The Democratic Leadership Council is on the verge of collapse. The council, according to numerous press reports, is out of money and shutting down its operations.

“For anyone who cares about working and poor people,” said Campaign for America’s Future co-chair Robert Borosage, “this is a demise that should have come much sooner.”

The DLC is a group of party leaders that has pushed hard since its formation in the 1980s to move the Democratic Party to the right in an effort to appeal to what it perceives as the political center.  

What the DLC really appeals to, however, is big business. It has promoted conservative anti-working-class policies with a neoliberal bent. Even a cursory examination shows this.

  • The DLC reached what was perhaps its height of success when, under Democratic President Bill Clinton, and in alliance with congressional Republicans, it pushed for and won financial deregulation and privatization of many local and state government functions.

  • One of its biggest victories during that period was passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which allowed corporations a free hand in international trade.

  • It opposed labor law reform, specifically the Employee Free Choice Act, and backed conservative policies that helped create unprecedented income inequality, the export of manufacturing jobs, and the decline of the working class.

  • The DLC joined with Republicans in supporting financial deregulation. The result? A bubble-and-bust economy that created the current Great Recession.

  • Childhood poverty is on the rise in America, at least in part as a result of the Newt Gingrich repeal of welfare that the DLC backed when Clinton was in office.

  • The DLC’s neoliberal foreign policy put it out front in support of President Bush’s decision to wage war in Iraq.

  • Blue Dogs associated with the DLC backed right-wing “solutions” to crime, including the “two strikes and you’re out” approach to drug sentencing, resulting in the United States having more than 2 million of its citizens in jail for mostly nonviolent crimes – more than any other country on the planet. African Americans are so disproportionately numbered among those jailed that there are states where incarceration actually serves to depress the African American electorate at significant levels.

  • Since the election of President Obama the DLC has served to divide Democrats. Sens. Joe Lieberman from Connecticut and Evan Bayh from Indiana were prominent among those who frequently worked hard to either oppose or weaken reforms put forward by the administration.

Thus, from its beginnings the DLC has deliberately taken stances on issues that are often opposite those taken by labor unions, women’s organizations, Black, Latino and other minorities, environmentalists and the peace movement in a effort to win back voters who had left the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton termed this strategy “triangulation.”

However, do these voters actually favor such pro-corporate policies? It is not a given that people who identify themselves in the political center favor foreign intervention, cuts in social services and conservative social causes, all at the same time.

Rather, these voters seem to have a range of political positions but support broad unity, bipartisanship, “a middle path” as the way to get things done. Significantly, on basic questions like jobs creation and health care and on other class issues most do not have a right-wing outlook.

The DLC, on the other hand, has always tilted right on these key issues.

As Borosage noted, “It championed the likes of Sam Nunn and Chuck Robb as prototypical presidential candidates, arguing that only a candidate with muscular national security credentials, conservative social values and corporatist economics had a chance of being elected.”

The election of Barack Obama  and the defeat of the DLC-backed HIillary Clinton showed that independent and middle-of-the road voters preferred another alternative. Centrist voters support candidates with pro-working-class positions. In fact, class criteria, rather than political labels might be a better means of accessing these voters.

Indeed, most of the Blue Dog congressional Democrats who were associated with the DLC went down to defeat at the hands of Republicans in the 2010 mid-term elections.

Many Democrats who stuck with strong progressive positions actually fared much better against the Republican wave.

One of the big problems for the DLC has been, with so many right-wingers in the mainstream Republican Party coming forward along with the tea party, why would voters consider backing Democrats putting out the same message?

The people’s movements, therefore, aren’t shedding many tears over the collapse of the DLC.  Unfortunately, however, it has already earned its place in history.

At the very least, it will always be said of the group that it succeeded in extending the power of the Republican right over the nation longer than might otherwise have been the case.




John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.