Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Blast from the Past, A Dust-Up in the Future?

In a name that hasn't been uttered much in politics since 2004, Carol Moseley Braun announced recently she is running for Mayor of Chicago. And given that city's history of electing crooks and dishonest folks, she might stand a chance of winning.

However, this sets up an interesting dilemma for the Left, as former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has also decided to run for Mayor. On the one hand, you have a proud Leftist who is to the left of Barack Obama. On the other, you have a Leftist who has been walking the halls of power with President Obama, so he is seen has having some major political stroke which could be useful in the waning days of Obama's first term as President.

The enigma in all of this is whether the Left still hold Obama in high enough regard to sway voters. As we've seen in recent months, Leftists are ideologically strident, as strident as the Religious Right. Contrary to what you might think, the Left really isn't happy with Obama, namely because they don't feel he's Leftist enough. (Note to the President: Ask Joe Lieberman how that feels.) If Braun stays in the race long enough, eventually the Left will have to decide whether they're going to stick with the "President's man" or if they'll reject Emanuel as Obama-By-Proxy.

This speaks to the larger conversation going on with the Left these days, that being ideological purity. For as much as the Left love to say the Right has litmus tests for candidates, they're not much better. And it's this quest for pure Leftists that will drive the Democrats further out of the mainstream. That cost them in the midterm elections, and it may cost them here. I say "may" because, regardless of how far Left Braun and Emanuel are, it's unlikely a Republican to the right of Al Gore will take the Mayoral election.

Even so, the Left's loose coalition of special interest groups will be tested even more by having to make this choice. The Left is already seeing splintering within its ranks (such as with the budding feud between Keith Olbermann and Ted Koppel), and situations like this will drive further wedges in the Left because it will force them to either compromise or lose. And if the midterms are any indication, they may be doubling down on losing for a while to come.

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