Tuesday, February 08, 2011

First Read: "The death of the DLC"

Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg (First Read-MSNBC):
Just five years ago, a handful of Democratic presidential hopefuls -- including Hillary Clinton -- gathered at a high-profile Democratic Leadership Council confab in Denver. Yesterday, however, Politico’s Ben Smith broke the news that the centrist DLC, which helped Bill Clinton win the White House in 1992, is on the verge of closing its doors. In recent years, a few things particularly hurt the group: its founder, Al From, endorsed Joe Lieberman in the ’06 general election in Connecticut; its current chairman, Harold Ford Jr., mulled New York Senate primary challenge against Kirsten Gillibrand -- from the right; and CEO Bruce Reed left the group twice to pursue jobs in the Obama administration. But what hurt the DLC more than anything else was that it never figured out how to survive when Bill Clinton was no longer the Democratic Party’s center of gravity.

The Dean way triumphs over the Clinton/From/Lieberman way: The DLC was a Bill Clinton organization, pure and simple. Al From and Bill Clinton were attached at the hip in the run up to 1992, and at times it was a rough ride. Then-DNC Chair Ron Brown and then DLC Chair Bill Clinton were known to trade a barb or two. But Clinton prevailed and essentially took over the Democratic Party for over a decade, sometimes with the DLC and From in the passenger seat -- and sometimes in the trailer attached to the fender. The DLC tried to survive without Clinton or at least survive UNTIL another Clinton. But when Hillary didn’t win the Democratic nomination in ’08 -- and when Joe Lieberman became its ideological standard bearer -- the organization lost its relevancy. What's more, the DLC struggled to be relevant once IN power. It's an easy path to preach when the Democrats were out of power, but once in power or when the country became disaffected with the right (like 2006 and 2008), the Howard Dean way (begun in 2004 and mastered by Team Obama in 2008) triumphed over the Clinton/From/Lieberman way. By the way, is it a coincidence that the same day we learn the DLC is about to close its doors we also find out that centrist California Rep. Jane Harman (D) is leaving Congress to head the Woodrow Wilson Center? By the way, Harman will sit down for an exclusive interview on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” in the 1:00 pm ET hour.
H/t to Ari Melber.

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