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Debunking "Debunking Centrism"

It seems to me that David Sirota's latest attack on the DLC and other "centrists" is in need of a response. The problem here is not that the things he says are popular are not, in fact, popular. Rather, the problem is that he's gone off and created a straw man here, attacking the nefarious DLC for positions it doesn't hold. Discussion below the fold.

Sirota writes that "Despite wins by economic populists in red states like Colorado and Montana this year, the DLC is claiming like a broken record that progressive policies are hurting the Democratic Party." But look, here's Ken Salazar popping up as New Democrat of the Week on the DLC website:

Ultimately, Salazar succeeded in Colorado last week, while so many Democrats struggled nationally, because he was able to stand up credibly for progressive values while closing significant trust gaps in the minds of many voters. He didn't shy away from discussing national security and homeland defense, stood by a decades-long record of substantive reform, and took clear, principled stands on cultural issues. Colorado voters trusted him.

It's no wonder that they then listened when Salazar spoke passionately about the economy, and the way in which President Bush's policies have left many of Colorado's hardest working citizens behind. He spoke explicitly about the struggles of middle-class Americans while pledging to reform the way that their concerns are addressed in Congress.

"When Washington insiders try to cut taxes for their wealthy friends, I'll stand up for the middle class, for people who work hard, play by the rules and want a better life for their kids," Salazar said.

Salazar was a speaker at their national convention. Sirota says "The DLC and the press claim Democrats who attack President Bush and the Republicans for siding with the superwealthy are waging 'class warfare,' which they claim will hurt Democrats at the ballot box." But the DLC says no such thing. He's an article from their Blueprint magazine with the subhead "Instead of the class war President Bush is fighting for the wealthy, we should help all Americans save." Here's Marshall Whittman writing in the October Blueprint:
The first few months of the Bush administration were uneventful and predictable. Despite his narrow victory, President Bush made no effort to reach out to his adversaries. After all, the donors had to be reimbursed. Consequently, the primary focus was on passing a massive giveaway to the wealthy with a few crumbs for the middle class.

A central feature of the tax cuts was what has become the blessed sacrament of the modern Republican Party -- repeal of the estate tax. This boon for billionaires has become an obsession for the Republican Party, even in the face of huge deficits and the mounting costs of war. Perhaps not surprisingly, the estate tax was a product of T.R.-inspired progressivism that sought a more equitable distribution of the tax burden. Welcome to the second Gilded Age!

Back to Sirota:
The "centrists" tell Democrats not to hammer corporations for their misbehavior and not to push for a serious crackdown on corporate excess, for fear the party will be hurt by an "anti-business" image. Yet such a posture, pioneered by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, is mainstream: A 2002 Washington Post poll taken during the height of the corporate accounting scandals found that 88 percent of Americans distrust corporate executives, 90 percent want new corporate regulations/tougher enforcement of existing laws and more than half think the Bush Administration is "not tough enough" in fighting corporate crime.
And what was the DLC doing in 2002 "during the height of the corporate accounting scandals?" Why, they were proclaiming New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer their New Dem of the Week. He's one of their "100 to Watch" list of rising stars, and cited as a model for protecting public pensions. Here's what the DLC actually said about the politics of Enron:
There's no question the Enron mess, and its close proximity to the Bush administration, is a true scandal that highlights a potentially important point of vulnerability for the GOP, and even for the president. After all, George W. Bush carried two lingering negative perceptions into office in January 2001: that he might not be able to handle a big foreign policy crisis, and that he was entirely too cozy with favor-seeking special interests. While the first vulnerability is gone forever, the second remains and has been placed on the front page of every newspaper by his buddies at Enron.

Moreover, while the Enron case seemed to come from out of the blue, it represents a real and much broader problem for the administration: its genuine and systematic abandonment of the libertarian strain of conservative ideology in favor of a frank favoritism toward big business in a wide array of public policy areas, from energy and the environment to trade, taxation, and workplace issues.

To deal with Enronitis, Democrats should champion real competition in the private sector. Government has a critical role to play to ensure that capitalism works the way it is supposed to work, and that genuinely innovative entrepreneurs are not crushed by businesses that stack the deck and pursue special privileges. Ensuring corporate responsibility -- toward investors, employees, consumers, communities, and toward the law itself -- is the most genuinely pro-business and pro-growth stance possible.

