THAT'S A FIRST. Not to pick on Matt Stoller, but as TNR's Michael Crowley notes in response to Stoller's MyDD denunciation of Chuck Schumer as "the most extreme version of a Reagan Democrat" and a "center-right Beltway" type: "Man, tough crowd!"
That's gotta be the first time anyone's ever referred to the former Brooklyn congressman as a Reagan Democrat. I know there's a movement afoot in some parts of the blogosphere to try to change the rhetorical and interpretive frames governing our politics, but doing so credibly means more than just shifting the goal-posts willy-nilly and acting as if liberal Democratic New Yorkers were secretly from Macomb County.
The exchange was kicked off by Ryan Lizza's typically excellent story (can I get a macro for that?) on Schumer in New York magazine. I just want to highlight the bit about Schumer trying to take care of his "marginals":
Part of the reason Schumer took the job is that he was able to join Minority Leader Harry Reid�s Senate leadership team, which allows him to craft the party�s message with an eye toward the Senate races. He has embraced that job as if he�d spent his career representing Dubuque rather than Brooklyn. He is obsessed with the health of what he calls his �marginals,� red-state Democrats who live in fear of being too closely associated with, well, New York liberals like Schumer. He treats the marginals like fragile vases in constant danger of being knocked off their pedestals.
Schumer considers every Washington debate in terms of how it will affect the marginals. �There were some in our caucus that wanted to let the Patriot Act lapse,� he tells me. �I said that I think we got to change it, and I�ll work to change it, but to let it lapse would be a disaster, particularly for our Democrats in red states. You know, when I go to a drawing room in Manhattan and they say, �You got to appeal to our base!� I say, �There is no base in North Dakota!��
It is very difficult for people who live in the coastal cities to understand the extent to which this is the case. I've spent some time in recent weeks interviewing people who work for state Democratic Parties in some of the reddest precincts in the nation, and all I can say is that based on how little support they have on the ground from interest groups, progressive activists, or the national Democrats (though they have more now than they used to, thanks to Howard Dean), it's somewhere between a miracle and a testament to the constancy of the American people that Democrats continue to win national office in some of these places. Even though the present political environment would seem to be the most favorable Democrats have faced in a long time, the president's weakness must be measured against the Democrat's even greater on-the-ground weakness in rather electorally critical parts of the nation. Schumer knows what he's doing. The Democratic Party nationally cannot make any sudden moves until it has rebuilt at the local level or else it really will simply shift off its very weak moorings. Of this I am now 100 percent convinced.
Ezra's right to point back to Nick Confessore's piece on the myth of the Democratic establishment. Because as mythical as it is inside Washington, the Democratic establishment is ten times more so out where the marginals live.