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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Reform Democrats

There is, praise Jehovah, a growing consensus among Democrats that we have to become a “reform” party in order to properly critique the ever-growing pig-sty in Washington that the GOP is wallowing in, and also in order to build trust with an electorate that still views the Democratic Party as representing government to voters rather than the other way around.
True, many Democrats who are sharing the reform pew don’t trust each other to sing from the same hymnal. Dean/MoveOn types think of Clintonian New Democrats as The Corporate Establishment, no matter how often we shriek (as we’ve done for more than a decade) about ending corporate welfare and opposing corporate cronyism. And we Clintonian New Democrat types aren’t sure Dean/MoveOn insurgents understand that the Washington status quo includes the leaders of many of the Democratic interest-and-constituency groups they think of as the party’s base. And all of us fear that Congressional Democrats will be tempted to view themslves as the once-and-future barons of important committees and subcommittees rather than as a besieged minority fighting for survival.
But a common acceptance of the imperative of being a reform party is a good start. And we ought to be able to agree on a few basic reform agenda items. The DLC has suggested election reform, political reform, budget reform, and tax reform as a start, and there’s no particular reason I can think of that any Democrat, regardless of ideological background, should object to that agenda.
Our current plight reminds me of an anecdote about two southern legislators who went out on the town with the state prison warden. Fifteen drinks later, the solons were a little out of control, and the warden, having no better idea, took them back to the prison and put them in a cell to sleep it off. Next morning one of the legislators woke up, ran to the barred window, looked out on the exercise yard, saw the guard towers, and ran over to his colleague and yelled: “We’re in the penitentiary. Do you remember them putting us in here?” And the other legislator, head in hands, replied: “Hell, I don’t even remember the trial.”
We need to forget the arguments about how we got into our current political trap, and concentrate on getting out, and that means some serious jail-breaking, hell-raising ideas for reform.

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