A cruise of Real Clear Politics this morning revealed videos six hit advertisements from moveon.org -- aimed at Dianne Feinstein, Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, Mark Pryor, and Tom Carper. What all of these politicians have in common is a reputation as "moderate" or "centrist" Democrats. What all these advertisements have in common is that they take these Democrats to task for deviating from the "progressive" agenda moveon.org would prefer to see enacted into policy.
In the past, moveon.org has focused most of its vitriol at Republicans. But this seems to be becoming a thing of the past -- these "whip ads" are intended to push the Democrats into a more rigid, left-wing conformity. For better or for worse, though, they also signal the fact that for political progressives, the Republicans have become simply irrelevant:
Which is, frankly, becoming a less and less controversial sort of position for people to take -- even those who feel a natural gravitation away from Democrats.
As further support for my proposition that, until further notice, the GOP is irrelevant, consider this. If there were to be a Republican Presidential primary held right now, it would be Mitt Romney versus Sarah Palin, with Mike Huckabee playing spoiler. The tactical parallels to the Democratic primary in 2008 are obvious. The difference is that all three of these "leaders" are what counts as "old news" and therefore substantially weakened as candidates despite the fact that they would be running against a charismatic incumbent Democrat with the best political fundraising machine ever assembled.
Tow of the four even remotely interesting GOP Presdiential possibility from the GOP have been plucked out of the running already, one by a clever political appointment from that same formidable incumbent, and the other through an act of political self-immolation. I use the phrase "remotely" interesting because from what I can tell, Tim Pawlenty is really dull. The Exorcist is not boring, but does appear to be from the crazy wing of the party rather than the one that might one day become a force to contend with again.
So it makes a lot of sense for people who are trying to affect and control public policy to simply ignore Republicans completely. As things look right now, the chances of the Republicans being relevant to shaping or influencing national policymaking in a meaningful way are slim to none, at least until after the 2016 elections. That's a long way out, and yeah, a lot of things can happen between now and 2012. But sometimes, the road out of the wilderness is exactly as long and difficult as it appears when you go in.
There are two strategies being suggested as the way to get out of the wilderness. One is to narrow the party's focus and pump up the base's numbers -- that is to say, the 2008 platform, only more of it. The other is to broaden and expand the base by reaching out to different groups and presenting different kinds of policies -- that is to say, the "big tent." I'm a big-tenter. But it seems likely that the "pump up the base" strategy is what's going to be tried first.