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Terry McAuliffe, Starbucks, and the DLC


Yesterday morning, I saw the Democratic National Committee's Chairman Terry McAuliffe at a Starbucks coffee shop in mid-town Manhattan. We exchanged greetings and spoke for a few moments. Mr. McAuliffe, with a variety of coffee selections in hand, expressed his excitement over the manner in which the Bush administration was dangling in the wind over the questionable circumstances surrounding President Bush's sale of Harken Energy stock, while still a company board member. Mr. McAuliffe credits the news coverage regarding the decade-old event, to the due diligence of the research team at the DNC, which is in full attack mode. The DNC Chair reminded me of what he told members of the Black media at a lunch in 2001, "Remember what I said back then, 'You hit us and we will hit back, and keep hitting back, harder'."

I told Mr. McAuliffe that he should be mindful of how the ongoing "moderate" Democratic Leadership Council's convention in New York City is playing out in some Black circles. I mentioned that Senator Joseph Lieberman's reported comments regarding his desire that the Democratic Party be careful in how it criticized the Bush administration juxtaposed to the shaky economy and stock market. Sen. Lieberman and other moderate and conservative Democrats want the criticism tempered in rhetoric in order to keep the discussion free of a populist and progressive rhetoric tint. I told Mr. McAuliffe that such an approach was being interpreted as a red flag, indicating to some that the Party was moving further away from Black and civil rights issues and too far toward the "center." The Chairman nodded his head in agreement and added, "I know, it is a concern. That's why they brought me up, I'll be speaking with them today."

Fresh from morning exercise, without his first cup, and only a whiff of coffee in the air, the Chairman was obviously enthused and genuinely excited about his Party's prospects in the mid-term elections. "Right now, almost every issue out there that you can think of - prescription drug benefits, healthcare, the economy, corporate responsibility - is in our favor," the Chairman confidently stated.

Chairman McAuliffe, and the Democrats do indeed have reason for hope. The economic issue is ripe for their taking, as long as the Republican Party minds itself with damage control as opposed to economic growth. As I wrote to our BEC Financial Political Economy and Financial Market Analysis, in a recent dispatch:

"...President Bush is not a political vessel that can outdo the Democrats in criminalizing corporate fraud; and as he tries to look responsive to the problem, he only looks like he is being led by the opposing party, like a soldier, in a "war on fraud", similar to how he has led Democrats, as soldiers, into a "war on terrorism". The need or reality of divided government, on the issues, is evident, as the country really has no real need for one man to solve every problem, as long as the opposite political party has more than a few viable remedies or appears to, at least. Along the way, the Dems keep the corporate-friendly Bush honest on the Wall St. issues, while Bush keeps the activist-friendly Democrats in line on foreign policy.

Bush, last week, in making an about-face and diving headfirst, uncritically in support of the Sarbanes bill, publicly demonstrated that he has no real moral compass on economic issues. The electorate, media, and Wall St. sees this and doesn't (for their own reasons respectively) think to look twice to see if the POTUS is going to solve the problem; only whether he will be compromised by the problem. The same dynamic is at work as voters, the media, and the Pentagon wait to see if the Democrats' penchant for being sympathetic to civil liberties will cause them to be compromised in how they support the prosecution of war.

With Nader on his left, Senate Dems in the middle and McCain on his right (and from within Bush's GOP ranks), there is no room for Bush 43 to display leadership. He can only posture for the role of effective manager of domestic economic problems. Advantage Democrats, on that front..."


But for all that the Democratic Party gains at the center, on the most mainstream economic issues and others, it still must be mindful of its left flank that is always susceptible to populist, progressive, and race-centered arguments that reflect dissatisfaction within and without the Party; and which can cause non-voting Independents to vote for third-party candidates and which can affect registered Democrats in the ranks of the lower half of the Party to not vote for the candidates favored by the Party's establishment.

Interestingly, some of the talk that we heard in New York City centered around the fact that Rev. Al Sharpton was making considerable noise about his exclusion from the DLC meetings. Never mind that the Reverend is not a member of the organization and not an elected official. The dramatization that Rev. Sharpton (arguably the most influential Black Democrat in New York City) is making is clear: the DLC's growing influence in the Democratic Party over the past two decades has persuaded many Blacks to believe that they are not always welcome in the Party of Roosevelt. They can pass through as visitors and grab a meal, but they are really treated more like guests than they are homeowners.

It will be interesting to see if Terry McAuliffe can manage the tensions between Black civil rights leaders and the members of the DLC, in a way that maintains a 90% Black show of support and brings home the long-lost prodigal son, the Reagan Democrats.


Cedric Muhammad

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

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