In the very next paragraph we learn that "On taxes, self-described "centrists" like Senator Joe Lieberman, a senior DLC leader, attacked proposals to repeal the Bush tax cuts to pay down the deficit." First off, Lieberman voted against the Bush tax cuts in congress. Second, what he said was that it would be a mistake to advocate (as Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt did) repealing all of Bush's tax cuts, including the pro-middle class provisions inserted by the Democrats. Lieberman's actual tax platform during the primaries was the most progressive of any put forward by the major contenders in 2004. Or, as Jonathan Cohn wrote comparing it to Wes Clark's plan, "it means fewer people benefit than in, say, Joe Lieberman's tax plan, which raises taxes on the very wealthy to finance benefits for everybody else--as in 98 percent of all taxpayers." Sirota writes:
On energy policy, those who want government to mandate higher fuel efficiency in cars are labeled "lefties," even though a 2004 Consumers Union poll found that 81 percent of Americans support the policy. Corporate apologists claim this "extremist" policy would hurt Democrats in places like Michigan, where the automobile manufacturers employ thousands. But the Sierra Club's 2004 polling finds more than three-quarters of Michigan voters support it--including 84 percent of the state's autoworkers.
Someone may be doing this, but what's the DLC got to do with it? See an actual statement of theirs on the subject:
The CAFE system of the 1970s has, of course, produced important environmental benefits; burning less fuel means releasing lower levels of carbon and other harmful pollutants. But today's comparatively stable oil supply and low gas prices have undermined consensus for tough action to reduce consumption. Lawmakers are often reluctant to ratchet up miles-per-gallon requirements because automakers complain that CAFE standards require costly trade-offs in vehicle performance and safety and force them to build vehicles consumers don't want.

Little wonder that after the latest CAFE debate, Congress rejected a proposal that would have significantly raised vehicle fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in decades. This, despite war in the Middle East, ongoing threats from terrorists, and continuing problems with the undemocratic Arab regimes we depend on for most of our foreign oil. Instead, in a display of daunted courage, Congress is poised to direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to study the issue.

Last but by no means least, Sirota offers this:
For instance, the DLC has issued a "heartland strategy," telling Democrats to jettison economic populism, which has been used to elect Democrats in various red regions in America. Their solution? "Talk more about reducing teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births, which have led to an expansion of single-parent families beset by poverty, welfare dependence, and other social ills." Above all else, they caution, do not turn up "the volume on anti-business and class warfare themes"--a euphemism for not discussing DLC-backed free-trade policies that have ravaged economies throughout the heartland. The strategy conveniently avoids the issues that might make the DLC's corporate backers uncomfortable.
To put that quotation in the actual context of the "Heartland Strategy" memo:
It drives liberals crazy that downscale voters who don't benefit much from GOP economic policies nonetheless backed Bush on cultural grounds. But since most voters don't neatly compartmentalize their ethical and economic concerns, simply turning up the volume on anti-business and class warfare themes isn't likely to change their minds. And heartland voters aren't likely to miss the unflattering implication that they're too dim to realize where their best interests lie.
That's rather different.

The point here isn't to become a thoroughgoing DLC apologist, and I've offered criticisms of some things they've said. But I try to restrict myself to criticism of things they've actually said. Sirota is creating a disagreement that's 80 percent nonexistent. He and the DLC disagree about trade. I think he's right to accuse the DLC of downplaying the unpopularity of free trade agreements. I think the DLC is right to say that free trade agreements are generally good policy. The DLC's actual general argument about the election -- one that Sirota doesn't seem interested in confronting in any of his voluminous writings on the subject -- is that Democrats can't get a hearing for their economic message unless they do something to simultaneously cool the fires of the culture war and talk in a more compelling way about national security. My analysis is that a more compelling national security message along would do the trick. Sirota seems to think that Democrats can afford to just ignore national security and values issues. Or maybe that's not what he thinks. I would be interested in getting his take on this.

So there are some real disagreements about policy and tactics here, but they deserve to be debated calmly and, above all, honestly. Sirota's attacks are growing increasingly vitriolic and wind up having increasingly little to do with the actually existing DLC and its real merits and flaws.

