The Leftward Drift Of The Democratic Party

Oddly, the Democratic Party seems to be responding to the 2010 midterms by moving further left.

Three items in the news today highlight the extent to which conservative and centrist Democrats have been marginalized in the wake of the parties losses in the 2010 Midterm Election.

First, the L.A. Times reports today on a phenomenon that’s been ongoing since November, the number of conservative/centrist Democrats in the South who have switched to the Republican Party:

Since the midterm election, 24 state senators and representatives have made the switch in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Texas.

In some cases, the ramifications have been profound: In Louisiana, defecting Democrats gave Republicans a majority in the state House for the first time since Reconstruction; in Alabama, they delivered the GOP a House supermajority. Republicans have 65 votes to the Democrats’ 39, enough to pass constitutional amendments over Democratic opposition.

The trend continued through late January — when nine officials in Lamar County in northeastern Texas left the Democratic Party — and into last week, when Louisiana Atty. Gen. James D. “Buddy” Caldwell switched parties, leaving the GOP in control of every major state office in Baton Rouge.

Democrats may remain competitive in some parts of the South in 2012. The Democratic Party’s announcement last week that it will hold its national convention in Charlotte, N.C., may help President Obama’s chances in what has become a Southern swing state — and one that he narrowly won in 2008.

But peering farther South, he will face a sea of red that is increasingly deep: Republicans hold every Southern governor’s mansion except in North Carolina and Arkansas, and control most of the state legislative chambers.

(…)

“The truth is that this change of party is in line with thousands of everyday people who simply feel more comfortable with most of what the Republican Party represents locally and nationally,” Caldwell said in a statement.

This process of white conservative southern drift away from the Democratic Party and toward the GOP has been ongoing for decades, of course, but which accelerated during the 2010 elections. In fact, the phenomenon has led some Democrats to worry that the party needed to find a way to appeal to white southerns again. While it’s easy to make a racial argument out of this phenomenon, the main reason it’s happening is because the Democratic Party has, at least in the perception of these voters, drifted away from the centrism that typified during the Clinton Administration. And their perception is, it seems correct.

Just today, North Carolina Congressman Health Schuler stated publicly that the current House leadership is ignoring the Blue Dog Democrats that he leads:

Centrist Democrats have had “no communication” with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi since the start of the 112th Congress, one of the leaders of the Blue Dog Coalition said Monday.|

Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), who challenged Pelosi for the leadership spot, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “there’s been really no communication whatsoever” between his group and the California Democrat. “We still have not had the connection between the Blue Dog members and the leadership.”

(…)

Pelosi wouldn’t be welcome in his or other centrists’ districts, he said. Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.), could visit Blue Dog areas, he said, because they’re not as liberal as Pelosi. “I think Steny has been good at that task, understanding the districts we come from. To be quite frank, Steny’s the only one that can come to our district. He and Clyburn can come to our district.”

“We’re not about the ideologues of either political party. We’re talking about how we can bring our country back to the middle where we need to be and start with compromise,” Schuler said. “I think the Blue Dogs represent 80 percent of America. You look at the political structure on both sides — they only represent 10 percent on each side of the American people. Blue Dogs represent 80 percent of America.”

Of course, given the fact that the Blue Dog caucus is much smaller now than it was before the elections, and that the Democrats are now in the minority in the House and therefore far less able to do much of anything, this isn’t entirely surprising. Nonetheless, this kind of a disconnect between the two wings of the Democratic Party reflects both the fact that the House caucus is now actually more progressive than it was before the midterms, and the extent to which the party itself is abandoning the South, which is where most of the Blue Dogs are from. Would treatment like this cause some of these representatives to switch parties? Perhaps not immediately, but don’t be surprised if one or more Blue Dogs in the House jumps ship before 2012.

