Dems lack leadership

 “Whether it’s intelligence or environment or elsewhere, [republicans] bring the hammer down in a way democrats aren’t good at, which I’m sort of glad about,”  West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller (D) said last week during an interview with Ezra Klein.If you’ve been following the health care struggle you probably did not need Rockefeller to tell you that, but his pride in his party’s lack of order is still vexing. Democrats have yet to get a health care bill passed.  What’s there to be “glad” about?I suspect it has something to do with the general liberal ethos. Democrats are proud of their free-spiritedness, particularly in contrast to the republicans. They’re like Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty.” The republicans, on the other hand, are Chris Cooper’s character Col. Frank Fitts, the strict, closeted disciplinarian. The only problem is, at the end of the movie, Col. Fitts shoots Spacey’s liberal-minded character in the back of the head.Actually, maybe that fits too — metaphorically speaking, of course.With the recent inter-party quasi-feud between President Barack Obama and New York Governor David A. Patterson, Rockefeller’s point about his party’s lack of decisive action seems particularly relevant. Obama’s administration pushed Patterson not to seek re-election after the end of his term. Poll numbers show him trailing Rudy Giuliani for the gubernatorial slot and the White House has indirectly hinted that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo may have a better shot at challenging him.For many idealists, this is a heavy-handed blow. It disrupts the Democratic Party’s grassroots local power in favor of a top-down approach from the presidency. It also seems extremely calculating.All I have to say is: so what?For all intents and purposes, Obama is the head of the Democratic Party. Now the last time I checked, the Democratic Party was a political organization, not a Quaker church. Why it should lack leadership is beyond me. It’s particularly important given its internal dynamics. Unlike the republicans, the Democratic Party is extremely heterogeneous — racially, geographically and socio-economically. This feeds into the internal-discipline problems, but doesn’t invalidate a solution and probably makes strong leadership more vital. As far as the Patterson issue goes, democrats could learn a lot from recent history. Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, has managed to spearhead some of the various minor interventions into state politics. He was also a leading architect of Democratic strategy for the 2006 election where democrats took back both houses of Congress.Certainly there are things to be gained from a diffuse, loosely administrated party, but I get the feeling that republicans wouldn’t tolerate Red Dogs the way democrats have tolerated the Blue ones. Whatever happens in the Patterson affair, democrats should learn to crack the whip, or their stay on top will go by faster than you can say “yes we can.”