Hillary Clinton's enabling of the Iraq war disaster, and her subsequent refusal to apologize for it, has by far been the left's biggest gripe the presidential candidate, and understandably so. Her role in enabling this painfully misguided war is a stain on her record, and on this country.
But her view on Iraq, however unforgivable, only represents part of the reason why progressives should oppose a Clinton candidacy with vigor. And even if she were to get down on her knees, admit her foreign policy follies, and beg us to accept her apology for the infamous 2002 vote to authorize Bush to go to war, it would be a huge mistake for the left to support her candidacy. The other reason? It's her affiliation with the Democratic Leadership Council, stupid!
The DLC--best known for its sketchy alliance with big-business, its McCartyite attacks on the anti-war left, its loving admiration for Joe Lieberman, and its hawkish stances on foreign policy--has been trying to take the liberalism out of the Democratic Party for more than two decades now, and in many ways has succeeded.
It was when the DLC was at it its most influential that Bill Clinton began his "era of big government is over" campaign, and passed historical cuts to welfare. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which has led to a drastic increase in media consolidation, was also another unfortunate byproduct of the DLC president's capitulations.
The group has made a habit out of attacking anti-war candidates, as seen in 2003 when founder Al From along with Bruce Reed, attacked the Howard Dean campaign, saying it was from the "McGovern/Mondale wing" of the Democratic Party "defined principally by weakness abroad and elitist, interest group elitism at home." When Ned Lamont was running against Lieberman in the Connecticut primary, the DLC lamented what they called return of "liberal fundamentalism."
In short, the main reasons why Democrats were elected in November--sharp condemnation of the war, and a push against our neoliberal trade policies--are dismissed by the DLC as losing issues that ought to be permanently abandoned by the Democratic Party. Their reaction to the 2006 midterm was to declare victory for the vital center (pointing largely to Lieberman's victory, which resorted to taking a de-facto endorsement from the RNC) and urging Democrats to, among other things, "exercise self-restraint in promoting new public-sector activism."
And Now that Tom Vilsack, who chaired the DLC from 2005-2007, is out of the race, there is simply no doubt that Clinton is the DLC candidate. Her picture rotates among the top of their web site where she is prominently touted as a member of their "leadership team," along with From and new DLC Chair Harold Ford, who disgracefully voted for the Military Commissions Act, which effectively legitimized torture and killed habeas corpus.
To be sure, Clinton has worn the DLC hat well. On top of her support for the war in Iraq, she has supported free trade agreements like NAFTA; voted for the Patriot Act--twice; given speeches at AIPAC events with aggressive rhetoric on Iran; cosponsored flag burning legislation and said she would support torture in the case of an "imminent threat to millions of Americans."
Contrarily, other Democrats who could serve as possible alternatives to Clinton as a nominee have been distancing themselves from the DLC. John Edwards, once closely affiliated with the group has taken a decidedly more populist tone on the budget, trade and Iraq. Al Gore, a founding member of the DLC, has been straying from them ever since he made his 2000 convention speech. He advocated for a single-payer health care in 2002, endorsed Dean in 2003, and gave unambiguously strong critiques of Bush's war long before it became politically fashionable to do so. In 2003 Barack Obama, upon learning that the DLC listed him as one of "100 New Democrats to Watch," promptly asked for his name to be removed.
Cleary Democrats are running away from the DLC, if not due to personal opposition to its policies, than at least due to an understanding that its platform is no longer palatable to winning elections.
Moreover, the Bush nightmare has enlivened a spirit of change in this country, a small hint of which was seen in the 2006 election where a new Democratic majority was won largely on populist, anti-war platforms. Consider Sen. Jim Webb's response to Bush's State of the Union which, contrary to the DLC line, spoke of only two things: income inequality, and leaving Iraq. This momentum could provide a chance for the party to break free from what has been an iron grip of triangulation.
A Clinton presidency, however, would be a huge blow to such an effort, and a huge boost to the DLC. If triumphant in 2008, they would be able to claim that they--not the netroots, union workers, or its political base--have been behind the only two Democratic presidents since 1976. Surely, they will point to this as evidence that and that a run-to-the right electoral strategy is indeed the only path to success and continue the Party down the road that has already failed them once before.
For too long now the Democratic Party has been woeful in representing working class Americans, weak and compliant in the face of Republican power, and a chief enabler the grossly misguided and amoral invasion of Iraq and the loss of liberty that has come with it.
Clinton, and her DLC brethren are not part of the solution--but rather, part of the problem.