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Democrats Debate Tactics V. Ideology

Pundits proliferate at opening night of the Democratic National Convention.

DENVER — The opening of the Democratic National Convention has been like the main stop on the book tour of every left-wing pundit who has done battle on a crossfire television show.

Though the celebrities were scheduled to begin making appearances Monday night at parties thrown by magazines such as GQ and Slate, the main stars so far have been Eric Alterman, Arianna Huffington, Jonathan Alter, Samantha Power, et al.

As could perhaps be predicted, they have been ubiquitous, as easy to find on the circuit as the overheated bomb-sniffing dogs and Panasonic flat-screen televisions populating the Pepsi Center.

You’d think most of the pundit class would be elated, or at least optimistic, right now. Thanks to an Iraq war that has gone disastrously (at least until the last few months) and an economy that is in the dumps, the country has turned on its Republican president in a way that is virtually unprecedented in modern American politics.

And yet, at a slew of panels Monday hosted by the Progressive Book Club, there seemed to be as much ambivalence as ever about the direction of the Democratic Party. For all Sen. Barack Obama’s talk of “change we can believe in,” one thing that remains the same is that the Democrats are the party of self-doubt, and that means that change we can believe in changes depending on whom you ask.

Why isn’t the Democratic Party fighting more like the Republicans?

Why, conversely, does it talk so much about this? Does it even need to?

Does the party need to be more corporate friendly or does it need to begin really talking about the small number of companies that control the airwaves?


Jane Mayer is a New Yorker writer and terrorism expert whose book, “The Dark Side,” argues that in, addition to the moral dilemma posed by torture, coercive techniques against alleged terrorists have proven time and again to be less effective than a carrot-and-stick approach. Yet Monday, at a lunch cohosted with Media Matters, she was saying that “liberals are afraid to make an opening on national security issues.”

The author and media critic Alterman was criticizing the left’s failure to forge alliances with military personnel who have criticized the war in Iraq.

David Sirota, author of the “The Uprising,” was incensed that the left talks more of winning than of forging a real progressive agenda.

Huffington was cautioning against a move to the center in an effort to appeal to swing voters. “Do you want a repeat of 2002 and 2004?” she asked. “Equivocating and triangulating? We had John Kerry putting on his hunting outfit to show people he was one of them. Those ways of campaigning will not win the election in 2008. The thing that will win is appealing to unlikely progressive voters.”