Demo­cratic Party refs a fac­tion fight; Left, cen­ter claim as­cen­dancy

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Don­ald Lam­bro

The feud be­tween left-wing blog­gers and the cen­trist-lean­ing Demo­cratic Lead­er­ship Coun­cil is get­ting hot­ter at a time when ac­tivists on both sides say party unity is crit­i­cal to win­ning back the White House next year.

The groups held du­el­ing con­fer­ences this month, and the Yearly Kos Con­ven­tion clearly came out on top. It drew 1,500 lib­eral ac­tivists — in­clud­ing 500 blog­gers — and a half­dozen Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, led by Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton. The New York Demo­crat has been em­braced by the DLC as one of its own.

The DLC drew 350 elected of­fi­cials to its con­fer­ence but was snubbed by all the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. How­ever, Mrs. Clin­ton’s hus­band, a for­mer DLC chair­man, de- liv­ered the key­note speech.

Markos Moulit­sas Zu­niga stepped up his war of words against the DLC this month. The founder of the Daily Kos blog and the an­nual Kos con­fer­ence con­sid­ers DLC mem­bers “Repub­li­can-lite,” as op­posed to true Democrats.

“The DLC doesn’t want a vic­to­ri­ous Demo­cratic Party un­less such vic­to­ries hap­pen us­ing their for­mula. We’ve been there, done that, and it sim­ply didn’t work,” Mr. Moulit­sas wrote in his blog last week. “Even work­ing out of their own play­book, we couldn’t get that mag­i­cal ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­lar vote. We lost con­trol of the House and Se­nate. Things truly seemed hope­less. We as a move­ment sprung from those fail­ures.”

Pro­claim­ing that the left’s blog­gers were re­spon­si­ble for last year’s Demo­cratic takeover of the House and Se­nate, he added: “We helped build this ma­jor­ity. Not the DLC’s 350 or so mem­bers. This is no longer their party. And as such, we can look for­ward to fi­nally be­ing truly com­pet­i­tive for years to come.”

That salvo at the DLC was trig­gered by an op-ed col­umn in The Wash­ing­ton Post writ­ten by two DLC lead­ers — Mary­land Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley and for­mer Ten­nessee Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr., the DLC’s na­tional chair­man — who ex­tolled the im­por­tance of ap­peal­ing to mid­dleof-the-road, swing vot­ers.

“Some on the left would love to pre­tend that groups such as the DLC, the party’s lead­ing cen­trist voice, aren’t needed any­more,” they wrote.

How deep the po­lit­i­cal en­mity be­tween the two groups runs is a mat­ter of de­bate in the party and among its al­lies in the press.

A New York Times col­umn said the DLC, which has a rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing cozy with Wall Street — where much of its fund­ing comes from — was “ra­dioac­tive” in the party. Time mag­a­zine colum­nist Joe Klein wrote ear­lier this month that the group, which has sup­ported the Iraq war, “has be­come a pariah” among Democrats.

The Daily Kos has main­tained its at­tacks on the DLC for most of the year, and Mrs. Clin­ton has at times been caught in the cross­fire as a re­sult of her al­liance with the DLC and Mr. Moulit­sas’ be­lief that her high un­fa­vor­able rat­ings “would be a drag on races lower on the bal­lot.”

“She is also the DLC can­di­date, lit­er­ally,” he wrote ear­lier this year in a blog that quoted from a Ford memo ac­cept­ing the DLC chair­man­ship in which the for­mer con­gress­man wrote, “I as­sume there will be an ef­fort to help Sen­a­tor Clin­ton’s cam­paign, and I would sup­port such an ef­fort.”

DLC founder Al From seemed un­con­cerned by the draw­ing power of the Kos con­fer­ence on the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates at this point in the nom­i­nat­ing race, say­ing they went there to ap­peal to lib­eral ac­tivists.

“Look, it’s the pri­mary sea­son, and they’re only play­ing on half the field,” he told Mr. Klein. “To win the White House, you have to play on the en­tire field. That’s where we come in.”

Other DLC vet­er­ans say the in­ten­sity of the fight be­tween the groups is ex­ag­ger­ated.

“Com­pared to past nom­i­nat­ing bat­tles I’ve seen, I don’t think the tem­per­a­ture is all that hot,” said Bill Gal­ston, a long­time DLC strate­gist and a se­nior fel­low at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion.

“It’s a lot cooler than the early ‘80s and ’90s, when there were pitched bat­tles. I don’t think there is one this year,” he said.

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