I'm a centrist democrat. However, over the past two years I've seen the Washington "centrists" leave me behind and enter some imaginary world that is "centrist" to them. I left the DLC over their ridiculous anti-Dean crusade and I dropped my TNR subscription over their absurd support of Bush's Iraq adventure. There are two things I find infuriating about these "centrists" that have left Dems like me behind.
First, what it means for them to be centrists is to stake out some position half way between sanity and whatever position the conservatives put forward. The substance of the proposal can never be too outrageous for them to actually oppose it or call a spade a spade. Being "centrist" to Holy Joe et al. means taking extremists seriously and, as a consequence, getting rolled by them every time.
This leads to the second infuriating habit (rather, delusion) of the "centrists." They take every proposal as if it has merit. This absurd notion reached its height with the Iraq resolution. The scribes at TNR waxed oh so poetic about the dangers of WMD and the shining light that a democratic Iraq would be, all the while setting aside whether the current administration was actually up to the job. There were several problems I had with launching the Iraq war in 2003, but none was bigger than that I knew from watching BushCo. for three years that they were incapable of handling the situation. Any sentient being in Washington should have known the same. But in the name of "centrism" no one spoke up.
Now I see that Holy Joe and the "centrists" are out to sink Dean yet again. Howard Dean is the best thing that's happened to our party since the Clinton presidency, but Joe doesn't ground himself in the party. He grounds himself solely in relation to the opposition. I'm not saying Joe should leave or be thrown out of the party. He needs to understand, though, that he is currently not a centrist and that there are no bridges to be built to the current opposition. It is a strategic choice of the majority in congress right now to resist any effort at bridge building. Indeed, reaching out to them is taken as a signal to shift further right. Akin to a car salesman upping the price just a little more since he senses you'll pay it.
A while back the Republicans realized that the DLC were using the R's positions as the only way to determine what the "centrist" position was. With the Democrats controlling one branch or house of government, this worked since the party as a whole could engage in dialogue. Now that mooring is gone and the old centrists in Washington have become "centrists" only to themselves.
Tom Vilsack is, I'm sure, a fine human being. I'm sure he's also a very capable politician and a man who could forge a coalition with moderate Republicans. But Tom Vilsack is not Howard Dean, and Howard Dean is the only man on the map at this time that can bring us back to the majority. He has been so publicly derided by our own party luminaries that he probably can't get the nomination in 2008, but that's part of what makes him perfect for DNC chairman. Dean is a leader who needs to be able to speak his mind and take the energy of the party faithful and put it into action. Finally, and this is perhaps what is most threatening to Lieberman et al., Dean actually is a centrist. To Holy Joe he may look like some crazy lefty, but that's solely because Joe is stuck in his Washington paradigm of "How to be a Centrist."