If ignorance is bliss, does that make knowledge an ulcer?
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 MoveOn.org 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.