On The Liberal Base

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Haven't seen Ezra this pessimistic since this whole thing started:

...the reaction congressional Democrats have had to Coakley's loss has been much more shattering. It has been a betrayal.

The fundamental pact between a political party and its supporters is that the two groups believe the same thing and pledge to work on it together. And the Democratic base feels that it has held to its side of the bargain. It elected a Democratic majority and a Democratic president. It swallowed tough compromises on the issues it cared about most. It swallowed concessions to politicians it didn't like and industry groups it loathed. But it persisted. Because these things are important. That's why those voters believe in them. That's why they're Democrats.

But the party looks ready to abandon them because Brown won a special election in Massachusetts -- even though Democrats can pass the bill after Brown is seated. What that says is crucial: Whereas the base thought it was making these hard compromises and getting up early to knock on doors because these issues are important, the party thought all that was happening because, well, it's hard to say. It was electorally convenient? People need something to do? Ted Kennedy wanted it done?

If Democrats let go of health care, there is no doubt that a demoralized Democratic base will stay home in November. And that's as it should be. If the Democratic Party won't uphold its end of the bargain, there's no reason its base should pretend the deal is still on.

It's very hard to disagree with that--especially the part about the "fundamental pact." If you have the numbers to pass arguably the singular liberal issue of our time, and then refuse to do it, then why are we here? I understand the need to appeal to the middle. But there has to be some sense of trust between you and your base.

That said, I can't say I can get with the "stay home" notion. There's just too much else at stake. A return of the Bushies simply isn't an option.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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