I have been wondering how we got to the place in this country when there is such a public and raging debate over the fate of women and birth control and abortion.  It is as though we were going backwards in time.  

That is really the fault of both parties through the years.  I noticed it first in 2003.  Those of us who became so active in politics with the Dean campaign were called liberals and scorned as fringe activists. It was stunning, and it carried right down to the local level. And it was not the Republicans who did that, it was our own party.

Actually some Democratic strategists started back in 1985, devising a plan that would distance the party from the ""the new bosses"-organized labor, feminists, and other progressive constituency groups-that were keeping the party from modernizing."

In his "Saving the Democratic Party" memo of January 1985, From advocated the formation of a "governing council" that would draft a "blueprint" for reforming the party. According to From, the new leadership should aim to create distance from "the new bosses"-organized labor, feminists, and other progressive constituency groups-that were keeping the party from modernizing. From's memo sparked the formation of the Democratic Leadership Council in early 1985. According to Balz and Brownstein, "Within a few weeks, it counted 75 members, primarily governors and members of Congress, most of them from the Sunbelt, and almost all of them white; liberal critics instantly dubbed the group 'the white male caucus.'"

Democratic Leadership Council

The most annoying thing was the preempting of the labels. The conservative Democrats began to call themselves progressives as they pushed liberals aside and called them fringe. They also renamed themselves the "sensible center" and the "moderate middle" and other similar high-sounding terms.

It started a long time ago. And through the years the degrading comments toward liberals/leftists/the left have escalated.

In 2004 USA Today had an article which quoted some of the new Democratic spokespersons, the new young centrists.   It was eye-opening.

It's time to pass torch, younger Dems say

(Jamal)Simmons and his fellow "Young Turks" worry about the Democratic Party's dependence on interest groups, their relations with minority groups, the stereotypes that they are weak on defense and values, the Republican appropriation of the "reformer" label and the swaths of America that Democrats seem to have written off."

.."We respect the struggles of the feminist movement, the civil rights movement and Vietnam, but (we) are not defined by those struggles," says Kirsten Powers, 37, a New York-based strategist and commentator for Fox News. "We want to take what is good in liberalism and make it better, and get rid of what is not working."

..."Simmons, Powers and New York City-based consultant Dan Gerstein have been three of the bluntest commentators. "The party in certain respects is fossilized," says Gerstein, 37. "It's trapped in the last vestiges of the New Deal coalition. That coalition is no longer an electoral majority or even close to it."

A former aide to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., Gerstein wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Democrats have "fallen right back into the elitist, weak-kneed, brain-dead trap" they thought they'd escaped with Bill Clinton."

Read those words of Kirsten Powers a second time.   If we are not defined by those civil rights and feminist struggles, we should be.   The rights of women should be at the very heart of our party's beliefs.

We let the religious right get away with tamping down those rights in order to win in red states.  Well, the women have lost because there was no party speaking out loudly for them.  

Evan Bayh in 2003 warned about the rise of Howard Dean as a candidate, and he said that the party was in danger of being taken over by the left.  

Bayh has a history of sparring with the left in his party. As chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council in 2003, he warned of then-rising presidential campaign of Howard Dean. “The Democratic Party is at risk of being taken over by the far left,” he told DLC members in 2003. “We have an important choice to make: Do we want to vent, or do we want to govern?”

Bayh under fire from the left

I believe Simon Rosenberg of the NDN said it most clearly.  There is no mistaking the meaning of the group that formed in the 80s.

"Simon Rosenberg, the former field director for the DLC who directs the New Democrat Network, a spin-off political action committee, says, "We're trying to raise money to help them lessen their reliance on traditional interest groups in the Democratic Party. In that way," he adds, "they are ideologically freed, frankly, from taking positions that make it difficult for Democrats to win."

How the DLC does it.

Rosenberg might well have added that birth control and abortion would end up being included in those "positions that make it difficult for Democrats to win."

I believe that women have been shortchanged by all the bipartisanship many Democratic leaders have demanded.  

When a party decides it is no longer going to take principled stands on issues, it's not just women who pay the price.  It is also minority groups and unions who are left with no one on their side.  

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