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Democratic Divisions

by RonChusid

The Democratic Leadership Council’s meeting in Columbus has highlighted some divisions within the Democratic Party which I suspect exist primarily in the blogosphere and are of little concern to the saner members of the party (such as those who overwhelmingly voted to nominate John Kerry last year). If progressive bloggers want to criticize the DLC on principles, that would be one thing. I certainly don’t agree with their members on all issues, although an analysis by Chris Bowers has shown that their members do not actually vote very differently from other Democrats in Congress. What I find particularly absurd is a claim seen in multiple anti-DLC blog posts blaming them for Democratic defeats.

If the ability to win elections has become the question, it is hard to argue with the DLC’s success. The DLC had a President in the White House for eight years. We all know what happened to the favorite candidate of the bloggers in last year’s Democratic primaries, and would expect an even worse showing in a general election campaign. I’ve previously discussed polling showing the advantages of moderation over moving to the left in terms of winning Presidential elections.

The Bull Moose has his own response to the frequent attacks on party moderates from the progressive blogosphere:

Leave it to others to talk about internal divisions within the party or nasty polarizing polemics. While someone from the daily kosy (misspelling intended) confines of Beserkely might utter ominous McCarthyite warnings about the “enemy within”, here in Columbus constructive committed crusaders for progressivism are discussing ways to win back the hearts of the heartland. This is a time for Democrats to be ecumenical rather than suggesting a pious inquisition.

Personally I prefer the big tent, finding that I don’t agree with either the DLC or the progressive wing on all issues. Such diversity of opinion is also necessary to win elections. Some progressive bloggers have complained that the dominance of the DLC has led to a lack of progressive candidates for 2008. If they would get past the biases developed during the 2004 primary battles, they might realize there is one candidate who is sticking to progressive principles, even if he (thankfully) does not accept the far left line on all issues–John Kerry.

21 Responses to “Democratic Divisions”

  1. Ron,

    Being an Amazon.com book addict, I’m fantasizing of doing a “list” – for any Dems who want to play blame the DLC, the Dem Candidates,etc.

    Found one today that should lead it off – unfortunately out of my budget.

    “The Destructive Power of Religion” J. Harold Ellens 4 vols $300

    The budget version would include:
    Brock”s “Republican noise Machine”, Lakoff, Kevin Laland on memes, “The Wastrel’s of Defense”. Maybe one on ‘Net addiction 🙂

    Short and simple: let the GOP do the infighting, we have enough to do without wasting time.

  2. Here Here! to Ron’s post.

  3. Great post Ron!

    So many people don’t get that most of the voters in both parties are moderates. However… no Hillary thanks!

  4. Nothing is certain this far ahead of time, but every month it seems like Hillary is increasing her chances. I mean by ways that matter, not in the way that Dean just seemed to be a front runner. But then lots can change between now and 2008, and front runners have often done poorly in Democratic primaries.

    We really have two different issues in which candidate is more desirable and which is more electable. For those who look objectively, it is quite clear that the more moderate candidates have the best chance in a national election. That doesn’t mean we should automatically go with the most moderate. It may make sense to go with a more liberal candidate in the hopes of having what we really want, however it is foolish to delude ourselves, as some parts of the liberal blogosphere do, in pretending that moving to the left will increase the chances of winning.

    In Hillary’s case, all the normal calculations do not apply well. At this point she’s even made it hard to say whether she’s on the left or a moderate. We know the Republicans will claim she’s far left, but it remains to be seen how the general public will see her.

