(CNSNews.com) - A group of "centrist" Democrats is warning of an "undertow" in the Party's effort to recapture control of Congress.
It warns that some activist groups, such as MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, want to introduce "ideological litmus tests" for elected officials -- and "intimidate or even purge those who do not meet a narrow definition of what makes a 'real Democrat.'"
The Democratic Leadership Council said the phenomenon is best illustrated by the efforts of liberal advocacy groups to defeat Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) by recruiting money and volunteers for his more liberal challenger.
According to the DLC, such efforts "not only threaten party unity and divert attention and resources from the broader goal of defeating Republicans; they also signal an intolerance toward dissent and diversity that can repel voters and make an enduring Democratic majority more difficult to achieve."
In a message to supporters, the DLC described Lieberman -- with whom it sometimes disagrees -- as a man of integrity who puts his country above his party and personal interests.
"We need more, not fewer, people with Joe Lieberman's character in the Democratic Party," the DLC said.
MoveOn.org's political action committee recently endorsed Lieberman Democratic challenger, noting grassroots frustration with Lieberman's "continued support for the war in Iraq" and his support for "Big Oil's energy bill."
The DLC noted that one of the reasons for its founding in 1985 was to resist "liberal fundamentalism," which it describes as a "conformist tendency to stifle dissent among Democrats and require adherence to litmus tests devised by interest groups and ideological advocates."
The DLC said today's Democratic Party is far more unified in its basic values and policy positions than it was two decades ago, but it "urgently needs to expand it electoral and geographical base."
"There's less of an excuse than ever to indulge in liberal fundamentalism, litmus tests, intimidation of dissenters, and purges, and much more to lose from shrinking the party's big tent," the DLC said.
Internet-based liberal activists "have a lot to offer the Democratic Party," the DLC said, and it mentioned energy, fundraising prowess and open debate among those offerings.
"But if they want to be a serious and permanent element in progressive politics, they should resist the temptation to indulge themselves in mean-spirited vengeance against Democrats like Joe Lieberman who proudly defend the Clinton legacy," the DLC warned.
"And they should understand the signal that the effort to purge Lieberman sends to voters with serious doubts about the party, especially on the national security and cultural issues he is so identified with.
"A party with no room for Joe Lieberman -- or for that matter, such occasionally lonely dissenters on the left as Russ Feingold or Bernie Sanders -- is a party with no prospects for a majority. It's the worst possible time for Democrats to make that choice," the DLC warned.
The Democratic Leadership Council, once chaired by Bill Clinton, says it offers an approach to governing "that is distinctly different from traditional liberalism and conservatism."
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