John Judis’ article here about how the lack of pressure from the left helped lead to a disappointing stimulus package reminds me of a more general complaint of mine—progressive politicians’ pathological aversion to criticism from the left.
Of course nobody likes to be criticized. But the way your ideas get to carry the day is when there’s about as much political clout to the left of your ideas as there is to the right of them. If you succeed in muting all your critics to the left, all you do is create a situation where your program is defined in the press and the congress and the public imagination as the most-leftwing-possible proposal. And the furthest-left proposal can’t possibly win. It’s never helpful to have fratricidal warfare and battles to the death, but it’s necessary for there to be meaningful pressure to do more than is popular or possible or even necessary in order to lay the groundwork for accomplishing anything.