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August 14, 2013 11:21 AM First Glimpse of the Struggle for the Soul of the Democratic Party

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve been watching for signs of awareness across the center-left spectrum that once the war to keep Barack Obama in office and somewhat functional as president has run its course, the Democratic Party and the progressive political tendency it more or less represents has some overdue soul-searching to undertake. And here’s a brief meteor in the sky, from The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel, in the context of Bill de Blasio’s rapidly rising left-bent campaign to become Mayor of New York:

In the post-collapse, post-Occupy, post-Obama world, Democrats are headed into a fierce battle over the direction of the party. Obama forged his new majority largely on anti-war, socially liberal causes — aided by Republican reaction in contrast. But the Democratic Party’s consensus around social issues and diversity has masked a growing divide on economic issues between the Wall Street wing of the party and a populist wing that is beginning to stir. The mayor’s race in New York City is an early entry in this debate about the future of the party and the country. May it not be obscured by Weiner’s spectacular flameout.

I’d guess that before the day is out it’s going to occur to some news-starved Gotham-centric scribbler to do a piece contrasting de Blasio and Cory Booker as the twin poles of debate in this upcoming Struggle for the Soul of the Democratic Party. Or maybe it won’t be written until such time as de Blasio actually wins. Or maybe another New York figure named Hillary Clinton will manage to put off the Struggle for the Soul once again. It’s hard to say right now. But at some point internal differences, real and symbolic, sharp and focused or vague yet pervasive, will boil over into public. After all, conservatives can’t have all the factional fun.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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