Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Tale Of Two Exits

R.I.P. Democratic Leadership Council. Bye-bye Senator Jim Webb (D-VA). Although both exits are strong indications that the left has finally gotten complete control of the Democratic Party, the stories are somewhat different. The DLC had many manifestations, but was largely considered to be a moderate Democratic group that was not hostile to business.

Webb ran as a conservative Democrat with strong pro-national defense credentials and a major disdain for the Democratic left and the McGovernites. He opposed the Iraq War, but not because he could be described as a peacenik. Webb was not particularly unfriendly toward the DLC, but he despised its major player, Bill Clinton. He quit his position as Reagan's Secretary of the Navy because of his opposition to defense budget cuts, and endorsed Republicans George W. Bush for President and George Allen for Governor of Virginia (the same man he defeated in his bid for Senator). As Virginia temporarily moved toward the blue side of the spectrum, Webb ran as if Virginia were bright crimson.

During his Senatorial run, Webb advocated cutting capital gains taxes, strongly supported Second Amendment rights, and was willing to support the nomination of conservative judges. But once elected, and unlike the DLC which wavered only slightly on its middle-of-the-road positions, Webb made a sharp left turn and ended up with one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate. Suddenly and seemingly incomprehensibly Webb became bosom buddies with Bill Clinton and even stranger, with John Kerry. Webb had refused for at least two decades to shake hands with Kerry, whom he considered a traitor for his bashing of the American military during the Vietnam War.

We may never know for sure what caused Webb to veer to the left. Perhaps opportunism, or expediency, or even a genuine change of heart toward the role of government. Whatever the reasons, it was a dramatic shift from being to the right of the DLC to being to the left of it. But Virginia is poised to make that move back into the red state zone, and Webb would have had a much more difficult time being reelected, particularly if his rival would have been the man he defeated previously. Still, that alone didn't cause his resignation. There are those who say it was simply that he didn't like the snail's-pace and formality of the Senate. Or possibly that he didn't have the political will for another battle against the trends. Or even that he simply couldn't figure out how to explain his dramatic shift from right to left.

But I would suggest that some, and perhaps all of those surmises are at least partially correct. Yet Webb made one major miscalculation. He supported Obamacare, and that could have been a death sentence (pun intended) in Virginia which is in the forefront of the battle to repeal the Health Care Act or gut it in court. So let me wander off into a couple of fantasies about why the funeral orations for the DLC and Senator Webb are occurring at the same time.

The DLC was on its face largely moderate. But underneath, it was about identifying hot-button issues on which Democrats had previously demonstrated serious weaknesses unpopular with the public. Issues such as national defense, crime and free enterprise. The DLC worked very hard to convince Americans that Democrats could and would take moderate and popular stands on those issues. Their problem was that after a brief ascendancy in the 1990s, the DLC was overwhelmed by the Pelosi-Reed left. That coalition worked long and hard to undo the Clinton triangulation and the public relations facade of the DLC.

By the middle of Bush's presidency, with an unpopular two-front war in progress, and Bush Derangement Syndrome at its height, the Democratic Party gained from its direct opposition to Bush, where the DLC had advocated cooperation. And then came the crash. Suddenly the left could plausibly (if inaccurately) blame Republicans and free enterprise for the crash. That allowed Pelosi and Reed to push the party even farther to the left with massive government programs, supported by Barack Obama, on the promise of using socialist schemes (which they never called "socialist") to "solve the crisis" and "fundamentally transform America." Too many Americans panicked, saw change as a good thing in and of itself, and voted for a leftist Democratic President and Congress.

In 2010, America had come to its senses, recognized what the Democrats were really up to, and Republicans re-took the House of Representatives by a substantial margin and got close to taking the Senate in a year when the challenged Democratic seats were largely in solidly blue states. That left Webb with a Party that was inarguably far left, particularly hammered home when the remaining House Democrats chose Nancy Pelosi as their majority leader. It also left the DLC with practically no base at all in a Party that could only hold the left and lost in almost every moderate, centrist or conservative area of any importance.