The final news item is perhaps the most shocking, at least to me, because it essentially represents the final defeat of the centrist strategy that got Democrats their first full two-term Presidency since FDR. Earlier today, the Democratic Leadership Council announced that it was out of money and would be folding up shop:

The Democratic Leadership Council, the iconic centrist organization of the Clinton years, is out of money and could close its doors as soon as next week, a person familiar with the plans said Monday.

The DLC, a network of Democratic elected officials and policy intellectuals had long been fading from its mid-’90s political relevance, tarred by the left as a symbol of “triangulation” at a moment when there’s little appetite for intra-party warfare on the center-right. The group tried — but has failed — to remake itself in the summer of 2009, when its founder, Al From, stepped down as president. Its new leader, former Clinton aide Bruce Reed, sought to remake the group as a think tank, and the DLC split from its associated think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute.

But Reed left the DLC last year himself to serve as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, leaving Ed Gresser, a trade expert, to lead the group in the interim. Since then the board “hasn’t been able to find someone who wanted to come on in a permanent capacity,” a person familiar with the group’s woes said, with the central problem the difficulty of raising money for a Democratic group that isn’t seen as an ally of the White House.

Given the DLC’s ties to the Clinton’s this isn’t entirely surprising. Nontheless, it strikes me as yet another example of how, for better or worse, the Democratic Party has abandoned the “center” part of the Clintonian “center-left” strategy, and has just decided to go further left. Given the election results this past November, that doesn’t strike me as the smartest strategy for political success.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Congress, Politicians, Race and Politics, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. wr says:

    The Blue Dogs stand for three things — obediance to corporations, tax cuts for billionaires, and punishing women for having sex. Why they call themselves Democrats is beyond me, but the fact that the real Dems in congress don’t have to distort their agenda to please them is the good side of the electorial loss in November.

    What they never seem to understand is that given a choice between a Republlican and a Democrat pretending to be a Republican, voters will go for the real thing every time.

  2. Moosebreath says:

    So we have:

    1. a large group of centrists Democrats lost in 2010, and some of the remainder decided to switch parties in order to save their skin and/or be on the side of the majority;

    2. a person who ran against the existing house minority leader and barely broke into double digits complaining he isn’t getting his ego stroked by said majority leader; and

    3. a centrist organization within the Democratic party is shutting down because it is broke.

    Somehow, this equates to a leftward drift of the party. Actual evidence adduced that the policies of the party are drifting left cited in the article = 0.

    This is even sillier commentary than it looks based upon the mass of steps Obama has taken since the election to move rightwards, starting with abandoing his pledge to oppose the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, to appointing more business-friendly staff, to deliberately talking up the business community.

  3. Donald says:

    Pretty sure you meant a white conservative southern drift *towards* the GOP (or “away from” *the Democratic Party*).

  4. Trumwill says:

    but the fact that the real Dems in congress don’t have to distort their agenda to please them is the good side of the electorial loss in November.

    The DeMintian calculation. Better to have 30% true believers than a coalition of 51% (or more).

    Without conservative Democrats (including those in the House whose loss you do not mourn), the PPACA (among other things) would never have gotten through. The leadership made concessions precisely because without those concessions – and the votes of those conservative Democrats – it never would have passed. Now… there is little or no chance of such laws passing. This is improvement?

    What they never seem to understand is that given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat pretending to be a Republican, voters will go for the real thing every time.

    Except in 2006 and 2008, when they didn’t.

  5. Hello World! says:

    Blue Dogs were the big loosers in the last election. The democrats need to provide a choice, and moving to the left provides that choice. As the election proved, a blue dog will be beat by almost any republican but a liberal who runs using intelligence on issues can beat a republican any day of the week. People seem to forget that the reason republicans lost the house was because of sex scandles and lobbiest corruption. The result was the blue dogs who did no good for the party.

  6. Ej says:

    “to appointing more business-friendly staff, to deliberately talking up the business community.”

    Dishing out corporate welfare is not “drifting right.”

