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One of the Democratic party’s most powerful forces over the past 25 years is about to shut down their operations. The Democratic Leadership Council was formed in the wake of Walter Mondale’s resounding defeat in 1984. The goal was to move the party towards the so-called center, curry favor with corporations and win elections. Honestly it achieved that goal when one of the former chairmen, Bill Clinton, won the Presidency. Now the group is going out of business. Why?
I think the victory was so overwhelming that the DLC became the DNC. That was fun. I think the corporation basically took over the party, but a lot of the leadership, so then didn’t need the deal. The victory was complete. That’s my opinion. Now let’s get two others.
With me is Ari Berman, contributing writer for “The Nation” and author of “The Herding Donkeys,” and Matt Bennett for “A Third Way”. My sense is you guys will disagree, so we’re going to have some fun. Ari, did the DLC and now Third Way bring important strength and values to the Democratic party?
I’m sure Matt will argue they did. I think they had a good run when Bill Clinton associated himself, and pushed the agenda. It didn’t work so well in the Bush administration when a lot of DLC leaders, people like Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh supported the administration, and a lot of Democrats wanted a different approach action and they rallied around new leaders like Howard Dean, new groups like moveon.org, and the obama campaign came along, and the DLC did not have as much a role as it had to play.
Matt, the DLC was closely connected to the Clintons. Are you guys basically the DLC of the Obama crowd?
I wouldn’t put it that way. They were formed in the ’80s, as you had. we were launched in the middle of the period ari just decided where it was 2005, tremendous anger over the bush administration. we took a very different course. but the basic principles are pretty similar. am i being unfair?
>> yes, that’s being unfair. i think it’s being ridiculous. we’re called that all the time by the folks on the internet left, and that is a charge that gets leveled a lot, but it’s just not true, and it’s just not fair, the bottom line is we believe, like president obama believes we need private sector growth in this country. we thought the state of the union hit exactly the right notes and we’re pleased with the direction he hayes taken. that isn’t corporatist. that’s simply about growing the economic pie that will benefit the middle class.
>> now representing the internet left ari berman.
>> well, in terms of third way and the dlc formally has a constituency on capitol hill, but the question is who speaks for all those rank-and-file activists outside washington, all those people that worked so hard for barack obama in 2008, that need to be brought back into the fold in 2012. i don’t think that’s the dlc’s job and not really third way’s job. while the obama administration moves to the center, it has to remember those people that worked so hard to get him elected. it will have a hard time governing and getting reelected.
>> matt, look, real quick here. when the clinton folks moved to the center, i thought it was the actual center. balancing budgets, i agreed with that, but when obama moving to the right, it seemed we were already massively right.
>> well, no, look, there’s a difference between negotiating for what you want and fighting for the things that are on your agenda. obama made clear, and we strongly agreed that the tax break for the rich was not something he wanted to do. it was a bad idea. all three of us can agree on that and the president does, too. he did it because he needed tax breaks, and needed to do a bunch of other things that he wanted to move through the lame-duck congress. at the end of the day we thought that was a good thing to do. there’s a big difference for fighting for things on your agenda and cutting deals where you have to. i think that falls in the latter category.
>> we’ll leave the last we’re with matt. great pleasure having you both on.