February 9, 2011


The DLC Folds; But They Won The Future: The DLC didn't kill the New Left, but arguably, it won the future. (Marc Ambinder, February 7, 2011, National Journal)

With centrism as their lodestar and a bit of seed funding from business, the Democratic Leadership Council launched itself in the mid 1980s. First came a clarion call to fight against populism within the Democratic Party. Founders Al From and Will Marshall believed that Democrats couldn't win the presidency unless they adopted an economic agenda that was more, well, reasonable and less wedded to traditional party constituencies. Also, there was no reason, they also believed, as to why corporations wouldn't contribute money to Democrats who were pro-trade agreements, more skeptical of labor, and less stringent when it came to regulation. A forward-thinking Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton glommed on to the DLC ... and they glommed on to him, and their relationship consummated in his election to the presidency.

With reports today that the DLC is preparing to fold, the political world, which thinks in terms of wins and losses, will wonder into which bucket the group belongs. On the one hand, many DLC-influenced ideas became reality in the 1990s: a free trade agreement with Mexico, a Democratic President who saw the budget balance, and welfare reform. From is essentially retired. Longtime staffer Bruce Reed is now Vice President Biden's Chief of Staff. President Obama addressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce today. The president is pursuing spending cuts and free trade agreements. [...]

There are two other factors worth mentioning. One was that Big Labor became all the more important to helping Democrats get out the vote, and that made it more difficult for Democrats to affiliate with the DLC. The second was that the Netroots -- Atrios and Daily Kos and Chris Bowers -- thought the DLC's "centrism" was equivalent to the politics of concession and compromise.

The ebb and flow of Anglospheric politics at the End of History is fairly regular and predictable: as a governing party becomes sclerotic and lapses too far into the First or Second Way--depending on whether it is the party of the left or the right--the party out of power adopts the Third Way and boots them from office. The process then repeats itself.

But the danger exists that one party or the other will find itself unable to adopt that reformist mantle and will choose to die defending its own antiquated Way. For the Republican party, dominated by Evangelicals and business, this danger appears rather distant. But for the Democrats, potentially dominated by Labor and the Netroots, the danger seems very real.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 9, 2011 6:15 AM
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