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If Democrats Don’t Watch Out, They Might Start Agreeing with Each Other

DR has been beating the drums for quite some time on the issue of Democratic unity. The concept is simple: especially after the party’s move to the center during the Clinton years, far more unites Democrats than divides them. And we must be as united as possible to have a good shot at beating Bush in 2004 and moving toward a Democratic majority over the course of the decade. So it’s time to stow most of the faction fights between DLC Democrats and liberal Democrats–they’re yesterday’s battles–and concentrate on the areas where Democrats agree and can move forward.

Easy to say. Harder to do. But DR has been encouraged by moves afoot in Washington to work out such areas of agreement between centrists and liberals. Here are some areas where people seem ready to agree. (DR’s spies tell him that, if these discussions go well, unity-oriented materials may start appearing in the pages of The American Prospect, so keep an eye out for such contributions).

Opportunity for all:

· A decent society is a compact for mutual advantage, not one where the rich and powerful use their power to skew results in their favor. We’re for everyone to get a fair shot at making it.

· We should expand the middle class, and give people tools to succeed.

· While we need to expand the rights of workers to engage in collective bargaining, we recognize that welfare of workers also depends on collective action by government, particularly in the areas of health care, worker rights, and retirement security.

· Its more than just about creating jobs, its about enabling all Americans to develop meaningful and rewarding careers.

Tax and Budget:

· We believe in progressive income taxes and oppose the Bush administration efforts to shift the burden of taxation to work and away from investors and owners of capital.

· We should simplify the tax code for the average American.

· We should provide middle class tax relief.

· We should reign in unproductive corporate subsidies.

· We should close corporate tax loopholes and increase enforcement against tax cheats.

Fostering Economic Growth and Opportunity in the 21st Century:

· Human capital, including the skills, inventiveness and entrepreneurial efforts skills of Americans is the key driver of economic growth. Republicans believe that financial capital and its owners are the drivers of economic growth.

· While the new economy is leading to progress it also causes disruption and it’s incumbent upon progressives to help those facing disruption.

· Life-long access to post-secondary education should be available to all Americans.

· If government is to be a force for economic and social progress we need to ensure that it works effectively.

Not too shabby. Here’s hoping this noble work moves forward and contributes to fostering that spirt of unity we Democrats so desperately need.

Not Your Father’s New Democrats

A lot of liberals are still quite suspicious of New Democrats, of course, and see the DLC’s attacks earlier in the year on Dean and the dread forces of Mondale-McGovernism as indicating at New Democrats are incapable of adapting to new realities. But not all New Democrats think alike on Dean and the evolution of the Democratic party.

Exhibit A: Simon Rosenberg’s New Democrat Network. As Ryan Lizza recently pointed out in The New Republic in his excellent article on current divisions in the Democratic party:

No organization has been more hostile to Dean than the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). In May, Al From and Bruce Reed, the chairman and the president of the DLC--the group that served as a policy springboard for Clinton's rise--wrote their now-infamous manifesto warning that nominating Dean, whom they view as hopelessly left-wing, would bring certain defeat for Democrats in 2004. But, for months, another prominent New Democrat has been making a different case. Simon Rosenberg, who cut his teeth on Clinton's 1992 campaign and now heads the New Democrat Network (NDN), sees Dean as the most innovative and potentially transformative Democrat since Clinton himself. Like Stern, Rosenberg is a bit of a rebel within his own movement. He once worked for From, but his organization is now challenging the DLC and is becoming an increasingly influential player in Democratic politics. Unlike the more top-down DLC, NDN is building a grassroots network of donors and has become a key player in the new world of 527s. "NDN has not endorsed Dean or embraced him, but we have given our opinion that this is a serious campaign that is going to change the party," says Rosenberg.

So, you see, not all New Democrats are alike.

Not That Your Father’s New Democrats Are So Bad

And by no means, in DR’s view, should folks give up on the DLC itself. The latest Al From-Bruce Reed memo in the new issue of the DLC’s Blueprint magazine is actually quite temperate, mostly avoids gratuitous factionalizing and has some pretty good strategic advice in it. In fact, the whole issue of the magazine, headlined “The Collapse of Bushism” is chock-full of good stuff that Democrats of all persuasions should find useful. More evidence, in DR’s view, for the feasibility of Democratic unity.

Let’s try to make it happen.


Well stated, DR. We all have much more in common than not on the Dem side of the aisle, particularly with the Republicans getting more and more shameless every time you look.

Maybe you'll have another post in this direction about national security, since it isn't mentioned in this post. We simply HAVE to come together on that issue, considering how important it'll surely be in the upcoming election. And we really do have much more in common than not in this regard, in spite of the terrible divisiveness that comes from the Iraq issue. We all want good relations with our allies, we all know that we often need to make compromises with them (instead of going out of our way to insult them) in order to maximize the cooperation we can get, we all recognize the importance of post-war planning and the complete hash that the administration has made of it in Iraq, etc. We need to get everyone on board with the principles that we all believe in, and we've got to avoid re-fighting the Iraq war amongst ourselves at all costs.

