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dlc July 31, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, politics.
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from pew trends in political values and core attitudes: 1987-2007

excerpts from nytime’s op-ed about the dlc, written by noam scheiber of the new republic:

NOT very long ago, the Democratic Leadership Council was a maker of presidents — or, at least, the maker of a president. In 1991, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, then the council’s chairman, elucidated the “New Democrat” ethos and previewed the themes of his presidential candidacy (“opportunity, responsibility, community”)…

But the Democratic Leadership Council’s fading influence is also good news for the entire party….

During the 1980s and ’90s, the council played a vital role in curbing both the perception and the reality of liberal excess inside the Democratic Party, and its efforts paved the way for Mr. Clinton’s ascendance.

But George W. Bush taught Democrats of all stripes that their differences with one another were minor compared with the differences between them and Republicans. For seven years, Democrats have faced a radical administration that operates in bad faith. Yet there was the Democratic Leadership Council, still arguing that teachers unions endanger the republic….

Democrats, moderate and liberal, have been bewildered by the group’s post-Clinton agenda. Take, for example, the law passed by Congress in 2005 that makes it harder for ordinary people to declare bankruptcy. The measure’s only obvious beneficiary was the credit-card industry, and most Democrats opposed it.

Today, the council has almost no constituency within the Democratic Party. About every five years, the Pew Research Center conducts a public opinion survey to sort out the country’s major ideological groupings. In 1999, Pew found that liberals and New Democrats each accounted for nearly one-quarter of the Democratic base. By the next survey in 2005, New Democrats had completely disappeared as a group and the liberals had doubled their share of the party. Many moderates, radicalized by President Bush, now define themselves as liberals….

Two decades of work by the Democratic Leadership Council — and a not inconsiderable assist from President Bush — have made the Democratic Party the healthiest it has been in the 22 years of the council’s existence. Democrats should thank the group and then tell it that it’s no longer needed.

surely the dlc’s influence has had some effect on these numbers and their disconnect with the current democratic party…from the nation, “will the progressive majority emerge?”:

Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007, a massive twenty-year roundup of public opinion from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, tells the story. Is it the responsibility of government to care for those who can’t take care of themselves? In 1994, the year conservative Republicans captured Congress, 57 percent of those polled thought so. Now, says Pew, it’s 69 percent. (Even 58 percent of Republicans agree. Would that some of them were in Congress.) The proportion of Americans who believe government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep is 69 percent, too–the highest since 1991. Even 69 percent of self-identified Republicans–and 75 percent of small-business owners!–favor raising the minimum wage by more than $2.

It’s not just Pew. In the authoritative National Election Studies (NES) survey, more than twice as many Americans want “government to provide many more services even if it means an increase in spending” as want fewer services “in order to reduce spending.” According to Gallup, a majority say they generally side with labor in disputes and only 34 percent with companies; 53 percent think unions help the economy and only 36 percent think they hurt.

Want hot-button issues? The public is in love with rehabilitation over incarceration for youth offenders. Zogby/National council on Crime and Delinquency found that 89 percent think it reduces crime and 80 percent that it saves money over the long run.

If only there was an American political party that unwaveringly reflected these views, as a matter of bone-deep identity. You might think it would do pretty well. Which leads to the aspect of the Pew study that got the most ink: “Political Landscape More Favorable to Democrats,” as the subtitle put it. When you compare Americans who either identify themselves as Democrats or say they lean toward the Democrats with Republicans and Republican leaners, our side wins by fifteen points, 50 percent to 35, the most by far in twenty years. As recently as 2002 it was a tie, 43 to 43.

An important corollary of the media fairy tale is that the Democrats can’t embody the will of the people. As an editorial in the Los Angeles Times explained in 2004, Kerry lost because of his party’s “God gap.” Once more, the data won’t cooperate: A declining constituency–the devout–is treated as if it were booming. Pew shows that the number of people who “completely agree” that “prayer is an important part of my daily life” is down six points in the past four years. The number who “never doubt the existence of God” is down eight over the same period. The Barna Group likewise reports, “There has been a 92% increase in the number of unchurched Americans in the last thirteen years”–a population of 75 million, which is growing: According to the Pew report, “This change appears to be generational in nature, with each new generation displaying lower levels of religious commitment than the preceding one.”

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