  7. ponce says:

    I don’t think the Democrats will have much of a chance in the Confederacy until Obama finishes his two terms.

    Less than 10% of the white voters in Alabama and Mississippi voted for Obama in 2008.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    “Dishing out corporate welfare is not ‘drifting right.’”

    Well, it certainly isn’t drifting left…

    And white southern conservatives drifting into the GOP cuts both ways…while this group is leaving the Democratic Party, at the same time, it is strengthening it’s position in the Republican Party, forcing the GOP further away from a moderate place that, while anathema to certain people around here, is the way to win elections, especially at the presidential level…

  9. André Kenji says:

    “Blue Dogs were the big loosers in the last election. ”

    BS. The big losers were Democrats outside very, very liberal districts. There were several democrats with a something liberal voting record for their districts(Ciro Rodriguez, Chet Edwards, Jim Oberstar) that weren´t aligned with the Blue Dogs.

    In fact, the big losers is the whole Democrat Party.

  10. Pete says:

    Need we remind our liberal friends of the “proof is in the pudding?”

    There was a time not that long ago that when somebody mentioned “blue chips,” it wasn’t uncommon to hear the stock of The New York Times included among those of General Motors, General Electric, IBM, and so forth.

    Not anymore. The American Thinker’s Steve McCann recently pointed to how far the old grey lady of American journalism has fallen, based on the company’s fourth-quarter 2010 earnings report.

    “Their long term trend of slowly sinking into the sunset continues. Total revenues fell 2.9% from the same period a year ago. Net Income fell 29% and earnings per share fell from $.63 to $.45. The long term trend shows no real improvement as advertising revenues continue to decline.

    “Since February 3, 2004 when the New York Times Company closed on the New York Stock Exchange at $45.69 a share, it has steadily eroded to the point where the latest quote as of today is $10.56 (a decline of 77%). By contrast the Dow Jones Industrial Average during this same period has gone from 10,409 to 12,037 today (an increase of 16%).”

    Sadly, as McCann notes, nobody in the Times executive boardroom or in the newsroom is likely prepared to consider the possibility that having an incredibly parochial view of the nation and world has anything to do with the institution’s steady descent into irrelevance.

    For more from McCann, go here. Of course, one can only wonder what might happen were somebody new to be running the Times, somebody who would publicly and loudly insist on a return to the traditional journalistic verities of accuracy, fairness, objectivity and separation of church (editorial) and state (news).

    Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/2011/02/how-much-further-can-new-york-times-fall-only-about-10-bucks#ixzz1DJvrREiz

  11. sam says:

    “Sadly, as McCann notes, nobody in the Times executive boardroom or in the newsroom is likely prepared to consider the possibility that having an incredibly parochial view of the nation and world has anything to do with the institution’s steady descent into irrelevance.”

    Sadly, nobody but a right-wing ideologue would attribute the Times’s troubles to its, assumed, political orientation. But let’s play along. On your argument, shall we not attribute the troubles of the Washington Times to its political orientation? Or is that different?

    Dude, newspapers in general are suffering, left, right, center, what have you. Probably the only thing keeping the Washington Post in the red is its ownership of Kaplan College.

  12. sam says:

    In the black, of course.

  13. Matt says:

    Following Trumwell’s comment, and the popularly accepted reading* of the 2010 elections (Republican/Tea Party Ascendancy), I have to say that I’m a bit surprised at Doug’s “surprise”:

    ————
    Doug wrote:
    “[I]t strikes me as yet another example of how… the Democratic Party has abandoned the “center” part of the Clintonian “center-left” strategy, and has just decided to go further left. Given the election results this past November, that doesn’t strike me as the smartest strategy for political success.”
    ———–

    From my read it makes perfect “political” sense.* Given the seeming acceptance of the meme/trope that the 2010 election was a “republican revolution” brought about by getting candidates that were not *RINO’s*, it makes perfect sense that the Dems, for better or worse, opt to copy the “form” of what just worked – aka Trumwill’s “The DeMintian calculation.”

