The DLC looks to be facing a moment of truth. As I argued in this article a month ago, the DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) supports privatizing reforms of Social Security and Medicare. But many of the DLC’s ‘New Democrats’ don’t want anything to do with these positions. So that’s their problem on the left.
But there’s a new problem on the right.
The DLC has put forth a potent, intelligent critique of the Bush tax cut and proposed an alternative which mixes debt-pay-down and fiscal responsibility with support for a progressive, across the board tax cut centered on a refundable income tax credit tied to payroll tax liability.
So far so good.
But as this article in today’s Times makes clear, a number of the card-carrying New Democrats in the Senate seem uncertain whether to play ball with Bush or not on the tax cut. I’m talking about Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, John Breaux, Mary Landrieu, etc.
This isn’t an issue of whether the DLC can discipline these people; it’s not that kind of organization. The question is whether there really is such a thing as a New Democrat. Or to put it another way, whether New Democrat politics has enough resonance and coherence to keep these people on the reservation in the face of Bush’s bullying and cajoling.
If it does, if they can keep these Democrats from marginal states from hopping on the Bush bandwagon, then the DLC will have gone a long way to demonstrating its value as part of a broad progressive coalition opposing the Bush agenda.
If they can’t, then there probably really isn’t such a thing as a New Democrat – at least as the DLC has branded the term. And the DLC wouldn’t be the head of a movement so much as an a la carte policy shop with no real constituency.
That wouldn’t mean that individual New Democrat policies necessarily lack merit. It would just mean there’s no such thing as a New Democrat politics.
P.S. Does the DLC necessarily own the term New Democrat? No, but let’s leave that for another day.
P.S.S. Are you still optimistic on the tax cut front? Yes.