The Democratic muddle continues in post-election hangover. The corporate wing of the party, the Democratic Leadership Council, once more urges the party to move even further to the right. Former president Clinton, who should know, bemoans the fact that Republicans have a “personal destruction” machine and Democrats don’t. House Democrats chose a strong liberal, Nancy Pelosi, as their leader and immediately surrounded her with “the guys” who fear a liberal bent. At this point, it isn’t clear the party can stand up and fight for anything.
In the postelection skirmishes, party conservatives are stuffing how this election was actually run and lost down a memory hole. In the event, Democratic leaders chose consciously not to put forth a program to get the economy going. They purposefully stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Bush in the war on terror and Iraq. Most endangered senators embraced Bush’s tax cuts at home and wars abroad. Democrats were so committed to budget balancing that they were unable to agree on a serious prescription-drug program. With the DLC warning against being too anticorporate, they let Bush co-opt the corporate scandals. Conservative antichoice, progun candidates were recruited for supposedly conservative rural swing districts. Senators like Jean Carnahan went out of their way to brandish their hunting rifles. With honorable exceptions, what Donna Brazile called “drive by” campaigns predominated, with candidates driving by their base to focus on swing voters in the suburbs and exurbs.
The results were apparent. The most comprehensive election day polling available–that done by Greenberg/Quinlan for the Institute for America’s Future and the Democracy Corps–showed that voters were most concerned about the economy, but got no clear idea from either party about what to do about it. Republicans used war and the President to rally their base. Democrats did better among independents than in 2000, but didn’t match the Republican turnout.
Yet the DLC once more wants to blame the debacle on liberals. In a “confidential” memo titled “The Road Ahead,” the DLC’s Al From and Bruce Reed argue that the party suffers from being “too liberal,” too associated with tax-and-spend politics, “not tough enough” on terror, too identified with gun control and prochoice politics, and too beholden to its base. Their remedy? Democrats should be tougher than Bush on terror and Iraq. They should stop “promising the moon” on programs like prescription drugs. They should be the keepers of fiscal discipline, suggesting no program without showing how they would pay for it. They should “respect the values of mainstream America” by retreating on gun control, choice and states’ rights. Above all, they should stop catering to their base and reach out to independent swing voters–presumably the white “office park dads” whom the DLC has offered up as the key target for the party–the most Republican cohort of the electorate.