10/17/2007 09:21 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Congressional Failures Drag on Dem Candidates

"I'm having trouble at this point advocating for a Democratic President," declares Matt Stoller, the Democratic blogger and consultant. His OpenLeft coblogger Mike Lux is more optimistic, though this week he announced that he is resigned that the Democratic nominee will be a "mixed figure" for progressives. At the popular discussion site DemocraticUnderground, even Ralph Nader's spirit was briefly revived on Monday, as netroots activists debated why people were again claiming there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans, with frustrated "echoes of 2000."

Grassroots Democrats are rightfully disappointed with their Congress. This year has been a policy disaster. Despite a huge mandate, the new Congress failed to alter Iraq policy -- let alone force redeployment. It failed to restore habeas corpus or protect the constitutional rights compromised by the administration -- instead granting Bush more power to spy on Americans. Next it will shamelessly consider immunizing companies that illegally spied on Americans -- the Scooter Libby approach to accountability.

But this Congress does not accurately reflect the entire party. In fact, so far the most remarkable part of the presidential campaign is how all the candidates have tried to stake out progressive positions. They all voted (or took positions) to defund the war, restore habeas corpus and oppose the intelligence bill. Unlike 2004, they all want to be the antiwar candidate. (The credentials are debatable, not the desire.) There is not a single candidate running as a self-proclaimed conservative, because there is just no political space for such a campaign. (See: Evan Bayh's disbanded exploratory committee.) So Dems don't even have to fend off a Lieberman-04 or Gore-88 on the Right.

Presidential hopefuls know this Democratic electorate is progressive. The feckless Congress is another story.

Ari Melber writes for The Nation, where this post first appeared.

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