I'm planning to send this to Ed Schultz. If you are so inspired, consider calling or e-mailing him on this issue. Better to burst the boil before election season starts.
Dear Mr. Marshall, Mr. Bayh, Ms. Clinton, and other self-styled "centrist" Democrats:
All my life, I have voted for, worked for, and given money to Democrats, even when I felt the candidates were not of the caliber that would bring credit to the Democratic Party. I've done what I can to heal the divide between real centrists and liberals, working with liberals to help understand tax, workplace, and religious issues, while working with centrists to explain the real history behind labor issues, reproductive rights, US military intervention, and Great Society programs, a history that has been systematically distorted and suppressed by the right. When President Clinton was unfairly attacked, I defended him (unlike Joe Lieberman, Bob Kerrey, and others of your organization). These are elements of what it means to be a team player.
The DLC claims to represent centrism. If that were so, it would reach out to liberals and traditional conservatives. Instead, it attacks them as unpatriotic, isolationist, and just plain stupid. Shouldn't such venom be reserved for the party that has led this nation into historic budget deficits and what is conceded to be an unwinnable war?
The DLC routinely sides with large corporations against working people. The DLC forgets that the Democratic Party of Harry Truman, which it so admires, was the Democratic Party of southern apartheid and patronage politics. That party was held together by the gratitude that the American people felt toward FDR. As soon as FDR was off the stage, Democrats started losing elections, as Republicans exploited wedge issues like white supremacy, anti-intellectualism, and xenophobia. The DLC wants to return to an America that no longer exists.
The DLC does make bows and curtsies to traditional Democratic values, as it tries to present as viable what some call the Third Way and others call pandering. Many liberal Democrats are ignorant about issues relating to taxes, business, and religion. Some have been annoyingly self-righteous on issues such as gun ownership and reproductive rights. But rather than criticize their character, why not help to reconcile different points of view?
The DLC poses as a reconciler but, unlike Bill Clinton, it does not seem to realize that there has to be substance behind the reconciliation for it to work. For example, what the DLC calls "muscular internationalism"
has, for the last four years, been an endorsement of preventive war using the UN as cover and a use of "free trade" to destroy unions, wreck manufacturing, and erode American living standards.
As John Kerry learned, it's not enough to criticize George Bush for ineptitude. What safeguards would the DLC put in place to reverse the damage? Would it submit the US to the discipline of answering to the International Criminal Court, so that abuses like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib can be stopped? Would it submit itself to some form of international discipline against reckless interventionism, such as making it illegal to go to war without the support of two-thirds of the Security Council? Will it accept some form of industrial policy so that "free trade" does not turn the United States into an economic colony? It is not centrist to accept military action that the rest of the world regards as criminal and that working people regard as personal betrayal.
Finally, let's take a frank look at Bill Clinton's presidency, since that is the DLC's principal claim to legitimacy. I liked Bill Clinton. He eliminated a deficit that in 1992 was threatening to wreck this country. On his watch, employment improved, and wages even went up after years of decline. America was largely at peace and the missteps were relatively minor. He won re-election and is still internationally beloved.
And yet the fact is that he made serious mistakes. He failed to push for campaign finance reform and so dirty dollars put Republicans in power in1994. Newt Gingrich used money from a children's charity to help win that election. Clinton pushed NAFTA while neglecting the side agreements on labor and environmental rights that would have made it acceptable in union households. His Third Way healthcare reform proposal was so complicated that he could not explain it to the American people, allowing Republicans to turn it into a weapon against him. He pushed for media consolidation and created a media monopoly that Republicans could use as a propaganda weapon. He left the Democratic Party as a whole weaker in 2000 than it was in 1992. His clever positioning was great for his personal popularity, but core Democratic values became so blurred that the Democrats are no longer recognized as the party of working people.
Worst, it was Bill Clinton's Justice Department that permitted the Florida debacle of 2000. Had they opened an investigation, Ashcroft probably could not have shut it down. We may note, inter alia, that there are suspicions that the reason Al Gore failed to act to defend his 2000 victory was that the DLC told him they would turn on him if he did. I hope that's not true, but since we have yet to hear an honest accounting of what happened. But, since the DLC has developed a record of opportunism and betrayal, those suspicions will remain.
The DLC seems to be incapable of admitting that it has made any mistakes. Before the war, who was closer to the truth that Iraq would turn into a national tragedy, Michael Moore or Al From? The DLC seems to be incapable of listening to other points of view. Who better understands the real functioning of capitalism, George Soros or Bruce Reed? And what sort of idiots
warn Democrats to not speak out against Republican treason?
The DLC no longer has any standing to call itself a source of leadership. It is not centrist. It is ethically conflicted and morally confused.
It will be terrible for America if the Republicans win the next election. However, if the Democrats lose people like me because we can no longer stand the cynical opportunism and personal corruption of this country's elite, they will not win. Sadly, I sense that is what the DLC wants: a debacle so that it can blame those who oppose the increasingly useless DLC.
Let's not oblige them. There are lots of good candidates in difficult districts, almost all of them Democrats, who deserve our support. Let the MBNA Democrats get their money from the corporations they serve and let the rest of us support candidates who serve the people.