    Put it another way, in the face of the 2006 & 2008 results, who would have thought that the solution* for the Republicans was to tack further away from center.

    In other words if the opposition just won power* by shifting towards their base (and thus “getting out the vote”), follow suit.

    * – Giant Disclaimer: The strategy hangs on whether or not this is an accurate understanding of success and victory in this particular political landscape. The capacity of either to actually understand what’s going on is something that’s very much open to debate.

  14. Dodd says:

    Nothing odd about it, Doug. Blue Dogs in competitive districts got sent home, liberals in safely gerrymandered districts stayed on. I’ve even had people argue to me that the high percentage of lefties who won compared to “moderates” proves that America really wants more liberalism from Democrats.

    It was always obvious that Pelosi, in particular, was more than willing to sacrifice as many Blue Dogs as necessary to get what she believed would be a permanent expansion of the welfare state, securing what she believed were her party’s long-term electoral interests. What’s a few years as minority leader compared to growing the scale of dependence on government and being seen as a latter-day FDR?

  15. Matt says:

    Crap… that “footnote” at the end should have read:

    * – Giant Disclaimer: The strategy hangs on whether or not this is an accurate understanding of success and victory in this particular political landscape. The capacity of either PARTY to actually understand what’s going on is something that’s very much open to debate.

  16. TG Chicago says:

    “…the Democratic Party has abandoned the “center” part of the Clintonian “center-left” strategy, and has just decided to go further left.”

    The biggest accomplishment of the Democratic Party in the past 2 years has been the Healthcare Overhaul. And you know full well that the bill that was passed was not a far-left bill. It was based on recent Republican proposals. Yet still somehow the idea is that the Democrats are going crazy left.

    As someone said earlier, if you want to show that the Democrats are going hard left, please point to the *policies* that are emblematic of that shift. You’ll have a hard time doing so.

  17. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Perhaps all that gold jewelry seeped into the remnants of Nancy’s brain and made her even more stupid.

  18. tom p says:

    Ok, long story short: None of you have a clue.

  19. Pete says:

    C’mon Sam, only libs who are delusional will attribute the demise of the flagship daily in America to a general trend. The NYT should be bucking the trend, but the problem is that it speaks virtually to no one other than the ruling class; Manhattan libs and Beltway bloviators. I agree about the Wash Times. It was never a serious player like the NYT, so I’m not surprised of its failure. The WSJ is bucking the trend, though I’m not sure why. Anyway, I don’t buy your spin.

  20. Pete says:

    The irony of the following article is that it appeared in the newspaper which has exhibited similar myopia, to be kind. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/08/science/08tier.html?_r=2&ref=johntierney

  21. Tano says:

    “Given the election results this past November, that doesn’t strike me as the smartest strategy for political success.”

    Huh? After massive defeats at the polls in ’06 and ’08, the GOP moved further to the right, and became completely devoid of any positive agenda. And were rewarded with victory in the 2010 midterms.
    The Dems would be irrational to forge a different path.

  22. Tano says:

    “Need we remind our liberal friends of the “proof is in the pudding?””

    What good is conservatism if it does not, at least, protect and defend our great cultural heritage?

    Its “the proof of the pudding, is in the eating”.

    Some dead Anglo guy you actually should check out….

  23. Pete says:

    Tano, the country is more conservative than liberal. Why would the dems move away from that? The repubs moving right is not the same as the dems moving away from the majority.

  24. Drift? Lurch is more like it.

  25. Card check. Cap and trade. Race based justice. Breaking the law to screw bondholders for the benefit of the UAW. Billion dollar waste, I mean Stimulus. Bowing and apologizing to everyone and everything with a US mea culpa always on the tip of his tongue. Telling the UK to hit the road. The most transparent government ever, snort. Unemployment benefits forever.

    Yeah, what leftist lurch?

