ReggieH explains how the Koch Brothers-funded DLC harms the Democratic Party

Ed.Note -- This post comes from a Facebook conversation begun by ReggieH, based on information that the conservative billionaire Koch brothers have helped fund those Blue Dog-breeders known as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), nominally an organization that supports "center-right, moderate Democrats." I thought ReggieH put forth such a great description of the DLC's negative effect on the Democratic Party that I asked him for permission to reproduce an edited version of it here at 43SB.

ReggieH: Alright, Democrats, let's focus really hard on this. Why do you suppose Koch Industries funds the Democratic Leader Council?

Comment by B.D.: You realize the DLC is closing right?

ReggieH: Yes, it is good that they are closing. However, DLC methods should be criticized, and Democrats should recognize the "useful idiot" link inherent to Koch Industries funding of the DLC. It speaks to a structural problem within the Democrats political strategy.

The Koch brothers were smart enough to realize the advantages the conservative movement could incur by funding the DLC. Hopefully Democrats can look at what happened and be smart enough to realize the disadvantages inherent to "centrist" "third way" strategies and groups such as the DLC.

Comment by B.D.: Not to be a defender of all things DLC, but I do think its important that there is some sort of organization that can represent the views of moderate/conservative Democrats. I for one find the tactics of DFA [Democracy for America] and to be quite disruptive to electing Democrats in Idaho. Whether or not DLC was the right organization is certainly debatable, but the existence of an organization with a similar mission is not, IMO.

Comment by JH: And the Koch brothers gave the ACLU $20 million. More than the rest of their political donations combined. The ACLU is a pawn of the oppressor!!!!!

ReggieH: Not saying DLC is "taking orders" from Koch. It makes sense for Koch to support ACLU, because ACLU is very successful at promoting certain Libertarian interests (civil liberties, mostly). What interests does the DLC promote that Koch would like? Nothing, except for the fact that a "moderate" faction of the Democratic Party makes the rest of the party look "not moderate" by corollary. It's really bad optics. Further, it waters down the Democrats' message, causes internal strife within the party, depresses the base, and reinforces the conservative moral frame in bi-conceptual voters.

I'd also posit that "moderate" is not actually a defined set of values (like liberal or conservative), but is really just the subjective worldview of whoever happens to be proclaiming their self a "moderate" at the time. Often it is used by partisans and ideologues as a way of normalizing their views. If "moderate" is not an actual ideology, then what is it? [George] Lakoff proposes that "moderate" voters are actually "bi-conceptuals." This means that those voters agree with Republicans on some issues and Democrats on others. They agree with the progressive/liberal moral frame on some issues, and they agree with the conservative moral frame on other issues. The more active a person's conservative moral frame is, the weaker the progressive moral frame is, and vice versa.

When Democrats adopt conservative framing (such as the centrist/moderate/DLC strategy B.H. seems to be espousing calls for), it may occasionally win a seat in the short term, but the act of accepting the conservative framing on issues (again, a necessary function of the Blue Dog strategy) comes back in the end to bite Dems in the rear. We saw this play out in 2008 and 2012 election cycles. Democrats ran on a platform of change, but Blue Dogs and Conservadems stopped them from really delivering on that change. This caused the people who voted for Democrats to reject the Democrats as either ineffective/weak losers OR liars.

On top of this is the effect of the activation/reinforcement of conservative moral frames in bi-conceptual voters. This occurs in two ways. First, it occurs because the visible faction of "moderate Democrats," not very smartly, makes the rest of the party look like a bunch of loons. Meanwhile, on the right, elected officials are being constantly pushed to the right by their base. The perceived "center," shifts to the right [Ed.Note: see Overton window]. Second, Democratic candidates who embrace conservative rhetoric activate, validate, and reinforce the conservative moral frame in voters, which depresses the progressive morale in voters.

Now, I'm not saying Idaho Democrats should just forget about winning races, but we're definitely not making progress if we're not changing hearts and minds. I'd be happy with a candidate who was simply willing to forgo attacking the Democratic Party and progressive ideas, and consistently push at least 2 progressive ideas.

Incorporating more of Lakoff's framework into Democratic strategy will yield results for progressives AND moderates. We already know that the alternative (Republican dominance) is unacceptable. We've been trying DLC centrism for quite a while now, and we are noticing a lot of problems with it. Let's just give Lakoff's ideas a chance.

