Do Dems Have To Capitulate On Policy To Be Politically Succesful?

Yesterday, Matt Yglesias wrote:

Democratic Party politicians can win if and only if they secure large majorities of the vote from self-identified moderates, and then self-identified moderates have different opinions from liberals about several important issues. I really strongly recommend the paper as a dose of Real Talk for folks (myself included) who are more inclined to take the liberal side of these issues[.]

Today, Ezra Klein writes:

[M]ost Americans don't have terribly strong views on policy and figure people of good faith could fairly easily come to agreement on the nation's major problems. When that's not happening, people get scared.

Put these two thoughts together and you have a recipe for arguing that "Dems have to move to the 'Center' to win in politics." Indeed, that was the DLC mantra (and now it is The Third Way's) for years.

The problem with this theory is that it is bogus. There is scant elections-based evidence to support it. The DLC and others would propose that Bill Clinton is their Exhibit A to support this view.

I think that depends on your view of the Bill Clinton campaign of 1992 and the Bill Clinton Presidency. Was it really all about moving to the Center, or was it more pretending to "move to the Center" on marginal issues (school uniforms anyone)?

In any event, that was then, a period of Republican Presidential ascendency, and this is now, a period following the worst Presidency in history.

My view is that the main object of Democratic politicking on issues should be to forward the acceptance of policies that will render good results. Because in the end, whatever a poll results says, the electorate responds to results, especially on job creation and the economy. If "moving to the Center" rendered good policy results, then it would make perfect sense for the Democrats to do this (see Clinton, Bill.) If "moving to the Center" renders poor results (see, The Deal and the slashing of government spending in an economic downturn), then that will lead to bad political results.

Finally, if in fact, Yglesias and Klein are right in declaring the DLC/Third Way approach a must for Dems, then progressives and liberals must consider approaches that force Democrats to be more liberal and progressive.

Yglesias particularly assumes a unity of interest between the Democratic Party and progressives and liberals, when he appears to be arguing that in fact their interests have a significant divergence.

The fact is that if Yglesias and Klein are right that the DLC/Third Way approach is a must for the Democratic Party, then in fact progressives and liberals must then create distance between themselves and the Democrats in order to evaluate the best way to effectuate outcomes closer to their interests.

Speaking for me only

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    I can barely read either one of them (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 01:07:50 PM EST
    on this topic.  My husband is a moderate, registered Independent.  He won't ever join either party because at some point rhetoric takes over and prevents any one party from making the good decisions that the country needs at different times.  You will never get him "into" primaries.  He prefers to stand back, because it isn't as if an honest days political work has a payoff he's interested in.  Politicians lie, have affairs and pregnancies while seeking the Presidency and their wife has cancer...no thanks, he'll leave all the soap opera crap to people like me.

    Matt refrences a new "study" and cites this

    Only 37% of moderates, but fully 59% of liberals, believe that the federal government is responsible for reducing income differences between rich and poor.

    Matt should probably understand though that yes, my husband doesn't think the government should make us all financially equal.  So he's really pissed off that the government saved the rich, and did it in such a way as to totally screw the poor.  How did Matt just seem to miss how that has happened and it has the Democrats fingerprints all over it?

    And Ezra blathers on about how Americans hate politics.  They are disinterested because they gave the lame duck session sky high ratings and the lame duck session put us deeper into debt.  But Democrats actually a few of the things during the lame duck that they promised to do for us years ago.  Excuse us all if we were phucking elated!  Does it occur to Ezra that Americans have been told for years and years (some of them from the cradle now) that the debt doesn't really matter.  And in fact, the only people that this debt really does matter to at this time is Wall Street, Goldman Sachs, S&P, all the big money....that all of our tax dollars went into saving not too long ago and that the Fed is still pumping billions into?  The little people need things, why should they care about the deficit when the deficit didn't matter until this month and only because our President and Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner say so?

    Really, these two are a couple of idiots.  And my husband has other things to do all day long than be entrenched in political soap operas.  When it is time to elect someone, get your candidates up there so they can hear how they are going to manage things, and the moderates will pick the one they feel is going to get the job done.  And both of these yahoos need to get a grip on themselves because the moderates will hold that candidate responsible for his/her promises.  They are a heartless bunch.

    Where these two really really screw up is that they think that creating moderate sausage magically creates policy and solutions that moderates will love.  Moderates want the damned problems solved......leave your party rhetoric at home please.  They have better things to do than be drowned in our cults.

    leadership (5.00 / 4) (#4)
    by dandelion on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 01:11:21 PM EST
    Then there's the issue of leadership.  Yglesias and Klein assume that whatever the public thinks about any issue is unchangeable.  The posit the public leading the leaders rather than the other way around, which inevitably shrinks and hardens their notion of the possible or pragmatic.