Boy, I hate to be a jerk about this, but I'm all for Democratic unity only if its substantially on the grounds that as Democrats we must go on the offensive with both our rhetoric and our policy. IMO — and I know this won't be a popular opinion — the groundwork for the successes of today's lunatic right was laid by the way the Clinton administration moved the political center in their direction.

Face it — when ordinary Republican voters are under the impression that Bill Clinton is some sort of socialist wannabe, the definition of "centrist" has moved to the right of Richard Nixon. That is not a healthy state of affairs for this country.

The Limbaughs and Coulters of the right are going to scream bloody murder no matter what our folks do, so we might as well stand up to them and push our agenda loudly and clearly. Let's not let them think that NAFTA is something a liberal would endorse, for crying out loud. And let's not wait for them to attack so we can defend ourselves meekly. WE ARE THE PARTY OF HARRY TRUMAN, DAMMIT. LET'S ACT LIKE IT.

For a start, can we please start working the refs about the anti-liberal media the same way that the Republicans have been doing for the last generation? Why on earth do we let them get away with dominating that discussion, as though the mainstream media is inherently liberal? And let's not start with Fox News, who for all their protestations is unapologetically conservative. CNN constantly toes the Bush line, and they're supposed to be "objective." Enough already.

OK, sorry, enough venting.

Chris: right on. This is why I'm a Dean supporter. Haggai: right on. This is why I'm a worried Dean supporter. I wish he'd just get off the topic of his opposition to the war. It just won't win him any more votes than those he already has. He can defend his anti-war position, but he should stop pushing it out front. I know way too many pro-war Dems who feel like he's getting in their face when he trumpets that he was "against the war from the beginning."

As for unity, here's the thing. Other than Zell Miller, I don't think most Dems actually have big ideological divides among us. Oh, Al From has thrown a hissy this year, but really, there aren't that many others who agree with him. I tend to buy Ryan Lizza's TNR piece that the conflict over Dean is mostly about power. Like all the candidates, Dean has electability questions, but he's just not ideologically that far from the DLC. He used to be one of their favorites, after all! These people are dressing up an internal power struggle as if it were a debate over ideology because it seems more high-minded.

Which leads to one of the two real problems we have with unity. Too often, Democratic politicians put their own parochial interests above party interests. Sometimes this is sorta, kinda understandable, as when Daschle is running for a tight re-election next year and he feels he must support the energy bill because of the ethanol subsidies. But what the hell is up with Dianne Feinstein supporting the Medicare bill? Anyway, it's this kind of party unity that Democrats lack and that, by and large, Republicans have. That whole winning together by sticking together, all for one and one for all thing.

The second problem we have with unity is message. Democratic leaders are just astonishingly wimpy and off-message most of the time. Daschle on Medicare was just terrible this weekend on Meet the Press, blabbering on about the process, the process -- as if he were in a back room of the Senate talking strategy with his fellow Democrats. And Kennedy, God love him, talked about how bad the bill was, but he started off by saying, "we passed a good bill, blah blah blah." And again, if you weren't an insider you wouldn't have known that he was talking about the June bill he worked on, not the one currently under consideration. It's as if these people all need to go to Communications Camp to re-learn how to talk to people outside of their little, closed-off worlds.

Yes, let's laud Al From and Bruce Reed. When they thought Dean was a danger to their preferred candidates, they trashed him as TOO LIBERAL even though he was a DLC poster boy.

Now that they have realized that if Dean wins, THEY, personally, lose, they become more conciliatory.

So sure, let's have the donkeys pull together, but this donkey has an elephant's memory and will not forget what From/Reed tried to do.

Glad to see the talk of unity. It is essential. I was turned off by the earlier post that suggested that Clark should play the numbers of Super Delegates at the convention to his advantage even if he didn't win a single primary. That is not a recipe for unity. Quite the opposite.

I think it's OK for Dean to remind people that he was always against the mess in Iraq, and even to distinguish himself from other candidates that way in the primary. But he definitely needs to avoid the appearance of personal criticism of individual voters who weren't against the war from the beginning. "Vote for me because I'm not an idiot like you, you idiot" is not a viable campaign theme, as emotionally satisfying as it might be.

Rui, your site is very good. Keep up the good work.

As for your big point, the bottom line is that there is much more that unites us than divides us. None of us have the answer to how we build the illusive majority but the keys will be in cooperation, innovation and leadership. Look forward to reading more.

I think many of us who oppose Dean's candidacy do so principally because we think he is a very likely loser in the general election.

