Politico's Ben Smith writes:
As the left makes the counterintuitive argument - which it lost in 1994 - that Democrats' real problem is caution, not overreach, John Judis makes the more straightforward case: It's all about the independents.
But, contrary to Smith's suggestion, the two positions -- that the "Democrats' real problem is caution, not overreach" and that "It's all about the independents" are not mutually exclusive. And contrary to his suggestion, "independents" are not some static universe of voters in the "center" who can only be unhappy with Democrats if Democrats "overreach."
Indeed, Judis does not seem to subscribe to the views Smith ascribes to him. Judis writes "Obama's declining approval can be attributed to the rising rate of unemployment and that the only way he could have prevented, or eased, the fall in his popularity would have been to get Congress to adopt a much larger stimulus program last winter."
That sure doesn't sound like a contradiction of the view that the "Democrats' real problem is caution, not overreach."
Smith's construct adopts the tired assumption that in order to appeal to "independents," Democrats must jettison progressive ideals. But it's rarely anything more than that: an assumption. Much of the time, Democrats can better appeal to "independents" through clear articulation of a progressive agenda, and -- this part is important -- successful implementation of the same. Just consider last year's stimulus: Had it been larger, as many economists said it should have been, the economy might now be in much better shape. Surely we can all agree that if that were the case, Democrats might well enjoy more support from independents?