One of the signs that Joe Klein is losing his relevancy is his growing inability to make a straightforward argument. In today’s piece he seems to be saying that the Dems will need the DLC in the future and that, therefore, it is a real shame that the DLC has fallen into such ill-repute.

“Some people say we’ve lost our standing,” former Representative Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee, chairman of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), lamented at his organization’s annual meeting in Nashville on July 30. “But if there ever was a time when the country needed the DLC… it’s now.” The statement was defensive but accurate…

…But Ford is right: the Democratic nominee will come “home” when the general election rolls around because the DLC has become a crucial support and policy-development vehicle for state and local elected officials, especially in the South and West—about 350 of whom showed up in Nashville.

First of all, if the Democratic nominee is going to ‘go home’ to the DLC after the primaries, then what’s the problem? What’s Klein worried about? Where’s the diminished influence? But let’s leave aside this sloppiness. Klein is actually concerned that the nominee won’t come home and that this will undermine their chances of winning the general election.

As for [Al] From, he remains feisty. He is disappointed that Lieberman, moving steadily rightward, “has gone off further than I hoped he would” on the war, but he scoffs at antiwar Democrats: “Even a stopped watch is right twice a day,” he says. “Look, it’s the primary season, and they’re only playing on half the field,” he notes. “To win the White House, you have to play on the entire field. That’s where we come in.” But, to torture the sports metaphor, they win only if From and the activists decide that they’re playing on the same team.

In typical Klein fashion, he demands that we play on the same team with the DLC but he insists that our side make all the concessions. But let’s forget even this insult. What is the history that Klein is relying on to justify his analysis. How have Democrats fared in the south since the DLC came into existence? The answer is that the Dems have been wiped out in the South. And, yet, Klein used the DLC’s influence in the south and west as a reason why they should be given a place at the head of the table.

I’ve said this before but the real issue for Klein is the trauma of the 1972 and 1984 presidential elections, from which he never recovered. He lives in mortal fear that the Democrats will suffer a similar fate if the party drifts back to the left. But Klein doesn’t really oppose most progressive policies on the merits. He just fears the backlash if Democrats do something worthy but squirrelly…like try to create a single-payer universal health care plan, or get our troops out of Iraq.

He’s convinced himself that all progressive policies can and should be jettisoned in the interests of getting Democrats elected.

Here’s what Klein is missing. If the Dems are increasingly influenced by the people through the lobbying of the grassroots, and through greater voter participation, then that will change what is politically possible.

If the netroots can fight back against smears then it makes it harder to spike health care reform. If an alternative media can aggressively fact check the government, it makes it harder to start stupid wars of aggression. All of this moves the country, not just the Democratic Party, to the left.

Meanwhile, every time he repeats his ossified analysis stuck in Mondale-era amber, he makes our job harder. He is, himself, defining our agenda as outside of the political mainstream. He may think he is displaying his wisdom and acumen, but he is also trying to create a self-fulfilling prophesy.

With some exceptions, most of what Klein thinks cost the Democrats their ruling party status was the right policy: desegregation, abortion rights, aid to women with dependent children, affirmative action, victim’s rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and ending the Vietnam War. Klein needs to ask himself what was so wrong with George McGovern’s platform. Wouldn’t it have been better to elect McGovern than Nixon? And if the netroots and grassroots of the new new left help move the electorate to the left, then left-wing policies can succeed…even where they have failed in the past.

The DLC doesn’t believe in that. And the result is a south with very few Democrats left in it.

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