But it also left both the DLC and Webb with the underlying problem that all good socialists and John McCain disdain--money. Despite their obvious and sometimes vast differences, and with the political and social issues determining the existence of both politicians and political movements, the two suffered from an inability to raise real money and set up war chests large enough to conduct winning activities. Neither Webb nor the DLC remain fiscally viable, and are therefore not politically viable.

Only by re-reinventing himself could Webb stand a chance of getting his Party's nomination. But Virginians are fans of the dictum "burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me." How could he possibly raise money for another run when he already stiffed the people who believed him the first time around?

The DLC did not share that problem, but it did share the problem of not being able to raise money from the remaining ruling Democrats who have been almost totally radicalized. Taking the middle ground doesn't work for Democrats anymore. Many Blue Dog Democrats were defeated in the last election. The remaining Blue Dogs have either been isolated or co-opted. Of the thirteen remaining Blue Dogs who voted against Obamacare, only three voted to repeal it. For the time being, the Democratic Party is a leftist political machine that retains only its most radical members from its glory days from 2006 through this past election.

The public has figured that out, and will spend its money supporting candidates who take a genuine stand and stick to it. This has created an informal coalition of Republicans and Independents who will monetarily support the moderate to conservative candidates, while Democratic money will go only to avowed liberals and radicals. And that is the exit music for the DLC and Jim Webb.


Tennessee Jed said...

hell of a good post, Hawk. it raises a lot of very interesting questions. As you say, we can't know for sure. I have always put the DLC with Clinton. Calculating politician and master of the politician's game of strategery. As such, despite his avowed despising of Bill, deep down inside, I consider Webb an opportunist. Bust, who knows?

T_Rav said...

LawHawk, while I'm not that familiar with the DLC, Webb's career in the Senate doesn't surprise me much. I know Andrew's kinda a fan of his for being more moderate than some other Dems (generally speaking), but I've read some of the stuff he's written before, and he basically comes across as a committed populist. On economics and the size of government, he's very liberal, and while I suspect he has some conservative leanings on social issues, he doesn't seem to view them as very important; in fact, for him they're basically non-issues. About the only thing he's sound on is national defense, and while I welcome that and his prior military service, there's little else in which he agrees with conservatives.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Whoa... no, not a fan. Half a socialist is still a socialist, and economic populism is a destructive disaster (whether on the left or the right) -- which I distinguish from free market capitalism (as compared to crony capitalism).

Webb has always struck me as a nasty guy, with leftist instincts, who isn't as moderate as he seems. But I will credit him with at least adopting moderate rhetoric and being moderate on a few issues. Compared to Pelosi, he's far right. . . but so is Marx. But for America, he's left of left of center, and I will be happy to have him replaced by a Republican.

StanH said...

The DLC was a direct response to two Reagan landslides. In my mind an attempt to con the American public that democrats are reasonable, as opposed too doctrinaire statist ideologues. The only DLC president was Clinton, and he won with a plurality, thanks to dumbshits like me who voted for Perot, but I digress. Once in the office of the presidency, Clinton’s radicalism was quickly exposed, raised taxes, Hillary Care, etc. and was trounced in ’94 midterms. Barry followed much the same coarse to get elected, and after his midterm trouncing, is only now trying to trek towards the center to fool the country, and though the DLC is dead, their philosophy is being used again on a gullible public. Beware of Barry bearing gifts! Webb is the perfect example of the Washington pol who chases the prevailing winds to determine their moral compass. The bad news for him, the people of Virginia are conservative, and will send him away in 2012, better to tuck his tail and run. The liberal con of the centrist is done, the gig is up, perhaps for a generation.

Tennessee Jed said...

Stan - I appreciate a man who owns up to his prior acts of individual lunacy, ;-)

I don't subscribe to the theory that all Democrats are ideolgue statists. As pointed out in "Never Enough" our country has time and again shown it accepts, even embraces a degree of welfarism; just not to the degree of the European socialist Democracies (as represented by Obama.) Unlike Republicans, it is the centrist Democrats who pose the biggest challenge to us.

