Leave it to the leisure class Democrats to claim victory before a vote is cast. And for the New York Times to fall for their big lie. In a front page story - "In Key House Races, Democrats Run to the Right" - the Times gives credence to New Dem Rep. Ellen Tauscher's claims that more conservative New Dem candidates will be the key to Democratic gains in the election that has yet to take place.
This is truly bizarre. Three elements are central to virtually every Democratic campaign this fall - the war in Iraq, the middle class squeeze, and Republican corruption. Democrats are virtually unified in calling for a change in course in Iraq, in hammering Republicans on stagnant wages, with an emphasis on the outsourcing of good jobs, and on indicting Republicans for selling out Americans to the drug and oil industries. Ironically, many Republican incumbents have sought to defend themselves by charging their opponents with being in the pocket of their corporate or trial lawyer donors. Ads in campaigns across the country are more populist than any campaign in memory.
These positions are, of course, anathema to DLC Democrats. They have urged Democrats to prove their toughness by calling for a larger commitment to the war in Iraq, have scorned populist appeals as ineffective, and have championed corporate trade polices uber alles. Even when they joined in indicting Republican corruption, their focus was on process reforms, not on the cost of corruption represented by the sell out to big oil and big Pharma.
But New Dems are always agile in claiming victory or blaming others for defeat. In the Times article, they suggest that Democratic candidates running on conservative social issues - anti-choice, anti-gun control - in conservative districts signal the revival of the New Dems. But Democrats have run socially conservative candidates in socially conservative districts for many years. What is different this year is that voter disaffection with Iraq, with the economy, and with Republican corruption has opened the door for more populist campaigns across the country.
Why is this important? The leisure class Democrats are gearing up for a fight about the direction of the Democratic Party. Corporate lobbies, their funding base, are anteing up late donations to Democrats. New Dems like Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel are already talking about lining up corporate donations for the party, a la the K Street project. If Democrats fail to gain a majority, the New Dems will blame it on the excesses of liberals over the war and the failure of populist appeals. If they win, as the Times article suggest, they'll claim it's due to more conservative candidates competing in more conservative districts.
This election is still too close to call, with some sixty districts virtually neck and neck, and polls unable to anticipate who turns out and who doesn't. But one thing is clear: Democratic gains will come from their opposition to the war in Iraq and their populist indictment of Republican economic policies and corruption. That will supply the mandate for the party - not a return to the pro-war, corporate driven policies of the DLC Democrats.