  26. Pug says:

    The WSJ is bucking the trend, though I’m not sure why.

    Because it has hundreds of thousands of guys who get it at work and don’t pay for their own subsciption.

    All newspapers are in trouble, not just the New York Times. They are in the modern equivalent of the buggy whip business. But, believe what makes you feel good.

  27. Pug says:

    Charles has trotted out his Fox News talking points. Nice.

  28. G.A.Phillips says:

    ****Charles has trotted out his Fox News talking points. Nice.****lol, I know you liberals like to rewrite history, but the last two years? Really?

  29. An Interested Party says:

    “Tano, the country is more conservative than liberal.”

    This hardly means that a majority of Americans want the same things as say, the majority of conservatives who comment here want…yes, most Americans are conservative in some things and moderate in others and even liberal in a few others…but if you think that by saying that the country is more conservative than liberal, that a majority of Americans would prefer the policies presented by, say, Dodd, or Charles Austin, or Steve Plunk, than you are sadly (for you, anyway) mistaken…

    “Yeah, what leftist lurch?”

    I suppose the previous rightward lurch of trying to destroy unions, disputing global warming and not really caring much at all about the environment, waterboarding, getting involved in the personal medical decisions of families and making bogus medical diagnoses out of the blue, bailouts started under a Republican president, belligerently and foolishly invading and occupying a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, telling other countries that they were either with us or against us, and tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts which did little to stimulate the economy were all a much better direction to travel in…

    Oh look, we all can play the silly caricature game…

  30. Pug, I’ll take your word for it since I don’t watch Fox news. Guess it hits kind of close to home though, huh?

    An Uninteresting Party, you’re pathetic.

  31. anjin-san says:

    > The American Thinker’s Steve McCann recently pointed to how far the old grey lady of American journalism has fallen, based on the company’s fourth-quarter 2010 earnings report.

    Did this rocket scientist also mention that old media papers all over the country are in deep trouble or have already folded simply because the business model is dying?

    My God, do you really read that tripe? And you are willing to admit it in public?

    >The NYT should be bucking the trend,

    Really? Why? Give us a compelling argument that explains exactly why that might be. Something that would not get you laughed out of an entry level job interview in corporate America please.

    > The WSJ is bucking the trend, though I’m not sure why.

    Could it be because the WSJ is a very different animal, e.g. a remarkably valuable, perhaps an invaluable business tool? As opposed to being really just another newspaper, albiet a flagship? How many executive do you know that don’t peruse the Journal at least once or twice a week?

    > somebody who would publicly and loudly insist on a return to the traditional journalistic verities of accuracy, fairness, objectivity and separation of church (editorial) and state (news).

    Oh, you mean the standards Fox News practices? 🙂 Funny, because Fox is just as guilty, if not more, or way, way more of the offenses you call NYT to task for. Does not seem to have hurt them much. Am I being petty here?

    Newspapers fold as readers defect and economy sours

    March 19, 2009|By Stephanie Chen CNN

    At least 120 newspapers in the U.S. have shut down since January 2008, according to Paper Cuts, a Web site tracking the newspaper industry. More than 21,000 jobs at 67 newspapers have vaporized in that time, according to the site.

    http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-19/us/newspaper.decline.layoff_1_newspaper-industry-tucson-citizen-journalism?_s=PM:US

  32. An Interested Party says:

    “An Uninteresting Party, you’re pathetic.”

    That fits in nicely with the whining you’ve done in the past when similar sentiments have been directed your way…I will try to move on from the horrible wounding your clever and biting response has caused me…

  33. anjin-san says:

    > Pug, I’ll take your word for it since I don’t watch Fox news.

    It remarkable how many people who spout Fox News talking points say this. Now it is entirely possible that they don’t watch Fox. So then, they are simply parroting other folks who are Foxers (have I coned a new word?) and and are just passing the party line along without a clue as to where it originates.