There is a great little article by Ramesh Ponnuru in the current "National Review." It talks about the liklihood of a Palin vs. Romney fight for the 2012 nomination. I'll let everyone read it for themselves, but offer a quote from the final paragraph:

"It you would rather not see Palin or Romney on the ticket or just don't want a bloody primary between them, you better unite behind another candidate fast. --the Iowa stroll poll is in August."

T_Rav said...

Andrew, my bad. You seemed to be saying a few weeks ago, when we were talking about Democrat switchovers to the GOP or something like that, that Webb would be a good addition to the Republicans. I was pointing out that he's definitely on the Left, but clearly I misunderstood your meaning.

Webb's a difficult guy to figure out. On the one hand, he's frequently railed against the Ivy League intelligentsia and the media for being radical and culturally elitist, for which I give him props. On the other hand, when you read what he writes, it's pretty clear that he advocates things like government ownership of communication and transportation, some form of redistribution of wealth, and a more collectivist view of property rights. In addition, while he doesn't exactly disdain "values voters," he obviously considers them to be focusing on insignificant issues. No thanks.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee: Clinton was the public face of the DLC. His strategery got him reelected. LOL The DLC was more concerned with image than with substance, but willing to go where the wind blew it (no, that was not a pun). That made them opportunistic, but not entirely reprehensible. Webb just plain lied (or caved), and that is reprehensible.

Anonymous said...

T-Rav: I did a lengthy post last year on the danger of single-issue candidates. Though Webb doesn't fit neatly into that category, he comes close. They mouth the platitudes of moderation and occasional conservatism, but are really only right-leaning on one or two issues. Webb was genuine on gun ownership and national defense, but based on his voting record, lying about everything else.

Anonymous said...

Andrew: I found his conservative views dubious, but he seemed better than most of the lefty Democrats running at the same time. To a certain extent, and in a less cornpone way, he reminded me of Huey (Kingfish) Long--which coincides with your view of economic populism. I wan't surprised that he walked more liberal than he talked, but his overall voting record was so far left that he did succeed in surprising me eventually.

Anonymous said...

Tehachapi Tom: Thanks for your kind words. I will tell you that I was partially fooled by the DLC, and its failure to live up to its promise to bring the Democratic Party back into the mainstream of American thinking was a major factor in my switch to the Republican Party. Clinton's real views clinched it when he proposed Hillarycare. I learned the hard way that "conservative Democrat" is an oxymoron. So when Webb came along claiming to be a conservative, my first reaction was "yeah, and I'm the king of Siam."

Anonymous said...

Stan: I considered a protest vote for Perot, but I've never been good at protest votes. I always preferred the street thing. LOL But I was duped in my own way and voted for Clinton because I didn't much trust Bush I. I tend slightly to disagree with you on at least one parallel between Clinton and Obama. Clinton declared that the era of big government was over (he lied, of course). Obama declared "you ain't seen nothing yet." Of course his actual words were "we will now begin the fundamental transformation of America." Obama took his victory over big-government Hillary to be the go-ahead for even bigger government when elected.

But how different was what he said from Bush II saying "when people hurt, government has to act?" Says who? Obama thought he got a mandate to convert America to socialism. What he really got was a rejection of mealy-mouthed Republicanism as represented by John McCain.

Anonymous said...

T_Rav: Webb said several things that cracked me up, and with which I agreed, but he didn't fool me the way Clinton did. Among his choice comments were: "Jane Fonda can kiss my ass. I wouldn't walk across the street to watch her slit her wrists." Equally fun was (speaking of Clinton): "Every time I see him salute a Marine, it infuriates me. It is a pleasurable experience to watch Bill Clinton finally being judged, even by his own party, for the ethical fraudulence that has characterized his entire political career." But still, Clinton will continue to be one of the highest-paid political speakers in history for some time to come, while Webb will slip into obscurity as the footnote one-term Senator from Virginia. I'm not sure where the cosmic justice is in either of those two results.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, Sorry, didn't mean to imply any sort of endorsement. Here's the post: Dems Jump Ship.