December 16, 2004 | Permalink

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» Ready, Aim, Fire ... from GregsOpinion.com
I can think of a million better things for Democrats to engage in this political off-season, but allow me to highlight what a complete horses-ass David Sirota is. Since he wishes to engage in not a mere crank on the... [Read More]

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» Yglesias and Sirota on the Democratic Leadership Council from The National Political Observer
David Sirota, described by The Nation as "the former top spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee," has an interesting article in The Nation headlined Debunking 'Centrism." It's about the Democratic Leadership Council's alleged cla... [Read More]

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» The Sound And The Fury from Pandagon
Matt's debunking of Sirota's article on the DLC's irrelevance and wrongheadedness is almost cruelly efficient. But Sirota doesn't really mean what he argues, he means what he says. Which, to say it in a form that's not a zen... [Read More]

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» Debunking Centrism, He Said from Centerfield
In The Nation, David Sirota makes the claim that the DLC and moderates like Sen. Bayh are fake centrists "The answer to the ideological extremes of the right has to be more than rigid dogma from the left," said Senator... [Read More]

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Comments

There's nothing wrong with the DLC as such - it's a good solid center/center-right christian-democrat sort of group.

The only problem is that it's trying to take over the Democratic party. Some of us would like to have at least a center-left Social-Democratic party too; having to choose between far-right and center-right is not a very healthy situation in the political system you like to call 'democracy'. Imagine what it would be like if you had to choose between the Communist party and the Socialist Peasant party or something.

Posted by: abb1 | Dec 16, 2004 5:38:42 PM

Matt writes about Sirota:

"Rather, the problem is that he's gone off and created a straw man here, attacking the nefarious DLC for positions it doesn't hold."

Welcome to the rhetoric of the loony left. The DLC is always a strawman for making their points. It may be intellectually dishonest and unhelpful, but it's nothing new.

And even more oddly, the loonies have no idea of how limited the power of the DLC actually is. The Dean brigades believe that a handful of schmucks with typewriters were singlehandedly responsible for a massive conspiracy that denied their man his rightful nomination.

-----

The DLC writes about Salazar:

"Ultimately, Salazar succeeded in Colorado last week, while so many Democrats struggled nationally, because he was able to stand up credibly for progressive values while closing significant trust gaps in the minds of many voters."

And this type of thinking is why I like the DLC, depite Al From's inability to play well with others.

(I can never figure out how much of what From personally does belongs in the "unhelpful asshole" category, and how much belongs in the "helpful truthteller" category. He definitely deserves kudos for stepping up to the plate about Dean in summer '03 when no one else had the guts.)

But beyond From's personality, the DLC is the core intellectual engine for rebuilding the party.

-----

Matt writes about the DLC:

"Democrats can't get a hearing for their economic message unless they do something to simultaneously cool the fires of the culture war and talk in a more compelling way about national security. My analysis is that a more compelling national security message along would do the trick."

I know that national security is your personal hobbyhorse, but the Dems had major problems before 9/11 that haven't gone away, y'know...

Weaknesses on both cultural and defense issues need to be partially neutralized.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 16, 2004 5:54:15 PM

I think the frame of "reducing unwanted pregnancies" instead of "reducing abortions" would be a fantastic way of taking on the cultural issue of Abortion in a constructive way, especially since (1) the democrats have a substantively successful record on it and (2) it is attractive to the mush middle of voters who don't like abortions but think they should be legal.

Posted by: Gabriel Rocklin | Dec 16, 2004 6:06:08 PM

The problem with the DLC is that it's not terribly useful to find endorsements of a given candidate. You can go through the archives and find DLC love for Howard Dean, before he had the unmitigated gall to oppose the Iraq War. The problem with the DLC is that there is an uneasy marriage between center-leftydom and corporate whoredom, mixed in with the unwavering belief that whatever they happen to be espousing right at this very moment, even if it is totally different from what they espoused six months ago, is completely right.

I don't have any kind of problem with centrists; many of my best friends are centrists, and we can always find common ground. But to pretend that not just centrism but centrism promoted through the tactics of wishy-washy Republican Liteism is the wave of the future is absurd.

