Writer Ari Berman, who recently spoke at the Clinton School of Public Service, offers an op-ed via The New York Times on the "big tent" of the Democratic Party that has allowed conservative, moderate and liberal Democrats to operate under the same label.
This year, those conservative Democrats – known as Blue Dogs – are fighting for their political future. As Berman notes, less than two years ago, Democrats were swept into office on the theme of change.
What happened? One important explanation is that divisions inside the Democratic coalition, which held together during the 2008 campaign, have come spilling out into the open. Conservative Democrats have opposed key elements of the president’s agenda, while liberal Democrats have howled that their majority is being hijacked by a rogue group of predominantly white men from small rural states. President Obama himself appears caught in the middle, unable to satisfy the many factions inside his party’s big tent.
One can argue that those conservative Democrats are simply reflecting the wishes of their constituents, which in Arkansas has meant "vote conservative." Fourth District Cong. Mike Ross is a perfect example of this phenomenon. First District Democrat Chad Causey has positioned himself as a Blue Dog Democrat, like the current congressman, Rep. Marion Berry.
But in this election year, some Democratic activists have softened their enthusiasm for candidates with this style. Berman quotes a North Carolina Democratic leader, who succinctly explains how some in her party feel.
Margaret Johnson, a former party chairwoman in Polk County, N.C., helped elect Representative Shuler but now believes the party would be better off without him. “I’d rather have a real Republican than a fake Democrat,” she said. “A real Republican motivates us to work. A fake Democrat de-motivates us.”
This explains what you’ve been reading in polling data that describes an "enthusiasm gap" between Republicans and Democrats. We’ll know soon enough if Arkansas voters will adopt the North Carolina woman’s position. You can read more of Berman’s take at this link.