Here's what I think: To have the same kind of treatment from the Dems as the tea party gets from the Repubs, the progressive base would have to have a 24/7 propaganda machine comparable to Faux News and monied backers like the Koch bros. and their ilk. We'd have to be willing to throw giant tantrums whenever anyone crosses us. We'd have to be willing not only to dispense with the truth but to lie proficiently and prolifically. In other words, we'd have to become the thing we hate.
Fortunately, we have truth and justice on our side, so we don't have to lie or pump bazillions of dollars into a giant misinformation campaign. Mobilization, education, strategic use of social media, grassroots power are where it's at for the progressive base.
The Democratic Party may have gotten away with ignoring its base until now, but the great swing to the right that U.S. politics has experienced in the last few decades will not last forever, and I believe that it's gone as far to the right as it's going to go. The clearer it becomes who the tea partiers are, what they actually want, and who is backing and manipulating them--and it becomes clearer all the time--the less tolerant the rest of America will be, in spite of the great Faux News propaganda machine. The Dems will continue to ignore their base at their own peril.
I'm not at all advocating just waiting around until the pendulum swings back the other way. Already here in Wisconsin we have given it a great big ol' push, and we're only just getting started. Here's hoping that we do some more pushing back in tomorrow's recall elections in Kenosha and the Northwoods of Wisconsin.