They have a dream — to put more of your life under the control of government.
They’re the Democratic Leadership Council, the springboard for Bill Clinton’s presidential bid in 1992 and a power center for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. The DLC bills itself as a group of moderate Democrats trying to steer a middle course of Democratic candidates.
On the surface, DLC themes are all sweet apple pie and usually avoid the leftist extremes sometimes associated with the Howard Dean wing of the party. But take one bite, and the DLC recipe always includes huge helpings of more and bigger government.
The latest DLC brainstorm is called the American Dream Initiative, expressed in a policy paper, “Saving the American Dream,” released July 22 and written by Sen. Clinton, who’s chairing the initiative, and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, DLC chairman. The authors, coincidentally, are both presidential hopefuls.
The emphasis is not on traditional liberal Democratic themes like civil rights or union politics or poverty programs, but rather “an opportunity agenda for the middle class and all who want to join it.” That’s needed “because middle-class strength and growth have been the backbone of America.” Maybe they believe the emphasis on the middle class will persuade voters they’re moving toward the center politically.
The American Dream Initiative likely will be the platform for many fall re-election campaigns and for the Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential campaign.
There aren’t many details in what the authors call the five “pillars of the American dream,” but certain conclusions seem clear:
• “The opportunity and responsibility to go to college and earn a degree, and to get the lifelong training they need” — meaning more public schooling programs.
• “(T)he opportunity and responsibility to save for a secure retirement” — which likely will mean opposition to effective Social Security reform.
• Businesses have “the responsibility to equip workers with the same tools of success as management” — which sounds like interference in how businesses train their workers.
• “(T)he security and community that come from owning a home” — which probably would mean more government-directed housing schemes.
• “Every family should have the opportunity to afford health insurance for their children, and the responsibility to obtain it” — a likely return of the HillaryCare socialized medicine scheme that Americans rejected in 1994.
“They’re following the Clinton 1992 playbook of trying to harness patriotic themes to expand the government,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College and author of “The Art of Political War.”
But both political parties like to talk about the American Dream. “The risk for Democrats,” Pitney warned, “is that this theme sounds so generic that it may not have much impact on the voters.”
Also, the Democratic recommendations come very close to advocating that “positive rights” be in some way institutionalized, something the founders vigorously avoided. The founders believed in “negative rights,” limits on government power.
By contrast, “positive rights” guarantee something — such as an education or health care, usually paid for by higher taxes. “Positive rights” usually also take away the rights of others. In this case, taxpayers would have less of their own money — less freedom to pay for what they think right for their own families and for charitable contributions.
Alas, Republicans aren’t doing much better. The GOP-run Congress and White House have been so busy vastly increasing government — the Medicare prescription drug plan and the No Child Left Behind law are just two examples — that they won’t credibly be able to offer a counter-dream of less government.
For most Americans, more government is an American bad dream.