In Defense of the DLC

Here's a relatively good one from Ed Kilgore:


In truth, the DLC was never the ideological or political monolith that its enemies--or even its friends--sometimes imagined. Yes, it was partially financed by corporate money (mainly because corporations wanted to hedge their partisan bets, and because the DLC was at least friendly to them), and it undoubtedly went far over the top in celebrating the "New Economy," along with the deregulatory demands of the tech industry and its financial allies. But it also pioneered attacks on "corporate welfare" in the federal budget and tax code, opposed state-level tax giveaways as an economic-development tool, and opposed most of corporate America's legislative priorities (other than on trade policy), most notably the Bush tax cuts and the health care industry's cherished Medicare prescription drug benefit. 

Yes, the DLC fought with the labor movement over trade policy, but it also supported the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which could not have pleased corporate donors, and, on one occasion, PPI's Will Marshall co-authored an economic policy manifesto with American Prospect editor Bob Kuttner. And yes, the DLC often scourged Democrats for appearing to be weak on defense, and it became too closely associated with the Iraq war (though it quickly split with George W. Bush's policies on Iraq after the invasion). But DLC founder Sam Nunn led the Democratic opposition to Operation Desert Storm, and many elected officials associated with the DLC opposed the 2003 war from the get-go. The DLC's reputation for "Republican Lite" policy ideas was never that well-merited: At a time when these ideas were outside even the Democratic mainstream, the group came out for public financing of congressional elections and GLBT rights.

I wish he hadn't gone so squishy here. Citing opposition to Desert Storm is a clever way of changing the subject from the recent Iraq War. I would also hear more about the DLC's advocacy on behalf of gay and transgender rights. 

Part of the problem is that it seems the DLC was rather anxious to cast its net as widely as possible. (Remember this?) With that in mind, I wonder about the ideological coherence of the DLC's membership. I suspect there's a lot of space between Gavin Newsome and Tom Vilsack.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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