Politico and other online political blogs reported Wednesday that the Democratic Leadership Committee, which swung the Democratic Party decisively into the center in the 80s, is closing it’s doors.
The DLC led a move by Democrats to compete with the GOP for donations from big business. The new tactic proved successful, as the Democrats succeeded in soliciting massive corporate donations, particularly in the financial and banking sectors. The process of the political change is discussed in A Dangerous Man, the documentary on the political evolution of Ralph Nader.
Chaired by Bill Clinton before he became President, the DLC was the most prominent of groups within the Democratic Party to adopt Republican methods of fundraising. Non-partisan citizens groups quickly found it more and more difficult to gain access to Democratic politicians.
I came to Washington over 40 years ago to help improve my country and, and started a lot of citizen groups who did that. That was a time you had a hearing in Congress, regulatory agencies would be more responsive. Around 1979, the doors started closing on the citizen groups. So my concern comes from, to give you statistics quickly, 58,000 workers who die every year from work-related diseases & traume; 65,000 people who die from air pollution; and all the fraud, waste and abuse that’s eating at the heart of the family budget. – Ralph Nader, Meet The Press, February 24, 2008. Source: http://www.ontheissues.org/Celeb/Ralph_Nader_Government_Reform.htm#Citizen_Empowerment
The long lasting results of this shift in the Democratic Party’s priorities can be seen in the financial crisis of 2008. With the passage of the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, President Clinton and Congressional Democrats approved the removal of Depression-era financial controls which kept banks from speculating on mortgages. The repeal of the act led to enormous donations to the Democratic Party from the financial sectors, ($71,204,764 for the 2008 Presidential election alone) and set the stage for the speculative housing bubble and the current financial crisis.
The dissolution of the DLC does not signal a change in Democratic Party policy. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is a product of the financial sector and continues to pursue policies most acceptable to the commanding heights of the industry. Meanwhile moderate critics of the financial sector like Robert Reich and Joseph Stiglitz are ignored within the administration and the leadership of the Democratic Party.
So it should come as no surprise that President Obama made a “neighborly” speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday. The President already pledged to push for further business deregulation in his State of the Union address. The Washington Post noted that the Obama administration’s agenda over the next two years is going to
… be even more chamber-friendly than it was over the past two years. It will emphasize infrastructure investment, which the Chamber of Commerce supports, corporate tax reform, deficit reduction, education reform and some free trade agreements. No obvious points of contention there. The administration also just hired Bill Daley as chief of staff, a move the Chamber of Commerce applauded.