Before Obama, the only Democrats to win the presidency over a 40-year period were two moderate Southern governors, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Yes, the president is from Illinois, but he hardly ran as a Warren-type ideologue. Nor has he governed as one, much to the dismay of hardliners that his press secretary once derided as “professional liberals.”
And yet the left is desperate for a candidate to challenge Hillary Clinton, a card-carrying moderate, in 2016. So far, Warren insists she won’t run. But others — including two Vermonters, Sen. Bernie Sanders or former Gov. Howard Dean — could step in if she stays out.
Partisanship and ideology play a vital role in American politics. The problem is when purists turn into bullies — when they want to impose their orthodoxies on everyone else.
The “professional liberals” are not as effective or as organized as the tea party, but they can be just as destructive. In 2010, they supported a left-wing primary opponent against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a two-term Democrat from Arkansas, whose centrist voting record actually reflected her border state constituents. Lincoln survived the purge but was so bloodied by the battle that she lost badly in November.
Now the “professional liberals” are at it again. Two executives of Third Way, a center-left think tank, wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal warning against the “Warren wing of the Democratic party” that indulges in “fantasy-based blue-state populism.”
Liberals immediately demanded that Democrats linked to Third Way denounce the article and sever ties with the organization. This is tea partyism in reverse. And it is just as misguided on the left as on the right.
Obama will be president for three more years, and on at least two important issues, he will have to defy his liberal base to accomplish his objectives. One is trade, where promising agreements that could create thousands of new jobs face staunch opposition from organized labor.