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May 12, 2006

Re: Centrist Democrats Urge Party Policy With Muscle

Re: Centrist Democrats Urge Party Policy With Muscle:

The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) strategy is clear: it is more important to create distance from the rest of the party, even if it requires making false distinctions, than to demonstrate differences from Republicans.

Rather than develop a Democratic Party consensus on national security policy, Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) (the DLC think tank) used a recent news conference to adopt Republican demonization techniques ... against their own party to create a false left-right divide they could then position themselves in the center of.  The basic idea they used was to adopt the Republican talking point that Democrats are “isolationists”, which they rechristianed “non-interventionists” (and claimed includes people like John Murtha, etc.!)

To be clear, this is not Bill Clintonian “co-opting” of the other side's issues, but rather is actually adopting the Republican talking points to denigrate and isolate their own party:

...the Progressive Policy Institute, the think tank associated with the Democratic Leadership Council ... challenged Democrats to resist policies advocated by what they called the “non-interventionist left” wing of their party while vigorously challenging what they call the “neo-imperial right” viewpoint of many in the Bush administration....

PPI President Will Marshall said that Democrats should embrace internationalism .... that includes championing freedom and democracy. “We can't abandon [support for] democracy simply because the Bush administration has embraced it or misappropriated it,” he said.

Did you get that?  He implied that Democrats are abandoning freedom and democracy!

Progressives, “the left” and Democrats already champion freedom and democracy.  What they don't believe is that you can bomb countries into democracy.  There is widespread support for the American action taken in Afghanistan, but not in Iraq -- it isn't a question of “non-interventionism”, it is a question of appropriate intervention.  It doesn't require “nuance” or a “muscular” middle to understand the differences.  There is a division between the DLC and the rest of the party over accountability, not just in the past but also for on-going use of American money and lives.

What's bizarrely sad is that the DLC are so desperately studying their “triangulators” to find/create a center, that they’ve gone completely off the deep end in trying to create a false “middle” that they actually accused their own party of abandoning support for democracy!

The news conference was to promote the book (With All Our Might) that PPI are publishing, in which they claim to be

proposing a comprehensive agenda for winning the war against jihadist terrorism -- an agenda rooted in the tough-minded, internationalist tradition of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy.

Ironically (putting aside the demonization of their party), the positioning as “tough-minded” is appropriate and a good move:  What this (“tough-minded” ) is about is finding messaging to counteract the idea that liberals are “soft” on national security.  This has been the weak point for years for Democrats, partly self-imposed, partly by constant drumbeat of false positioning by the right.

Being a “tough-minded national security liberal” is the liberal counterpoint in the national security arena to Bush's “compassionate conservative” effort to blunt the image of conservatives as uncaring on social issues.  This is an important bit of work to be done in recalibrating what voters associate with the Democratic Party WRT national security.

In terms of articulating an actual national security strategy, the book is a collection of essays, and it isn't clear if it is a coherent, prioritized national security philosophy that could be communicated outside the beltway thinktank consultancy.

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