Democrats Continue to Lose [and Lose and Lose] Moderates

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. My family is on vacation. While we are gone I’ll be running articles from the past 12 months that you’ve indicated you particularly enjoyed. Dave

It was just a coincidence—or was it? Two days ago the Los Angeles Times ran a fascinating piece chronicling the near-obliteration of Democrats in the South, fueled by defections since the November 2 election. Last night, POLITICO broke the news that the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is closing shop.

Long holding on financially by its fingernails, the DLC has bit the dust. There are as many explanations for its demise as there are observers, but the simplest answer is probably the most accurate.

While busy marketing a “run to the middle” makeover, President Obama is a man of the Left. Since the 1980s the DLC has positioned itself as the sensible middle for a party that in the era of Reagan looked like it was headed into the abyss. But as POLITICO wrote yesterday, Obama was “cool” to the DLC, fatal to an already financially fragile organization in these tough times.

Speaking of the [Los Angeles] Times, Democrats have hemorrhaged elected statehouse officials since its already huge losses November 2. “Since the midterm election, 24 state senators and representatives have made the switch in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Texas,” writes Richard Fausset. “In some cases, the ramifications have been profound: In Louisiana, defecting Democrats gave Republicans a majority in the state House for the first time since Reconstruction; in Alabama, they delivered the GOP a House supermajority. Republicans have 65 votes to the Democrats’ 39, enough to pass constitutional amendments over Democratic opposition.” When Louisiana Atty. Gen. James D. “Buddy” Caldwell switched parties last week, the GOP was in control of every major state office in Baton Rouge.

The explanation by Ashley Bell , a young African American lawyer, who spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston was common: “I think the midterms showed you really can’t be a conservative and be a member of the Democratic Party.” Bell has jumped ship.

Merle Black is a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta, and the source that reporters universally use when trying to understand politics in the South. “Decades ago in the South, he said, ‘the issues that hurt the Democrats were issues first introduced in national politics.’ In other words, ‘the increased liberalization of the Democratic Party.’”

It is also no accident that in explaining his party shift, Bell said he “had serious issues with the healthcare law.”

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