Tuesday, March 15, 2005

bloggers v. DLC, round who cares

Liberal bloggers, reacting to the dumb pro-Lieberman move of Marshall Wittman on BullMoose Blog and the Nation's silly slam on DLC, have decided to renew their attack on the organization based on the New Dem Directory.

As someone who helped make the 2003 New Dem Directory and "100 to watch," I have to say both have it all wrong. This lists are consist of people who either 1) do everything with the DLC and agree with them on almost everything or 2) have attended DLC events and seem receptive to the DLC message but haven't necessarily enacted DLC ideas or supported DLC positions or 3) are rising stars at the state and local level whom the DLC would like to have join the organization while they are still state senators instead of when they are US senators (like Obama). In fact, if you look at the 2003 100 to watch, you will see that other IL 2004 candidates besides Obama were listed on there, so that the DLC could have a future senator on their list and play it safe.

Any political organization tries to spread its influence and increase its membership. If you can get state and local politicians to call themselves New Democrats before they join Congress or become a Governor, so much the better for the organization. Plus, it is usually easier to rope in lower level politicians who are looking for the connections on the national level that the DLC provides. The political department tries to reward loyalty, punish straying from the organization's core principles (pro-trade, pro-charter school, etc.), increase turnout at events, increase perceived power and influence, and influence the next round of political leaders.

After naming people to these lists, it is often times good local press for these folks but it doesn't automatically mean the people from category 3 will join; in fact, the results are mixed. It isn't that the DLC "needs him" it is just that they would like to have Obama, like any Democratic group would.

Obama may be playing to both sides here. Once in Washington, he has done much to disappoint liberal bloggers, who expected him for some reason (he was endorsed by Howard Dean, he had some liberal code language) to be one of their own. According to the DLC, he is a member of the Senate NDC. Look at that list, and see if, other than Obama, any other Senator's name seems out of place. So either some one at the DLC forgot to update the New Dem Directory (which happens, I have made that mistake), or he is a member of the Senate NDC. Under Graham's reign, the organization in the senate was a disaster, with people claiming to be on it but no real group action. I don't know if that has changed, but I doubt it has improved.

Likely what has happened is that Obama wants to be moderate on some issues, more liberal in others, and doesn't really fit into either the DLC or the Wellstone box. So he does what any good politician does, and plays it both ways.

Sure the DLC needs to avoid bashing democrats until it is very inside baseball, but I am sure it is tempting to get all that attention. Trust me though, they hate it. During the DLC's 2002 National Conversation, Lieberman hogged the media coverage of the event by bashing Al Gore's 2000 campaign strategy, prompting editorial wars and glossing over the fact that we had many of the 2004 and 2008 candidates show up and speak to DLC members (Kerry, Hillary, Edwards, Gephardt, Lieberman, Daschle, and Bayh) and that Hillary got the biggest applause of all of them (most of her speech was Bush bashing). It is only Al From and Bruce Reed that seem to ocationally enjoy the bashing of lefties (and Marshall Wittman as well, but I don't really consider him a Democrat as much as a reformed GOPer).

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