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