Since the 2016 elections, the corporate faction of the Democratic Party known as the “New Democrats” has poured its efforts almost entirely into trying to counter Bernie Sanders and the subsequent rise of democratic socialism. This fight could go a long way in determining the direction of the party.
The New Democrats came to exist, in part, to fight against challenges from the left. This brand of “centrist” Democrats was spawned in the 1980s from the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). The faction’s goals were to pull the party hard to the right, embrace corporate donors and minimize the party’s reliance on its traditional bases of support, such as labor. The belief was that the country was center-right and after President Reagan won 49 states in 1984, the party needed to change.
The peak of its influence was when President Clinton won the presidency as a member of the Democratic Leadership Council in the 1990s. Its influence was instrumental in passing a regressive economic agenda under Clinton, including welfare reform, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the repeal of Glass-Steagall. All the while, its adherents have successfully raised massive sums from big corporate donors, especially in finance and pharma. President Obama distanced himself from the New Democrats at one point in his career but later came to identify with them. “I am a New Democrat,” he said in 2009.
Now, New Democrats operate as members of the New Democrat Coalition in Congress, operating a super PAC (NewDemPAC) and think tanks like Third Way and the Progressive Policy Institute. They recognize that the remarkable leftward turn of the party’s base poses a unprecedented threat to the New Democrats and the interests of the donors who support them.
“I think these corporate Democrats are more on the defensive than in any…