A death knell for the "sensible center"? Well, one big brand anyway. The Democratic Leadership Council
, founded more than 25 years ago on the ashes of a crushing Democratic loss to Ronald Reagan, is closing its doors.
The DLC, sort of a rump caucus of Democratic Party moderates, was once an incubator for centrist, pro-business ideas. The goal of its founders was to pull the left-leaning party back into what they viewed as America's political mainstream. It reached its zenith in 1992 with the election of Bill Clinton, who had previously served as president of the DLC.
The organization faded during George W. Bush's White House years and continued to lose traction when the political left claimed much of the credit for Barack Obama's election. Had Hillary Clinton won the White House, there might have been a nook or cranny for the DLC somewhere on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The organization's demise was first reported by Politico
, which said it was out of money and on the brink of a shutdown.
In a statement released to the National Journal, DLC founder Al From
said Monday the departure of CEO Bruce Reed to become Vice President Biden's
chief of staff had prompted the board of directors "to suspend operations while it considers what the next phase of the DLC will be." From isn't giving up yet. He said the DLC "has had an historic impact on American politics over the past 25 years. We're convinced that it will continue to have an impact in the future."
Reed, a co-founder, was a key figure in guiding President Obama's deficit reduction commission before signing on with Biden -- a move seen as a modest tilt toward the center for the Obama administration.
At its peak during the Clinton presidency, the DLC was credited with nudging the party toward polices embracing welfare reform and a balanced budget. It was a safe harbor for moderates like Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and former Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.). Al Gore was among its early members.
The DLC was created in reaction to former Vice President Walter F. Mondale's 1984 landslide loss to Reagan, which some Democrats blamed in part on Mondale's adherence to old-left orthodoxy. Many liberals always disliked what they saw as DLC's center-right drift, and a donor base that drew heavily from business interests. The Rev. Jesse Jackson derided the DLC as the "Democratic Leisure Class."
A think tank once affiliated with the DLC, the Progressive Policy Institute
, is still in business. And Al From, talking about a "next phase," hinted that the DLC itself could reemerge.
Folo Tom Diemer on Twitter http://twitter.com/tomdiemer