Party Assymmetry

Weekend Opinionator looks at Republican infighting but then ends wondering if the same thing is coming to the Democratic Party in the form of MoveOn looking to find primary challengers against Democrats who don’t back health reform.

It should be said, though, that the parallel isn’t quite parallel simply because there’s a difference between an intra-party fight in a majority party and an intra-party fight in a minority party. If you’re looking to build 218 votes in the House of Representatives for progressive legislation, then at this point the bulk of the 218 most promising districts are already going to be in the hands of Democrats. That’s not universally the case. Mike Castle’s Delaware at-large district, for example, could clearly support a progressive Democratic. But in general the kind of Democrat who can win currently GOP-held districts isn’t going to shift the median point in the House to the left.

For Republicans, it’s a different situation. There are lots of districts held by liberal Democrats such that replacing them with a moderate Republican would shift the median point to the right. A “big tent” strategy, in other words, could very much advance conservative goals just as a “big tent” approach did advance progressive goals in 2006 and 2008. But the bigger your caucus gets, the harder it is to make further substantive policy accomplishments with that kind of approach.