than hearing the sentence “This proves that the party has to move to the _____,” the blank being filled by “left” or “center.” Either argument is a prescription for ensured minority status for years to come-that is to say, a prescription for helping to ensure that the Republican Party controls electoral politics for the foreseeable future. Several things have to happen to prevent this, but it’s clear that the first of these is that the leaders of the two wings of the party, the liberal and the moderate, have to take the hatchet now lodged firmly in all their backs and bury it.


Michael Tomasky is the political columnist for New York magazine and author of Left for Dead and Hillary’s Turn. For the spring 2003 semester, he will be a visiting fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.


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