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Wall Street Democrats—or if you will, Third Way, Blue Dog, DLC, or New Democrats—think they've got the winning formula for the future. That entails a "pragmatic" bowing to Republican demands and slashing entitlements in the name of deficit reduction. That's either because they're not so bright and have been duped into thinking that Republicans actually care about deficit reduction, or because what they're really pragmatic about is reelection, and it's a lot easier to achieve that by getting big fat contributions from the big money people.
“The real struggle within the Democratic Party is where you stand on income inequality and whether the government needs to be a part of fixing that problem,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “The demographics that the Democratic Party must attract are the people who need responsive government.”

Moderate Democrats counter that center-versus-left formulations are outdated—while making an emphatic case for pragmatism.

“I know what has been incredibly successful for the party and country: the banner of reform and change,” said [Rahm] Emanuel, adding that there is “no part of the budget that’s immune to reform and change” so long as Democrats don’t abandon their traditional “mission.” [...]

The differences in the Democratic coalition are razor sharp. Take the question of whether Obama and Congress should consider raising the eligibility age for future Medicare recipients as a way to find savings.

“That stuff you debate out,” said Emanuel, adding: “I don’t think raising the age of Medicare to 67 is a centrist or a liberal idea.”

But to a progressive stalwart like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) such an idea isn’t just ill-considered — it’s “morally reprehensible.”

“That is such a Washington, Heritage Foundation construction,” Brown said of raising the eligibility age.
Reminded that some of his own colleagues are open to it, he shot back: “They’re wrong.”

That would be the same Rahm Emanuel who was sure Democrats would lose the 2006 election if they ran on the Iraq war. So forgive me for questioning whether this guy really has his finger on the pulse of the electorate. Also, too, Sherrod Brown just won reelection in a race that saw unholy and unheard of amounts of money poured into the race against him. He won by being the same populist he's always been. And between the Wall Street-friendly, moderate Republican Scott Brown and the populist Elizabeth Warren, well that's history.

One of these pragmatists, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, says, "My hope for our party is that we remember that 99 percent of workers at financial institutions are good, middle-class people,” and he's worried his party will alienate them. Markell, and all Democrats, should be worrying about the other 99 percent, the mass of the electorate that has a lot more to worry about than whether someone in Congress is being mean to their bosses. Like how they'll live if they're forced to wait until age 67 to get Medicare.

So what's pragmatic in terms of electoral success for Democrats? Recognizing the demographics that elected Barack Obama twice and has kept the Senate Democratic? Continuing to stand for what the Democratic Party has stood for since FDR, the common good? Or keeping big donors happy? Unfortunately, for too many Democrats, that's a difficult choice.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 12:33 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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