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Tracking the elusive centrist

The money shot graf in Jim VandeHei's latest fluff piece--Blogs Attack From Left as Democrats Reach for Center"--note the "reach for center" master narrative--comes nine down. Here's it is:

"The bloggers and online donors represent an important resource for the party, but they are not representative of the majority you need to win elections," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who advised Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. "The trick will be to harness their energy and their money without looking like you are a captive of the activist left."

So, how did this BCW come to be?

And now I'd like to introduce Jim--I hope I may call him Jim--to a technology that he can use to supplement his Rolodex. It's called Google. Because if you Google "Steve Elmendorf" you get all sorts of interesting links that provide the context so conspicuously missing from Jim's little piece. (I imagine Jim believed that his authority would be sufficient for us to accept his sources?

I mean, how on earth did Steve Elmendorf acquire the worldview that the Democrats who fund the party and do its work should be "harnessed" like draft animals? Let's find out!

A little history: Elmendorf is a former Hill staffer who was the chief of staff for Gephardt's failed 2004 campaign (Gephardt, if you recall, managed to take Dean down in Iowa before going down himself, paving the way for Kerry, whose campaign he then joined. And in that campaign, he did indeed serve with distinction. At least, he distinguished himself to some. Steve Clemons:

After Kerry's failure, I sat next to a big-time fundraiser for the Dems on a plane to Chicago who said that "the only person who ought not to be fired and barred from the next several presidential campaigns is Elmendorf."

Well. We all know the "big-time fundraisers" feel about the netroots. And we all know how the "big-time fundraisers" feel about Dean organizing Dems in 50 states. (Their "big money" is enough for them to control the party, but it isn't enough for them to win; that's both why they need us, want to use us, and don't want to give us a seat at the table.)

So, after the Kerry debacle, what did Steve Elmendorf do? You guessed it! He became a consultant at Bryan Cave Strategies. And then he threw a party:

Republican Jack Oliver and Democrat Steve Elmendorf are throwing a party tonight to celebrate their new next big thing, Bryan Cave Strategies. Heavy-hitting VIPs from both parties are expected to turn out at the reception at Charlie Palmer Steak from 6 to 8 p.m.

"We invited everyone running for president in both parties so that alone should fill the room," says Elmendorf, a longtime aide to then-Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and adviser to the Kerry campaign.

Elmendorf and Oliver, former deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee and finance vice chairman for Bush-Cheney '04, have formed the lobbying wing of Bryan Cave, an international law firm based in Missouri.

Good God. A [cough] Democrat works with a Republican finance chairman? So, did Oliver know Jack? Of course he did. USA Today:

Abramoff's team didn't neglect party politics either: There were at least two meetings with Republican National Committee officials, including then-finance chief Jack Oliver, as well as attendance at GOP fundraisers.

The access of Abramoff and his team to the administration came as the lobbyist was establishing himself as a GOP fundraiser.

Abramoff and his wife each gave $5,000 to Bush's 2000 recount fund and the maximum $1,000 to his 2000 campaign. By mid-2003, Abramoff had raised at least $100,000 for Bush's re-election campaign, becoming one of Bush's famed "pioneers."

But maybe Jack Oliver just collected the envelopes. Maybe he didn't know who Jack Abramoff was and what he did? Think again. In fact, keeping the black book on how to service Pioneers was Jack Oliver's job:

In making decisions immediately after the election, Rove consulted Jack Oliver, a trusted insider in Bush's political family who managed the fundraising effort for both of his presidential campaigns. AbramoffOliver's main function was to tell Rove "what people had really done" to raise money, one of the senior Republicans said.

Well, well. So Jack Oliver, Republican, would know what Bush Pioneer and convicted felon Abramoff "had really done" for the Bush-Cheney 2004, and Steve Elmendorf, stalwart Democrat, is working with him. As one of those Democratic "consultants" we've heard so much about.

One hardly knows what to say. But I'll try:

1. Obviously, any Democrat who cares about winning should run as far and fast from Steve Elmendorf--and any candidate for which he consults--as they can. Indeed, in view of the known propensity for ratfucking Republican operatives to infiltrate Democratic campaigns (Luciane Goldberg) it's surprising any Democrat would consider hiring Elmendorf for anything at all.

2. It's amazing, or not, that "reporter" Jim VanDeHei doesn't give any of this detail in his column. I mean, Jim needs to construct his "master narrative" on Democrats "moving to the center" so he works his Rolodex for a quote. And who does he come up with? Elmendorf. Elmendorf--A DINO who's gone into business with an Abramoff-tainted Republican.

3. And what does "centrist" mean, anyhow? I'd always thought treating "centrist" as a codeword for "Republican Lite" was a little over the top--liberals should always be open to all ideas--but after looking at Elmendorf and Oliver, I'm sure that's exactly what it does mean; Elmendorf is so clearly a man who likes his bread buttered on both sides. (Of course, the business model of making Democrats into Republicans helps with Bryan, Cave's cost structure: They can use the same PowerPoints for both parties! As Babs said in another context, "that works out well for them.")

4. Shystee's triangles really are a powerful analytical tool. Elmendorf is in the business of keeping the triangle between Democrats, the media, and blogosphere broken, while reinforcing the same triangle on the Republican side. The Elmendorf quote that VanDeHei pimps does just that with beautiful exactitude.

A nicer example of Beltway Incest Syndrome--and the BCW that results--would be hard to find, wouldn't it?

But in the words of the old song: I'll never be your beast of burden.

NOTE Why is the centrist so elusive? Why, in fact, is it only spotted inside the Beltway? Matt Stoller wrote about Little Debbie's sob-fest at the Shorenstein Center, and his alert reader killjoy had a useful perspective:

Deborah Howell is just fairly typical- she sounds almost exactly like the people I know from upper tier families in northern Virginia or Maryland. Sure of their place in the local game, sure of what the common view is among their own, assertive of this convention- and then horrified when people tell them that it's not the national reality or even factual, taking it as an attack on their personal credibility and that of their oh-so-elevated social circle. It's wounded elitism or entitlement.

The simply fact of the matter is that this crowd has internalized the Midwest and Border States as the social norm of the country and Southerners as the institutional rulers.

Lost in this perspective and simplification are the weight and power of the Northeast (whose elites the Beltway crowd hates out of snobbery) and the West Coast. The building reassertion of the Northeast and West Coast power in Washington in the form of active and energetic Democrats is a challenge to their cozy arrangements and corruption with Republicans.

Beltway Incest Sydrome as a consequence of provincial inbreeding--yeah, I can buy that.

"Centrism" then becomes the illusion of central position for Beltway insiders from the burbs in Northern Virginia and Maryland. Whatever reinforces that illusion is "centrist." Whatever doesn't, is marginalized. The fact that these guys are squealing about barbarian bloggers--from the Northeast (e.g., Philly) and the West Coast (e.g. LA), mind you--is A Good Thing; and the sounds of that squealing means we need to hit 'em harder.

Say, WaPo. How's CraigsList doing with the classified ads in your area? Dice? Ever occur to you guys that one really good way to avoid disintermediation would be to report the news?

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