Matt Stoller has a great post at MyDD, The Bar Fight Primary. He writes about looking for a candidate with the core progressive instincts you want backing you up in a bar fight.
When Ronald Reagan announced his Presidential run in 1980, he did it in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town where three Civil Rights workers were killed. … Reagan, a genial and sunny Californian, could have it both ways because he had proved to the base that he was ‘with them’. Opening his campaign on a site that fully repudiated equal rights for blacks, that in a very real sense murdered liberals, was a way of saying to the emergent right-wing Confederate base that ‘I am with you, I hate who you hate’. … It was a statement that Reagan would play the role of President, but in a bar fight, in a close vote, where it really mattered, in all those small appointments, his sympathies would instinctively lean towards his base.
He says now we need a leader like that, one we know is with US,
We need a leader committed to responsible governance, anti-cronyism, social justice, an expansion of the Bill of Rights to include infrastructure changes, and a humble and morally powerful foreign policy. But governing this way is not a matter of expressing the desire for unity and hope to all Americans, but expressing solidarity with the people who will help create such an America. Those people are liberals. We are the ones who want a different America, and who will help build it and push the right out of the way.
[. . .] Just as Reagan said he’d unify the country by pushing the liberals out of the way, we need someone who will unify the country by pushing irresponsible right-wing power centers out of the way. They crushed our unions, we need to crush their talk radio, you know, that kind of thinking.
Who does he see on his side in a bar fight? So far there’s Clark and maybe Edwards:
In a bar fight, Obama and Hillary are not on our side.
[. . .] There are two candidates who can pass the bar fight primary. One of them, Wes Clark, passes the test clearly. He is a genuine liberal, and has fought the right clearly and consistently for the last four years, most recently in Connecticut when he was the only real surrogate against Lieberman. … And then there’s John Edwards. I think Edwards is split. He’s spent much of his time working with unions, on the road, in low-key meetings. Elizabeth Edwards has done outreach to bloggers, so there’s at least acknowledgment of the dirty hippy crew. He’s announcing in New Orleans, which is dog whistle politics on our issues. He knows he was wrong on the war, and feels our betrayal. Unlike Clark, though, I still haven’t seen him stand up for us in a real way. I haven’t seen him attack McCain, for instance, or go after the politicians who supported the Bankruptcy Bill. I haven’t seen him challenge any right-wing interests in a serious way, and so while I acknowledge he’s in the ball park, he’s not there yet.