Intraparty civil war takes many forms. In Illinois, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. reportedly is ready to endorse Republican Senate nominee Mark Kirk over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, whose family bank gave loans to mob-related individuals and then failed last month. In New York, Andrew Cuomo launched his gubernatorial bid with a platform that puts him on a collision course with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and differs notably from the record of his father, Mario Cuomo, in his three terms as governor.
What we're seeing here are attempts to scramble out of trouble by members of a party whose big-government policies have proved, to their surprise, to be highly unpopular. Some move left, some move right, some just run around.
As Pennsylvania Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper says, "You have to be independent, no matter what." This from one of the "Stupak five," who delivered to Speaker Nancy Pelosi the critical votes to pass the Democrats' health care bill despite their previous promises to oppose a bill that funded abortions.
Democrats showed impressive party discipline in jamming cap-and-trade through the House in June and the health care bills in the House and Senate last winter. But that was then. Now the House Democrats are throwing up their hands on passing a budget resolution. Party stalwarts like Rep. Gerry Connolly of Northern Virginia aren't willing to cast a vote for the kind of deficits the Obama administration supports.
We've seen this sort of thing before. In 2006, House Republicans, staring at negative poll numbers, weren't able to pass a budget resolution, either. A once disciplined party was transformed into an incoherent rabble.
The Democratic Party at its best is a group of disparate constituencies united in support of a common program able to win large majorities around the country, as it did in November 2008. The Democratic Party at its worst is a collection of panicked politicians engaged in civil war. Which one does it look like now?