  5. Ron

    Just what do you mean by “moderate.” I’ve got problems with abortion (though I’m not ready to overrrule Roe). I believe that racism played a big part in the GOP’s capture of the south, but I’ve got real questions about affirmative action today (because I don’t think it benefits blacks who are below upper middle class educated). I oppose gay marriage but i totally favor civil unions and laws banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation (we have a law like that in Maryland). I supported the assualt weapons ban, and the NRA is a bad bunch of folks, but other than the legislation passed in the 1980s and 1990s, is there really more the federal government should be doing? I am totally disgusted by Hollywood and thought Clinton was a jerk for closely associating with them so publicly.
    I’m in favor of a strong defense, I concur with the Carter adminsitration’s increase in defense spending, but also with their view that human rights should be play a large role in our foreign policy. Had I been a Senator in 2002, and didn’t know then what I know now, I probably would have voted the way Kerry did on the Iraq War vote. But in 2002 I believed, like Kerry, that we should go to war becuase we have to, not because we want to. I don’t think the UN should have a veto over us, but barring a direct attack or threat to the US, unilateralism (not to mention the “preemption” doctrine) are total bunk.
    On economics, we should have national health insurance, make it easier for unions to organize and abolish right-to-work laws, higher taxes on the wealthy and cut corporate welfare, fully fund special education and the COPS program, closely regulate Wall St., and have an energy policy that promotes alternative sources of energy.
    I also despise the Clintons and Dailykos. All we got from the 8 years of a DLC president was NAFTA, growing income inequality (despite low unemployment), a directionless foreign policy (but a better one than Bush Jr.’s) shacking up with anti-progressive corporations and right-wing southerners, further shredding of the social safety net, “the era of big government is over” and Republican control of the House, Senate, governorships, state legislatures for 6 of the 8 years.
    No Clinton was not as bad as Dubya, or as shifty as Nixon. He seemed more like the hapless GOP presidents (harding and Coolidge) of the 1920s who never saw the 1930s coming. Just as the weakness of the Democratic Party in the 1920s gave us the worst president of the 20th century, the weakness of the Dems in the 1990s gave us the worst House Speaker and president since at least, well, the 1920s. What we need is a empathetic, strong liberal, perhaps with a patrician background, like FDR or some guy from the liberal north (sound familiar)?
    What we don’t need is a DLCer who either attacks the Democrat for being too liberal (the Clintons or Lieberman), or a former DLCer who opportunisticly suddenly becomes an anti-war liberal elitist.
    So given all this, am I a “moderate” “liberal” or a conservative? I’m confused.

  6. Ron (and everybody)

    What is Hillary increasing her chances for? Personally, I think most of this talk about Hillary is based on 1) name recognition and 2) the MSM’s desire to have another socially liberal, economically conservative Democrat who ticks off the GOP and causes ratings of “Hardball”-like shows to go sky high.
    Given the losses of the Democratic Party from the House to the Senate to governorships, etc. and the growing concentration of wealth that marked the Clinton years, do we really need another Clinton? Hillary didn’t even win as great a percent of the popular vote in her Senate race as Gore AND Kerry did in the presidential race in NY. Can anybody tell me what qualifications she has to be president, or name a state Kerry lost that she could win? No sarcasm here, I need some help answering these questions.

  7. Nick,

    The progressive bloggers would call you a moderate for not going along with them, and some DLC’ers will call you too far left for your criticism of Clinton. Otherwise there’s no objective meaning of these terms.

    To see how the labels don’t apply to the DLC, see the Chris Bowers post I linked to. As for the self-proclaimed progressive wing, their favorite candidate is one of the more moderate Democrats who just happens to use progressive rhetoric. Maybe that’s it–it doesn’t matter as much what your politics are as how you talk about it.

  8. Speaking of DKos there are Kossack droppings in today’s Kerry press release thread.

    Hi Nick!

  9. I read this article and I felt sick. “We have to do more than just criticize Bush, we have to have solutions of our own.” DUH!! Didn’t anybody not associated with LUTD or the Democratic Daily read Kerry’s (and in fairness other Dems as well) numerous proposals on health care, energy production and conservation, homeland security, defense, education, the minimum wage, labor union organizing, making sure the rich pay their fair share of taxes, fair trade, etc.? There are reasons why the Dems came up short in 2004, a lack of solutions to the country’s problems was NOT one of them.

  10. Nick,

    It is way to early to even attempt to guess how Hillary will do in a general election. A lot will depend upon what happens the next few years and how the Republicans are perceived, as well as how well Hillary continues to reinvent herself.

    I have personally encountered moderate Republicans who are noting how moderate she now seems, and actually might consider voting for her. It is also notable that she came out looking stronger after being faced with a Swiftie like attack book.

    While I wouldn’t attempt to predict here general election chances, I do think that she is positioning herself very well for the nomination. She is sucking up a huge amount of potential donations. She is managing to appear strong on defense–a definite weakness (in appearance only) for many other Democrats. The publicity this weel with the DLC helps establish her as a moderate, yet she sitll has strong liberal credentials, regardless of what some liberal bloggers say. Now that she grabbed the position heading the American Dream iniative, she’ll be in an excellent position to help set the agenda for Democrats.

    Hillary is far from my first choice, especially after her health care proposals. Despite not wanting her, I do not question her qualifications. Her eight years of experience in the White House along with a Senate term make her more qualified than Bush, and probably more qualified than Bill was on first coming to Washington. A Senate term plus eight years in the White House gives her more relevant experience than Edwards. Of course hardly nobody has the qualifications that Kerry has.

  11. Ron

    Your bit about “Maybe that’s it–it doesn’t matter as much what your politics are as how you talk about it,” is sooooo right. If in 2000 Bush had described his politics not as “compassionate conservative,” but truthfully as ” lets bring back the late 19th-century Gilded Age and an unjustified war while the real bad guys get away” its a pretty safe bet that not even the Supreme Court could’ve saved Bush.

  12. Nick,

    Actually what I was saying doesn’t totally apply to Bush. I was thinking more of Democrats where it really is unclear who is a moderate versus progressive in many cases if only looking at positions.

    In Bush’s case, it is clear that he is far right. There was a distinct differnece between what he claimed to be and what he really was.

  13. Ron

    It’s kinda hard for me to see how Hillary can come off as strong on defense wihtout looking like she’s posturing. What’s more, do we really want a former member of the Wal-Mart board of directors (and someone who pals around with Newt Gingrich) as leader of the Democratic party? She also calls welfare reform a “great success” even though poverty rates have risen while the safety net has more holes in it. Fewer people on welfare is fine, but poor people who can’t get the help they need is hardly a better society than the one we lived in in 1995 BEFORE welfare reform. Her voting record is pretty liberal, but then again so is Lieberman’s. Seeing Hillary (pardon my language) flip-flop on her beliefs and playing the stupid labels game like Lieberman did, I get an ugly feeling.
    I always thought that a president Hillary (like Lieberman) would be an Lyndon Johnson in reverse. On a whole host of issues (labor unions, tax emptions for big business, social spending, his support of Joe McCarthy, and of course civil rights) LBJs Congressional record was decidedly NOT liberal (though in fairness not totally rihgt-wing either). Asked by civil rights leaders why he was a much more liberal president, LBJ said “free at last, free at last, thank god almighty, I’m free at last!!!” (in this case from the white voters in Texas). No Hillary would not be as conservative as (pre-Vietnam) President Johnson was liberal. But given the Clinton’s cultivation of business conservatives and their disdain for associating with the Congressional Democrats (most of whom were moderately to very liberal), can you blame me for not trusting her?
    I don’t expect the next Dem president to get all liberal objectives done, just like Reagan didn’t get all conservative objectives done. One thing that can not be denied: the Gipper accomplished great forward progress for his (right-wing) way of thinking. I’m convinced that Kerry has and is working very hard to make forward progress for liberal, progressive thought. Given the outcome of the 1990s-with GOP control of the government since 1994-it’s kinda hard for me to say Clinton made great forward progress (or any progress) for liberal thought. I’ve yet to see any evidence Hillary (even if elected) would be any different.

  14. Ron and Nick,

    It seems like more people are pushing for Hillary to get the Dem nomination. Some people think she could win over the minority votes since they want to see Bill back in the WH.

    Scary huh?

  15. Indie Liberal

    yeah, it’s really scary, we’re talking Mike Myers and Jason from Friday the 13th combined. Don’t take this personally, I do not mean to come off as mean spirited, only to inform. Personally Indie, I find you much smarter and informed than not just some, but MOST people in and out of the blogosphere.
    Whomever this “some people” guy (or gal) is, better get their facts straight. Kerry got 58% of Asian voters (greater than Clinton or Gore ever got) 88%-89% of the black vote (also greater than Clinton ever got, just 1% less than Gore) and beat Bush 64%-35% among Hispanics, a greater margin than Gore’s, (check out http://www.wcvi.org for more).
    Sure Clinton got 72% of the Hispanic vote in 1996 (because the GOP came off as so anti-immigrant). Still, the cultural conservatism of many-economically-liberal Hispanics, combined with the Clinton scandals (e.g. Monica) were a BIG reason for the slip in Dem support from Hispanics from 1996 to 2000.
    I might also add that Kerry got 59% of union voters, better than all Democrats since the 1960s except Carter and Gore (62% and 61% respectively) and won a greater percent of voters making less than $50,000 than any Democrat since at least the 1970s. The problem was that these under $50,000 households made up nearly 60% of households but only 45% of the voting electorate.
    Sure the Democrats have electoral problems. Getting union, racial minorities, and working and middle class voters (at least outside the South) to vote for us are NOT problems the Dems have. They just have to do better among voters that Kerry ALREADY did well in, and improve among voters who don’t live in cities and the nonsouthern suburbs (not to mention Catholics). “Some people,” if your out there and you think we need Hillary to “win back” minority voters, relax!! We’ve already got a candidate who we already know did just as good or better with minority voters than Clinton did.

