The Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist Democratic group that once dominated the party and provided much of the core intellectual framework of the Bill Clinton presidency, could be on the verge of demise.
Ben Smith at Politico reports:
The Democratic Leadership Council, the iconic centrist organization of the Clinton years, is out of money and could close its doors as soon as next week, a person familiar with the plans said Monday.
Interestingly, the DLC’s associated think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, appears to still be alive and well.
The DLC was organized after the 1984 landslide defeat of the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Walter Mondale, by centrists who believed that the party had become unable to win national elections in part because it was seen as overly representing traditional Democratic interest groups such as organized labor and minorities. The DLC then worked to refocus the party towards more centrist issues, including business-friendly policies. The DLC’s high point was the election of Bill Clinton as President in 1992 shortly after Clinton had chaired the DLC.
The DLC’s influence began to wane following Al Gore’s defeat in 2000. Gore’s running mate Joe Lieberman had chaired the DLC from 1995-2001. The DLC came to be seen by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party as accommodationist and overly corporate. The strong and long-lasting support for the Iraq invasion in 2003 by sThe DLC’s strong and long-lasting support for the Iraq invasion in 2003 further amplified the breach.
I sought comment from Simon Rosenberg, who was previously the DLC’s political director from 1993-1996, and now heads up the New Democrat Network think tank. Rosenberg said he was not in a position of knowledge to confirm or deny the rumors of the DLC’s demise, but he did have some perspective on it as a man who had broken with them over such issues as the approach to engaging the blogosphere.
“Look, the DLC has been arguably the most impactful think tank in American politics in the last 25 years,” said Rosenberg. “However, it struggled to stay on top of big changes happening in the U.S., and it fell behind in recent years.”
Rosenberg was also quick to insist that this was not the end of centrist Democratic politics, and also pointed to groups such as his New Democrat Network, Third Way, and others as examples of groups that formed in the model of the DLC — and others that organized against it. “It was one of the first really major big pieces of the modern infrastructure in the progressive movement,” said Rosenberg. “And I think it helped spawn a lot of other institutions - both copycats, and in angry reaction to it.”