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July 26, 2005

DLC'ing It

As I knocked the DLC this morning, I may as well flip the coin before the day's out. Progressives need to recognize the DLC's essential utility. Our criticism of them is that they criticize us. And in most ways, that's a bad thing. But occasionally, it serves a purpose. It has, for instance, motivated the media to give the DLC a Cloak of Moderation (+5) which, in some contexts, can be good for Democrats wrap themselves in.

So when Hillary goes to speak to them and lead their policy project, rejoice. She's not straying on CAFTA, she didn't vote for the bankruptcy bill, and so we needn't worry that her appearance in Ohio is evidence that she's selling out our issues. Nor, so far as I can see, has she in any way disparaged the netroots or attacked liberals, so at the same time she's resisting the DLC's worst policy impulses (or, depending who you talk to, the worst caricatures of their policy impulses), she's also ignoring their taste for internecine warfare.

Meanwhile, she's still benefitting from the centrist credentials they confer. And with Bill Clinton beating George W. Bush in hypothetical match-ups 55%-45%, anything that puts Hillary deeper in the Clinton legacy is good for her campaign. And in the end, that means it's good for us. We want to win. And while we may not like how the DLC treats us, what matters is our relationship with individual candidates, not whether the candidates stop by DLC conventions and try to burnish their moderate credentials. So nail the DLC when they swing at us, but leave Hillary, Warner, Bayh and Vilsack alone. The better they are at bridging the party's essential divide, the more unified we'll be, and the more unified we are, the better we'll do. And all of us -- DLC and netroots -- want the Democratic Party to do better.

Update: I think Jesse gets something wrong here that kinda explains why Hillary's going to the DLC:

A Hillary Clinton-DLC campaign in 2008 would essentially be the apex of the DLC death wish that's consumed far too much of the party since Clinton's victory in 1992. Take the most famous Democrat in America, and run her as a DLC candidate. Mix that with years of campaigning against her as a dangerous left-wing liberal, and the continual failure of political concession as political definition, and Hillary's poised for a fantastic flameout against someone who's likely coming off the Republican B-team.

Hillary, of course, knows this. That's why she's been so painstakingly thorough in taking prominent "centrist" positions and cultivating a public image of moderation. Being part of the DLC adds to this. The idea here is to make the right look nuts, let their most vile impulses run wild and use the last four years and the DLC connection to create a media storyline of centrism in the face of vicious, partisan, unexplainable attacks. And it's for exactly that reason that the DLC, with their occasional anti-liberal broadsides, can be valuable for progressive project. It's yet to be seen if she can pull this strategy off, but if she does, it'll be in no small part due to the concrete alliances and positions she can use to prove her attackers partisan hacks.

July 26, 2005 in Democrats | Permalink

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» Hillary Gets It -- And OH Will She Get It from The Moderate Voice

Attention Hillary Clinton: You have stepped into a political buzzsaw.

It SEEMED like [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 27, 2005 9:52:11 AM

Comments

But Hillary IS going to vote to confirm Roberts. And as I said before, if Roberts votes to overturn Roe v Wade before the 2008 election, Hillary will be in trouble with the far left.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Jul 26, 2005 7:26:52 PM

Meanwhile, she's still benefitting from the centrist credentials they confer.

But no, she's not, not really. She is thought of as a leftist by everyone who's not paying close attention -- and that's 99.9% of the population.

The reservoir of hatred and well-worn attacks waiting on a Hillary run defies the imagination. We libs sort of forget it, every time around, and then rediscover it to our dismay when campaigns begin. "Oh, look, disgusting baseless attacks! Who knew? And why aren't the facts saving us?"

A Hillary run would prompt a level of viciousness in this country's political life that is difficult to comprehend. Whatever centrist credentials she may have, they will fall like tiny leaves before the gale of bile.

Anyway, she's a centrist with a rep as a leftist. We need the opposite.

Posted by: Realish | Jul 26, 2005 7:40:44 PM

she didn't vote for the bankruptcy bill

Sorry to open a few wounds here, but I call foul on this one. Obviously Clinton didn't vote for it this time around, but she's voted for previous (failed) incarnations of the bill in the past. In The Two Income Trap, Elizabeth Warren recounts a meeting with Clinton in 1999, in which she convinced the First Lady that the bill was truly horrendous. Clinton strongly agreed, and her husband vetoed, but as soon as she needed MNBA cash to propel her Senate career forward, she started voting for the bill again and again. So why the sudden change of heart this year? Seems she only voted against it when it was in no danger of not passing.

