DeMint, Lincoln, and the Perils of Progressive Purity Politics

In different ways, Sens. Jim DeMint and Blanche Lincoln represent the new shape of American politics.

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And Lincoln is just the start. MoveOn vowed last week to mount progressive challenges to any House Democrat who voted against the healthcare bill and quickly drew pledges of more than $1 million to back the effort. The bill passed with 34 Democrats voting against it. The question remains whether MoveOn will follow through on their threat, and if so, who will they target? According to Talking Points Memo, 34 of the wayward Democrats represent districts that John McCain won in 2008. Does it make a lot of sense to try to take out someone like Gene Taylor of Mississippi, whose district McCain carried 67 percent to 32 percent? Only if progressive aren't interested in competing nationally.

Incumbents should not be immune to primary challenges. But activists have to remember that politicians' first allegiance must be to their voters, not simply in a way that national groups think is best for their constituents but that locals do as well. The question that liberal groups have to ask themselves is whether they prefer a majority of "Not enough" or a DeMint-esque minority of "No." 

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