Point of Personal Privilege

Earlier today, a commenter named “low-tech cyclist” posted this query:

There used to be a well-known Dem named Ed Kilgore who was a centrist, third-way, triangulating, DLC sort of guy.

I’m having a hard time squaring that Ed Kilgore with this guy who’s been writing some very good pull-no-punches stuff while pinch-hitting for Steve for the past few days. But rumor has it they’re the same guy.

There must be a story here, and I’m curious as to what it is.

I still get this a lot, so let me explain.

Contrary to the stereotypes out there, the DLC, where I did indeed work until a few years ago, was by no means averse to “pull-no-punches stuff.” Back in 1999 I wrote, for the DLC’s magazine, one of the first take-downs of “compassionate conservatism” and warned that W.’s touchy-feely stuff was a ruse. I also repetitively wrote, for the DLC, some of the most savage attacks imaginable on the Bush tax cuts. During the 2004 cycle, Bruce Reed and I regularly wrote incredibly nasty stuff about Bush and his party. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

I by no means ignore or excuse some of the stuff the DLC said and published about the Iraq War (where there was a lot less internal agreement than you might imagine) and those perceived as intra-party foes (though Lord knows the demonization of the DLC itself often got out of hand), though I did very little of either myself. We were all far too enthusiastic about the New Economy, and I regret that a lot. But we did a lot of good analysis of the terrible trends in the GOP and the conservative movement, and published an awful lot of good progressive policy work (much of it through the DLC’s think tank, the Progressive Policy Institute, which still thrives and with which I am still affiliated, writing a weekly column called “Wingnut Watch”).

I wasn’t necessarily the typical DLCer; for one thing, I was always friendly with the blogosphere (one of my strangest duties was to accompany Markos Moulitsas to a DLC annual meeting, and also accompanied then-chairman Harold Ford to a Yearly Kos meeting). But that’s kinda the point: it was a far less monolithic institution than its detractors typically thought. As a heavy provider of daily content for the DLC web-page, I was never told or even asked to write anything at the behest of those sinister corporate donors we supposedly served–and whom we actually lost regularly for taking positions they didn’t like–and like most people there, was mainly interested in the success of the Democratic Party. I was particularly proud of the work we did–which got virtually no attention–with helping state and local elected officials and battling the nefarious influence of ALEC, a rare thing among national Democratic groups then and even now.

I finally parted ways with the DLC in part because of growing differences of opinion with its leadership, but I’m certainly not ashamed of having worked there. My thoughts on its ultimate legacy can be found in a “requiem” I wrote for TNR after the DLC finally closed its doors last winter.

Hope that answers “low-tech cyclist,” and anyone else interested in this increasingly ancient history.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.