Posted by: Kimmitt | Dec 16, 2004 6:17:07 PM

Isn't Sirota attempting to make the John Edwards 'the two Americas' speech?

Posted by: EG | Dec 16, 2004 6:36:18 PM

Rather, the problem is that he's gone off and created a straw man here, attacking the nefarious DLC for positions it doesn't hold.


Funny that a leftie would do something like that with respect to the DLC, when we all know that the left NEVER does that with respect to Republicans.

Posted by: Al | Dec 16, 2004 7:03:02 PM

I'm tired of pissing arond the point. Democrats need to become the party of economic populism at home and aggressive democracy promotion in the Muslim world (read: the party of FDR and Truman again) if they want to become the majority party anytime in the next thirty years. But that's unlikely to happen. The anti-war wing of the party is still nursing its "Islamo-fascism-isn't-really-a-threat" and its "return-to-normal" fantasies, while the corporatist wing of the party (with the help, sadly, of many white, white collar liberals who stopped giving a shit about class and economic inequality years ago) is still nursing its belief that economic centrism is the answer to the red state conundrum.

Look everyone: American political and economic history moves in rather predictable rhythms between libertarianism and populism, and once you understand those rhythms you understand where your respective party needs to be to attain or maintain majority status. There are periods where appeals to economic populism just aren't going to work, and there periods where anything but appeals to economic populism just aren't going to work. We're entering one of the latter, and with respect to economic issues the DLC needs to rediscover (or the discover for the first time, as it were) its inner economic populist, or it needs to sit down and shut up about economic policy, in much the same way that the anti-war wing of the party needs to rediscover its inner liberal hawk, or else sit down and shut up about national security and foreign policy.

For anyone who doesn't understand why the DLC's libertarian lite is not the key (on domestic policy, at least) to winning red states, consider the following: five out of six safe, red state corporatist DLC senate candidates went down in flames last month. Salazar was (contrary to the cited article) really perceived as more of a DLC-ish moderate than a fire-breathing populist, and the only reason this strategy worked in Colorado is because its a state with a sizeable Democratic base and a large pool of white, white collar, middle class, suburban, moderate professionals to draw from. Most red states are white, working class voters for almost as far as the eye can see, and the middle and middle and upper middle class ones tend to be evangelicals, and out of the Democratic party's reach.

The Democratic Party of course ruled the henhouse from 1932 to 1968 (the populist new deal era), but like every previous political and economic order it collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions (you can't keep people of color and white racists in the same party forever, particularly after the civil rights act was passed), and from external circumstances (Vietnam, rising crime, etc.) On the economic front, the new deal order hit an inflationary wall in the 1970s, and all the Democrats had to offer the white working class was more of the same - and they knew it.

Meanwhile, a new libertarian conservative era was being born, and Kevin Phillips' emerging Republican majority was busy emerging into full view. By 1980, the white working class had had enough of the Democrats, and helped give Reagan his not-small wins in 1980 and 1984. They knew damn well the GOP and the Dems had nothing to offer them economically, and between nothing economically and something (at least rhetorically) culturally, they started voting Republican.

The Democrats responded by first denying, then panicking, and then giving themselves over by 1992 to the libertarian-lite DLC. Since then the Democrats have made significant inroads into white, white collar professional voters (even the charismatically challenged John Kerry won New Hampshire), and Bill Clinton did pick up some support among the white working class (winning several southern states), but that was largely due to the force of his personality, and not his policies. Gore and Kerry both got their asses kicked among the white working class.

Amusingly, many Democrats now seem to be talking about reinventing the party as the party of a kind of liberal-libertarian federalism, not realizing apparently that the libertarian federalist era that began tentatively in 1968 is in its closing hours. Power is reverting to the federal government, and folks are becoming decidely less enthusiastic about the decline of progressive taxation, outsourcing and "free trade," the shredding of the social safety net, corporate abuses, and so on down the line. And when the shit really hits the fan in the next several years (housing market collapse + dollar decline + new equities bubble collapse + god knows what else) the middle class will join the working class in their populist backlash. And the party that represents this resurgent economic populism, and vows to aggressively promote democracy in the Arab and wider Muslim world, is going to be the majority party for the next several decades.

