Sunday, November 12, 2006

Liberal Activists Pressure Democrats on Agenda

Today's Los Angeles Times reports that liberal interest groups are insisting on a hard left agenda in Congress when the Democrats take power in January. The demands of the party's activist wing are placing pressure on Democratic leaders as they seek to steer a centrist path on policy in light of the moderate mandate from the elections:

After toppling the long-dominant Republicans in a hard-fought election, the Democratic Party's incoming congressional leaders have immediately found themselves in another difficult struggle — with their own supporters.

Some of the very activists who helped propel the Democrats to a majority in the House and Senate last week are claiming credit for the victories and demanding what they consider their due: a set of ambitious — and politically provocative — actions on gun control, abortion, national security and other issues that party leaders fear could alienate moderate voters and leave Democrats vulnerable to GOP attacks as big spenders or soft on terrorism.

The conflict underscores the challenge facing the Democrats in line to lead Congress — Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco in the House and Harry Reid of Nevada in the Senate. Each has pledged in recent days to "govern from the center," after a campaign in which anger over the Iraq war and GOP scandals helped their party attract some unusually conservative candidates and a large share of independent voters.

Turning off those new voters could undermine Democrats' hopes of solidifying their new majorities and taking the White House in 2008. But to the leaders of interest groups who are core supporters of the Democratic Party, and who had been barred under Republican rule from the inner sanctums of power, the new Congress means a time for action, not compromise.

Lobbyists for the American Civil Liberties Union, for example, are all but counting on Democrats to repeal the most controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, the anti-terrorist law pushed by the White House that some critics call unconstitutional. They also want to end President Bush's domestic wiretapping program.

"We are not going to let them off the hook," said Caroline Fredrickson, the ACLU's legislative director, of the newly empowered Democratic leaders in Congress.

"We will hold their feet to the fire and use all the tools we can to mobilize our members."
Read the whole thing. The piece goes on to note a number of demands from the various hard left groups in the Democratic coalition: There's pressure for an Iraq withdrawal from antiwar elements, the scaling back of state-level abortion restrictions for Planned Parenthood, restoration of the assault weapons ban for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and various leftist economic proposals from the AFL-CIO.

The article also mentions how liberal netroot activists are wildly clammoring for a radical left congressional agenda:
A preview of the tussle that awaits Reid and Pelosi has been playing out on the Internet since election day, with liberal bloggers decrying party centrists as out of touch with the Democratic majority. The complaints have been serious enough to draw Reid's attention, prompting him to host a conference call after the election with more than a dozen of the country's most prominent liberal bloggers.
A look over at The Daily Kos' site reveals how much credit Moulitsas and company are taking for the Democratic election success. The outcome of all this angling for preferred policies will greatly influence Democratic prospects in the lame-duck 110th Congress. Yet, as I've noted before, the electorate expects centrist results on a number of key policy areas, rather than a radical realignment toward some whacked-out socialist policy juggernaut.

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