The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, March 06, 2006

The baffling allure of the DLC

The Democratic Leadership Council's heyday was in the run-up to the 2000 election. Those were the days when they boldly touted the need to field Democrats who hew to the right on issues social and economic (never mind that the Bushies are as fiscally conservative as Liberace) in order to keep power from falling into the hands of what they saw as an America turning increasingly red.

Then they lost. And Democrats have lost every election since, in spite of a growing mountain of evidence that America isn't shifting dramatically to the right. Without exception, when the public learns more about the policies of the Bushies, they reject them wholeheartedly. But those unpopular policies are frequently enacted anyway, thanks to a persistent Democratic power-structure belief that walking right down the center is the only way to go. After the lambasting that Gore and Kerry took for following this line of thought in their campaigns and earning ridicule from the right, the press, and many left-of-center Democrats, you'd think they'd learn by now. But if bad ideas don't die hard in a bureaucracy, where will they?

The trouble with this legacy is twofold. Rather, the trouble comes on two fronts. First is a media that increasingly presents news with a rightward tilt. Or, if you don't believe that, a media that includes ever-more rightward-leaning viewpoints. Unsurprisingly, given both the vast amounts of money right-wing activists have poured into both media criticism and funding their own outlets and the reality that almost all news outlets are controlled by a small handful of massive corporations who have a vested interest in maintaining a corporate-friendly government.

Second is the intractible nature of those whom I've come to refer to as the neo-fascists. No matter how many instances we say of Democrats playing nicey-nice with Bush Republicans, we never get a fair shake. Consider the recent (and under-reported) attempts at lobbying reform in Congress: a wimpy Republican bill sponsored by Trent Lott was offered alongside a much more substantive proposal from Barack Obama. The Senate committee considering the legislation voted in favor of moving forward with Lott's suggestions, but close to party lines to put the kibbosh on Obama's. I admit that this is partly the fault of Democrats who fear that serious reforms will hurt their chances to make gains in coming elections. But it illustrates a point that should have been driven home years ago-- even when the Dems play bill, the Bushies aren't going to reciprocate.

It's been that way for five years now, but there are those who persist in citing the importance of continuing to play ball with a team of cheaters who've also purchased the referees. Now, finally, I'll get to the point of my post. I recently quoted an article from the (formerly?) progressive New Republic in which departing editor Peter Beinart attacked Hillary Clinton for the way in which she runs her inner circle even as he backhandedly lauds her-- and attacks other Democrats and the blogosphere-- for sticking to the old routine of creeping to the right on many issues.

But what's the point of doing all that when you're up against the neo-fascists and news commentators of highly dubious credibility? MSNBC's Chris Matthews interviewed newly-elected House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio tonight on Hardball, and in addition to suggesting "you can see this man's greatness," Matthews asked Bohner three times if Hillary Clinton was a socialist.

On the one hand, you have Boehner of the snap-on hair. His biggest claim to fame is that he passed out checks from big tobacco on the House floor while a vote on tobacco legislation was being considered. He's been in the news more recently for cutting a deal with lenders like Fannie Mae (who contributed to his campaigns) to jack up the interest rates on student loans.

On the other, you have the DLC apologists who laud Senator Clinton for her right-leaning views on a number of issues.

And on the third hand (brought to you by the fourth estate), you have Clinton being painted as a far-left kook on behalf of a dyed-in-the-wool Bush Republican best known for ascending to power by kissing the right corrupt asses. I've heard Hillary Clinton accused of a lot of things, usually along the lines of "ball-breaking, angry dyke" (not exactly substantive, informative criticism), but Marxist is a new one on me-- and I know plenty of Clinton-haters.

This all begs the following question: what the hell are DLC proponents thinking? While they fret over whether or not Democratic candidates are conservative enough to win elections these days, they're ignoring the presence of the elephant in the room. And that elephant is wearing brass knuckles, and more than happy to kidney-punch DLC members along with genuine progressives.