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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bloggers, the DLC, and a Progressive Consensus

There’s a big ol’ battle going on in the blogosphere sparked by a Jon Chait column on the war to purge Joe Lieberman, the reaction to Chait from a variety of would-be purgers, and his reaction to the reaction. I’m not going to bother with links here: just go to The New Republic’s blog The Plank, and read Chait’s several posts over the last couple of days, which provides plenty of links to the dialogue, or successive diatribes, if you wish. I’m not going to wade into this battleground at present, but do feel compelled to respond to a direct question from Kevin Drum based on an Atrios post about the consensus policy views of progressive bloggers. After citing Atrios’ list, Kevin says: “I’m not an expert on the DLC’s positions on everything, but it doesn’t look to me like there’s an awful lot there they’d argue with. (Though if anyone from the DLC wants to set me straight on this, I’ll stand corrected.)”As a bit of an expert on the DLC’s “positions on everything” based on 12 years’ experience, let me go through Atrios’ list and respond. 1. Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration.The DLC took no position on the bankruptcy bill; I opposed it, as did Marshall Wittmann. 2. Repeal the estate tax repeal .Totally, absolutely, adamantly, that has been the DLC’s position.3. Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI.Check. A longstanding DLC position.4. Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)Check, with devilish details involving the DLC/PPI’s dissent from the single-payer approach.5. Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation.Yup. We’ve offered an alternative approach involving a tailpipe emissions cap-and-trade system, but the urgency of better fuel efficiency standards is Holy Writ in these parts.6. Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there’s probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise.

Yes again, if “getting rid of abstinence-only education” doesn’t mean getting ridding of any abstinence education.

7. Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code

Totally, and in excrutiating detail.

8. Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.

No to the first sentence, yes to the second.

9. Reduce corporate giveaways

Oh yes, for many years. The DLC/PPI helped popularize the very concept of getting rid of “corporate welfare,” dating back to a late-1980s event we did with Ralph Nader. This principle has undergirded everything the DLC has said on the budget, the tax code, and state economic development policies.

10. Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan

Nope. We opposed the current plan, but think the problem is cost and complexity, not the basic idea of offering choice and competition, a la the federal employees’ plan.

11. Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.

Not a subject the DLC specifically has addressed, but I have no problem with it.

12. Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards “more decriminalization” of drugs, though the details complicated there too.

No specific DLC position, though I can’t imagine anyone here having a problem with state licensing of medical marijuana, and while not embracing “decriminalization” of drugs, we have long opposed the “mandatory minimum” drug sentencing that stuffed the prison system with non-violent offenders in the 1980s and after.

13. Paper ballots

If this means outlawing electronic voting, no, but we’ve supported a requirement of paper receipts for electronic voting machines to ensure against fraud.

14. Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.

Totally, and again, in ridiculous detail.

15. Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.

As part of a more comprehensive Social Security/Medicare reform package, definitely.

Then Atrios offers a few toss-offs:

Torture is badImprisoning citizens without charges is badPlaying Calvinball with the Geneva Conventions and treaties generally is badImprisoning anyone indefinitely without charges is badStating that the president can break any law he wants any time “just because” is bad.

Agreed on all points. Maybe nobody in the progressive blogosphere actually reads New Dem Dispatches or other institutional DLC utterings, preferring to rely on stereotypes, myths, or a few notable disagreements, but it’s all there on the web site.

Now, by my rough count this represents something like 80% agreement–totally aside from the much higher percentage of agreement between left-bent bloggers and the DLC about the vast number of bad policies, terrible politics, and sheer incompetence associated with the Bush administration and the Republican Party. I guess this raises Chait’s pointed question about the attitude of progressive bloggers to those Democrats who agree with them most of the time, but not all of the time.

But that, too, is a subject for another post. In the meantime: back to you, Kevin, and thanks for asking.

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