  16. Nick is in the house with the STATS!

    Go Nick!

  17. Nick,

    Your post says it all. I do agree that racism cost the Dems the South. My History professor thinks it played a big factor in Bush getting re-selected.

    BTW: I am Alma Nueva, just changed the name.

  18. WaPo –

    Clinton Angers Left With Call for Unity
    Senator Accused of Siding With Centrists

    By Dan Balz
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, July 27, 2005; Page A03

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s call for an ideological cease-fire in the Democratic Party drew an angry reaction yesterday from liberal bloggers and others on the left, who accused her of siding with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in a long-running dispute over the future of the party.


  19. …well, FDR said, “I am that kind of conservative because I am that kind of liberal.” (also, “reform if you would perserve”)…

  20. Indie/Alma

    Yep racism was a big part of the Dems losing the south. Interestingly, while there are some lily white states that are solid GOP (e.g Idaho, Utah, Wyoming) and the majority-minority states are solid Dem (DC, Hawaii and California) the states where blacks constitute the largest percent of the states’ population are:
    Mississippi (blacks are 36.2% of Miss. population)
    Lousiana (32.3%)
    South Carolina (29.4%)
    Georgia (28.5%)
    Maryland (27.7%)
    Alabama (25.9%)
    North Carolina (21.4%)
    (Statistics are from The Almanac of American Politics 2004)
    With the exception of Maryland, all these states are solid red states. With such large black populations, the GOP has to win a large amount of whites to win by the majorities they do. Racism is not the only reason for the large white GOP vote in these states, but I gotta believe it has something to do with it.
    Meantime states with small black populations (Massachusetts, Washington) or medium sized (New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania) are strongly Democratic or at least lean that way. Funny how in the nonsouth blacks can be folded into a biracial (or multi-racial) democratic majority. In the south, despite large black populations, there has been little Democrat luck in forming these biracial majorities. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  21. Follow up:

    What hurts is that I’m not sure if racism were totally eliminated from the South it would change much. The south is vociferously anti-government, very unilateralist, and very hawkish. There are a whole host of social issues (not just race) where white southerners are quite conservative, and “culture often trumps economics” which is why the region of the country with the lowest median household income (about $35,000, compared to $42,500 nationally) votes GOP on most levels of government.
    Even on economics the South is not liberal. Regressive tax, right to work, anti-labor states (except Kentucky) are not exactly signs of economic populism. Heck, even Strom thurmond hired blacks to work on his staff and consulted with black leaders in his later years, but ol Strom (like most southerners) would rather eat a live chicken than have someone sympathetic to labor in his office, let alone on his staff. Sure LBJ and Carter were pro-labor, but they were pre-Reagan presidents. Since 1980, getting southern dems to support progressive legislation (including Clinton) has been, to put it lightly, a challenge.
    There are fewer southern populists (or even moderates) than there were in the 1970s or even 1980s. Yes the south has moved to the left (somewhat) on racial issues, but has moved right (and it was already pretty conservative) on almost everything else. Some folks here in the Washington Maryland suburbs think that the south is less conservative/ractionary because
    1) the south is more suburban than before
    2) nobody can get elected to anything using the “n” word
    3) there is an abscence of burning crosses, and whites actually do get convicted of commiting crimes against blacks
    I’ve met plently of people (in fairness not just from the South) who are not racist, but overall politically are as far right as any nutjob in the Bush Adminstration. For every Trent “we should’ve elected ol’ Strom president” Lott, we got to deal with just as many nonracist but still very conservative voters.