The ascension of Howard Dean to chairman of the DNC has thrown a spotlight on what I see as a fundamental split in the Democratic Party. I cannot see how a party of young, idealistic, yes, but headstrong and somewhat foolhardy activists can coexist with the party of Harry Truman. In other words, can MoveOn.org and the Democratic Leadership Council get along? Or is a breakup what the doctor ordered?
No one can doubt the Democratic Party's recent success in increasing donations and activism through the Internet, but where are the results? I have heard many argue that the Democrats haven't been 'tough enough', but I can tell you that from my side of the aisle, the 'progressive' crowd seems like, for the most part, a group of shrill anarchists. I would argue (and yes, I realize the left may not welcome advice from the right, no matter how sincere) that the Democrats need to move toward the center if they are to regain the White House. Bill Clinton is now seen by many on the right, no matter how we feel about his personal conduct, as the model of a successful Democratic politician, and he was pretty centrist, for the most part.
The problem is the Dean thing, for want of a better term. The progressives have given Dean a base and the chairmanship through their financial clout; they will scream bloody murder over any move to the center. The Democrats will never win the presidency, however, with a progressive candidate - just look at the reaction of the ordinary Iowans when the Deaniacs rolled into town.
How to solve the impasse? I can only see one way out. Sooner or later (and I'm betting on later), the progressives and the traditional Dems are going to have to part ways. There simply is not enough common ground to unite them anymore. The progressives are really nothing more or less than a European-style Green Party (by that, I mean the prominence of socialist themes alongside the environmental, give-peace-a-chance, flower-child faction). I cannot for the life of me imagine Harry Truman at a Howard Dean rally...can you?
The question remains - can the American political system make room for a serious third (or fourth) major party, or is the two-party system destined to dominate for the duration? We'll find out soon enough...
(cross-posted at Wingnuts and Moonbats)