Apparently, Hillary Clinton, Mark Warner,
and other centrist/DLC (Democratic Leadership Council) Democrats
are making certain progressive Democrats nervous and angry these days. Yesterday, for instance, Kos
went after Clinton (and, to a lesser extent, Evan Bayh, Tom Vilsack, and Warner) for their speeches at (and participation in) the DLC convention
in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend. Here's what Hillary had to say:
Now, I know the DLC has taken some shots from some within our party and that it has returned fire too. Well, I think it's high time for a cease-fire, time for all Democrats to work together based on the fundamental values we all share.
Wait a minute, this statement's supposed to be a problem? Isn't Hillary Clinton simply calling for Democratic "big tent" unity? I don't know, but it sure seems like that to me. Perhaps I've been stricken with extreme naivete at 42 years old, though, because, according to Kos, "The DLC is not a credible vehicle for such an effort [at a "common party message yadda yadda yadda"]. Period."
Now, I'm certainly not saying centrist that Democrats have been all warm, fuzzy, and welcoming to the progressive wing of the party over the years. Not at all. But, on the flip side, progressives often haven't been the most hospitable to centrists and "conservative Democrats either, with calls in some circles to drum pro-life, pro-free-trade, pro-military Democrats out of the party. Frankly, as a moderate/progressive Democrat who strongly believes in a "big tent" party (and in winning!), I have no interest in any of this except to see that it doesn't spiral out of control. Unfortunately, posts like Markos' simply do not help matters, in my humble opinion, nor do attacks by other Democrats on the patriotism of liberal Democrats, comments about "Beserkely," etc. To both sides, I say simply: cut it out, before you turn the Democratic Party into (what's left of) the AFL-CIO!
True, some degree of intra-party debate is healthy, but taken too far, these types of battles run the risk of hurting the Democrats and everything we all care about. As the joke goes, when Democrats organize a firing squad, the first thing they do is form a circle (hence the phrase, "Democratic Circular Firing Squad"). Or, as Will Rogers quipped back in the 1930s, "I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat! Unfortunately, the current situation the country finds itself in is no laughing matter.
Meanwhile, back at the Republican ranch, the G.O.P. has managed for many years, in spite of its many faults and internal divisions/contradictions, to become the country's majority party. True, the Republicans have done this in part by appealing to the worst in people -- religious intolerance, greed, fear and anger -- as described in books like "What's the Matter with Kansas." But, to at least as great an extent, they have done so by generally maintaining an open door policy to "Reagan Democrats," a "big tent," and a powerful and simple (I would argue, "simplistic") message about "it's your money," "faith and family" and "keep America strong." Combined with a great deal of discipline, focus, and money, this has resulted in the G.O.P.'s gaining the allegiance of millions of ex-Democrats. Many of these Democrats voted Republican for the first time ever when they cast their ballots for Ronald Reagan in 1980. And once inside the party, many of these ex-Democrats never looked back. That's not good.
Today, we need to stop refighting these battles and unify in advance of 2006 and 2008. We need to have a clear and coherent message in order to win back the vast majority of non-super-rich Americans, nearly all of whom would be far better served economically by having the Democrats in power. We need to communicate the fact that, even on "cultural" and national security issues, where Democrats are presumed to be "weak," the Republicans do not offer any advantage whatsoever. A quick comparison: under Bill Clinton, we had peace, prosperity, declining crime and abortion rates, and reduced welfare rolls; under George W. Bush, we have war, economic stagnation and job insecurity, early indications of a reversal in the crime and abortion trends, and a huge increase in welfare - corporate welfare, that is!
Unfortunately, despite their natural advantage, the Democrats for years now have managed to turn lemonade into lemons, silver linings into clouds, smiles into frowns, and any other cliche you can think of. Today, with the grave problems our country faces thanks to far-right-wing, mega-corporate-friendly policy disasters, we Democrats and progressives need to "hang together" as a party or we shall certainly all "hang separately," as the saying goes. With the vicious strain of right-wing Republicanism that has now taken control of our great nation, let's not kid ourselves that we have the luxury of fighting amongst ourselves. The stakes today are extremely high, with nothing less than the future of our constitution and our representative democracy hanging in the balance. And that is exactly why we Democrats need to turn our guns away from each other, and towards our true foes.
Perhaps it's time for the Democrats to apply Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment, "Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican," to our own party for a change. Sure, we may disagree strongly on some things (Iraq), but we agree on far more (health care, education, Social Security, the environment, responsible fiscal policy). Which is why I'd much rather see us talking out our differences in a civil, constructive fashion rather than hurling lightening bolts across the blogosphere and forming the infamous Democratic circular firing squad. That assumes, of course, that we would rather win with 80% of what we want than lose with 100%. I know I would!