Thursday, September 29, 2005

Saint Hillary

Matt Bai has an interesting piece on Hillary Clinton coming out in Sunday’s NYT Magazine. The main thrust of the article is that Clinton’s shift toward the center can be seen as perfectly consistent with attitudes and positions she has had (but perhaps under-expressed) since the days of the Clinton presidency. Bai points out that there is a rift in the Democratic party that Hillary may not be aware of, or the significance of which she may not sufficiently appreciate.

"What Dean's candidacy brought into the open…. was another kind of growing and powerful tension in Democratic politics that had little to do with ideology. Activists often describe this divide as being between "insiders" and "outsiders," but the best description I've heard came from Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic operative who runs the advocacy group N.D.N. (formerly New Democrat Network), which sprang from Clintonian centrism of the early 1990's. As Rosenberg explained it, the party is currently riven between its "governing class" and its "activist class." The former includes the establishment types who populate Washington - politicians, interest groups, consultants and policy makers. The second comprises "Net roots" Democrats on the local level; that is, grass-roots Democrats, many of whom were inspired by Dean and who connect to politics primarily online, through blogs or Web-based activist groups like The argument between the camps isn't about policy so much as about tactics, and a lot of Democrats in Washington don't even seem to know it's happening.

"The activist class believes, essentially, that Democrats in Washington have damaged the party by trying to negotiate and compromise with Republicans - in short, by trying to govern. The "Net roots" believe that an effective minority party should disengage from the governing process and eschew new proposals or big ideas. Instead, the party should dedicate itself to winning local elections and killing each new Republican proposal that comes down the track. To the activist class, trying to cut deals with Republicans is tantamount to appeasement."

The whole piece will be available on line Sunday. (Free registration required) I recommend it.

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