Like the pathetic people who go on Jerry Springer-style shows, the Nevada Democratic Party had convinced itself that any form of humiliation was worth a little bit of TV exposure. It didn't matter that Fox News is the house organ of the Republican Party; it didn't matter that Fox News debate panelists would do everything in their power to make Democratic presidential candidates look bad. What mattered was getting on TV.
But the increasingly cohesive and strategic progressive movement stepped in and forced the issue. MoveOn.org, progressive media producer Robert Greenwald, and MyDD.com blogger Matt Stoller led the way - organizing hundreds of thousands of activists, framing the debate, and never letting up - but the entire progressive movement played a part. The progressive blogosphere took up the cause and pounded away. Nevada party activists kept the pressure on at home. Progressive media companies Air America and PoliticsTV were offered big roles and publicity by Fox and the Nevada party in an attempt to provide the event cover, but turned down the deal and denounced Fox. It was integrated action at its very best.
John Edwards gets credit for being the first candidate to see the writing on the wall and drop out of the debate, but the others would have followed soon after, and the Nevada Democrats were forced to cancel. Fox News will not be getting the twofer of a credibility boost while still getting the chance to screw with our candidates in a national debate.
A pattern is developing. In the 2006 election cycle, the party establishment initially was planning to target less than 25 House races, only recruiting safe establishment figures to be candidates, and advising candidates to be very cautious in what they said about the Iraq war. The progressive movement said to hell with that, and recruited- and raised money for- populist candidates in dozens of previously untargeted districts. Plus, they pushed all of our candidates to run aggressively on the war. As a result, we have Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.
I don't want to get too cocky here. I know my side of the party makes mistakes too. But I would ask my careful, cautious, conventional wisdom-following friends in the party establishment: pay attention. The times, they are a-changin', and sometimes- a lot of times, actually- the outsiders have it right.