When there's a lot of kindling on the ground, a few sparks can really start a fire ablazing. And that's what now seems afoot between the "DLC" and "the base" in Democratic blogdom. I did a post yesterday about one of my pet peeves about some in the leadership of the organization. So in the interests of having this fire generate more light than heat, let me briefly wade back into this debate.
If there is an institutional failing in the DLC, it is that some in its leadership -- or more specifically, its founder and CEO Al From -- have a habit of making public statements, often at what I consider to be opportunistic moments, that amount to saying that the problem with the Democratic party is that it has ... how can I say this, too many Democrats.
There is also a habit of deploying a highly elastic definition of what it means to be a New Dem which can be expanded or contracted for effect as the opportunities of the moment dictate.
In these intra-party disputes, I always try to get people to take the snarled edge of original sin off their polemics, wherever possible. So perhaps I should take that admonition to heart myself for yesterday's post. But however that may be, I stand behind the basic critique.
But my comments would be incomplete if I didn't note the crude, often silly, and in any case highly misleading caricature of the organization that I hear from readers in emails and on various sites.
The thinking goes that those behind the "corporate/DLC agenda" are simply closet Republicans, whose aim is to put a Democratic label on Republican policies or kow-tow and make nice to Republicans so much that the Democratic party becomes even more impotent and enfeebled than it already is. Whether these points are true or not, their model for successfully winning elections has been endlessly discredited and in any case all they're really about is serially abandoning the various groups that make up the Democratic party. And what right do they have to screw, or sell-out, of $%#& blacks or unions or the poor or gays or the environment, when these guys aren't even real Democrats anyway?
As I noted in my earlier post, over the last six or seven years I've had a few perches which gave me some unique perspective on this intra-party tussle. And I can see kernels of truth in the caricature. But this is a highly misleading portrayal of who almost all of these people are. And the caricature is sustained by a lot of people who only know what these folks are about from left-leaning anti-DLC polemics -- though I would say the DLC folks come in for a good deal of criticism for that being the case.
So before everyone goes off half-cocked, with misleading slogans and impressions, trying to purge this or that wing of the party, I would say, find out a bit more about the groups you're talking about. There are plenty of real differences to argue about without getting into shouting matches with folks who might agree with you about more than you imagine.
I should probably add here that there's also the running battle between From's DLC and Simon Rosenberg's New Dem Network over ownership of the 'New Democrat' label and various other stuff. I have no particular investment one way or another in the DLC as an institution. It certainly has its problems. I would just ask that people spend as much time finding out who these folks are as they do blasting them.
One final point, you'll notice I often link to the NewDonkey blog. It's run by my friend Ed Kilgore, who's the Policy Director for the DLC. If you want to know about what these folks are about, hearing what their policy director thinks is a decent place to start. And not just one visit. Spend some time there because that's the only way to get a sense of it.
At the moment the lead post is a smack-down of David Sirota's "Da Vinci Code" piece in the Prospect. So maybe this isn't the most auspicious moment for trying to get everybody to get along. But then, a core argument of David's piece was blaming the DLC for what ails the Democratic party and trying to write them out of the same. So what do you expect?
In any case, the Dems got 48% last month. Whatever else you can say about that number, it suggests we don't have the luxury of having enough of us that we can start purging anyone. There are serious issues that divide us -- and they'll be argued over. But I don't believe that any of them are deep enough to prevent both sides from coexisting within the same party, especially considering what we are up against.