Put away the poison pills
I'd like to add an amen to these thoughts from Josh Marshall:
I remember talking to Simon Rosenberg, the head of the New Dem Network, at the Democratic convention last summer. You'll remember, he and his group were profiled in the Times magazine around that time. The article, in brief, was about plans to create a Democratic-leaning counter-establishment along the lines of what Republicans did two generations ago -- with an alternative media, activist groups, organized political giving, in short a political infrastructure.
He told me he thought it would take ten years to accomplish. And I told him my one worry was that it could all be strangled in its crib if Kerry didn't win.
Well, here we are. And this is the test for people who care about this kind of politics and these sorts of values -- making sure that what has been started is not allowed to falter. This isn't 1964 or 1972 or 1980. This wasn't a blow-out or a repudiation. It was close to a tie -- unfortunately, on the other guy's side. Let's not put our heads in the sand but let's also not get knocked of our game. Democrats need to think critically and seriously about why this didn't turn out 51% for Kerry or 55% for Kerry (and we'll get to those points in the future). But it would be a terrible mistake to stop thinking in terms of those ten years Simon described.
Josh's fear is my own fear as well. There is going to be a strong desire on the part of some Democrats to make someone pay for what happened last night. The last thing we need right now is a night-of-the-long knives style purge. Yes, there are people who should be quietly moved away from the levers of power. But it should be done in a way that does not salt the very fields where we want new progressives to grow.
The democrats have been remarkably disciplined in this campaign. More disciplined then I have ever seen. It would be a shame if we were to allow bitter feelings over these results to destroy the remarkable thing we are trying to create.
Defeating Bush was only the top-down solution to our problem. But even if we had defeated him the problem would still be there: we need a better ground-up operation. If anything, this defeat may give us the energy we need to re-devote ourselves to that latter, and more vital, process.