Monday, May 03, 2004

The DLC Visits Phoenix

My pals from the Democratic Leadership Council are coming to Phoenix this Thursday for their annual "National Conversation," and I thought it would be the least I could do to give the DLC a newsprint welcome in this Sunday's Tribune "Lack of Perspective" section. Not the best headline, but I don't write those. Newspaper version available here. Of course, Al From found a way to take in a baseball game (D'Backs vs. Cubs!) as part of the conference.

There's an interesting Ruy Teixeira column on Arizona--spurred by a recent KAET poll which shows Bush only 3 points ahead of Kerry, 41-38 (Nader gets 3). The column is available on his blog; the poll itself is here. Yes, it's Bruce Merrill and yes, it's registered voters without any screen for likely voters. But the point of polling now is to help with the determination of whether Arizona is on the list of swing states. Maybe it's a GOP swinger watch: George Will! Bruce Merrill! Who's next?

East Valley Tribune, May 2, 2004

This week, the “politics of ideas” visits Arizona -- the new “swing state” for the new century.

Beginning Thursday, the Democratic Leadership Council holds its eighth annual “National Conversation” in Phoenix. The DLC, the national organization for New Democrats, was founded in the 1980’s, when the party seemed rooted in the past and, at the presidential level, doomed for the future. Since then, the DLC has helped modernize the party through a potent combination of ideas, innovation, and values. And today, it’s not your father’s Democratic party anymore.

The DLC brings together elected officials, party leaders, and policy wonks who know that at its best, politics is about ideas and principles. (I’ve belonged since 1992.) We understand that if elections depend which candidate is the coolest or most charming, that America usually loses -- and that if voters decide elections on policies and values, that Democrats can win.

This year’s National Conversation has the theme “Real Reformers, Real Results.” Perhaps the DLC can help rehabilitate that phrase; it got badly abused in 2000 when the Bush campaign, panicked after losing New Hampshire, cynically deployed it against John McCain -- for a week.

Since then, however, the Bush administration has worked tirelessly to prove that when it comes to making government ineffective, undisciplined, and deficit-ridden, nobody’s better than the Republicans.

Meanwhile, DLC members in state and local offices are innovating, reforming, and making government work better. It’s a second full-time job, proving wrong those outdated right-wing stereotypes about Democrats.

In Virginia, Gov. Mark Warner forged an alliance with Republican business leaders, moderates, and independents to pass a breathtaking reform of the state’s tax system. Right-wing Republicans decided not to help improve Virginia’s schools and services; like a lot of Arizona’s anti-tax zealots, once they’d paid their own salaries, they can’t find anything else worth funding. But a majority of Virginians recognized that Warner’s DLC-style policies will promote strength, values, growth, and reform, and make their state a better place to live, work, and learn.

Interesting concept: Republican leaders moved so far to the right that a smart, articulate, and moderate Democratic governor could create a bipartisan majority dedicated to improving education, children’s services, and healthcare. Perhaps that’s happening in Arizona, too?

The DLC meeting will recognize the group’s long-standing Arizona roots. Former Gov. Bruce Babbitt was a founding member, and Gov. Napolitano, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and state Sens. Gabrielle Gifford and Ken Cheuvront are leading members today. About 250 elected officials will join DLC members for the National Conversation to hear from national leaders, including Sen. John Kerry on Friday.

The DLC’s ideas have become the party’s mainstream. Today, Democrats support policies encouraging private sector economic growth, fiscal discipline, and balanced budgets. The DLC propounds policies that truly support middle-class values and economic aspirations -- unlike the Bush administration, which officially defines “hardworking individuals and married couples” as people making over $200,000 who get much of their income from dividends and capital gains. To them, “middle class” means wealth between Dick Cheney and Jessica Simpson.

It’s not just George Will (!) who sees Arizona as up for grabs in November. And these days, the GOP is helping make the DLC’s case. As Republicans compete over who has the more extreme positions on social and fiscal issues, they leave more of the mainstream to the DLC and the New Democrats.

The DLC isn’t out to create some liberal nirvana, and its innovations and reforms may seem small when compared to the overblown rhetoric of a Grover Norquist. But the DLC is working hard to find enough moderates -- in both parties -- to repair the dire consequences of GOP extremism, both nationally and here in Arizona.

No comments: