Friday, February 24, 2006

Clark, Hackett, netroots and DLC

[Crossposted at Clark Community Network, with links]

General Clark's 2004 race for president was a unique opportunity not only to bring the U. S. together, but to bring the Democratic Party together. Of course he would have had to unite the Democrats behind him before bringing the country together, but if he had been able to unite Democrats, I believe that as a non-political general with ties to both parties, he could have united the country.

Uniting the Democratic Party is another question and probably more difficult, as the Paul Hackett affray testifies. The gap between the activist base (often referred to as the netroots) and the organization (often confused with the DLC, though there is much overlap) is once again threatening to tear the party apart.

The 2004 Clark campaign was a unique combination of netroots and DLC, that General Clark carefully balanced. Clark not only raised much money on the Internet, as did Dean, but he was propelled into the race by net activity as no other campaign was, arguably making his campaign the most Internet based campaign of all. His ties to Bill Clinton gave him access to so many DLC activists and contributors that Repbublican conspiracy theorists actually charged him with being a stalking horse for Hillary! Ultimately the Clark campaign failed to gain the nomination, but I sense there is still a chance for moderation to combine with passion, not only in 2006 when we have to take back Congress, but in 2008, when I hope General Clark will run again. And I'm also getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the point.

The DLC attempt to be "Republican Lite" is a formula for disaster in many instances. There is, of course, no arguing with success, and Bill Clinton, who created the DLC and their formula of triangulation in an attempt to destroy or marginalize DSA, SDUSA and other Socialist groups active in the Democrats, was at least a partial success. Whatever one may think of their specific policy proposals, the word "Socialist" is such poison in the US that any attempt to turn the Democrats into a Socialist Party is doomed to failure. Perhaps the Democrats should join the Liberal International, as the Republicans have joined the Democrat International, but the United States is so nationalistic that perhaps they would be better off staying aloof and attacking the Republicans for international ties. Perhaps the party of Jackson should remember its Jacksonian roots.


The United States, with its executive presidential constitution and tradition of single-seat constituencies, has two large parties that would be coalitions of parties in a differently structured democracy. Building a majority party involves creating coalitions within the party, not circular firing squads. That means we all have to compete cleanly within the party primary, then swallow our pride and support the nominee who was chosen by the majority of our fellow Democrats, who are not really our political opponents, much less enemies. Behind the scenes phone calls by Senators to donors, getting them to pull their money, and even worse, calls to candidates to get them to pull out of races (yes, I'm writing about the Schumer and Hackett affair here) are totally out of line. I e-mailed the DNC asking why I should continue to contribute money but I'm still waiting for an answer. Maybe I'll get it here.

The best way to prevent the kind of "brusing primary battles" that Schumer and others urging Hackett to drop out feared is to adopt something like the Republicans old "11th Commandment" - "Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican." Or in our case, fellow Democrat. We need to keep ALL negative campaigning and name calling out of primary races and other internal party squabbles. We need to be able to united against Republicans in the general election, and most of all we need to avoid alienating swing voters in the general election by attacking fellow Democrats, who may not be perfect (no one is) but are infinitely preferable to Republicans. DLC is not going to win general elections by alienating the activists, and activists are not going to win general elections by alienating moderates, either.

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