Right now its up for grabs.

Posted by: Scoop Democrat | Dec 16, 2004 7:07:45 PM

aggressive democracy promotion in the Muslim world

Democrats have always been aggressive promoters of democracy everywhere, including in the Muslim world. We merely don't think that it can be done by conquering the Muslim world, then crossing our fingers and hoping it all works out.

Posted by: Kimmitt | Dec 16, 2004 7:19:41 PM

Matt,

Great post. It's about time someone did that. We Dems have bigger fish to fry now than each other. But, if we're going to fight, we might as well have facts marshaled. All in all though, I think this argument is a gigantic waste of time and definitely works to accomplish the Repubs wishes--splitting the Dems. Folks, welcome to a stronger Repub majority in 2006.

Posted by: KC | Dec 16, 2004 7:27:24 PM

Yglesias does a good job of correcting places where David Sirota goes overboard. But the Sirota piece itself does an important thing by trying to finally put the DLC's ideas and their effect on progressives and liberals to rest.
I saw Al From speak after the election. Unlike Sirota's characterization, he's a good guy who geniunely cares. But the DLC needs to get over its Clinton idolizing and get with an agenda that works. The idea that mimicking and tailoring all of your ideas to "fit where the country is" should have been put definitively to bed after Bush won this year. No ideas and no vision = no victories and no positive reforms.

Second, while Yglesias is right to show the context for the DLC remarks, he fails to point out that the DLC is trying to have it both ways. The organization grabs all the winning Democratic governors and anyone outside of the Dean wing of the party and claims them to be their own, then puts them in their ideological box. Eliot Spitzer would probably count as one of those crazy "anti-business" liberals had he not been so successful and popular. But because he is, the DLC claims he's for "competitive enterprise," which puts him in the same boat as everyone from Joe Leiberman to Dennis Kucinich to Ralph Nader. So finding politicians like Ken Salazaar and John Edwards who take both "populist" and "centrist" positions is a good thing, and the DLC should recognize that it can't own all of them.

The "free trade" position illustrates this further. The DLC backs free trade agreements unequivocally, even though half the country, especially in the NorthWest and the Southeast, believe it's bad for them. If the DLC would let the party get beyond the "free trade" vs. "protectionist" blather, the Dems could find a popular stance that would help solve some troubling problems with the global economic system.

Having DLCers in the party is great. They are right that urban liberals (like myself) have a "trust problem" with Southern and rural voters that must be dealt with. But having found no compelling vision for the left in the U.S., they and their DC-based consultant need to allow the stronger, more popular figures on the left take charge for a while. If we don't listen to ourselves for once, we'll never get the confidence needed to win. And that's something that the DLC should understand.

Posted by: Josh Craft | Dec 16, 2004 7:48:53 PM

DLCers certainly never say anything bad about us in the loony left, except maybe "screw the hippies", so why should any of us ever say anything bad about them? That would be wrong!

Scoop D, did you ever "piss around the point?" You've always been admirably frank.

I think that the DLC's donations from Enron and Lieberman's identification with Arthur Anderson made the economic-populism y'all are talking about pretty difficult to realize, dontcha think?

And the fact that whenever the DLC mentions the Democratic core constituency (labor, blacks, liberals) it's usually part of a phrase including the word "pandering", or some other denunciation, also isn't a good sign for economic populism.

The DLC has been in the driver's seat for over a decade, with mixed but not excellent results, and they're finally starting to come under effective intraparty attack (not just people like me). And after pissing on everyone else for more than ten years, they're now playing the victim card. Boo hoo. Can't we all just get along?

Posted by: John Emerson | Dec 16, 2004 8:05:03 PM

Watch it. You're talking about the Sexay Sexay Sirota.

Near as I can tell, the DLC started this fight, and it was a needless fight at that. So the DLC can piss up a rope.

Posted by: jerry | Dec 16, 2004 8:21:58 PM

"DLCers certainly never say anything bad about us in the loony left, except maybe "screw the hippies", so why should any of us ever say anything bad about them? That would be wrong!"

The point is not that you shouldn't say anything bad about the DLC. The point is that you shouldn't use the DLC as a strawman to stand in for anything you don't like.