    If, as Ezra says, people don't generally have firm ideas on issues, then wouldn't it be nice if we had some Democrat somewhere who could be educational and persuasive, someone who could begin communication efforts aimed at where the people actually are and then move them toward new ideas?

    It's so strange that with all this new technology around communication and media, we seem evermore helpless to confront how hapless Democrats have become at the art of persuasion.

    Pretty funny (funny as in sad) (5.00 / 5) (#5)
    by david mizner on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 01:12:50 PM EST
    The progressive blogosphere rose mostly in opposition to this kind of DLC-Dems-must-run-to-the-"middle"-to-win mentality, and now one of its longtime leadings lights is telling us that Al From, Joe Lieberman, et al were right all along, and, worst of all, he presents this viewpoint as if it were fresh.

    Fact is, progressive economic policy -- progressive taxation, fair trade, anti-outsourcing, government-provided health care, protecting Social Security and Medicare, regulating Wall Street, breaking up the big banks -- are popular with majorities of every subset of Americans except conservative Republicans (although even conservative Republicans support fair trade.)

    Much of the progressive (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 02:55:33 PM EST
    blogosphere has been co-opted.

    I've seen a lot of irony in the mocking of Tea Party followers blind loyalty to screwy policy - calling them stupid, etc.  I'd say we on the left have got our own fairly big problems these days.

    It would have been one thing if the Obama team had said that they were unhappy that the stimulus wasn't larger, but the fact that they sold it as being like the bestest thing ever - that was just insulting - but people on our side bought into it.

    Obama could be standing up there right now saying, "Remember at the time that the stimulus was passed that we didn't think that it went far enough..."

    Shaking head.  Policy and political malpractice and so many people bought it; and not they are trying to defend the indefensible.  How is that productive in any sense of the word?  It isn't is the answer.


    See now this is why I always (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 01:14:32 PM EST
    think that what Ezra writes is so totally off base.  If people did not have "terribly strong views on policy", they would not have supported invading Iraq; they would not have changed their view on being in Iraq over time; the voters would not have given the House to the Democrats in 2006; they would not have voted for Obama's "Change"; they would not be pissed off at the financial industry; they would not be upset about the economy; they would not be angry that there is no rebound of jobs... etc.

    Just how in the world does Ezra think that the elected leaders decided to try to fix the healthcare debacle?  Does he really think that the impetus for that movement came out of a sense of duty on Capitol Hill?  No.  That beast was only addressed because people far and wide had a strong opinion about our healthcare system.  And, not for nothing, the law we got out of that deal was a product of politicians who did not care; did not have the courage of conviction to do the right thing by simply expanding Medicare.

    Almost every American has feelings about policy - whether they understand the role of government policy and exactly how it works or fails is irrelevant.  People do care about policy.  What Democrats keep doing is following the polls; and they keep getting beaten badly by Republicans who push the polls where they want to go.  

    If the Democrats finally came out and defined some decent goals, explained their value, convinced the public that their design is superior, instituted the policy and delivered some positive results, they would be golden.

    Instead, what we get is government by a show of hands.  "All ideas are on the table".  Gutless wonders; twisted politics not rooted in any reality; and competing interests with no way to avoid their fate of destroying each other - and those getting nothing meaningful done - poor or no results are the only results that can come out of that environment and mindset.

    "All ideas are on the table". (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by sj on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 01:51:16 PM EST
    If the Republicans approve, that is.  Otherwise they aren't even brought into the room.

    multiple thoughts on this (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by sj on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 01:48:41 PM EST
    The fact is that if Yglesias and Klein are right that the DLC/Third Way approach is a must for the Democratic Party, then in fact progressives and liberals must then create distance between themselves and the Democrats in order to evaluate the best way to effectuate outcomes closer to their interests

    Even if Yglesias and Klein are wrong about this the Dem leadership believes it as well.  But it's the same result in the end.  That "create distance" thing is the only natural thing to do.

    Articulating this approach, however, tends to bring on shouts of "so you, fool, you'll vote REPUBLICAN????!!!!"

    as if.

    Or if not that, then "Supreeeeemme!!! Court!!!!"

    Used to be Roe! v! Wade! Remember that?

    One commenter here and ardent O supporter actually said that his/her vote and support was even better (??) than the support of the Dem party stalwart who does GOTV and canvassing because... drum roll please... s/he represented the center.

    If all centrists were you, BTD, I could work with that.

    interesting characterization. (5.00 / 4) (#9)
    by cpinva on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 02:09:56 PM EST
    When that's not happening, people get scared.

    according to mr. klein, we are a nation of frequent pants wetters, so frightened by our own shadows that the least bit of policy disagreement is enough to send us running to the fallout shelters, while popping a few valiums to calm  down.

    do any of these people ever come up for air?

    Well, he is really describing (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 02:48:39 PM EST
    himself and most of the political elite class in Washington - except for the GOP-types.

