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The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.

Mourning the Demise of the DLC



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Count me among those saddened by the demise of the Democratic Leadership Council, as reported by Politico. The DLC did a lot of great work on welfare reform, education reform, and especially entitlement reform. Jonathan Chait has a different view:

It’s hard to remember, but the whole rise of the progressive netroots was organized around opposition to the DLC, which liberals saw as Satan incarnate. Bill Clinton was an early member, and the DLC helped frame his presidential candidacy.

I always had mixed feelings about the group. I think it was about half innovative effort to counterbalance traditional Democratic interest groups, and half naked effort to suck up to corporate America and/or give contentless messaging cover to red state Democrats.

But for the main part, the DLC disappeared because its work was over. The remaking of the Democratic Party begun by Clinton held in place. The DLC floundered because it had nowhere else to go — having moved the party to the center, it could only advocate for the party is it stood in the Clinton and post-Clinton era, or advocate that it move further still toward the center. It became an anachronism.

While, to me, the Democratic Party appears to have shifted leftward from the Clinton days, I do think that the tension between hard-core welfare-state liberalism and centrist technocracy remains alive among Democrats, as the inverse tension does among Republicans. But institutions matter, and I hope that the Progressive Policy Institute and other related organizations can continue to foster the work of those on the center-left who seek a fiscally sustainable, modernized, and efficient welfare state. They contribute much to the debate, even if I may still disagree with them much of the time.



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