Tom Sullivan wrote a good article over at Digby’s Blog, Picking Sides. It’s about the split in the Democratic Party between the progressives and the “moderates.” The supposed moderates are actually just what the Democratic Party has been since Bill Clinton. I don’t want to go all John Birch Society on you, but more and more, it is hard not to conclude that the New Democrats were just the reserve troops of the Reagan Revolution. Just as only Nixon could go to China, only “liberal” Clinton could end welfare as we know it. And only “liberal” Obama could keep all the criminals in charge following the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression by looking forward as opposed to looking backwards.
Sullivan goes through all the people who are saying that the Democrats must continue on pandering to their wealthy donors rather than their quickly liberalizing voters. He noted, “Village Democrats are consistently about a decade behind their base.” Actually, I think it is worse than that. For most of the last three decades, the Democratic establishment hasn’t followed the base in the least; there is simply no connection whatsoever. The Democratic establishment has the ultimate philosophy about the Democratic voter, “Who else are they gonna vote for? At least we aren’t as bad as the Republicans!” The fact that they lost the presidency in 2000 because of that philosophy, doesn’t seem too big a price to pay. After all, it’s not like Bush the Younger was bad for the Democratic donors!
But there was something in Sullivan’s article that was really very funny, although I’m not sure he meant it to be:
This is the kind of statement that can make me choke. It’s like Bush the Younger warning Sweden that the whole social democracy business may be a dead end. Even if it’s true, what possible reason would Sweden have for listening to Bush the Younger? So let’s see: a couple of guys who have a vested interest in populism losing the fight for control of the Democratic Party published an OpEd in one of the most wacko conservative publications in existence. Has there ever been a greater sign to the Democratic Party that it needs to move in the populist direction?
The truth is that the New Democratic movement was a conspiracy. It is just that it wasn’t hidden. The stated purpose of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was to turn the Democratic Party away from its turn to the left in the 1960s and 1970s. But that was a lie. The party had turned to the left only on social issues. Democrats had brought down taxes in the 1960s and didn’t touch them in the 1970s. But the DLC wasn’t interested in the social left turn (that was mostly allowing blacks to vote, by the way). No, the DLC was only really interested in economic issues. So they weren’t turning the Democrats back into a former authentic self; they were turning the Democratic Party into what the Republicans were on economic issues. And this, of course, allowed the Republicans to simply go crazy.
So it is no surprise that the corporate Democrats think that the Democratic Party moving in a populist direction is a dead end. It is for the “moderate” Democrats. What it is for the Democratic Party at the ballot box, we will have to wait and see. But the people I talk to — liberal and conservative alike — are overwhelmingly populist when it comes to economic issues. Conservatives generally have a problem with liberal social policy. Adding liberal economic policy will make them more open to the Democratic Party. But I’ll admit: the billionaire donors of both parties will not be happy about this.