DLC Closing: Their Mission of Delivering the Democratic Party to Corporations Complete

News has broken today that the so-called centrist-minded, and corporate friendly, Democratic Leadership Council is closing up shop. Ezra Klein thinks the DLC can pack up because, well, they’ve won,

but it looks to me like the DLC is a victim of its own success. Its onetime chairman, Bill Clinton, is now an ex-president. Its most recent leader, Bruce Reed, just moved to the White House. The major policy initiatives Democrats have pushed in recent years — the Affordable Care Act and cap-and-trade — both hew closely to the “liberal means through market ends” formula that the DLC favored. The group’s primary stylistic argument was that Democrats needed to do a better job reaching out to independent voters and the business community and demonstrating independence from their traditional interest groups, and Barack Obama, who appeared at the Chamber of Commerce just this morning, is clearly making an effort to do that…

But if I were Al From, the organization’s founder, I’d feel pretty good about myself. For better or for worse, the DLC won. That’s why potential donors and others are now comfortable letting it die.

I actually agree with Ezra that the DLC has largely won. But I don’t share his glib view of the “success” of the DLC. Viewed in light of last week’s news that the Democratic National Convention is headed to Bank of America’s hometown I think today’s actions by the DLC can best be described as declaring victory – the anti-labor, anti-worker, coproratist take-over of the Democratic Party is now complete.

At a time of tremendous suffering in the middle and working classes, suffering brought on in large part by the financial industry, the Democratic Party is going to literally deliver itself to the feet of Bank of America.

Charlotte, the site of the 2012 DNC, is not just Bank of America’s hometown but also located in the state with the lowest density of union membership of any in the nation. Lower than Mississippi, lower than Alabama, lower than Arkansas and Georgia. But the leadership in the Democratic Party decided to look past the retrograde labor policies of North Carolina, to turn their backs on strong labor communities (like my hometown of St. Louis) and instead throw a big party in Bank of America’s back yard. Oh, did I mention that the convention is scheduled to begin on Labor Day? Nothing says celebrating the legacy of labor by throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into non-unionized hotels and convention halls.

But this is of course the world that the DLC desired. A world where the Democratic Party no longer even pays lip service to the plight of the American worker, to the role of labor in building this nation and the middle-class. No, it is now the DLC’s party and the rest of us are just living in it.

This is much more than a symbolic snubbing of the Democratic Party’s historic base. It is the culmination of 3 decades of the party abandoning labor and abonding the cause of economic justice. As the Democratic Party abandoned workers and their unions and focused primarily on social issues we, not coincidentally, have seen a rapid decline in union density and a subsequent delcine in the quality of life for the middle and working class. Gone are the days of wages that helped you buy a home and put your kid through college. Gone are the days of a secure retirement. Gone is the counter balance to corporate greed and excess. Welcome ,instead, to the world of unfettered capitalist impulses running through our body politic.

As Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones unions are the only proven counter-balance,

Unions have lots of pathologies: they can get entranced by implementing insane work rules, they can get co-opted by other political actors, and they can end up fighting progress on social issues, just to name a few. But they fight for economic egalitarianism, and they’re the only institution in history that’s ever done that successfully on a sustained basis. That’s what makes them so indispensable to liberalism and that’s what makes them the sworn enemies of conservatism.

The economic collapse of 2008 is a direct out-growth of the 30 year lack of counter-balance in our government and in our economy. The dirty secret of capitalism is that is based upon two conflicting pathologies – 1. large-scale consumer consumption is neccesary to fuel economic growth and 2. that all businesses will always seek the lowest possible labor costs. The conflict is obvious – consumers are workers, workers are consumers. So, how can you sustain consumer consumption while simulataneously driving the wages of those same consumers further and further down? Well, obviously, you can’t. And so instead, consumers are forced to borrow more and more just to simply maintain the life-style they enjoyed, 1 or 2 or 5 years ago. At some point the merry-go-round of borrowing and spending is going to stop, as it did in 2008.

For decades labor unions were there to make sure that the great capitalist pie was cut up in a way that ensured that workers could also be consumers. And for decades the Democratic Party stood side by side workers and labor. But as unions began to delcine neo-liberals like the DLC shifted their focus away from workers and began to search for their campaign cash from other sources. Wall Street and corporate America proved to be the highest bidder and neo-liberals glady sold out labor to their new corporate masters.

So here we stand today and the Democratic National Convention is headed to a putrid swamp of anti-labor and anti-worker hostility, which just so happens to be the home of Bank of America. The decision to locate the DNC in Charlotte is revolting but I guess I am not surprised that the DLC is closing up shop – they’ve won the war.

T.R. Donoghue is an attorney living in Denver, Colorado where he works on labor and employment issues. T.R. has worked extensively in public policy and politics and on both state and national campaign ...read more


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