Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s political alliance with the centrist-leaning Democratic Leadership Council, which once saw her as an adversary, will not weaken her support on the party’s left because of her liberal voting record, a close adviser to the New York senator said yesterday.
Mrs. Clinton’s new agenda-setting role with the grass-roots organization that helped her husband launch his presidential campaign in 1992 has sparked attacks from liberal activists who say her embrace of the DLC will draw opposition from the left if she runs for president in 2008.
But supporters dismiss such criticism, saying her relationship with the DLC should not concern Democratic activists on the left. They say those on the far left should pay more attention to her voting record, which has earned her a near-perfect 95 percent approval score from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action.
“It’s much more important to look at what she does and how she votes, and not that she has associated herself with the DLC,” said Harold Ickes, who was deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House and is now one of Mrs. Clinton’s top campaign advisers.
Mr. Ickes said that like Mrs. Clinton, her husband also came under fire from party liberals for his more centrist rhetoric, but they stuck with him because “his record in totality was extraordinarily progressive.”
A comparison of her political rhetoric and her voting record appears to bear out Mr. Ickes’ claim. Earlier this year, she called for seeking out “common ground” on abortion rights, an appeal that suggested a much more moderate approach to the issue than the pro-choice movement was known for.
In a move that will give her an increased role and visibility in national party affairs as she prepares for her Senate re-election campaign in 2006, the DLC asked Mrs. Clinton to be the chairwoman of the “American Dream Initiative,” which is aimed at developing “a positive agenda” for Democrats to run on next year and in 2008.
Mrs. Clinton, a featured speaker at the DLC’s summer meeting earlier this week in Columbus, Ohio, was seen by DLC officials during her husband’s presidency as the group’s chief liberal adversary in the White House. It denounced her health care plan as a costly “big government” idea that dealt the party a severe setback in the 1994 congressional elections.
But some of the party’s leftist groups are unhappy with Mrs. Clinton’s cozy relations with the DLC, a group founded in the 1980s to wrest control of the party from its liberal leaders.
“By aligning herself with the DLC, it is pretty well guaranteed that there will be somebody running for the nomination to her left,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal activist group that has been playing an increasingly influential role in the party.
“She is going to have to choose between the DLC and the progressive activist base of the party,” he said.
But Mr. Ickes dismisses such talk, saying, “It’s hard to characterize her as an extreme liberal. She has a lot of progressive and liberal support, but Hillary is moderate in many of her positions.”