I was just referencing him as a relatively conservative Democrat who was retiring and who probably was part of this wave of Democrats who have decided that the national Democrats don't want conservatives in their ranks anymore.

As an aside, I said nice things about Algore once too and I freaked out Writer X, but I didn't mean it the way it came across. I just meant that I thought it was good move for him politically to get non-political experience and that I could respect his political skill for doing so.... didn't mean that I actually thought he was right or would make a good leader.

Blogging often involves misunderstandings. :-(

T_Rav said...

LawHawk, speaking of Clinton and comparisons to Obama, The One held a press conference this morning to explain why his new budget proposal was just awesome and fiscally responsible and it was time for the Republicans to start acting like adults and on and on...

Speaking of which, what do you think Webb will do now that he's no longer up for re-election? Will he try to keep up the moderate/conservative Democrat charade, or with no fear of voter reprisal, will he just be carrying water for Obama for the next two years?

T_Rav said...

Hey Jed, how about a Mitch Daniels candidacy as an alternative? He gave a pretty good speech at CPAC, and might be a good way to avoid the Palin/Romney divide. Not as active on social issues as I'd like, but he's pretty conservative there too, so I'd take it.

StanH said...

Jed: Oh yeah, my wife and I waited around four or five hours to vote for Perot (hand grenade with a bad haircut, Rush’s nickname for Perot), and by extension Clinton. One thing that came of that in retrospect, in my mind, that was the first Tea Party protest of the Imperial Federal Government. Sadly this foisted Slick Willy on America.

We’ll have to agree too disagree on modern democrats being ideologues. This is the place that ‘60s radicalism has landed, and as promised so many years ago, they have snatched the reins of power, devoted to our demise through harebrained egalitarian pursuits. A moderate democrat is an oxymoron of the first magnitude. As you’ve stated this is why “centrist” democrats are most dangerous.

I want all comers in the primaries, Palin, Romney, Cain, Gingrich, Daniels, etc. and let the best man or woman lead the party. I voted for Romney last time, he in my mind was the best choice in that field, he didn’t reveal his conservative side until he gave his withdrawal speech. I don’t know you guys saw that, it was great, we’ll see.

Anonymous said...

T_Rav: I saw the conference. My five year old grandson has a better handle on economics than Obama, his sentences make more sense, and even though he has to use his fingers at times, he can add better than Obie. And he's more adult than Obama as well.

I'm with Andrew on Webb being just plain nasty. I won't make any predictions, but if he continues to vote liberal it will be to spite Republicans and Independents, and if he suddenly starts voting to match his earlier rhetoric, it will be to spite the Democrats whom he blames for his inability to mount a real campaign. Either way, principle is not involved.

Tennessee Jed said...

T-Rav; Governor Daniels is the example given in the article. I must admit, I didn't get to see the speech at CPAC so I don't have enough yet to get behind him. I'm not picky, all I want is a fiscally conservative, strong on defense, and foreign policy, preferably diverse ticket, youngish, and with a high "Q" rating. Is that too much to ask? ;-) Probably too soon for John Thune, but on a public perception "likability" ticket Thune/Rice would touch a lot of bases.

Hawk - Even Ponnuru admits it's all highly speculative. I do see Both Romney and Palin as having some baggage. I guess that is probably true of just about anyone, though. Still, if we are going to get a candidate without a currently high profile, I'd like to get them identified and unify behind them sooner rather than later. The only way Obama gets re-elected is a rebound in the economy AND a dvisive Republican ticket.

Stan - I don't think we actually do disagree. You are referring to modern Democrat politicians. I am referring to actual voters; e.g. the kind that used to vote for southern blue dog politicians. It is becoming increasingly clear that under the modern Obama/Pelosi agenda, there really is no room for them in the party. It's kind of John McCain in reverse. People want the real article (a fiscal conservative) not someone who helps Democrats retain any control of the government at all.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good post, Lawhawk!

It seems most of the Blue Dogs transformed to Yellow Dogs when it was time to walk the walk they talked so much about when campaigning, or were they only showing their true colors.

Granny McBotox had no problem getting them in line when it counted for the left and far left and in the end, Reid managed to do the same.

