The middle fights backs

Howard Dean may be runnning the DNC, but the Democratic Leadership Council isn't going away.

By Tim Grieve
Published March 11, 2005 2:25PM (EST)

The "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" may have taken over the Democratic National Committee, but Howard Dean and his supporters haven't exactly purged the party of those who think that being a little more like George W. Bush could help the Democrats return to power.

In a new essay, the leaders of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council argue that Democrats must show voters that "any American who believes in security, opportunity, and responsibility has a home in the Democratic Party." And Bruce Reed and Al From say it's not just a matter of talking the talk. When they're not sniping at Dean -- whose new role they dismiss as that of "chief cheerleader for the party" -- Reed and From say that Democrats must show their middle-of-the-road ways by pushing for a muscular foreign policy aimed at making Americans safe. Reed and From also argue that it's time for the Democrats to start winning the culture war by moving to the right on some social issues.

"The last two elections were all reflex, all the time -- deflecting Republican charges on same-sex marriage, guns, and abortion," Reed and From write. "The best way to stop having the same old phony debate on cultural issues is to force a real one on issues that matter: strengthening families, helping parents teach kids right from wrong, coupling rights with responsibilities, and asking all Americans to give something back to their country. Americans in the heartland will stop thinking Democrats look down on them once we demonstrate that we honestly understand their concerns. Parents are right to worry about the coarsening of the culture, and about needing more time with their children."

Democrats in Congress are getting the move-to-the-middle message, and it's not just the much-villified Joseph Lieberman. In a speech this week, Hillary Clinton spoke out against sex and violence in video games and other entertainment marketed to kids, then joined Lieberman and Republican Sens. Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum in proposing legislation that would require the government to study the impact of the media on young children.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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