Granted, there are probably tactical arguments for supporting the bill, or for political posturing, or whatever, but I don't quite see the sense in pretending that Hillary Clinton's somehow less of a corporate whore than, say, Joe Biden.

Posted by: Brad Plumer | Jul 26, 2005 7:58:33 PM

A commenter (Nell) on Ed Kilgore's post today at TPM Cafe on the DLC posted this link that explains the funding sources, organizational links etc. of PPI, The Third Way Foundation, and the DLC.

Very scary stuff, if fully correct. The Third Way Foundation, largely funded by the hyper conservative Bradley Foundation, largely explains why the DLC/PPI acts as it does. It may well be a full part of the PNAC/NeoCon setup.

I agree with Realish that Hillary will be polarizing in an unhelpful way, and the right will savage her with all the old stuff from her husband's terms in office, as well as before and after. It would take more money than God's to overwhelming the negative crap they will throw. I like her intelligence and policy understanding, but Kerry's Swift Boat thing will look like a sand grain compared to what she will be subject to by the Repubs.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jul 26, 2005 8:00:13 PM

See, I'm not convinced that the R's can throw anything they haven't already thrown. That's the kinda nice thing with a predefined candidate with favorables above 50%; minds are already made up, you're not going to change them. The best that can be done is tweaking, and Hillary is laying the groundwork (of course, preelection season, this won't penetrate yet) to slightly shift impressions of her on certain issues so charges of extremism will run into static. As I said, we'll see if it works, but I think it just might.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | Jul 26, 2005 8:25:39 PM

Hillary has something like 96% name recognition (the other 4% spend a lot of time trying to decide which shoe to put on the left foot and which on the right foot). She's as negative as she's going to get. There is no candidate who is not going to be the object of the RNC slime machine. They'll go for any candidate's best assets and initiate yet another hysterical attack. She's a moderate, she's always been a moderate and, as a moderate, I can't see what's wrong with that. If Zell Miller were running as a Democrat, the RNC would be seeking to paint him as a far-left liberal. That's the way the game works. I don't care who runs, they're going to get misrepresented and slimed. It's worked for the VRWC in the past and they aren't going to have a sudden attack of conscience in the future.

Posted by: J Bean | Jul 26, 2005 8:48:59 PM

"The reservoir of hatred and well-worn attacks waiting on a Hillary run defies the imagination. We libs sort of forget it, every time around, and then rediscover it to our dismay when campaigns begin. "Oh, look, disgusting baseless attacks! Who knew? And why aren't the facts saving us?"

I disagree. The left is overly concerned with potential attacks against HRC. Typically, it's people on the left side of the spectrum who think she will be savaged and pummeled quickly. The right is actually terrified of her.

Her life is already out there, we know her, no surprises left to plum. She is not John Kerry! Remember, most people in the country didn’t know Kerry before the last election, which is why he was so easy to smear. They will have no such luck with Hillary Clinton.

Look at the reaction to "The Truth about Hillary." It's a sad joke, and not just on the left, on the right, too.

Posted by: gayle | Jul 26, 2005 10:31:57 PM

Y'all are crazy. Or I'm crazy. One of us is crazy, cause what you're saying sounds crazy to me.

It's not a matter of being "afraid" of right wing slime. It's a matter of dispassionately acknowledging that they are very, very good at it, and they have an entire machine set up, from coordination at the very top to foot soldiers in every county in the country, to disseminate it.

Of course they will slime anyone we run -- it's what they do. But they have stacks and stacks of ammo to bring to bear on Hillary. You think they used it all up during her husband's presidency, or during her Senate run? I doubt it.

People keep talking about her careful centrist positioning, but give yourselves a few bracing slaps in the face and take a ride through Kansas, people. Read a few of those PIPA polls from before the last election. Nobody knows what positions she's taken, except for tiny minority of people who follow politics closely. And they never will know. Most people just don't know what positions politicians take, period.

It's a matter of theater, of implication and posture and innuendo. Unless you're already sympathetic to her (and I am), she comes off as cold and somewhat brittle. She'll be dealing with slime about her sex life, her daughter, her financial history, her husband, every single law case she ever worked on or piece of legislation she was involved in. She will spend the entire race denying allegations that have just enough fact behind them to be plausible. Her husband survived it on the strength of a booming economy and galactic charisma. She has neither.

Sorry to ramble on. To summarize: It doesn't matter one fart in a hurricane what you or I think of her. It really doesn't. Nor does it matter even a whit what she's really like. These are all but immaterial in a modern presidential race. What matters is how she performs in the dysfunctional kabuki ritual that is a modern election, and in that arena she's already got big concrete bricks tied on her feet.

