his presidential campaign was engineered by the Democratic Party
establishment and its friendly media, starting right after he called for
a more even-handed policy in the Middle East, a position that
antagonized guess who?]
*How We Won the Mainstream*
By Susan Gardner and Markos Moulitsas
Saturday, August 11, 2007; A17
Three years ago things looked bleak for the Democratic Party
had just won a second term while his party consolidated its grip on
Congress. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
crowed about a "permanent Republican majority," and Beltway Democrats
acquiesced as Republicans built their unchallenged (and lawless) unitary
Democrats appeared to be on the run, disorganized and demoralized. But
outside of Washington there was hope. Grass-roots Democratic activists
had seen the future of our politics in Howard Dean
-- plain-spoken and unapologetic. His presidential candidacy had come up
short, but its fresh, optimistic approach -- predicated on offering
clear contrasts between the two parties -- was poised to redefine the party.
Dean was elected chairman of the Democratic Party despite predictions of
electoral doom by the usual suspects in Washington, including the
Democratic Leadership Council
In the House, Democrats chose Nancy Pelosi
to lead them over current DLC Chairman Harold Ford, who warned of
disaster if Pelosi won. Calling her a "throwback" who practiced a
"destructive and obstructive" style of politics, Ford proclaimed, "I
don't think Nancy Pelosi's kind of politics is what's needed right now."
Today, Nancy Pelosi is the first female speaker of the House.
Ford, like his fellow Washington insiders, grossly misunderstood the
American electorate. He and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley
continue to do so [" Our Chance to Capture the Center
op-ed, Aug. 7]. Convinced that this is fundamentally a conservative
nation, Ford demanded that Democrats unceasingly inch toward the right
or risk electoral irrelevance. As then-DLC official Ed Kilgore put it in
2005, "If we put a gun to everybody's head in the country and make them
pick sides, we're not likely to win." But we who live outside the D.C.
bubble -- in all 50 states, in counties blue and red -- were hearing
voices at odds with the Washington consensus. People wanted real choices
at the ballot box. And given the disastrous rule of the Bush
administration, they wanted a Democratic Party that stood tall and
pushed back like a true opposition.
The new leadership responded. A concerted grass- and Net-roots effort,
bridging online activists and the labor movement, forced Democratic
officials to reject any "compromise" with right-wing interests seeking
to gut Social Security. Democratic poll numbers rose in the wake of this
victory as Bush's fell. Standing strong for a core Democratic program
was not only good for our country, it was smart politics.
Months later we championed Ned Lamont
victorious primary challenge to Sen. Joe Lieberman
Beltway insiders predicted that our success would cost Democrats the
and consultants allied with the DLC fretted that activists were "pushing
the party to the left."
In fact, we pushed the party so far left that we positioned it squarely
in the American mainstream and last year won a historic, sweeping
congressional victory, something the "centrist" groups had been unable
to accomplish for decades -- not even in the DLC's glory days of the 1990s.
By early 2006, so-called centrism had offered up Iraq
tax regime that puts the burden on the middle class, bankruptcy reform
that gave away the farm to irresponsible credit card companies, an
outdated physical infrastructure, legalized torture and a crippled
disaster-response effort in New Orleans
The American people, infinitely smarter than Washington insiders, had
had enough. Unapologetic, muscular Democrats swept into office in
dramatic numbers in state and local races nationwide.
A new day is dawning for the progressive movement. The distrust between
Net-roots activists and more traditional progressive players in the
party establishment and issue groups has given way to respectful
cooperation as we all adjust to new technologies and the promise they
hold for institutional change.
Last week, at the YearlyKos convention, all these players came together
to celebrate our newfound unity and to organize for the coming battles
in 2008 and beyond. The DLC was nowhere to be found -- unless you looked
where its members continued to preach, in empty halls, about the "vital
center." Even the Democratic presidential candidates have figured out
where the heart of the party now lies: with the new, unashamedly
The DLC had two decades to make its case, to build an audience and
community, to elect leaders the American people wanted. It failed.
Its members number in the hundreds, compared with the millions that the
people-powered movement can claim, and they are reduced to attacking our
movement from the studios of right-wing Fox News
and pleading that in the next election they'll really prove that the
mushy, indistinguishable "middle" is where the American people want to be.
Their time is up. The "center" is where we stand now, promoting an
engaged and active politics embraced by significant majorities of Americans.
/Susan Gardner is a contributing editor to and holds a fellowship with
the Web site Daily Kos. Markos Moulitsas is founder of Daily Kos./