Matt Stoller Explains It All To You

5 comments July 24th, 2006at 08:16pm Posted by Eli

Why we lose:

…[W]hile we often talk about the right-wing machine and its structure of think tanks, magazines, etc, we often don’t spend enough time understanding that there is a parallel machine within the Democratic Party that wields real power, and fights progressives at every step of the way…. The DLC is part of this machine, and so is Mike McCurry, Steve Elmendorf, Carter Eskew, Joe Lieberman, and Dewey Square.

I’m reminded of this because of a post I read on the Washington Post’s blog ‘The Fix’, by Chris Cillizza, on a newish group trying to put itself in the center of 2008 called The Third Way. …[H]e interviews prominent Beltway operatives. These operatives are prominent mostly because they’ve been around for a long time and have relationships with journalists, politicians, and corporate donors.

I find Cillizza’s series fascinating, because the people he interviews are basically the institutional memory of the Democratic Party. And if you read what they say, you get a sense of why we’ve been losing for so long.


Third Way is a total disaster in every conceivable way; the President, Jonathan Cowan, was an advocate for privatizing Social Security. Cowan wasn’t just an advocate, he went to the mat for Bush’s scheme, going so far as to say that “this entire discussion is really a discussion that’s at the heart of whether there’s a future for the Democratic Party.”…

But back to Matt Bennett, who is today’s featured insider. Bennett has basically been a disaster in every role he’s ever taken. He was the Communications Director for the Wesley Clark campaign in 2004, and effectively took a powerful netroots driven movement campaign and destroyed it through incoherent corporate-driven messaging. Bennett’s triangulating group Americans for Gun Safety was formed in 2000, and its foolish strategies undercut traditional gun rights groups and allowed the NRA to completely destroy Democrats on the gun issue. Bennett is such a loser that he started his career as an advance man for Michael Dukakis, and keeps the jumpsuit from the tank moment in his closet as a souvenir.


This is about the strategy of triangulation, which is in today’s world another word for appeasement of extremists. The legacy of Tony Coelho and Bill Clinton is the legacy of triangulation and compromise, only their descendants don’t really get what this legacy really meant. Clinton and Coelho were successful with this strategy, pushing progressive policies through a right-wing Congress…. Only, their political heirs don’t get that compromise only works with extremists if you are negotiating from a position of strength. You can’t triangulate from a position of weakness. And you can’t triangulate if your base is corporate money, though you can make a lot of cash and get a lot of quotes in the newspaper while progressives loses.

And that’s ultimately the problem with these ‘insiders’; they lose and take progressives with them, and learn nothing. Bennett doesn’t care that he’s screwed up everything he’s ever touched. Read the interview; Bennett sees himself as being in the center of the 2008 Presidential debate on the Democratic side even though he’s pursuing the same strategies he’s always pursued, and has done nothing but lose. So why would he see himself as being in the center of the 2008 debate? Well, I guess because he was on the advance team for Dukakis and Clinton, and he knows some corporate donors willing to fund his next failed center of bipartisan and incrementalist bullshit.

Arrrgh. I can understand why such wankers exist. I just can’t understand why Democrats ever listen to them when they are proven losers. Clinton didn’t just succeed because he was dealing from a position of strength (was he dealing from a “position of strength” in ’92?); he succeeded because he is a brilliant and charismatic politician who gave the Democratic Party an appealing face.

The most charitable explanation I can come up with, other than the uncanny persuasive powers of Al Fromsputin, is aversion to risk (or “cowardice,” if you want to be a little less charitable). In other words, the incumbents have calculated that it’s better to play it safe and hang onto their own seats and hope the Republicans continue shooting themselves in the foot, than to stick their necks out in an attempt to win big. The Republicans might call them un-American and say all kinds of mean things about them, after all.

The most plausible explanation I can think of is that they don’t just want a strategy that wins elections – they want a strategy that wins elections and keeps their corporate sponsors happy, and they refuse to admit to themselves that there isn’t one. Or they don’t really care one way or the other, so long as that corporate money keeps pouring in so they can hang onto their own seats.

Hmm, come to think of it, both of those explanations sound pretty similar: Incumbency and ass-covering trump all other considerations.

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Favorites,Politics,Wankers


  • 1. Neil Shakespeare  |  July 24th, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    I suppose it’s hard for the Democrats to find anyone with any experience at winning. Both political parties are Corpocracies in and of themselves, with the lifelong, unintelligent but persistent boobs rising to the top of a very shallow bowl. A presidential election is nothing BUT charisma when the farts clear.

  • 2. Eli  |  July 24th, 2006 at 10:01 pm

    A presidential election is nothing BUT charisma when the farts clear.

    *After* it’s run through a media filter which tells everyone that Bush is a charismatic reg’lar guy and Gore and Kerry are teacher’s pet stiffs.

  • 3. Matt Stoller  |  July 24th, 2006 at 11:27 pm

    Insider Democrats don’t win because they are paid to lose. That’s the point of this parallel machine. Who do you think funds third way? (Hint: It’s not left-wingers….)

  • 4. Eli  |  July 24th, 2006 at 11:32 pm

    (Thanks for visiting, Matt!)

    That’s pretty chilling. And sounds about right.

    But are you talking about operatives or congresscritters? I don’t doubt that the insiders are professional losers, which is what I’ve called them on occasion. But what possesses the congressional Democratic establishment, supposedly desirous of increasing their power, to continue hiring professional losers?

    Do Democrats *want* to stay out of power?

  • 5. Multi Medium » More&hellip  |  January 27th, 2007 at 12:45 am

    […] As an aside, for those of you left hanging by Matt Stoller’s comment under my earlier post, Stoller finally did answer my question under his original MyDD post about the anti-progressive, and apparently pro-failure machine within the Democratic party: My Post: Matt Stoller rocks! Why do the Democrats keep hiring losers? (I’m paraphrasing a tiny bit here) […]

Contact Eli



Most Recent Posts




July 2006
« Jun   Aug »

Thinking Blogger

Pittsburgh Webloggers

Site Meter

View My Stats *