The Guardian’s Michael Tomasky, has an interesting take on the problem facing Democratic moderates, with whom he classifies Missouri’s Claire McCaskill:

These Democrats, from red or just-barely blue states, are by longstanding habit terrified of associating themselves with anything that is remotely associated with a tax or an expanded government. This is well known.

What’s less well known is the counter-argument. If the president of their party goes down in flames on a major bill, and the Republicans can do a war dance on his (political) grave, whom does that hurt?

It hurts all Democrats, but most of all it hurts the most vulnerable ones – the ones from red or barely-blue states. In other words, them!

Imagine that Obama loses on healthcare. His approval rating sags to 42%. The Republicans stand to make gains in 2010. Where are they going to make them? Not in the navy-blue districts represented by the solons who are certainly going to vote for whatever plan emerges. They’re going to make their gains in the marginal, gettable districts and states.

I think Tomasky nails it as far as McCaskill’s future goes.  If threre is a victory dance on the grave of our progressive hopes, and McCaskill helps to lay that grave, I, for one, will say good riddance when she goes.

We tell ourselves that, although McCaskill is not a particularly courageous politician, she is so much better than the alternative.  But that only holds true if she is able to deliver on the big issues that we went to the polls and voted for when we voted for this president — and these days that means health care reform that delivers us from the not-so-tender mercies of a predatory medical-industrial complex, and a robust energy policy that will move us away from the brink of ecological disaster — a policy that includes the cap-and-trade provisions that, at this point, seem to leave her babbling nonsense, unable to rebut the simplest Republican lie.  

Little victories here and there won’t continue to cut it.  If McCaskill wants to retain the progressive base — which is just as essential to keeping her elected office as the swing vote she so aggressively tries to placate — she will have to deliver on the defining issues of this time.  And if she does, she can count on energized progressives to fight right along with her — and to fight for her as well.