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Well said Reggie

I don't know if we need to change hearts and minds so much as crack the facade of demonization that pervades being a Democrat. What I hear from independents is the intense desire to be offered a choice. Republican lite isn't what they're looking for. Its for damn sure that Democrats shouldn't be helping Republicans in the demonization, which is what happened last cycle.


While a moderate may agree with Democrats or Republicans some of the time, I reject the idea that being a moderate doesn't entail having an ideology. As a Radical Moderate™, I would hold that my worldview is focused on realism -- recognition that the implied social contract is the most important thing keeping Western society from imploding, while simultaneously recognizing that the U.S. has enemies that the world would be better off having dead. Since, as a realist, I recognize that 3rd parties aren't going to make it in the U.S. with the Constitution that exists and is likely to exist in the foreseeable future, I direct my support mostly to one party. Here in Idaho, the party that aligns most closely with the world as it really exists is the Democratic Party.

"When all else fails, revel in the absurdity of it all"


Well alrighty then. You seem very passionate about being an ideological realist. Seems rather idyllic to me. I'm very amused at your obsession with your place on the political spectrum. But your preoccupation in doing so seem to come at the expense of others. ;-) Such is politics.

Allow me to clarify

I don't mean to say that moderates don't have any ideology whatsoever. I mean to say that each individual self-proclaimed "moderate" has their own ideology. There is no agreed-upon "moderate" ideology. There is, in rough terms, a progressive ideology and a conservative ideology. You could break those down further if you wanted (Libertarian ideology, Communitarian ideology, etc.), but there is still no "moderate" ideology. What one self-proclaimed moderate says is "moderate," is disputed by pretty much every other self-proclaimed moderate, each of whom would claim (along with everyone else in the world) that their ideology is based on "realism."

What this is really about, though, is what strategy has been more effective (and which has been more disastrous) in terms of electoral/legislative wins (in the short-term and especially the long-term) as well as delivering progress to the people who actually vote for Dem--The current Democratic strategy of constant capitulation and moving toward a perceived "center" (a noble idea, since compromise is to be commended), or the Republican strategy of sticking to your ideology, staying away from the center, and essentially refusing to compromise?

If centrism as a strategy didn't lead to electoral/legislative defeat, I would probably support it, but that is not the case. My main argument to you, personally, is that if the Dem Party rejects that strategy, and adopts the strategy I propose, we will see the political "football" get moved back toward the center, instead of way to the right like we have seen for so long. If you truly are a moderate, then you should see how far to the right the "football" is in Idaho. If my proposed strategy will actually move that ball back toward the center, why not try it? Isn't it fair to say that the current strategy of abandoning ideals in order to try to garner "moderate" and conservative voters has failed for myriad reasons?

One last thing. I understand that you may have trouble accepting my argument because you are a self-proclaimed moderate and probably can't imagine yourself being swayed (as a voter) by the strategy I suggest. Keep in mind, though, that you are an anomaly. Most bi-conceptual voters are nowhere NEAR as informed as you are. Remember your "3rds" theory that you proposed to me a month or two ago? The thing is, you are not a part of that important undecided 3rd you are referring to. That 3rd is made up mostly (though, not solely) of less-informed biconceptual voters (people that don't have the time or inclination to pay as much attention to politics and policy as weirdos like you and I). They are the most important voters to either party. Moving to the center might convince some of them in the short term to vote for Dems and might offer short-term electoral wins (though, not legislative), but it also moves the entire national discussion and overton window to the right. Standing principled and making progressive arguments is the only way to win the "hearts and minds" of these biconceptual voters and move that football back to the center.

We Need a Lefty

I'm looking for old school liberal candidate who believes in and campaigns on liberal values. And our Democratic Party leaders need to promote those values, and show the voters why those are wonderful values for our state.

We keep getting conservatives because we think that's what the voters want. But faced with a pseudo Republican vs a Republican, they'll mostly vote (R) unless the (R) is thoroughly unlikeable.

As Democrats we need a strong leader who gets us out of the doldrums. There's enthusiasm out here in the heartland, we just need to be channeled...

...searching for the truth...

I'll quibble

Count me among those who believes a left wing ideologue can't get elected in Idaho outside District 19 and maybe Ketchum. But everyone of our leaders need a little backbone when it comes selling pragmatic policy solutions regardless where that solution lies on the spectrum. I agree there's a large number out there waiting for a little inspiration.