Posted by: Realish | Jul 26, 2005 11:29:45 PM

Realish: I think we've already lost Kansas ;)

Also, her positions matter not because people will know them, but because the storyline the media attaches to her matters. It's not that folks knew what Gore lied about, it's just that they knew -- which is to say they thought they knew -- that he was a liar. With Hillary, the right media storyline could make it so they "know" she's a centrist, or a moderate, or sane, or whatever.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | Jul 27, 2005 12:45:04 AM

Brad, there's no love lost between me and Hillary Clinton, but it seems like it would be hard to be more of a corporate whore than Joe Biden.

Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Jul 27, 2005 12:45:56 AM

" . . . it seems like it would be hard to be more of a corporate whore than Joe Biden."

Bostoniangirl

Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieux and Dianne Feinstein are certainly trying.

Posted by: James E. Powell | Jul 27, 2005 2:48:12 AM

"And all of us -- DLC and netroots -- want the Democratic Party to do better."

See, I just don't think that's the case. The members of the DLC want themselves to do better.

Posted by: tatere | Jul 27, 2005 4:59:30 AM

Ezra,

I agree with you on Hillary, the right will go crazy when she runs, and not is a good way. Sure, it will motivate the partisans like nothing else, but they will dramatically turn off the moderates.

Unless the Republicans counter a Hillary run with a genuine centrist (Guiliani or Rice have the best bets) Hillary wins in '08 and wins big in my opinion.

Indeed, unless one of those two is nominated to run against her, I will probably support her myself, because I strongly think that the war on terror needs to be a bi-partisan project, and I trust Hillary there even though I dislike most of her politics.

I expect that there are a lot of people like me out there two (well, not like me, but like me in this one way.)

Hillary is the one democrat that I think can get nominated that can turn the War on Terror into an advantage, not a disadvantage for Democrats. No one that I know doesn't think Hillary is tough (some think she is evil, but they all think she is tough.) That matters.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Jul 27, 2005 8:36:51 AM

I would like to see these "favorable" opinions and matchups involving Hillary, not Bill, in swing states. Because I just don't believe it. Putting Bill up against Dubya is no measure to use for her presidential run. I don't care how attached Bill is during the campaign. Yes it will help, but will it be enough?

I'd rather not bank chances of the next election on how close she cane keep Bill attachd to her hip. Shouldn't we choose someone who stands well on her (or his) own?

I don't know the circles ya'll run in, but the decidedly liberal ones I do don't particularily like her, justified or not. Why? I really can't explain it. Would they still vote for her? Yeah, probably, but they were going to vote for the Dem anyway.

Posted by: Adrock | Jul 27, 2005 11:19:44 AM

Adrock -- you do know there are plenty of polls on Hillary, right? She beats everyone but McCain and Giuliani (including Jeb Bush and Bill Frist). McCain beats her and Rudy ties. Her favorables are routinely about 50% (generally 52%-55%) with full name rec. She's strong in her own right.

Posted by: Ezra Klein | Jul 27, 2005 11:24:25 AM

The problem Ezra, and I've mentioned this before in comments on this blog, is that the DLC is despised within the rank-n-file of the party to a degree only slightly less than George W. Bush. It doesn't matter if Hillary is attempting to heal the divisions in the party by working with the DLC. For many Democrats (and Kos is not an aberation), ANY raproachment with the DLC is tantamount to surrender to the Republican agenda.

Now, this is probably an unfair assessment. I don't consider the DLC to be as bad as most, at least I don't consider them to be Republican operatives designed to destroy the party from within. But I do think their political instincts suck.

The DLC is a rotten tree. It may still bear some useful fruit. But it is diseased at its roots and will, inevitablly, fall over in the next big windstorm.

Any politician who ties their fate to the DLC, as Hillary is doing, is demonstrating a woeful ignorance of the state of Democratic politics today. It is one of the surest ways I can imagine to poison your perception within the party.

Posted by: Chris Andersen | Jul 27, 2005 1:24:39 PM

I just don't put much stock in hypothetical matchups, but I see what you mean. I will make a prediction though. That if she wins the nomination, it is entirely possible that a large swath of women might actually come out in droves to drive her over the top. This isn't based on any sort of evidence, just the feeling I get when I talk to my lady friends about her. I think they would really like to see a woman in the white house. The male friends on the other hand, are decidely less enthusiastic about her run.

Posted by: Adrock | Jul 27, 2005 1:57:30 PM

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Posted by: peter.w | Sep 16, 2007 11:10:52 PM

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