Roberts Battle Adds to Democrats' Divide.
The public tug of war among Democrats this week over the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr. underscores the conflicting pressures facing Democratic leaders as they try to satisfy a growing cadre of activists anxious to battle President Bush while avoiding the appearance of being captives of their most vocal constituencies.
The debate over what to do about Roberts is the latest in a series of disagreements over the past three years pitting the party's Washington-based leaders against traditional liberal advocacy groups or the newer world of grass-roots activists stitched together through e-mail and Web logs.
Some elected officials, according to critics, have been slow to appreciate how the power balance in the Democratic coalition has shifted -- away from established interests and toward citizen activists who tend toward a more aggressive brand of politics.
Party leaders in Washington trying to manage this unruly alliance as they prepare for Roberts's confirmation hearings face a delicate choice, according to party strategists and other analysts. They can risk heading into the 2006 midterm elections with a demoralized base. Or they could potentially turn off swing voters, who may view Bush's nominee in less ideological terms and could recoil at a party they perceive as driven by die-hard activists.
Rank-and-file Democrats "want the Washington party to fight every day on every issue and to fight more effectively and better," said Simon Rosenberg, co-founder of the New Politics Institute, a think tank for progressive politics and new technology. "The truth is, it's going to be hard to fight and win every battle. . . . It's finding that right balance that's going to be the art of keeping our coalition together over the next few years."
Earlier this month, another quarrel broke out over the party's tactics in a special House election in Ohio, in which Democrat Paul Hackett came within 5,000 votes of upsetting Republican Jean Schmidt in an overwhelmingly GOP district. Hackett enjoyed strong support from progressive bloggers, who helped him raise more than $400,000, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not put money into the race until the final weekend. Some grass-roots activists complained bitterly that the DCCC had missed an opportunity to score a stunning upset.
The worlds of the bloggers and of the liberal advocacy groups are different, but both share concerns that the Washington-based leadership's strategy may condemn Democrats to permanent minority status.
My concern is in bold. As a party we must pick our battles and advocate such things as being fiscally responsibile.