Can Jane Hamsher or Howard Dean be wrong on the substance of policy issues? Of course!!! I don't think they often are, but recently there have been many progressives who have thought so. These were reasonable disagreements and everyone was within their full right to think Dean or Hamsher might not have gotten the balance right on any particular issue.
So, why can't they be wrong?
Because even if you disagree with them, they're doing you a huge favor. If you're a strong progressive and you think Howard Dean has gone out too far left on health care reform or Jane Hamsher has attacked President Obama too hard from the left -- then, fantastic, you are now officially a moderate!
And more importantly, so is Obama.
Why is this so important? I'm not sure you particularly want to be moderate, and I'm certainly not sure you are one. But that's not the point. The point is that the mainstream media loves people who they can call "moderates." If Joe Lieberman is somewhere between Obama and Cheney, no matter how far to the right he is, he gets to be called a moderate. Why? Because there's someone to the right of him.
Now, you have someone to the left of you. Congratulations, you made it! You're now part of the cool crowd in DC, the only people that the establishment media care about or give any credence to -- moderates.
I get thrown into the Hamsher category because I believe in attacking hard from the left. Some have started to call this the Uygur Doctrine, which, of course, I love. The reality is I'm a political moderate who until about a month ago believed we should stay longer in Afghanistan and that single payer was not the way to go. But it's not my positions that matter as much as my attitude. We have to, have to, have to attack Obama from the left. If we don't, he is seen as the far left and the whole spectrum shifts even further right than it already is.
If Obama is seen as the middle that helps him. So, even if you think Jane is crazy to team up with Grover Norquist and her attacks have no merit (you would be wrong on that, by the way), you have to send her a thank you note for making Obama look centrist. Rahm might not be happy about their target, but he has to be happy with how the politics of it plays out for the president.
But much more importantly, this isn't about Obama. This is about moving the spectrum. If there is no real and credible left-wing that fights back, then the entire political landscape gets pushed down to the right. This has huge policy implications, as we just saw in the health care fight.
Besides which, what do we have to lose? We lost the public option. We're going to lose on climate change (nearly a foregone conclusion at this point). Financial reform is terribly watered down and getting weaker by the minute. The war in Afghanistan has already been escalated, twice. Do I need to go on? This is what you get when there is no credible threat from the left.
Worst case scenario, Dean and Hamsher lose (I understand their tactics are entirely different, and in some ways I hate to lump them in together, but I do because they are among the few making real noise on the left), and they move the spectrum left and make other progressives look moderate. Best case scenario, they win! Dare we dream?
I know what some of you are thinking -- that's not the worst case scenario. The worst case is somehow their attacks on Obama help Republicans win. But if you buy into that, then you have to pack your bags and go home. That means you are never willing to forcefully challenge Obama out of the fear that it might somehow hurt him. While I'm sure he appreciates that, I can guarantee you that he will thank you by completely ignoring you (and your policy priorities). Asking politely is obviously not getting the job done.
Real political pressure by definition involves the possibility of real political pain. If you're not willing to go that far, then in my humble opinion you are too risk averse to have any consequential role to play in current day politics. Politics is about power, if you don't ever wield it, then you're not really in the game.