That great corporate driven lobbyist think tank, the Democratic Leadership Council or DLC, is disbanding. Yes, that lovely organization which brought you financial deregulation, NAFTA, the China PNTR, more income inequality, and Democrats jumping into bed with multinational corporate agendas is officially D.O.A.
The DLC also had two severe deficiencies. The first was its relationship to the business community, which was driven--in large part--by the organization's corporate sponsors. Wall Street had too much sway in the DLC; the Wall Street Democrats--people like Bob Rubin, Larry Summers, Steve Rattner, Roger Altman--tilted the policy focus away from productive corporate investment and toward financial speculation fueled by deregulation. This was not merely a policy mistake, it was a moral failure. The DLC's support for free trade--at the expense of fair trade (demanding equal access for our products from our trading partners)--seems downright foolish in retrospect.
And then there was the war in Iraq, which the DLC supported reflexively, as a way of seeming "strong", without ever really analyzing the intellectual weaknesses of the casus belli--which, combined with the exposure of the financial community's depredations in 2008, provided a final crushing coda for the DLC . In a way, the difference between the DLC in the 1990s and the 2000s was the difference between Bill Clinton and Joe Lieberman
A host of other reports call this Centrist. There is nothing centrist about representing multinational corporations and leaving most of the American people holding the bag.
The D.L.C., for instance, often cultivated wealthy and corporate donors, and from 1985 to 2008, the share of income earned by the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers increased to 20 percent from 10 percent at the same time their effective tax rates declined. I do not necessarily mean to suggest that there is a one-to-one connection between this phenomenon and the direction that the Democratic Party took during the 1990s (instead I would recommend the book “Winner Take All Politics,” which explores this question in much detail). But whether or not one finds the growth in wealth among the richest Americans objectionable, it is one of the more unambiguous trends in American society in recent years, and one that the Democratic Party of the Mondale era might have made a bigger deal about.
Oops, but wait, another corporate driven Democrat think tank is alive and well, The Progressive Policy Institute. More absurd is this claim big money and corporate agendas are somehow the most important group to be represented and a host of other think tanks are now racing to fill the void. That void, as usual, is misrepresented by the term, center.
There are other groups in Washington seeking the political center. The New Democrat Network calls itself a “progressive think tank and advocacy organization.” The Progressive Policy Institute was once part of the Democratic Leadership Council but is now its own group. Democracy Journal and the Center for American Progress also often urge politicians to consider centrist policies.
Notice how vague it all gets, the moment one is representing multinational corporate interests. Money talks and money, it seems, buys public policy white papers.