Mark Schmitt is a senior fellow and advisor to the president at the Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank affiliated with the FDR Library. He is a former executive editor of The American Prospect.
It is conventional wisdom that the new democratic activists of the “netroots” are strong on political tactics but don't have much to contribute to the war of ideas. Matt Bai, writing in The New York Times Magazine, charged disparagingly that “leaders of the netroots … will tell you that Big Ideas are overrated.”
This isn't entirely fair, but let's take the point: The better-known lefty blogs are indeed weighted toward the tactical. They argue that the liberal establishment of think tanks and advocacy groups is built on the assumption that the government wants to do good and is open to their expertise, and not organized for the task of winning back such a government from its enemies.
What would the legendary labor leader Walter Reuther have said if 40 years ago he was told that American business was going to spend millions to register workers and encourage them to vote? He would probably have been ecstatic: “They're spending their money to turn out my people?!”
And indeed, since World War II, business usually stayed far away from that kind of politics. Corporations and their political action committees provided the money that drove campaigns -- for both parties, but more exclusively to Republicans after 1994 -- and that was where their involvement ended.
JACKSON, LAMONT, NEW POLITICS. Mike has a point about the implications of having Al Sharpton on stage with Lamont, and in particular directly behind his shoulder, which will be the visual. Someone up there needed to say, "OK, everyone who's not from Connecticut, to the edges, right now, and yes, that means you too, Reverend!" (The person who does that is called "the body guy," and it's a special skill.)
DEATH WITH DIGNITY. I've been arguing for a long time that the Lieberman independent bid would fizzle, that Lieberman stood a much better chance of winning the primary than the general, and I still believe that. If I'm wrong about that, then my comment below is inoperative.