Behold! Democratic ‘centrism’ at work

[UPDATE: Akela Lacy has another article about how the Democratic party establishment is fighting hard to keep progressives off the Philadelphia city council.]

Ryan Grim writes that the ‘centrist’ wing of the Democratic party (i.e., Republican-light and right leaning people) represented by the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) is advocating a strategy in which the party sells out its labor and environmentalist supporters.

REP. CHERI BUSTOS, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is advocating internally for Democrats to wave through the House President Donald Trump’s renegotiated NAFTA, without any of the revisions demanded by labor unions and environmentalists — and despite concerns that it locks in high prescription drug prices.

The argument goes that those vulnerable Democrats would be able to demonstrate to constituents that while they may be pursuing impeachment, they are also willing to work across party lines with the president.

As Grim writes, this ‘strategy’ rests on questionable logic.

The push represents a remarkable gamble: that it is worth undermining key constituencies by signing a subpar agreement on the chance that it could help a handful of Democrats in swing districts win reelection. In addition, the assessment itself is questionable; if a voter is angry that a Democrat voted to impeach Trump, it’s difficult to see how that anger would be lessened by learning that the representative also voted for Trump’s trade deal. Endorsing bad Republican policy for uncertain political gain may be a hallmark of Democratic centrism, but supporting Trump’s unrevised trade deal is an unusually extreme example.

The point of this strategy is not to save Democrats in vulnerable congressional districts but to protect the interests of the wealthy. That has always been the real role played by the so-called ‘moderates’ and ‘centrists ‘ in the party and this becomes apparent when one sees what such people do when, like Joe Crowley and Heidi Heltkamp, they are voted out of office.

Bustos has help in making the DCCC’s argument to the caucus: former caucus Chair Joe Crowley, who was ousted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and is now a paid lobbyist for Trump’s revised NAFTA, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. He’s joined in the effort by former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who has also become a lobbyist for Trump’s trade deal.

It is what people in Congress and government do after leaving office that really exposes where their political sympathies really lie.
But this time around, we are seeing organizations that are trying to counter the pro-establishment tilt of many of the groups that have traditionally had a big say in politics, as Aída Chávez reports

THIS WEEK, a coalition of more than three dozen progressive women joined forces to launch an organization dedicated to electing women from working-class and low-income backgrounds to Congress. Matriarch, a political action committee, intends to boost grassroots candidates by providing early financial and institutional support to women who aren’t independently wealthy or able to raise large amounts of money in short periods of time. The initiative, which is a couple of years in the making, is the latest effort in the progressive movement’s work to build an ecosystem in which lesser-known candidates are given the tools to succeed.

Justice Democrats, the group that recruited and helped elect New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, was created to boost insurgents who wanted to challenge corporate Democrats in Congress. And its sister organization launched Movement School earlier this year to train working-class organizers how to work as campaign managers, communications directors, and field directors.

Many establishment-aligned organizations, like EMILY’s List, which was founded in 1985 to support pro-choice women running for office, consider a candidate’s early fundraising or Rolodex of wealthy friends in order to measure their viability. (

In addition to discouraging aspiring candidates from running at all, using money as the primary measure of viability also means that the working-class Democrats who jump into a race are beaten back by their wealthier, well-connected opponents. And this process only worsens the vast underrepresentation of working-class people, particularly women, in Congress.

As has become clear, it is what the elected person represents that is important, not just their party label.


  1. says

    I am fond of pointing out that Nixon was the president who signed the EPA in to law. Evidently he was on board with some UBI legislation that died at the last moment. Thus, in at least some ways, Nixon was actually to the left of the current “centrist” democratic party, which is a bit astonishing.

    Neoliberalism is been a very very bad idea, and we are reaping the fruits of it now across the world.

  2. says

    Andrew Molitor@#1:
    Neoliberalism is been a very very bad idea, and we are reaping the fruits of it now across the world.

    I think the neoliberals are just useful idiots (like the libertarians used to be) for the global resurgence in authoritarian dictatorships. At this moment in time more people live under dictatorships than at any other point in human history. And it’s getting worse.

  3. says

    Well, yes. My take is that neoliberalism is an appealing set of slogans that you can use to sell a corporatist brand of authoritarianism to affluent white people (e.g. me, I’ve voted for all the Clintons.) There’s a terminology problem in labels like “neoliberal.” Do we mean the Clintons, or the idiots they make it their business to buffalo? I certainly am very careless about which one I mean when I throw the word around, partly because it’s not clear that there IS a clear division.

  4. khms says

    #2 @Marcus Ranum

    At this moment in time more people live under dictatorships than at any other point in human history.

    Doesn’t that depend on excluding monarchies and similar forms of government?

  5. Ridana says

    Matriarch? Can’t wait to see how centrist/right candidates spin that against the opponents they fund. Hell, even I don’t want to replace the patriarchy with a matriarchy. How about neither?

  6. Dunc says

    khms, @ #4: I suspect it mostly depends on whether you’re talking absolute or relative numbers. For almost any X, more people live under X than at any other point in human history, simply because there are far more people around.

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