    It is really worth listening to the full phone conversation between Gov Walker and the Koch impersonator.  Forget about the appearance of impropriety aspect of the conversation and just listen to what he says about their plan, their movement, their strategies, goals, resolve and last but not least the "pragmatic" Democrat he thinks that he can turn.  Our leadership thinks that they can "reason" with that guy?  They're high.

    We on the left have all of these shrinking violets being eaten alive by a swarm of locusts.


    Ezra must be running a special on tripe; (5.00 / 5) (#10)
    by Anne on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 02:28:12 PM EST
    it makes me wonder what he'll try to pass off as intelligent commentary next.

    And that whole "people of good faith" thing is Obama through and through.

    I'm sick of it.

    Most people don't care about policy?  That's just baloney.  Policy affects the lives of every single person in this country.  And while they may not know the ins-and-outs of making it, they know when it's good and when it isn't.  

    Know what scares me?  That our esteemed leaders have closed their eyes to reality and are sending us to hell in a handbasket.  That jobs are going to get even harder to get.  That services for people who have no other options are going to be cut and people will suffer.  That our rights will continue to dwindle and wither away.  That our personal lives will be less and less in our own control.  That my children's lives will be harder for them than I ever wanted or expected them to be, In spite of how hard they work and how determined they are.

    Know what else scares me?  That all this effort to move the politics to some mythical "center" is really just moving us toward the end of a two-party system.

    That will work quite nicely with the two-class system that these politicians - with the help of people in the media like Ezra Klein - are helping to engineer: the wealthy, and everyone else.  Guess Ezra has no intention of being consigned to the "everyone else" class.

    Given what life will soon be like for "everyone else," I can't say as I blame him, but man, is it cowardly.

    Ezra needs to capitulate (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by observed on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 03:15:36 PM EST
    on policy to get top dollar for his "services"

    So If The GOP Keeps Moving To The Right (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by john horse on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 09:14:15 PM EST
    then where the hell is the center?  Moving to the "center" when the other side keeps moving to the right means that we end up moving further and further to the right. Case in point, the health care debate.  The position of many on the left was single-payer.  The "moving to the center" position was the public option.  Then the GOP moved even further to the right, and we know the rest of the story.

    I don't think it's about (none / 0) (#1)
    by jbindc on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 12:43:15 PM EST
    If "moving to the Center" rendered good policy results, then it would make perfect sense for the Democrats to do this (see Clinton, Bill.) If "moving to the Center" renders poor results (see, The Deal and the slashing of government spending in an economic downturn), then that will lead to bad political results.

    I think it's more that "moving to the Center" renders good election results for Democrats.

    I prefer your method of (none / 0) (#2)
    by CST on Fri Feb 25, 2011 at 12:44:36 PM EST
    "moving the center" over "moving to the center"

    In '88 in Boston I was cooking & making $9 (none / 0) (#15)
    by seabos84 on Sat Feb 26, 2011 at 10:00:59 AM EST
    an hour and I bought the DLC thing - even though I had grown up on welfare and even though I had picked up lots of cooking skills through culinary school on Student Loans and a piddling of grant money.

    ( ya see, when I worked for 4 or 5 bucks an hour in '82-'84 during culinary school, I got my grant money CUT!)

    There's NEVER been any doubt in my mind that the upper cla$$e$ want me to ONLY have the opportunity to grovel between the glamour of being a doormat, ass kisser, ass wipe, back scratcher, boot licker, serf or cannon fodder.

    I bought the DLC "moderate" thing cuz I thought they were gonna make government work better, and then we could stuff ronnie raygun's lies back up the stinky chute those lies came outta, AND, government could show the private sector how to make things work, something other than fire hordes - hire temp replacements for peanuts - top management pocket$ everything.

    This is what I HOPED for in the late 80's and early 90's.

    Year after year, decade after decade, sell out after sell out & these 2 mouthpieces of the $tatu$ quo are $inging for their $upper with their right wing definition of independently swinging moderately center.

    Ezra and Matt should should just join the Wisconsin Repuke Party and get on the side they belong on - they ain't on MY side.  


    WOW! IF 0-bummer would have $ould out MORE (none / 0) (#16)
    by seabos84 on Sat Feb 26, 2011 at 10:35:18 AM EST
    then the right liars would have only won 20 seats in the house?

    funny how the 6 figure a Dim-0-$ell outs have:

    • hundreds of "leaders" making over 6 figures a year in state capitols and DC ...

    • thousands of minions making a good wage doing communications and media and public relations and press releases ...

    • HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS every election cycle

    and all the Dim-0-$ell 0ut$ can do is parrot right wing talking points, when they're not busy whining how liars lie, mean meanies are mean, and thieves steal? boo - fracking - hoo.

    our side can't do message & tactics & strategy for the bottom 90%, OR

    they really ain't "our side"?