The Myth Of The Democratic Establishment

Fringe political movements are fueled by two false beliefs – that they are the true “voice” of their respective political party and that political insiders, referred to as the “establishment,” must be defeated so the “people” can assume their rightful place.

We’ve seen this mentality rumble from the outer edges of the left and the right several times in the last 40 years or so. The New Left movement of the late 60s, for example, promised to neutralize “the man” who’d kept them down for so long. The Moral Majority that powered the Republican’s ascension to power in the 1980s with promises to eliminate the power of the government was neither moral nor representative of the majority. Yet each time, these movements are effective because they know how to inspire. They yell louder than anyone else, and they know just the right amount of red meat to toss to their minions.

Currently there are two groups that don’t want the Democrats to win in November. Guess who they are. The Republicans? Correct! There’s one. The other? You guessed it! The left. The far left, to be specific, riding on a relatively new wave of anti-establishment-powered politics.

The netroots are buzzing today with the publication of the Howard Dean piece from the New York Times I mentioned on Friday. If you read some of the sentiments seeping from the various blogs and message forums from the left, you get the impression that a line is being drawn by them in regards to their loyalty to Howard Dean and that of the Democratic Party.

Case in point. A thread at Democratic Underground uses the print title of the article, Howard Dean and the Creative Destruction of the Democratic Establishment. It’s the “Democratic establishment” that has the party poised to win control of the House and/or the Senate in November. But to the prospect of Dean destroying that Democratic establishment, the author of the thread says, “Go, Howard!”

Jerome Armstrong
at MyDD says the “Democratic establishment” that has worked to give the party their best shot in winning anything in 12 years should either “get out of the way or work with us (the far left.)”

Matt Bai writes in his New York Times piece:

Now that Dean has wrested control of the national party, his real agenda, it seems, is to radically reduce its relevance…

Many political insiders are saying that if the Democrats fail to make inroads in November in certain key states, the party will be out of play for a generation, yet the netroots are cheering an article that states emphatically that Dean’s plan is to make the national party irrelevant!

Dean argues that the 50-state strategy is actually going to broaden the playing field in 2008. By the time the next nominee is crowned, he says, a field network will already be in place, covering most of the counties and precincts in the United States; flip a switch, and the whole grid will light up with activity, from Baton Rouge to Boise.

… a field operation marshalled by the same political novices that powered Dean’s failed 2003 presidential bid, complete with the “my way or the highway” mentality, alienation of the rank and file Democratic voter, and poor management of funds.

No thanks.

But you can’t convince them of it, nor can you convince them that there is, in fact, NO Democratic establishment. The boogie man that inspires today’s New Left, that haunts their dreams, that enrages them even more than the GOP does, is a myth.

I’d like to turn your attention to a another piece on Howard Dean from January of 2004 by Nicholas Confessore. He writes about how Dean’s most impressive feat at that time, admirers and critics alike agreed, was “taking on the Washington Democratic establishment,” as pundit Tucker Carlson put it on CNN.

The funny thing is, Confessore informs us, is there is no Democratic establishment. It’s a lie.

I decided to seek out the Democratic establishment, hoping to stride through its halls of power and behold its vastness firsthand. Catching a cab a few blocks from the White House, I made my way down K Street, passing by the trade associations and corporate offices that today rarely hire a lobbyist without approval from Republican leaders on the Hill. Veering onto Massachusetts Avenue, we drove by the gleaming wedge of glass and concrete that houses the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank spearheading President Bush’s effort to privatize Social Security, and circled around the Capitol, where Republicans control both chambers of Congress and Democrats have trouble lining up rooms to caucus in. We passed by the Heritage Foundation, numerous alumni of which now help set national policy in the Bush administration, turned right, and meandered over to Capitol Hill, a funky neighborhood perpetually on the verge of gentrification.

The driver let me off in front of a modest, four-story brick office building which houses, among other things, a temp agency, a dry cleaners, and the National Barley Growers Association. The security guard ignored me as I slipped into the elevator, rode to the top floor, and stepped out into the modest, pastel-colored reception area of the Democratic Leadership Council, which helped get the last Democratic president into office, and whose early and frequent criticisms of Dean have helped highlight his fight against the Washington establishment. I was led through a quiet warren of cubicles to the large, paper-strewn office of Bruce Reed, the DLC’s president, chief policy thinker, and resident wit. Reed is a cheerful, outgoing sort who usually appears younger than his 43 years. But today, an air of resignation lurks behind the smile.

