The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) can take credit for many of the Democratic Party's successes in the 1990s. It was instrumental in deflecting Republican charges that Democrats condoned crime, favored welfare over work, and backed higher deficits and taxes. But since the November 2000 election, the DLC and its leaders in Congress have waged a scorched-earth campaign against "populism" in the Democratic Party. This campaign, if successful, would deprive Democrats of what historically has been one of their most important ideological assets, and make it more difficult for the party to win back the majority that it lost to conservative Republicans in 1980.
Among democratic politicians and political consultants, the accepted wisdom is that George W. Bush has been successful in foreign policy but a flop in domestic policy. This assessment is based more on polling than personal conviction, although some would-be presidential candidates, such as Rep. Dick Gephardt and Sen. John Kerry, have actually endorsed key parts of Bush's foreign policy.
In the last two years of his administration, Bill Clinton hosted
three conferences on the "Third Way" that included British Prime Minister Tony
Blair, Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema,
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
Three years later, only Blair and Schröder are still in office, and
Schröder may be gone by the end of September when he is up for re-election.
Does this mean that the third way is finished, as the German newspaper Die
Zeit recently concluded?
Take a good dose of free-market ideology, mix in
political debts to your business backers and an overriding concern with
re-election, and voila: You have the recipe for George W. Bush's domestic
policies. The imperative of re-election has taken precedence over Bush's
conservative convictions on some occasions, leading him to adopt policies like
the tariffs on steel that have annoyed some of his business backers. But this
doesn't happen often and hardly at all on complicated issues that don't receive
widespread attention from the national media. Such has certainly been the case
with many regulatory (or deregulatory) decisions by the Federal Communications
The Bush administration is on the verge of making momentous decisions in foreign policy that will shape the country's role in the world for the next quarter-century. Nonetheless, there is an astonishing lack of public discussion of these decisions, particularly among Democrats. Most Democratic senators and House members, intimidated by Bush's popularity, are afraid to discuss, let alone criticize, administration foreign policy. Even Democratic organizations are silent on many issues.