I think except for perhaps a few representatives....very few...the Blue Dogs are virtually extinct.
That will resonate badly for the democrat party for several years to come.
They gambled that most Americans were far left like they are and they lost their collective shirts.

The republicans would do well to remind voters who the DLC, and 98% of all democrats and their organizations really represent and they would also do well to learn from their mistakes.

Americans don't want far left politicians, be they democrats or democrat lite republicans as a rule (obviously there are exceptions to this rule in places like San Francisco, Seattle, much of the Northeast, etc..

Anonymous said...

T_Rav: If I may jump in here, I have also been increasingly impressed with Tim Pawlentey. Back in March of last year, I did a piece on Mitch Daniels when very few of us had heard of him outside his home state (here). My personal opinion is that a candidate who is extremely conservative on social issues may be in trouble. But one who is too liberal on social issues is in the same trouble. A libertarian "live and let live" attitude seems to be the prevailing national mood. At least for now while we're in deep poo-poo on the economy.

Anonymous said...

Tennessee: I linked to my 2010 article on Mitch Daniels in my reply to T_Rav. I like him.

I didn't necessarily disagree with Ponnuru, I just felt he was a bit overwhelmed by the subject. Among the candidates you mentioned who have negatives that are almost as strong as their positives is Newt Gingrich. Unless there is a big change in perception for those three, I don't think they have a really good chance at the nomination. But I said the same thing about Barry Goldwater, so what do I know?

Anonymous said...

Ben: I agree on all points. Republicans need to remember the classic definition of a moderate--"liberal-in-training." There is such a thing as being moderate, but most politicians who claim to be moderate actually have a not-too-well-hidden agenda.

T_Rav said...

LawHawk (and Jed), that's really the rationale behind my thinking on Daniels. Although his "truce" comment may haunt him with the values voters, I think in the general election, his attitude of conservative personal morality and emphasis on fiscal issues publicly would win over a lot of moderates/independents who (with good reason) see fixing the economy as the priority right now. I did see his CPAC speech, and thought it was pretty good, with a lot of dry one-liners. He's definitely someone to keep an eye on.

As far as Pawlenty goes, I honestly haven't paid much attention to him; he's always seemed to me like Romney 2.0. Am I being unfair?

Anonymous said...

T_Rav: Pawlenty is still a fuzzy image for me. I like what I've seen so far, but he may be more prone to compromise than Daniels. Daniels exudes non-arrogant (even pleasant) self-confidence and isn't easily backed into a corner. As we've been saying, it's still early, and I don't have my money on any of the apparent horses in the race. Daniels also has the talent of sounding folksy without sounding like a backwoods hick.

Tehachapi Tom said...

I do not understand how the party that produced the likes of Harry Truman could have ever slid into the abyss that that embraces the likes of their current gallery of hopeless loonies.

What happened to honor or character or honesty?
If any of them had any one of those firmly in their make up it might not be so bad.

The old cliche of a man is no better than his word indicates the whole party of Democrats is meritless.

Then to have them elected is a frightening indictment of the people who elected them and continue to reelect them.

I want to be more optimistic but it is hard when ones view is our present condition.

Anonymous said...

Tehachapi Tom: I'm afraid many of my people are in large part responsible for the shift of the Democratic Party to the left. We used the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement to gain ascendancy (though many of us did so because we really believed in the causes). The far left that had been working hard since WW I to gain a foothold in the Party succeeded beyond their wildest dreams with our naive assistance.

The second prong was to use a Marxist model of social engineering to destroy traditional ethics and Judeo-Christian morality. The free love movement and radical feminism were not just about sex.

The third prong was to gain control of the minds of the young by taking over the educational establishment by downgrading traditional learning and scientific inquiry and replacing it with leftist propaganda posing as education. Another wild success, as today's schools, colleges and universities demonstrate.

I didn't see the handwriting on the wall that blotted out the party of Truman and John Kennedy until the second year of the Clinton administration. Some of us have seen the light--most haven't, and the latter form the core of the present Democratic Party.

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