Pelosi's choice

As unhappy Democrats skirmished over leadership politics last week — and still elected Pelosi — progressives were threatening any members asking for change. They may have lost a minimum of 61 seats, but hey, who needs change? The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (clearly in favor of some other kind of "change") e-mailed supporters before the votes, warning remaining members of the decimated Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats not to support the hopeless challenge to Pelosi from Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina: "Blue Dogs insistence on watering down popular progressive change left many Obama voters uninspired to vote this year — and as a result, Democrats lost their House majority. Today, House Democrats are about to reelect Pelosi their leaders. But Schuler is one of the few fringe House members voting no. Can you call him? Tell him to stop being a weak Democrat — and that voting against Pelosi will have consequences." Whoa. Wonder if Tony Soprano is on contract with these guys.
 
This attitude reminded conservative Democrats of something they had heard recently from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) who was quoted, prior to the election, as saying
 that the one good thing about the coming tsunami is that it was going to get rid of some of the "difficult" Democrats.  
 
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What Waxman meant is that those difficult Democrats, from purple and red districts between the two coasts where his party isn't so popular, are helpful when they get elected in enough numbers to make him a committee chairman, but once they start disagreeing with an ambitious, progressive and ultimately unpopular policy agenda, they are just getting in the way and they need to go.
 
This is DeMint-ism on the left. Pure and simple. The conservative leader is recently famous for his ringing endorsement accompanied by a $250,000 money bomb in support of Christine O'Donnell's attempt to win a Senate seat in Delaware, and for this week saying he will vote against raising the debt limit. But he is also famous for his declaration last year when he said: "I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.”
 
Pelosi is now leader of the fractured, defeated Democratic caucus and remains a toxic face for the Democratic party. She will make it harder for the party to attract and recruit candidates for the battlegrounds the party needs to win back and already some donors who supported those kinds of moderate Democrats who can win in the swing districts are worried about wasting their dollars on races that can't be won. Without winning back those swing districts in the South and in the middle of the country, Democrats are doomed to the minority. Redistricting is likely to add to the challenge.
 
Pelosi has a choice — bring the conservative Democrats back to the table and into the process or allow her party to further purify its ranks, ala DeMint. The purer the caucus becomes the longer they will be in the minority.
 
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