When I ask him what the establishment is doing to stop Dean, Reed grimaces slightly, as if he’s just taken a sip of castor oil. “What are we doing to stop him?” asks Reed. “From our standpoint, this has always been up to the candidates themselves.” Reed and his colleagues at the DLC–often painted by liberals as a centrist Death Star, bulging with corporate money and insidious influence over party affairs–have published a few op-eds comparing Dean’s candidacy to George McGovern’s disastrous 1972 run. But that’s about it. Some DLC operatives are working with Lieberman, others with Edwards. The New Democratic Network, a DLC-descended PAC, hasn’t attacked Dean; instead, they’ve praised his use of the Internet to build a campaign organization. “Let’s back up to your central premise,” Reed continues, gazing wearily at a 7-inch-tall cup of Starbucks sitting before him on a conference table. “There is no establishment. We”–meaning Washington Democrats–“are a constellation of interest groups and ideologies and congressional voices. The evidence that there isn’t an establishment is just the mere fact that we have so many candidates–and such a collective inability to choose between them.”

Reed’s point is hard to dispute…The absence of a true Democratic establishment is the central fact not only of the current presidential contest, but also of the last three years of Beltway politics. Washington Democrats are not wholly without political and strategic assets. But when you put it all together, there’s not much to look at…Democrats not only lack control of the White House and either chamber of Congress, they don’t even have strong party institutions to fall back on…

So I ask all who is reading this. Wouldn’t Howard Dean and his “progressives” be better served rebuilding the Democratic establishment instead of wasting money and time trying to creatively destroy something that doesn’t exist anymore? Don’t you think a victory by the party in November would go much further in restoring the party to it’s former self, as Matt Bai described it, America’s dominant political force for most of the last century.

Or maybe that isn’t the goal of “progressives” at all.

A New Strategy For The Democrats – Taking It To FOX News!

From The New York Times:

THE Fox News Channel doesn’t officially turn 10 until this week, but the Democrats have already begun doing their best to spoil the celebrations.

The party crashing began last Sunday, when former President Bill Clinton transformed an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” into a finger-pointing tirade against what he called a “conservative hit job.” Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, quickly released a statement applauding Mr. Clinton for standing up to what he described as a right-wing, bullying propaganda machine.

In separate appearances on Fox News over the next two days, Lanny J. Davis, a former special counsel to Mr. Clinton, and Barbara Boxer, the Democratic senator from California, mocked the news channel’s trademarked motto of being “fair and balanced.”

And on Wednesday Paul Begala and James Carville, Democratic commentators for CNN, engaged in more than five minutes of high-decibel debate on Fox with Bill O’Reilly about Mr. Clinton’s appearance, daring Mr. O’Reilly to “come out of the closet” and admit Fox News is a “right-leaning, anti-Clinton network.”

The rationale in this new approach to FOX?

The cable news channel, despite a fall-off in ratings over the past year, still towers over its competitors. And although the viewers who regularly watch Fox News are more likely to be Republican, Democrats and independents still turn up in significant numbers — 20 percent and 17 percent, respectively, compared with 34 percent who are Republicans — according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Swing voters are important in some states, particularly the Northeast. How they react to the Democrats’ more confrontational approach could help determine how far the Democrats get in their efforts to gain control of the House and Senate.

Read more here.


Here’s a great article I missed last week on healthcare by Len M. Nichols that is actually worth your valuable time.

From sea to shining sea, many Americans agree: Our health care system is broken. The uninsured now exceed 46 million and health costs keep growing faster than incomes, facts that strain household, employer, and government budgets alike. Awareness of mediocre quality and poor safety performance is spreading beyond academic whispers to mainstream headlines. Still, Washington fiddles and tries to change the subject. Why the chasm between awareness and action?

Consider this: Political extremists, with an iron grip on each party, don’t really want to solve the problem, for that would require acknowledging holes in their world views. This is why power must be wrested from them for progress to be made.

The far right, having dictated Republican priorities since 1994, finds health debates vexing; their top priority is ever-lower taxes and serious health reform threatens that…

… The Democrats do not distinguish themselves with a coherent vision. As a result, the old labor-left view has more adherents than supporters, for lack of a better alternative. The far left vision sees 46 million uninsured and blames profit-mongering insurers and drug companies for the high costs that force inequitable access to care. The left then argues that stripping profit out of the system will lower costs so much that we can cover all the uninsured with the savings…

… For true reform to succeed, each side must see its own vision realized inside the ultimate compromise. Negating the far right’s phobia of tax increases and the far left’s compulsion to punish successful capitalists are thus pre-requisites. But once we jettison these artificial barriers and the ideologues who maintain them, moderate Democrats can get all people covered with a decent benefits package made affordable for all, and moderate Republicans will see individual choice and responsibility coupled with private sector creativity. It is our national community’s obligation to make it possible for each person to help themselves. Serving as responsible stewards of aggregate resources and enhancing value per dollar spent in the long run will make the new system technically sustainable.

This kind of reform will be sustainable politically because of the bi-partisan groundwork currently being laid. The only thing reformers really have to fear is fear of our own extremists. Stare down the ideologues among us, and we can all win a better health care system.


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