Monday, April 30, 2007

Harold's DLC Repair Shop: Don't Expect Miracles

All this past month, DLC Chair Harold Ford has been making the rounds of the bigger left-wing websites pushing peace, harmony, and and the DLC's so-called "agenda" like one of those guys who stand outside strip clubs bragging about the nudity inside. I don't know if he realized what a shit-storm he was opening himself to, although on April 3, when he published a post at TPMCafe called "In Search of Common Ground", he opened it by acknowledging that the DLC wasn't exactly loved.
It's no secret that in some parts of the progressive blogosphere, the DLC has attained bogey-man status based on what I can only describe as a distorted view of the organization's history, and its alleged present status as a pillar of the Washington political establishment.
As an attempt to begin bridge-building. it was not a good start. The problem, of course, is that the DLC richly deserves its "bogeyman" status and worked tirelessly to attain it. That is hardly a "distorted" view, and there isn't a Democratic organization that's a bigger "pillar of the Washington political establishment" than the DLC. Trying to spin those as myths wasn't going to get him very far with the wonks of TPM, and it didn't.

Nathan Newman called him on the DLC's whoring of the corporatocracy.

The DLC's policies seems tailored to dump the costs of the capitalist economy onto taxpayers -- while not demanding that the corporate sector pay its fair share of taxes -- while leaving profits of that economy in the hands of society's winners in an increasingly unequal society. That may be admitedly better than doing nothing for those losing out in the global economy, but it does reflect the interests of a certain sector of the business community more than democratic interests.

Instead of calling for a decent wage for everyone who works, the goals settle for merely a non-poverty wage, a lowering of the bar for success that is almost appalling. A two parent family making the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is not officially living in poverty, but Ford's position doesn't even demand a serious minimum wage increase (something never mentioned in his speech).

The best Max Sawicky could muster up was a tepid realism: hold your nose and work with the DLC because they make the party "viable".
The truth is the Democrats without both the DLC and everyone to its left are not politically viable as a national party at this time. Liberals can wish and work towards the day when the DLC will be dispensable, but we aren't there. The diplomatic way to put it is, let's try and achieve some consensus and go forward.

***

Like other politicians, not excluding liberals, the DLC wants to win elections so they are tempted to tell people what they want to hear, and that of course is based on what they already think.

What you might call "faint praise".

The commenters, however, were blunter.

Mark Weinberg said: You voted for the war and never repudiated your vote. You are against gay rights. You invoke Jesus at every opportunity. You are anti-choice.
Why in God's name would an antiwar, pro-gay, pro-choice Jew like myself have any reason to support you?

sphealey said: [A]fter that 2nd paragraph it is going to be a bit tough to remain civil...

oakland said: Distorted view???? You may be distorted, but the rest of us arent'. The DLC is corporate owned and yearns for early Reagan. You may be early Reagan, I'm FDR. Reagan was one of the worst things that ever happened to this country. Bill Clinton's DLC gave us NAFTA/WTO/fast track, media consolidation (Rupert & Hillary), and welfare reform for babies but not corporations. I will never support a DLC candidate - ever!

PW said: [T]he DLC was a useful movement when it started and continued to be so until the mid-'90's. At that point its arrogance was a thorn in the side of life-long progressives. I'd have to agree with many here who find the DLC chillingly establishmentarian and eager to separate itself from (put itself above?) the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.
And so it went for some 400 comments over 3 pages. There was the occasional peacemaker who wanted everybody to give Ford a chance, but it was clear from both the volume and the tenor of the responses that a) the DLC isn't fooling anybody any more, and b) the Democratic base's patience with the DLC's Republican-Lite policies ran out a long time ago.

Two days later, Ford responded to this avalanche of criticism by reminding everyone that the DLC was responsible for both of Clinton's wins.
[W]e should all remember that the DLC played an instrumental role in giving Bill Clinton - then an Arkansas governor - a policy platform to campaign on and from in 1991.
Yeah, they did. They helped Bill Clinton do what he became famous for doing: stealing right-wing issues and forcing them on the Democratic party. Clinton's pro-corporate toadying was no more palatable to the base than the Pubs' toadying, the only difference being that while the corporatocracy owned the Pubs outright, they only rented the Dems.

The problem now is that there's a political sea-change going on, as Glenn Greenwald noted the other day, and faux-right-wing policies like those the DLC champions aren't going to cut it much longer.

The elected officials comprising the Democratic caucus are very politically diverse, characterized by widely disparate ideologies, varying amounts of political courage, and completely different calculations of self-interest. Yet virtually without exception, they have remained unified in their opposition to the war and the President even in the face of the Washington Establishment's painfully trite warnings that they must capitulate for their own good. That, standing alone, is a fundamental change, a sign that something has shifted profoundly.

One can view their efforts as insufficiently aggressive in stopping the war if one wants, but that is a different issue. Thus far, they have been shockingly smart (and resolute) about ignoring out-of-touch and corrupt Beltway pundit wisdom, and instead are paying far more attention to the prevailing anger among Americans towards the war, the President and his supporters.

Harold and the rest of the DLC are waaaaay behind the curve on this one. They're still punching away at decade-old counter-policies that aren't relevant in the wake of the Second Gulf War and the anti-Constitutional Bush/Cheney theory of the "unitary president" - the presidency re-envisioned as a de facto dictatorship. The commenter who spurred Glenn to write that post, DCLaw1, put it about as well as it could be put.

I have to say that a remarkably intimate, yet expansive, community of thought seems to be forming across television, film, and the Internet. There's a rather quiet, yet intense, movement of thought and expression building. It focuses not so much on any particular ideology ("right" or "left"), but on a common, critical-mass thirst to dispel the deception, irrationality, and utter hubris that has been corroding our proud country for what seems like an eternity.

An undeniable intellectual and social confluence is rapidly gaining momentum and solidarity. This solidarity is amazingly organic, not hierarchical -- its only guide is the sixth sense of skepticism, outrage, and, yes, reason. It transcends party. It is oceanic, atmospheric. An intellectual, moral, societal, and psychological gestalt as ancient as humanity itself, kept underfoot by a long winter, but indelibly germinating once again with the thaw.

It is literally everywhere now. The voices of blindness and rage cannot shake me anymore. I haven't felt such hope in a very long time.

The DLC would like to piggy-back on that hope, but if they do, their policies will kill it. Their time has passed.

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