As the long-time policy director for the once-influential (if now-defunct) Democratic Leadership Council, I have often been asked whether a clear defeat of Mitt Romney on November 6, of the sort we saw yesterday, might drive Republicans to create a similar party-changing “centrist” organization.
The short answer is “no.” (And I’m tempted to say the long answer is “Hell, no!”)
...Perhaps the simplest way to explain why is to re-examine the conditions that led to the formation and rise of the DLC, and compare them to those now facing the Republican Party.
...Regional disunity. ...The most remarkable development in the GOP during the last decade, by contrast, has been the gradual extinction of major regional differences, at least outside New England (and even there on many issues, as reflected in the remarkable unanimity of Republican congressional voting on economic and fiscal issues). In particular, Midwestern conservatives are now ideologically very close to their southern cousins on such previously Dixiefied issues as the legitimacy of unions. Pro-choice Republicans are very rare. Perhaps a DLC-style “centrist” organization might serve as a symbolic “triangulating” device in New England, but it would not represent a nationally significant party faction.
Alternative explanations for defeat. ...The overwhelming point of view in the GOP today is that a clearly-articulated “movement conservative” message embracing smaller government, laissez-faire economics, and cultural conservatism (there is a bit, but only a bit, of dissension on national security and immigration) is and remains a winner. “Bad candidates,” or worse yet, half-hearted conservatives, can still lose presidential elections and congressional majorities, but too much conservatism is never the problem.
Philosophical and operational flexibility. ...Indeed, the rapidly growing habit among Republican politicians of making frequent references to the Declaration of Independence (treated as of equal or superior status to the Constitution itself) reflects the belief that conservative governing principles are intrinsic to the American character and even divinely ordained. In this context, “pragmatism” is unpatriotic and perhaps sinful, and compromise is (to use the term conservative activists so often apply to any form of accommodation with Democrats or progressives) betrayal.
...In the end, Democrats (in no small part because of Bill Clinton) adopted much of the New Democrats’ willingness to adjust to political circumstances. They came to favor slow and steady progress towards a fairer, more diverse society, even if that meant compromise and even accommodation of the electorate’s less enlightened impulses.
Today's GOP, by contrast, still seems dedicated to all-or-nothing politics. ... “Constitutional conservatives” profess that they will never accept the need for “modernization.” They should be taken at their word.
Wednesday, November 07, 2012
A DLCer Explains Why The GOP Will Resist Advice
I never liked the DLC - I'm a paleoliberal - but there's no question they had their moment in the sun. The GOP needs something like a DLC (but won't get it):