- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

There’s an ongoing battle for the soul of the Democratic Party, and neither side is backing down.

Progressive ideals and centrist governing have clashed during the Democratic presidential race and exposed party rifts when the presumptive nominee, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, joined with Republicans to hand President Bush a legislative victory.

Markos Moulitsas is confident that the soul rests firmly on his side - the “netroots.”

He will make that case Friday when he discusses the party’s future with Democratic Leadership CouncilChairman Harold E. Ford Jr. They will square off at the Netroots Nation conference inspired by Mr. Moulitsas’ Daily Kos blog, carrying out the second part of a pact forged last summer on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

A video promo posted at DailyKos.com depicts the panel discussion as a “Texas Shootout,” though the dialogue was civil when Mr. Moulitsas attended the DLC’s annual meeting last month.

Mr. Ford argues that for Democrats “to win and do well, it will take a merging of both factions, every part of the party.” Mr. Moulitsas, however, insists that Democrats need to hold intraparty primary battles to purge candidates and elect “better” politicians.

The man chosen during the primaries to lead both factions is snubbing them both.

Mr. Obama skipped the DLC meeting and has no plans to attend Netroots Nation, which runs Thursday to Sunday in Austin, Texas. Some of his top campaign Internet staffers and deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand will be there.

Few moments have irked Kossacks more than when congressional Democrats, including Mr. Obama, supported President Bush’s amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that gave telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for warrantless wiretapping.

“When we started this ‘netroots’ thing, we worked to get ‘more and better Democrats’ elected. At first, we focused on the ‘more’ part. This year, we’re focusing a bit more on the ‘better’ part. And in 2010, we’ll have enough Democrats in the House to exclusively focus on the ‘better’ part,” Mr. Moulitsas wrote in June.

“That means primary challenges,” he said. “As we decide who to take on, let it be known … voting to give telecommunication companies retroactive immunity may not guarantee a primary challenge, but it will definitely loom large.”

A testament to his theory is the keynote speaker for Netroots Nation’s closing evening: Donna Edwards, who recently unseated fellow Democrat Rep. Albert R. Wynn in Maryland.

Mr. Moulitsas said the Wynn ouster and the successful bid to boot Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut from the Democratic Party in 2006 were “test runs.” Giving tips for organizing for 2010, he warned: “Don’t expect help from the local party establishment, they’ll close ranks.”

Even though he is frustrated with Mr. Obama, Mr. Moulitsas makes it clear that he wants the Democrat to “win big” in November.

The organizers of Netroots Nation - which changed names from YearlyKos to reflect its broader model - said the Moulitsas-Ford panel will offer “a range of views on questions such as where and how should we build infrastructure in order to create positive change in Washington D.C.”

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