---

"The DLC has been in the driver's seat for over a decade, with mixed but not excellent results, and they're finally starting to come under effective intraparty attack"

Of course, the fascinating thing is that they're coming under effective attack not by the loonies like Sirota. They're coming under effective attack by splinter factions of the DLC itself, like Dean and Rosenberg.

The DLC has (justifiably) won all the intellectual intra-party battles so decisively that all the action now takes place in intra-DLC battles.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 16, 2004 8:51:43 PM

Isn't Sirota attempting to make the John Edwards 'the two Americas' speech?

Well, yes, sort of. Edwards also used the phrase 'war on work'. Very effective (and a good criticism of Bush tax policy). I don't know whether you are bringing this up to disparage or laud the Edwards approach, but I laud it. It may not be a sufficient message, but dems are insane not to attack hard on this score.

Where Kerry used garbled Senate-eze, or condesendingly simplistic language about this issue, Edwards simply paraphrased Warren Buffet - who complained that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does. I know we're all 'cool' and terribly sophisticated, but...my god, Bush's tax policies are an outrage, and dems deserve to lose if they can't frame a response to a regime this grotesque. We can chatter about the relative merits of a VAT, etc. till hell freezes over; that's not what Bush and this congress will actually give us. They want a flat tax on workers and no federal tax at all on 'capital', period (it's OK because it's an ideology, you see).

I don't particularly care about the Sirota, et. al. versus DLC contratemps. It stems mainly from a.) an ideological devotion to 'free trade' on the part of the DLC, and b.) the fact that From is kind of an asshole. The Democratic Party is going to be a centerist party no matter what, because the GOP is now an off-the-charts Right party. Mr From never tires of repeating that the dem party can't 'be the party of Michael Moore'. Ho hum. Of course he's not incorrect about that, but is that really what's pertinent? Forget Michael Moore. The Republican Party is the party of Grover Norquist. Voters need to know what that really means. Sirota and others are, I think, trying to call for action over reaction, which is exactly right. Quite a few people who've been in DC for the last 25 years (including some dems) need to get fired over tax policy alone....

Anyway, it's a start, and a potent start, I'd say.

Posted by: jonnybutter | Dec 16, 2004 8:52:03 PM

"The DLC has (justifiably) won all the intellectual intra-party battles so decisively that all the action now takes place in intra-DLC battles."

If that's the case Democrats are finished for a generation.

Posted by: Scoop Democrat | Dec 16, 2004 9:00:34 PM

Look, look, it's fine to criticize what the DLC says and does. I've criticized some of the things they've said, and some of the things they've done. Others may want to criticize other things. But don't criticize them for having said things they haven't said or for having done things they haven't done -- that's just silly. Ideological disagreements are fine, but let's have them honestly.

I even think it would be fair to criticize the DLC for tilting against liberal strawmen of its own from time to time. But that's something you should criticize the DLC for, not a reason to invent a strawman version of the DLC and criticize it instead of the actually existing institutions which has its good sides and its bad ones but simply isn't this cartoon monster of drooling corporate power.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Dec 16, 2004 9:01:43 PM

What do you have against cartoon monsters?

Posted by: Cartoon Monster | Dec 16, 2004 9:12:52 PM

"Edwards simply paraphrased Warren Buffet - who complained that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does. I know we're all 'cool' and terribly sophisticated, but...my god, Bush's tax policies are an outrage, and dems deserve to lose if they can't frame a response to a regime this grotesque."

Well, why the hell didn't we nominate Edwards then?

I see Edwards as having the formula for Democratic success: a combination of effective attack on the economic front combined with an image perfect for neutralizing much of the Republicans cultural advantage. Wrap all this up in the package of a very good communicator, and you've got a winner.

---

"Mr From never tires of repeating that the dem party can't 'be the party of Michael Moore'. Ho hum. Of course he's not incorrect about that, but is that really what's pertinent?"

It's pertinent because voters think it's pertinent. There's a reason there were more attacks on Moore at the RNC than there were on Kerry.

It's pertinent because Kerry might well have won this close election if he'd Sister Souljah-ed Moore, and there are lessons to be taken forward from that.

---

"I don't particularly care about the Sirota, et. al. versus DLC contratemps. It stems mainly from..."

