TO: Leading Democrats
FROM: Al From and Bruce Reed
SUBJECT: The Real Soul of the Democratic Party
Notwithstanding the current glee in Republican circles, we are increasingly confident that President Bush can be beaten next year. If Democrats run the right campaign in 2004, Bush’s high-flying poll numbers since the war will land with a thud on the deck of the U.S.S. Economy.
But that’s a big If. For all the talent in the field of Democratic candidates for president, none of them will succeed without bucking conventional wisdom about the winning path to the Democratic nomination….
Here’s the breakdown of the DLC’s attack on Governor Dean, presented as the five myths about the Democratic nominating process:
Myth #1: Real Democrats turn left.
The DLC memo says that Governor Dean’s platform is “defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist, interest-group liberalism at home”. He doesn’t represent the “real” Democratic party, only that of the activists.
What they’re ignoring is his aggressive stance on North Korea, his desire (as expressed at the California convention) to create a world in which Americans don’t have to “watch their backs” when walking down the streets of our Allies, and a more stable world order where we are not at the mercy of global terrorism. How is that weakness abroad?
As for the interest-group liberalism, it’s hard to see how health care, a balanced budget and erasing irresponsible tax cuts make Governor Dean the puppet of the interest groups.
Myth #2: Candidates on the left have the inside track.
Painting Governor Dean as the liberal above, the DLC memo assumes it to be true and moves on, trying to conclude that he will lose the primary fight just like every liberal since McGovern has.
However, the DLC makes no attempt to reconcile the liberal label with his fiscal policies, his stance on gun control, or his foreign policy statements. As such, the follow-on conclusion that he won’t win is empty.
Myth #3: The primary calendar is stacked against the “New Democrats” (i.e., the centrist, progressive wing of the party).
It’s more than a touch ironic that the same memo that accused Governor Dean of being elitist who knows better than everyone else is now flirting with its own delusions of omniscience.
Proclaiming the Iowa caucus a “poor test of potential success” and the trend towards caucuses in general “a cause for alarm”, the DLC concludes that they know which races matter and how people should vote.
Again, they’re trying to equate Governor Dean with being liberal, and being liberal with losing in the more “moderate” primaries.
I don’t have access to Lexis-Nexis, but I’d love to know how many newspapers and magazines were proclaiming Governor Clinton a “moderate” candidate heading into the NH primary. How many were calling him the liberal candidate?
Myth #4: Democrats are a bunch of wimps with nothing to say.
Now is when the DLC goes after Gephardt, accusing him of unleashing the “pander virus” in the primary. Calling him an activist who’s wasting the “rank-and-file’s money”, they accuse him of being wasteful and not truly “bold.”
Let’s go back to Governor Dean for a moment, the real target of this attack. He has boldly outlined a workable policy to provide health care for more Americans than currently have coverage, identified a way to do it that is affordable, and has also identified civil unions as a civil rights issue. He has attacked the Democratic leadership as far too often voting with the President in a naked attempt to ride his coat-tails instead of defining a unique vision for the party and the country.
Agree or disagree with the position, but how can you look at those policies and conclude that they’re not bold?
Myth #5: Bush can’t be beaten.
Fortunately the DLC believes he can be beaten. They just seem to think that only their members – Senator Lieberman and Senator Graham – can do it.
The conclusion one draws after reading the DLC memo is that Governor Dean is too liberal, he’s an elitist, and he can’t win.
In what is most likely the ultimate rebuttal to this memo, let’s quote the most famous and most successful of the DLC members on Governor Dean’s potential:
“‘Look at what he did as governor of Vermont,’ said President Clinton. Clinton described Dean’s accomplishments with health care in his home state and his proposal to promote a national health care plan with a modest price tag as ‘New Democrat’ positions. He was referring to the moniker the Democratic Leadership Council puts on Democrats who can blend moderate ideas that appeal to swing voters with traditional Democratic themes.”