Clearly, the Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has been the top story of this Presidential campaign cycle, but one of the more interesting, and under-covered, sub-stories is the internal dynamics of the Left and the effect this campaign will have on them. Oddly, the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama contest is not really a battle between different factions of the Democratic Party. There's some DLC vs Progressive struggle, but that's only one element of it. The problem for the netroots - and Progressives in general - is that, despite both being very satisfactory in important ways, both Clinton and Obama reject the Progressive and netroots movement in some important way.
Fundamentally, what the netroots want is a Fighting Progressive. They want an unabashed liberal who will go toe to toe with the Republicans and punch them in the nose.
But what they have is a choice between a Fighting Pragmatist (Hillary Clinton) and a Kumbaya Progressive (Barack Obama).
No matter who wins, their victory represents a rejection of some core element of the Progressive and netroots movement. They will, of course, fall into line with the eventual nominee, but the disconnect with their candidate, and possible President, will be an ongoing vexation for them. In particular, it will create for the netroots a strategic problem. How will the netroots remain relevant and maintain the perception of Party leadership if the leader of their Party is repeatedly and conspicuously rejecting their core demand to either toe the Progressive policy line, or to be a hardened partisan brawler?
It will be fascinating to find out how they - both the netroots and the Party - navigate that dynamic. I can think of ways one side or another could manage the problem and even turn it to their advantage....but then, I'm content to let them work that out for themselves.
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