The Washington Post today published an op-ed of mine about how, if Democrats really want to win elections, they should tack to the center. No, that doesn't mean the center as Washington pundits, operatives, lobbyists, insiders and bought-off politicians use the word - but the real center of American public opinion, as outlined by the cold, hard data. The manipulation of the term "centrism" and the concept of the "center" is something I've written a lot about, both on blogs and in my new book Hostile Takeover. Reclaiming the center - the real center - must be a priority for Democrats right now. And the battle to do just that is at the heart of the brewing battle to take back the Democratic Party.
The Post, of course, also published pieces by Al From and Bruce Reed of the Democratic Leadership Council and by the New Republic's Peter Beinart. From and Reed trumpet "Clintonism" and openly suggest building a bridge to the past - the very thing that Clinton derided in his 1996 campaign for re-election. Among other things, they specifically demand Democrats back off their criticism of draconian welfare "reform" policies and corporate-written trade deals that have sold American workers out. Apparently from the cushy confines of their Beltway offices, they either don't see - or don't care - about just how distastrous that kind of public policy is for ordinary, hard working Americans. They prefer to peddle Washington's version of centrism - one wholly out of touch with America's heartland.
Beinart is even more incredible. Here is a guy who was one of the major cheerleaders pushing President Bush's unilateral invasion of Iraq. Here is a guy who derided those who criticized the war on the grounds that we did not have an international mandate. Yet here is a guy who is now writing op-eds demanding Democrats "not be politically afraid" to advocate for better cooperation with international institutions. He is right that Democrats must make the case for more multilateralism - but he is embarrassingly hypocritical to sit in his ivory tower and sententiously claim he is a serious "expert" or principled advocate when he has, for so long, epitomized the problem.
In many ways, the contrast between my piece and the two other pieces represents the camps battling for the soul of the Democratic Party. From, Reed and Beinart both represent two different pieces of the status quo Establishment.
From and Reed represent the corporate wing of the Establishment - people desperate to hang onto their "glory days" of past prominence - people who openly look down on ordinary citizens and who work against the interests of average Americans. Beinart is a bit different. From and Reed are principled - they really do believe in waging a reverse class war on average citizens, and their unrelenting advocacy of corporate-written economic policies and participation in the corporate-funded DLC is a testament to that. Beinart, on the other hand, represents the unprincipled hack wing of the Establishment. So desperate to be thought of as a "serious scholar" and to be in the political mix, he will say or do anything no matter how publicly he contradicts himself. His behavior captures why the Democratic Party Establishment in Washington regularly looks like it stands for absolutely nothing other than its own self-promotion.
These two facets of the Establishment, of course, are often fused together. For instance, people like Reps. Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer and Sen. Joe Lieberman all regularly support policies that hurt ordinary citizens and defend the status quo - all while opportunistically trying to be on all sides of issues.
But, as I note in my piece, there is now a very real, very serious movement within the Democratic Party to fight back. This movement is demanding its political leaders stand for the real center - not some faux center created to justify a destructive agenda or perpetuate prominence for has-beens like From/Reed and never-weres like Beinart. This movement is serious about conviction and serious about winning elections - it is not a bunch of waffling opportunists or armchair quarterbacks that have never done the hard, unglamorous work of winning insurgent political campaigns.
This is the movement I represent in my Washington Post piece. This is the movement I write about in my new book Hostile Takeover. This is the new movement that made YearlyKos such a wildly successful event. And this is a movement that scares the hell out of the powers that be. And right it should - because it is a movement that has history, energy and momentum on its side.