Peter Daou’s piece on the Huffington Post today argues that Democrats have hurt themselves by creating the convergence of the extreme right wing and progressive activists and bloggers.  Governing from a lack of grounded principles, writes Daou, makes the president, and thus Democrats, look weak regardless of the legislation passed.

The half of Peter’s argument positing that Democrats whiffed on the decision to legitimize Rush Limbaugh by repeatedly taking him on from the Press Room of the White House is on point.  Robert Gibbs ridiculed any little comment Limbaugh (or Beck or Michael Savage or other conservative hacks) made.  Daou actually wrote the following back in March.

There’s precious little benefit in making Limbaugh more of a central player, in engaging him directly from the White House podium, in raising his stature, in stamping, sealing and approving the years he’s spent bashing his political opponents. There was a moment, a brief moment, after Barack Obama was elected president, a moment long gone, where the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity could have become marginalized, bit players rather than media movers and shakers, the detritus of a sorry era. But instead, they have been granted more power — out of some contrived political calculus. This, at a time when we don’t need political calculus, we need single-minded determination to get us out of this economic calamity and to restore sanity to our government.

I agree with Daou, with some additional perspective offered.  The Obama campaign came into DC following one of the best campaigns ever run.  They were on discipline, they knew their message, and nearly every risk they took played well in the end.  Part of their “change” message entailed changing Washington, refusing to get into the trenches against the “vast right wing conspiracy.”  Reviewing where we were then and where we are now, something obviously pushed the Obama administration off track.

I think Daou makes a strong argument that part of it lies within the Obama administration’s decision to attempt to use Limbaugh et al. as their punching bags.  But I think we have to zoom out one more level and ask:  if Obama and Co. wanted to change politics, why are they taking on anybody, let alone the right wing crazies?  The message of unconventional, but actual change transformed into the slimy politics of old.

Furthermore, the Obama administration looks even weaker when we juxtapose their toughness against the extreme right-wing commentators with their mealy-mouthed approach to health care, the agenda item forming the heart of Obama’s domestic policy.

There’s quite a bit of advice entering the public forum today, so I’ll offer my two cents as well.  The Democrats need to get back to what works, and that’s offering a politics that solves America’s problems from a coherent, ideological set of principles.  In addition, they need to communicate with their base, especially those young voters who put him over the top in 2008 (and the millions more who will be voting in 2012), to keep them posted on exactly what is going on and how they can help support the Obama agenda moving forward.

The reality is that the Democrats still have 59 seats in the Senate.  As Jon Stewart explained the other night, the Democrats still have more seats in the Senate than Republicans had when Bush was able to do whatever the hell he wanted.