Thursday, March 16, 2006

Angry Left takes on a moderate Democrat--and loses

OpinionJournal - Cross Country: Once More Unto the Breach: "More than one political venture has met an unseemly end in the hardscrabble landscape of South Texas. It was here, in 1948, that Box 13 gave Lyndon Johnson a dubious 87-vote primary victory, crushing former Gov. Coke Stevenson's Senate aspirations. It was here, two years ago, that a bitter primary fight for a House seat shattered a friendship between two Hispanic Democrats. And it was here, this month, in a rematch of that contest, that a blogger-led quest to defeat a mainstream Democrat and drive the party further to the left smashed head-on into the realities of local politics.

Part of Tom DeLay's notorious Texas redistricting in 2003 sought to shore up Mr. Bonilla, the only Hispanic Republican in the state's congressional delegation. The controversial map, now under Supreme Court review, lopped off Laredo from District 23, moving it and Mr. Cuellar into District 28, which now reaches from the outskirts of Austin in the north, through parts of San Antonio to Laredo and a stretch along the Rio Grande. Its residents, largely rural, Hispanic and poor, characteristically are hardworking traditionalists.

Once in Washington, Mr. Cuellar continued to display the independence and bipartisanship that had distinguished him in Texas. He is among a handful of Democrats who voted for repealing the estate tax, against meritless lawsuits and for the Central American Free Trade Agreement--a vote that made perfect sense to the son of a city that has enjoyed an economic boom from free trade.

Influential bloggers Markos "Kos" Moulitsas and Duncan "Atrios" Black led the charge, joined by kindred Web sites. As much as $500,000 poured into Mr. Rodriguez's coffers during the final six weeks of electioneering. Liberals touted the effort as the ultimate mobilization of the "netroots"--the indomitable synthesis of grassroots organization with digital potency.

The netroots leaders resemble nothing so much as World War I commanders, who after each successive setback maintained that victory was tantalizingly close, and lobbed more artillery shells and threw more troops over the top. Similarly among the netroots, the article of faith is that victory is only a matter of trying harder, upping the rhetoric and raising more money."

Mr. Gurwitz is a columnist and member of the editorial board of the San Antonio Express-News.

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