    Grasping this would probably take a level of awareness that is not available to them…

  34. TG Chicago says:

    “Card check. Cap and trade. Race based justice. Breaking the law to screw bondholders for the benefit of the UAW. Billion dollar waste, I mean Stimulus. Bowing and apologizing to everyone and everything with a US mea culpa always on the tip of his tongue. Telling the UK to hit the road. The most transparent government ever, snort. Unemployment benefits forever.”

    Very few, if any, of those things actually came to pass. Many of them weren’t even desired by Democrats or progressives. They’re just figments of your imagination.

    I’ll agree with you that Obama has failed to make his administration any more transparent than those before, and he deserves criticism for not living up to his pledge. But the rest is just silliness.

  35. […] The Leftward Drift Of The Democratic Party (outsidethebeltway.com) […]

  36. […] Doug Mataconis notes that the centrist Dems who are remaining loyal to the Democrat party are facing uphill battles with the Congressional “leadership” for their party – and with funding altogether as the “centrist” DLC prepares to fold. Right now is not a good time to be a centrist Democrat politician, especially in the South. […]

  37. […] Doug Mataconis notes that the centrist Dems who are remaining loyal to the Democrat party are facing uphill battles with the Congressional “leadership” for their party – and with funding altogether as the “centrist” DLC prepares to fold. Right now is not a good time to be a centrist Democrat politician, especially in the South. […]

  38. jpe says:

    I think the analysis here is pretty much wrong on all counts. The DLC has effectively taken over the party: there is a broad consensus among mainstream (D)s that taxes should be no higher than necessary, regulation imposes costs that must be weighed against benefits, that market-oriented solutions are preferable, and on and on.

    re: blue dogs: (D)s didn’t abandon them. The blue dogs won swing districts; in a political realignment, of course they’d be the first to lose to opponents. So the (D) wing of the House may have gotten more liberal, but that’s an expectable result of attrition rather than some strategy.

  39. Dodd says:

    The DLC has effectively taken over the party: there is a broad consensus among mainstream (D)s that taxes should be no higher than necessary, regulation imposes costs that must be weighed against benefits, that market-oriented solutions are preferable, and on and on.

    If only some of these “mainstream” Democrats actually held national elective office….

  40. […] Doug Mataconis notes that the centrist Dems who are remaining loyal to the Democrat party are facing uphill battles with the Congressional “leadership” for their party – and with funding altogether as the “centrist” DLC prepares to fold. Right now is not a good time to be a centrist Democrat politician, especially in the South. […]

  41. […] The Leftward Drift Of The Democratic Party (outsidethebeltway.com) […]

  42. Barry says:

    Charles Austin:

    ” Breaking the law to screw bondholders for the benefit of the UAW.”

    That’s BS, since those bondholders had full recourse to the courts, and (IIRC) some of them did go to the courts, and lost. The union workers/ retirees and white collar workers/ retirees had to take a hit. Meanwhile, Wall St got bailed out

    ” Billion dollar waste, I mean Stimulus.”

    Again, a lie. It’s been proven to have worked (despite the Right’s successful efforts to make it work worse by cutting taxes on the rich). And was necessary because you trashed the economy, just in case you think that I forgot.

    ” Bowing and apologizing to everyone and everything with a US mea culpa always on the tip of his tongue.”

    In reality, acting more like a civilized leader than Bush – your guy, who dragged the name of the USA through the pig manure lagoon, while you applauded.

    “Telling the UK to hit the road.”

    ?!?!?!?!?! Like to rephrase that a bit closer to reality?

    ” The most transparent government ever, snort.”

    True, he’s continued far more in the lines of your Lord, Bush, than liberals would have liked. That’s what happens when a President gets away with stuff.

    ” Unemployment benefits forever. ”

    Again, a lie. They’ve been extended to an unusual extent, due to the unusual trashing that you and your Lord gave to the USA (and the world).

  43. Interested Party says:

    test