So here's the problem with "unity" when it comes to such a candidate: what is the point of all pulling together for a candidate when the cause seems hopeless anyway? It's one thing to give up on certain things we might want in our preferred candidate in order to elect another Democrat who certainly shares most of our values. It's quite another to lock arms when the candidate offered up looks to all the world to be a nearly sure fire loser. This is particularly true when the payoff should he win is so slight, compared to the alternatives: policy for policy, I don't see how Dean would make anything resembling a much better President than would the other candidates.

Why should we waste our time and energies on such a candidate? I'll vote for him, out of civic duty, and because he's certainly a hell of lot better than Bush could dream of being.

Yet, unless someone or some circumstance can convince me he's not just a ticket to Democratic disgrace in the general election, I can't see investing much of anything in his campaign. I'm at a point in my life when I don't see any point to throwing good money or energy into what looks like a bottomless pit of disappointment.


Definitely an excellent idea and an excellent start! I have been thinking for some time that Democrats need a CONCISE answer to the Republican talking heads who continue to assert that "democrats have nothing to run on except bashing Bush". Also, there is a crying need to conteract all the lying by Limbaugh and his ilk as to what Democrats and Progressives stand for. Here are some more suggestions:

- Children are the future. Any society that does not do everything it can to ensure that ALL of its children are well fed, well cared for, and well educated is only hurting itself. We must find ways to see that children have somebody to turn to when their needs are not being met.

- Large companies are part of our dynamic and prosperous american society, but they sometimes end up being so large and impersonal that they hurt individuals. We need to re-affirm the commitment of the american government to protect individuals from large corporations that was established by Theodore Roosevelt. (even though Teddy was a Republican, he was one of the most Progessive presidents ever!)

I think it's important to 1) Get straight to the point in the amount of time it takes to digest one sound bite, and 2) not to talk about what government can do in a way that would play into the hands of those who accuse Democrats of wanting to make everybody dependant on government handouts.

My father was a courtroom lawyer and he taught me to always, always anticipate your opponent's counter-arguments, so you can make your case in such a way as to neutralize them.

If you're talking about the primaries, you're right. You should support the candidate you feel most deserves your support (for whatever reason).

If you're talking about the general, you're talking some crazy smack. The fact that you think the nominee might be weak is that much MORE of a reason to fight harder for him in the general. If you, and all those like you, walk away from the primaries pouting because not only did your candidate not win, but those dumb, hypnotized followers of the winner didn't listen to your sage advice, then yes, the nominee will lose. Duh. Are you willing to stake the future of this country on being able to say "I told you so" next November? Or is it more important to you to get Bush out of the WH?

The fact that you think the nominee might be weak is that much MORE of a reason to fight harder for him in the general.

Please. Do you realize how irrational this sounds?

Reasonable people invest their energies in good prospects, not bad ones. The point of not investing time is not because I want to say, I told you so, but rather because I believe that Dean has only a very remote chance of winning the general election -- which, again, is precisely the most basic reason I have a problem with him to begin with.

I find it ironic that Dean supporters, who have shown a perverse indifference to the question of electability, should presume to chastise Dean opponents for not wanting to commit great efforts to his election should he become the candidate. Those of us on the other side mostly will feel that we have had foisted off on us a highly probable loser, endorsed for reasons that have nothing to do with his electability, and we are supposed to make personal sacrifices for this losing cause?

If Dean supporters have a genuine and basic interest in getting Bush out of the WH, why have they settled on the Democrat least likely of all to do the job? I DO have such an interest -- which is why I support another candidate.

It may be that Bush will become such political poison that even Dean with all his baggage will start to show some real prospect of winning. I can only say I see no such likelihood at this time. And I have no intention of throwing my energies behind a candidacy that seems to be shaping up as McGovern II -- I'll leave that to the Dean supporters, who will deserve it.

I intended the first sentence in my previous post to be in quotes -- it was from cdmarine's post.

I DON'T believe Dean has the worst chance of beating Bush, as a matter of fact. But, that's not the nit I'm picking with you. I'm not interested in having that argument. My only argument with you is that you think it somehow makes sense NOT to put forth an effort to beat Bush if a candidate you perceive as weak gets the nomination. I'm not the one being irrational here. There is only one question to ask yourself once the primaries are over: Do you want Bush gone? If the answer is yes, then the amount of work you put into the cause should have squat to do with who the nominee is. The determining factor in how much effort you put into defeating Bush should be how much you want Bush gone. It rather sickens me that you would see it any other way. That has nothing to do with being a Dean backer and everything to do with wanting Bush OUT. I'd work my ass off to get Bush out if mother-flippin' Al Sharpton were the nominee, for god's sake! By not expending effort you only make the nominee weaker. That's the height of illogic.


