The far left is already getting angry over reports that Rahm Emanuel is trying to prevent the Democratic majority’s ultra-liberal wing from dominating the party.
One of the most interesting things to watch over the next two years is how progressives who worked hard to put Democrats in the majority will react should the party’s leadership push a more centrist agenda once in power. Conservatives who experienced the agony of the GOP’s descent into big government Republicanism understand how easily power can change politicians, and the next two years may prove just as frustrating for progressives. Though they are now euphoric over Jim Webb’s apparent victory in Virginia, they may soon view him with disgust the way conservatives came to abhor Lincoln Chafee.
Emanuel probably realizes that if the Democrats overplay their hand by seeing this election as a triumph for liberalism, they will only give Republicans fodder to run on in 2008. Let us not forget that Netroots poster boy Ned Lamont got trounced in a state that Kerry won by 10 points, suggesting that the type of pure progressivism and vehement anti-war rhetoric espoused by the far left will not be a winner for the Democratic Party.
Based on the conciliatory overtures that they have been making in the aftermath of their victory, Democratic leaders may have decided that their best bet is to govern as moderates even at the risk of angering their base. Their calculation is probably that even if the base gets disgruntled in the interim, when the next presidential election comes around, progressives will be so desperate to recapture the White House that they’ll forgive a wobbly Democratic Party.
Whether moderate Democrats will actually be able to maintain discipline and rein in committee chairmen such as Henry Waxman, John Conyers and Charlie Rangel is another story entirely. See also Shawn’s post below.