The Magazine

Center Fold?

Democrats turn on their moderates.

Aug 13, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 45 • By TOD LINDBERG
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Unlike Daily Kos, Scheiber understands that the DLC has had something to do with the current success of the Democratic party. Yes, Democrats, left to themselves, will increase taxes and spending both, as well as regulation of the economy. They will dream glorious dreams about getting rid of guns. But as a practical matter, and thanks in large part to the DLC centrists, they will do none of these things to the same extent a Mondale administration would have--which is, as the DLC says, the reason there was no Mondale administration.

When Bill Clinton said in 1996, "The era of big government is over," he didn't mean that the era of small or even shrinking government had begun, but he did mean that massive new bureaucratic "solutions" to social problems were no longer on the agenda, and they have remained off ever since, relegated to Democratic fantasies about a better world with no Republicans in it.

Democrats have been in a triumphalist mood before: in 1993-1994, when they were in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. In its grip, the early Clinton administration lost its connection with the "New Democrat" agenda of the campaign. The political strategy was not bipartisanship but a reliance on the Democratic congressional majorities to produce the votes necessary to enact legislation. And besides the tax increases and "stimulus package" of spending, the most prominent item on the administration's agenda was a health care reform that looked all too massive and bureaucratic.

If Democrats conclude they don't need to reach to the center any more, they will be behaving just as foolishly as they did 14 years ago, and as House Republicans did in 2005-06, when most all the legislative action seemed focused on buttering up social conservatives. Understanding this has been the specialty of the DLC for two decades, and Democrats still need it.

Contributing editor and Hoover Institution fellow Tod Lindberg is editor of Policy Review and author of The Political Teachings of Jesus (HarperCollins).