I think you miss the real cause of the intensity of the attack on the DLC: the Dean for President campaign.

From spoke out early and often about Dean's weaknesses at a point in time when other party sages were unwilling to say what needed to be said because of the inevitable retribution they'd have to face. From stood up, and now he's receiving that retribution.

I agree that From is often an asshole, but I also think his "skunk at the garden party" act performs a valuable service within the party. He's a truthteller, and a constructive asshole.

Posted by: Petey | Dec 16, 2004 9:14:59 PM

What exactly has From constructed, that wasn't tied to Clinton?

Posted by: ladder | Dec 16, 2004 9:29:40 PM

I agree with everything everyone said above. One interesting fact I'd like to add: the World Bank has now come out against bilateral trade deals. So I think that we ardent free traders could trick a lot of people if we denounced such deals, while quietly supporting much more effective multilateral trade regimens. But everyone likes multilateralism, right? Intra-party dispute solved!

Posted by: praktike | Dec 16, 2004 9:32:47 PM

"What exactly has From constructed, that wasn't tied to Clinton?"

You know how the Dems now seem to have a perpetual polling advantage on "the issues"?

That advantage didn't exist 15 years ago. The DLC is primarily responsible for creating an interlocking matrix of policies and frames that have almost singlehandedly contructed that advantage.

To take a single example, back when Reagan was cutting taxes on the rich and running up crushing defecits, the GOP had huge polling advantages on "taxes". Today, Bush pursues the same policies, but the Dems are consistently preferred by the electorate on "taxes".

Posted by: Petey | Dec 16, 2004 9:41:27 PM

"One interesting fact I'd like to add: the World Bank has now come out against bilateral trade deals."

Yes. When properly informed about what free trade is there aren't that many people who find themselves against it, but the DLC and the Clintonistas were not (so far as I could tell) for free trade, but neoliberalism, which calls itself free trade but isn't. Clinton (like most of his predecessors, from Nixon on) tolerated massive monetary protectionism by Asian countries, who also showered and continue to shower their export sectors with illegal subsidies. Then of course there's the illegal subsidies showered on corporate ag in the west, and their illegal supply chain monopolies which devastate small farming in the west and the developing world. Add to that all the special interest corporate crapola (that's often quite rapacious) tucked into these agreements and the end result is a grotesquely unfair advantage for certain industries in certain countries, and a grotesquely unfair disadvantage for certain industries in certain countries.

Posted by: Scoop Democrat | Dec 16, 2004 9:48:09 PM

> It's pertinent because Kerry might well
> have won this close election if he'd Sister
> Souljah-ed Moore, and there are lessons to
> e taken forward from that.

How exactly would Kerry have done that? Tell Moore he was wrong about the war in Iraq? Wrong about the 11 minutes in the Florida classroom? Wrong to beg Ralph Nader not to run?

Moore is obnoxious, just like Rush Limbaugh, but what was he wrong about in regards to Bush?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Dec 16, 2004 10:21:41 PM

> From spoke out early and often about Dean's
> weaknesses at a point in time when other
> party sages were unwilling to say what
> needed to be said because of the inevitable
> retribution they'd have to face. From stood
> up, and now he's receiving that retribution.
>
> I agree that From is often an asshole, but
> I also think his "skunk at the garden
> party" act performs a valuable service
> within the party

I didn't like Dean, didn't vote for him, didn't back him. And I gave /way/ more money than my family could afford to Kerry and other mainstream Democratic organizations.

All I can think when I read something like this is, "yeah, that worked real well". Republican lite sure is going over well, isn't it?

These people - From and the entire DLC leadership cadre - need to go. Out of the DLC, out of the Democratic Party. I can guarantee you that if they are in charge in 2008, I will not give a penny or a minute. And I don't think I will be alone in that feeling.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Dec 16, 2004 10:27:54 PM

This article from Counterpunch: Getting in Touch With Your Inner Terrorist by Michael Neumann, delineates in lucid terms what I believe to be at the heart of this debate. I say this because at the center of it all is citizen perception, beliefs, how we perceive ourselves. It is quite un-emotional in it's honesty and point of view.

(http://www.counterpunch.org/)

Posted by: Sarah | Dec 16, 2004 10:38:03 PM

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