Dan Balz has an analysis piece in this morning’s Washington Post on how the battle over John Roberts is dividing the Washington establishment of the Democratic party from grassroots activists.

There are also abiding tensions over what political strategy might be most effective in carrying the party back to power. Some elected officials, according to critics, have been slow to appreciate how the power balance in the Democratic coalition has shifted — away from established interests and toward citizen activists who tend toward a more aggressive brand of politics.

Party leaders in Washington trying to manage this unruly alliance as they prepare for Roberts’s confirmation hearings face a delicate choice, according to party strategists and other analysts. They can risk heading into the 2006 midterm elections with a demoralized base. Or they could potentially turn off swing voters, who may view Bush’s nominee in less ideological terms and could recoil at a party they perceive as driven by die-hard activists.

… After representatives of several liberal advocacy groups complained Tuesday about what they regarded as a flaccid strategy, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.), the party’s longtime liberal leader, and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, issued blistering statements criticizing Roberts’s record. They said it is so conservative that it is far outside the ideological mainstream.

Yesterday, conservative interest groups and some Republican leaders condemned Kennedy and Leahy, saying they were letting the groups lead the party. “Someone needs to remind Senators Kennedy and Leahy that their constituents are the American people, not far-left third-party groups in Washington,” Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said in remarks prepared for delivery in West Virginia and released by his office in Washington.

The irony, some might say hypocrisy, of Mehlman’s statements is that the GOP is increasingly held hostage by the right wing nuts. And it has apparently served the party very well. After all, regressives are often cited as forming the electoral difference in Bush’s re-election.

Balz cites tensions between the DC Dems and the Democratic wing of the Democratic party over the party’s unwillingness to make the Bush tax cuts the issue in the 2002 elections. The DC doyens’ strategy failed, of course. And the Democratic establishment’s initial backing of the Iraq War also proved harmful to Kerry’s chances last year.

According to Balz, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee waited until the final week of Iraq War veteran Paul Hackett’s Ohio congressional campaign before giving him some money. He almost pulled off an incredible upset. Could earlier money have made a difference?

Exactly why are these guys the experts?

With Cindy Sheehan’s successfully focusing war opponents, it seems the progressives were right all along.

By the way, anyone notice that The Washington Post had no story in the paper this morning about the 1,600 anti-war protests last night that were spawned by Sheehan – except for mention of the protests in Dana Milbank’s “Washington Sketch” column and two op-eds this morning? On the Post web site, you can find such a story, but not by a Post writer. It’s an AP story.

Geez, the anti-war folks can’t get any better treatment than the Washington Mystics, whose season has been covered largely by short wire reports.