Democratic Party Civil Wars: The DLC Empire Strikes Back
The progressive grassroots is stirring to life for the first time in recent memory.
Even in surprising places like East Texas progressives are “coming out of the woodwork” like never before.
Democratic Party insiders have noticed.
“I’ve never seen such dedication and action in the grass-roots communities since the Vietnam War until this year,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on a conference call Sunday with MoveOn.org. “And you’re really helping us tremendously.”
Yes. Helping. Further down in the same article there was a different story.
On Monday, about a dozen leaders of grass-roots progressive groups tried to deliver boxes of petitions to the Senate Democrats’ political arm, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, demanding that it stop funding three incumbent Democrats, each up for re-election next year, who said they would support Gorsuch’s nomination: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
The activists tried to make the delivery to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, or its executive director, Mindy Myers. Instead, an unnamed aide came to the door, collected the boxes and eventually told them that no one was available to meet.
“Not right now, I’m so sorry,” the aide said, standing in the doorway of a building across the street from the Capitol. “Thank you guys so much.”
Democratic politicians should just photocopy "Not right now" and hand it to all the progressive activists they meet, because no one detests and disrespects their base like Democrats. To put it simply, the Democratic Party 'just isn't into them'. The Democratic Party wants to be Republicans, and it isn't even hiding it.
It begs the question: if a party's base is overwhelmingly liberal and progressive, and urges the party to move left, where is the push-back coming from?
For many years, Democrats proudly associated themselves with the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a powerful group founded in the 1980s that sought to build a Democratic Party "liberated" from labor and grounded in "support for free market and free trade economics ... an end to the politics of 'entitlement' [and] a rejection of affirmative action."
At the height of its power the DLC was the dominant force in the party, boasting President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as its acolytes. But like Bell's weak narcotics, the DLC, which supported the Iraq War and received money from the likes of the Koch Brothers, soon became a tainted brand. Long before 2011, when the organization dissolved, the DLC label hung around politicians like a scarlet letter.
One of these DLC-aligned groups is the Blue Dog Coalition. Formed in 1995, they reached their zenith in power in 2008 with 54 members in Congress.
Then came the 2010 and 2014 elections. By 2015 they were down to just 14 members.
"I don't think the people who ran the DLC ever really left," said Norman Solomon, a coordinator for RootsAction, in an interview with Truthout. "It is the same product, different name." Indeed, the DLC agenda is carried out today by think tanks like the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) and Third Way, which push the same regressive agenda but under different labels, and with less public scrutiny. As the Boston Globe described in 2014, Third Way usually works "behind the scenes -- in the White House, the corridors of Congress, and the office suites of lobbying firms in downtown Washington."
Now, as Democrats face an existential crisis in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump, these fundamentally conservative organizations, armed with millions in corporate donations, are working with a renewed aggressiveness in the public sphere. They are attempting to convince the party to shun its base and further embrace the so-called "vital center," and the corporatism that has long defined these groups.
You might think that the outrage by liberals following Trump's victory over the corporate insider and DLC favorite Hillary Clinton, would be a final rejection of Third-Way, neoliberal values.
Instead, like the Tea Party before it, it's an opportunity for the political establishment.
Sensing blood in the water since the election, the 13-year-old Third Way think tank, which was "never formally associated with DLC but self-consciously drawing on the same heritage," as former DLC staffer Ed Kilgore once wrote, has been especially aggressive. It has thrown $20 million into its "New Blue Campaign." The campaign, according to Third Way President Jonathan Cowen, aims to prevent Democrats from meeting "Donald Trump's dangerous right-wing populism with a liberal populism of our own." To put this in perspective, $20 million is enough to fund a fairly large nonprofit organization like 350.org or the Center for Constitutional Rights for about two years. However, it's a relative drop in a bucket for an organization that by its own admission is backed almost entirely by Wall Street sources.
Third Way's argument rests on the flawed notion that the Democrats have already been guilty of running a "base-only" strategy. The party's problems and electoral defeats, it argues, are because it is just too progressive for its own good.
What a coincidence! Third Way came to the very same conclusions that Republicans did!
You can bet that if the progressive grassroots keep mobilizing that New Blue Campaign will be only the first of many counter-revolutionary actions.
They will never stop spending and they will never stop spinning.
After almost every election cycle, New Democrats either try to claim responsibility for the victory or use the defeat to advance their cause. In 2006, when Democrats took back Congress in large part due to opposition to President Bush's war in Iraq, which the DLC supported, New Democrats said it was "a victory for the vital center." When Democrats got crushed in 2010, Third Way was, as an American Prospect article described it, "salivating at the prospect of a Republican-controlled House" so it could "vigorously oppose the left."
In the meantime, Sanders has recently been sounding like Dem Primary Sanders again. As if he has been freed of some private, blood-oath commitment.
Since the Democratic Party lost the 2016 presidential election, the party’s establishment has suppressed all calls for reform from progressives. Though the party appointed Sen. Bernie Sanders as its head of outreach, most Democrats continue to treat him and his supporters as unwelcome outsiders. In a recent speech, Sanders provided progressives with insight as to how to advance their values against an inept and increasingly out of touch Democratic Party.
"I don’t want to offend anybody, but the Democratic Party cannot continue to be just the party of the liberal elite and people who have money. It has got to be the party of the working class of this country. The Democratic Party cannot just be a party that just does well in New England and the west coast, it has got to be a 50-state party.”
While Sanders discussed why the Republican Party is successful in winning elections across the country, he blamed the Democratic Party for Trump‘s election and Republicans holding a majority in Congress and state legislatures all over the country.
“And he also assumes, quite correctly, that the Democratic Party is extremely weak and incapable of organizing people,” Sanders said in reference to how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is able to push policies that hurt his constituents with impunity.