December 24, 2003
I agree with this post on TAPPED about the latest DLC/Howard Dean dustup so much, I'm going to quote most of it.
[T]he DLC really hasn't been offering a "Bush-lite" agenda for America. On the other hand, "Democratic centrists" really have been "cravenly supporting much of George W. Bush's agenda" and the DLC needs to learn to deal with that reality. Bush's big-government conservatism has provoked a small, but steady, stream of defections from Republican moderates, deficit hawks, and principled conservatives which, combined with the GOP's narrow margins in the congress, has meant that none of Bush's major domestic initiatives -- not the tax cuts, not the Medicare bill, not the energy bill -- had the votes to pass without cooperation from Democrats.
And cooperation is exactly what they've gotten, from folks like Zell Miller, John Breaux, and Max Baucus, who've helped move terrible legislation to the president's desk and let the GOP get away with running the most partisan congress in generations. The DLC didn't support any of these bills, but I haven't seen them criticizing those who did, many of them card-carrying New Democrats. We know the DLC doesn't shy away from condemning Democrats from the left wing of the party who cast votes that displease them, but they've been utterly silent on the craven behavior of the party's right wing.
Under those circumstances, is it any wonder people have the impression that the DLC itself endorses the "Bush lite" politics that legislators associated with the group seem to be following? Instead of facing up to the reality of today's politics -- a narrow Republican majority allying with a handful of conservative Democrats to pass frighteningly bad legislation -- they seem to want to endlessly re-fight the battles of 15 years ago, even though they know perfectly well that Dean is no kind of crazed far-lefty.
Damn straight. We're about to enter our fourth accursed year of this Presidency. You would think that by now some people would have learned that crossing the aisle to vote for Bush's legislation brings no reward - ask Max Cleland and Jean Carnahan how much their votes for the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq resolution helped them - but you would be wrong. That as much as anything is what is driving the anger of many Democrats, and most of them I'd bet are Dean supporters. It's high time the DLC fully grasped this.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 24, 2003 to Show Business for Ugly People
I hope Matt Yglesia's isn't doing his own fact checking, he's falling a bit short on this count. He can't remember a single criticism of Zell Miller by the DLC? Really???
How's that ... a criticism not only by the DLC, but published in the DLC mag, and by a former appointee of Miller's at that.
As for the rest, there's a more substantive case to make that warrants a bit more focus than the holiday season allows for. Look for more afterwards.
That's a review of Miller's book, and it's not exactly on point with what Yglesias is talking about. For example, by searching on "Breaux" at NDOL.org, I found this article from June on how to "Fix the Medicare Compromise". Doesn't look to me like a whole lot of their advice was taken. Will they criticize Breaux and Baucus for helping to pass it anyway? Will they criticize Lieberman for missing the vote? That's what we're talking about.
That analysis concurs with something I've read elsewhere (can't remember where now); that the grassroots "anger" is not focused solely on Bush, but is also directed at the dreadfully quiescent Democrats, particularly in the Senate.
Since that's where my anger is focused, I agreed 100%.
Well, despite the insistence that the "attack on Zell" isn't as harsh as you'd like, there's also an obvious question as to why some would expect an attack on Breaux or Baucus that the DLC hasn't done on such Senate liberals as Wellstone or Kennedy?
The DLC did take on their own at the presidential level, both by taking Clinton to task for putting health care reform ahead of welfare reform (and thoroughly botching it) as well as Gore's pitch of the "people vs the powerful." So the attack on Dean should come as no surprise.
There is a history there that's very consistent. At the big picture, presidential level, the attacks are even handed. At the legislative level, the offerings lean towards substantive policy proposals. Take the Medicare debate to further the example:
100 Pounds in a 50-pound Bag
Very easy to discredit those who are actually elected to represent a constituency rather than represent a monolithic philosophy that anything that has the incorrect stationary designation of "From the desk of George Bush" as being inconsistent when there are often more parochial reasons at play with both the philosophical inclinations and constituent demands at play. Unfortunately, in order to be 100% consistent would be to demand that all of our officials be "unelected." It takes something to beat something else ... "nothing" isn't a winner. Some elected officials saw medicare and the energy bill as a half loaf with enough to make them content with the outcome. You wouldn't think that if he were still in the Senate that Lloyd Bentsen would be opposed to the energy bill, do you? Would that make him a Democrat worthy of derision? Does it mean the same for Breaux or Baucus? You appear to be making the case that it does.
One's vote on a Medicare bill, Energy bill, NCLB, the Bush tax cuts, etc do not, in isolation, define what it means to be a Democrat, just as none likewise define what it means to be a Republican.
At the heart of your argument is the question of "who should be a Democrat." Breaux, by Dr. Poole's rankings, is the closest to the GOP who is not named Zell Miller. Baucus is behind only Breaux and Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson. But were we not both cheering when the next in line, Mary Landrieu won her runoff in 2002? Tom Carper, hardly a GOP-lite candidate by most measures, is even pretty close in the rankings, faring better than the two Arkansans on the list. So my question then, is ... where's the cutoff point that you imply? If not to be measured objectively, as Poole does, then what single stand-alone votes are the "true measures" of what it means to be a Democrat? Are we to be the pro-choice party? ... the party that won't allow a single change to Social Security? ... the party that won't allow a single benefit change in Medicare? ... the party that won't support an energy bill that gives any aid or comfort to any company that has had an oil spill?
I would argue that one must take in the diversity of thought that exists (for now) within our party. Just as the business school mantra that "diversity is good in business" is sold, I would also argue that diversity of opinion in our party is good as it allows for a greater debate over what solutions are best employed in solving whatever problems confront us. Would you really be happy with a party that marches in lockstep on that front?
On the other hand, ask Max Baucus whether voting for the tax cut worked for him.
Let's face it -- Miss Carnahan was a nice lady who was largely out of her league. Dems and Republicans alike tended to chuckle behind the scenes at her ineptitude. Her party put her in a really tough spot for short-term gain, and for whatever reason, didn't dispatch the resources for her to succeed (Daschle and company should have bolstered her Hill operation with seasoned Dem operatives and campaign staff). She was vulnerable from the get-go. Being to the left of Missouri voters on judicial issues (her vote on Ashcroft, her participation in the obstruction of judicial nominees) hurt her, as did her general ineptitude. She's not a politician. Jim Talent is, and a popular one at that. The Dems blew this one largely on their own, and a tax-cut vote was never going to be enough to save them/her.
I'm actually happy for the poor woman. She deserved to grieve for her husband, one of Missouri's great men, and instead was thrust into something by her party that she was ill-prepared for. Best for all that she finally got to go home. The Dems should now find some candidates to challenge Kit Bond and Jim Talent on more substantive grounds than who is grieving more over a popular son's death.