Why Talk to Third Way? by David Atkins

Why Talk to Third Way?
by David Atkins

I've written time and again about the useless concern trolling of Third Way. The organization is essentially a mouthpiece for conservative corporate pseudo-Democrats. Third Way's motivations are simple: they provide a mechanism by which the Joe Liebermans of the world can try to pull the Democratic Party to the right, under the guise of appealing to "moderates."

The more important question is why Third Way gets attention in the press. This National Journal article by Alex Roarty is just another example of the rote boilerplate "journalism" in which an infusion of progressive enthusiasm in the Democratic Party--for whatever reason--is countered with the tut-tutting of some hack from Third Way:

The dilemma is an old one for Democrats--as well as Republicans, for that matter. Political parties always have to balance the competing demands of their most fervent base of supporters with their moderate wings. But Democrats face fresh tensions this year because of the perilous state of Obama’s reelection bid and the evident fraying of their coalition, one inherently more dependent on moderates than the GOP coalition.

Some Democratic lawmakers are already carefully crafting their own messages, while taking a cautious course with OWS.

“They’re taking a wait-and-see approach with Occupy Wall Street,” said Lanae Erickson, deputy director of the Social Policy and Politics Program at think tank Third Way. “I think there’s a danger. It’s very difficult for a president to turn an angry populist movement into something positive for a campaign. The last president to do that was probably FDR.”

Actually, the last president to pull that off successfully was every single Republican president since Richard Nixon, playing off an angry movement of conservatives fueled by racial and religious resentment. That's why they call them "Movement Conservatives" after all, and it's been a very successful approach for them.

The Occupy movement is growing in both size and popularity. It is twice as popular as the Tea Party. While the movement is officially non-partisan, local, state and national Democrats have given the movement their blessing and encouragement. Even the DCCC, not known as a particularly progressive organization due to its obsession with expanding the map by electing and protecting Blue Dogs, has given full-throated support to the Occupiers. President Obama has pivoted off the genuine populist anger to grow significantly more aggressive in his own rhetoric. Obviously, Moveon.org and a large number of other left-affiliated organizations are right alongside the Occupiers.

What does Third Way bring to table? They bring no activists, no door knockers, no phonebankers, no silo of issue supporters. They don't speak for Democrats. They don't even bring in much money for candidates who back their corporate agenda. And the tide of public opinion is obviously against them right now, to say nothing of political momentum. So why are they and their media flacks relevant, again?

Those who resort to what I have called the Snidely Whiplash theory of politics and media will simply argue that the media is a conservative tool, bought and paid for by the right-wing corporate interests. While there is some truth to that, it's too simplistic.

Most journalists are looking for a good story. Good stories have conflict. The Third Way is an easy play for a journalist looking to write a lazy, pre-templated story about "divided Democrats," while blunting criticism by the howling mass of conservative hate mail writers about "liberal bias."

But here's a thought for "journalists" like Roarty: why not just write about the conflict that exists between the right and the left? Or between the 99% and 1%? Why not make it clear that America is, in fact, as divided as our politics suggest and leave it at that?

Ultimately, that's a more truthful representation of the facts. It provides the conflict needed for an interesting story. And it avoids the perception of bias--save, of course, for the liberal bias that basic facts have a tendency to bring out.

There's simply no reason for any journalist to talk to a hack at Third Way about anything.