That's lame. And I say the same thing to Dean supporters who threaten to take their ball home if their guy doesn't get the nomination.

Every candidate has weaknesses and strengths and there is so much about the context of a general election that it is unknown I believe it wrong to predict electability with such certainty.

Dean does have weaknesses and not all Dean supporters are blind to them. It doesn't take a genius to see them. And I'll prove my point by listing them here: lack of foreign policy experience in a time at which that is at the forefront; has said that he will raise taxes; will be weak in the South because of his background and geography; susceptible to republican attacks that he is an anti-war, anti-religion and too socially liberal (gay marriage).

But here are some strengths: strong executive record; fiscal conservatism; raising money hand-over fist; comes off as a regular guy; legions of jazzed-up volunteers; a Washington outsider; can actually be pretty inspiring on the stump.

Now we can argue till the cows come home about these individual points but what is indisputable is that none of us know what's going to matter most in a year. And to pretend that you do is dishonest. And to threaten to withdraw support is worse, it's destructive.

Let's keep our eye on the prize, do all we can do support our choice of nominee during the primaries, have faith in the wisdom of the nomination process and work our butts off to win the general election.

"My only argument with you is that you think it somehow makes sense NOT to put forth an effort to beat Bush if a candidate you perceive as weak gets the nomination."

Look, my problem is not simply that I perceive Dean as weak. I see him as a nearly certain loser of McGovern-like proportions. From my point of view, the man can't win the election; at best, Bush could himself lose the election by self-destructing. It's indeed possible that Bush will collapse, at which point my view of Dean's prospects will change, and my inclination to work for him.

As much as I detest, say, Joe Lieberman, I could easily enough put aside my differences, and work for his election, because I think he has a real prospect of winning. Likewise, I would, even more gladly, work for Clark or Gephardt, and of course for my preferred candidate, Kerry. What I refuse to do is work for a nearly certain loser, particularly when that loser has been fobbed off on me by people who seem to have much more interest in indulging their appetites for self righteous anger than in getting Bush out of the WH.

To repeat my earlier point, I understand the reason for party unity when your candidate has a real chance of winning, because you share many values with that candidate (as I do with Dean). But what is the point when he seems a virtually certain loser? What's the real upside here? Would it have been a good thing for the Democratic Party to have gone full bore behind the electoral disaster of McGovern? Might it not have been good for the Democratic Party to damage the credibility of the elements that made McGovern happen, so that he or his ilk wouldn't happen again for a long, long time? I won't pretend to know the answers to these questions, but I can hardly motivate myself to work for Dean when it seems to me at least quite plausible that it might in any case backfire.

I can only say, if you have a GENUINE interest in ousting Bush, NOW is the time to get the man in place to do the job; it will be too late once Dean becomes the nominee.

I see a lot of extreme opinion on the net, but I somehow think I'm more representative of many non Dean supporters: I believe he may very well be electable and brings things to the table, but that at least Clark is more electable due to personality, tax positioning and war/security positioning. Not to mention the occasional gaffe (e.g. answering Edwards and Sharpton at the last debate).

On the part of these movement Democrats who support Dean, I think there's a lack of understanding (or at least disagreement) as to how wedge issues play out in elections.

And signs point to Clark getting it together. My great objection was always the rush to crown Dean. Now there can be a fairer battle.

Whoever wins, I'll tell everyone with money to give some to the nominee.

Thanks Ruy,
Although I think Dean is a sure loser, electoral suicide all down the line, if it's him I'm still in! I hope Dean supporters will say the same if it's anyone else.

What a bunch of crybabies.

"Even though I know Dean is a sure loser..."

"I see him as a near-certain loser of McGovern like proportions..."

"Why should we waste our time and energies on such a candidate?"

"As much as I detest, say, Joe Lieberman, I could easily enough put aside my differences, and work for his election, because I think he has a real prospect of winning."

Now that's what I call inspiring politics! Where do I sign up for that party?


Frankly, frankly0, nobody in the Dean campaign is mourning the loss of your support. The defeatist attitude you express is exactly what we're fighting against.

frankly0: I think it's utterly disgusting that you would rather throw the election entirely than lift a finger to support a nominee you think is weak. It boggles the mind that you would accuse ME of being irrational. You actually believe it would be better for the Democrats to close up shop and LOSE if Dean is the nominee? Look around you. Bush must go. Support who you want to support in the primaries, but when a nominee is picked, anybody who wants Bush gone needs to work to make it happen.

And by the way, frankly0, despite your comment to the contrary, your McGovern point does, in fact, amount to wanting to torpedo the Democratic nominee so that you can say "I told you so." That is EXACTLY what you're proposing. You believe it would be better for the Democratic party in the long run to be able to say "I told you so."


Interesting... my previous post is missing.