DLC Urges Democrats to Toughen Up
During their annual meeting currently being held in Ohio, The Centrist branch of the Democratic Party, known as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), has come out in favor of expanding the size of the military and toughening Democrats attitudes toward the war on terror.
The DLC has even adopted a stance directly opposed the university-wing of the liberal base in asking colleges to open up their campuses to military recruiters instead of partially or completely barring them in protest of the War in Iraq. DLC founder Al From said yesterday, “A Democrat has to show the toughness to govern…No political party deserves to win unless it lays out a plan for Americans to win.”
This is a much-needed message. After being the engine that carried Bill Clinton to the presidency, the DLC has sputtered in recent years. Unjustly criticized by liberal activists as the left-wing of the Republican party but justly criticized by other Centrists as seemingly more focused on the needs of big business than actually leading the party, the DLC has been a generally ineffective since President Bush took office. But is all this about to change?
If what we’re hearing coming out of the national meeting is true conviction and not just opportunistic positioning, then there’s reason to be hopeful. I have long argued that there are many ways for Democrats to be pro-military and strong on defense without being just like the Republicans. The DLC is proving just that.
First, the DLC wants to expand the military to relieve National Guard units of the burdens they are bearing in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a solid policy. The National Guard is not our foreign military force and yet they have been used as such. Solving this problem would correct what is an injustice to National Guardsmen and women who have practically been conscripted into active duty. But it would also serve to strengthen our military.
Secondly, the problem of military recruiters being denied access to college campuses is a very real violation of freedom of speech and association, as far as I’m concerned. Universities should not be allowed to deny a major and respected employer from petitioning students while permitting just about every private employer to come to campus. But to get this changed, it will take a push from left-leaning groups like the DLC who are willing to call out their own fellow party members.
Thirdly, the DLC has made it clear that they are not going to be pushed around by the left-wing of the party on the issue of defense. From’s statement’s call on Democrats to stop fretting about the war on terror and start fighting it. That doesn’t mean criticism should be squelched…only that the “blame America” attitude of those on the far left cannot be allowed to infect mainstream Democrats.
Finally, if the DLC keeps this up, they can hit the Republicans in what I think is one of their greatest weaknesses in the war on terror—their failure to lead this war as a national campaign rather than merely a military one. We are all at war and yet almost nothing has been asked of the home front. There hasn’t even been any major recruiting drives for the military spearheaded by Republican leaders. It’s as if they are skittish about burdening the rest of us with the costs of this war. And yet it is we on the home front who are most likely to be killed any time this war makes it to our shores.
By supporting military expansion and such policies as letting recruiters on campus, the DLC is directly addressing the fact that this truly is a large struggle that must involve all of us in one capacity or another. If this is indeed the intent of the DLC (and I could be reading a lot more into their statements than what they intend) then I think this bodes well for the Democratic Party as a whole—or at least the sensible wing of the Democratic Party.
By the way, rumored 2008 contender, Iowa governor Tom Vilsack takes over as head of the DLC today. Can he be a Centrist Democratic standard bearer? I don’t know, but I’ll be listening eagerly.