Peter Beinart recently published a piece in The New Republic about the need for the Democratic Party to fully commit itself to being a party which prioritizes the fight against global terrorism to the extent that they are willing to root out those elements of the party who do not take the cause seriously. From what I have gathered in the week or so of aftermath, the piece was well-received on both sides of the spectrum and has generated an enormous amount of discussion in the blogosphere. I say it is well-received in the sense that people feel it is a discussion worth having and that Beinart's contribution was thoughtful and made some interesting historical parallels, but you can read some interesting critiques by Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum .
Marshall's main quibbles seem to be with Beinart's historical parallels to the early days of the Cold War. For the details, read Josh's post, but suffice it to say that his argumentation leads to the point that it is neither necessary nor helpful for the party to start purging people who do not believe the war on terror should be a top priority. On a practical note, he points out that the Dems got 48% last month and can't afford to be purging anyone at this juncture, but his reasoning isn't only pragmatically based. I think it's a well thought-out post and worth the few minutes to read.
The Kevin Drum post left me a bit worried, however. If I give him the benefit of the doubt I would say that he was trying to make a couple of the same points as Josh and used careless wording, but it's hard for me to defend blunt statements like this:
That's the story I think Beinart needs to write. If he thinks too many liberals are squishy on terrorism, he needs to persuade us not just that Islamic totalitarianism is bad — of course it's bad — but that it's also an overwhelming danger to the security of the United States.
Bottom line: I think the majority of liberals could probably be persuaded to take a harder line on the war on terror — although it's worth emphasizing that the liberal response is always going to be different from the conservative one, just as containment was a different response to the Cold War than outright war. But first someone has to make a compelling case that the danger is truly overwhelming. So far, no one on the left has really done that.
Beinart has done the party a great service, but there is certainly going to be a great load of squeamishness in the near future while the party airs its "dirty laundry" and endures some infighting. Kevin Drum is not even on the left fringe of the party, and yet his comments epitomize the challenge that the party faces if it cannot convince more of the party base and those even further to the left of the base that the war is worth waging. If Kevin Drum is a centrist, then this could end up being 40 years in the desert.
And if you're wondering, here's the view from the right . I would say it's pretty devastating.
Update: The Base fires back [Pierce via Eschaton]. And more Atrios here. I will say that not a lot of elections will be won by defending Michael Moore at all costs. Not that I necessarily support Beinart's purge proposal, but there are plenty in the Democratic Party who have had it with disingenuousness on both sides.