The Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist organization whose mission for over two decades was to support moderate Democratic candidates, announced in early February that it was suspending operations due to a lack of funds.
The DLC was founded in the 1980s by Al From and Bruce Reed after Ronald Reagan’s landslide re-election based on the belief that Democratic politicians needed to move toward the center in order to increase their electability. The organization was elevated to prominence by President Bill Clinton, who once served as its chairman, and served as the seedbed for many of his policies.
The DLC had declined in recent years and shed much of its full-time staff over the last few months. From retired in 2009, and Reed has moved on to serve as chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden. Despite these inroads into the White House, the DLC was reportedly viewed with suspicion by the Obama administration, which made raising money increasingly challenging.
Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, which some have called the DLC’s successor organization, says that the DLC was one of the most important influences on policy in the last quarter century. “The DLC leaves behind a thriving legacy in moderate Democratic policy making and politics,” says Bennett. “Third Way is proud to follow in their footsteps and take up the mantle for a new generation of moderates.”
Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute, which was founded as an offshoot of the DLC, says centrism will live on even if the DLC does not. “There is no problem for centrism in a country that is essentially centrist,” says Marshall. “The Democratic Party is a coalition party with progressives, moderates and even a smattering of conservatives, but moderates still dominate.”