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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Concluding Thoughts On the DLC Meeting

The DLC meeting in Nashville didn’t get a lot of press, but Richard Locker of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal did a pretty good general review of the event, and Southern Political Report’s Tom Baxter wrote extensively about President Clinton’s speech.
Speaking of that speech, I happened to be sitting next to Dr. Drew Westen during the Clinton address, and afterwards he noted Clinton’s particular ability to measure any given audience’s interest-level in policy detail. The audience in Nashville had a very high tolerance level for wonkitude. (BTW, I interviewed Westen after the event, and will be posting it here soon).
One of the underlying buzz elements of this conference was the possibiilty that some of the governors speaking in Nashville might be “auditioning” in this and similar forums for the vice-presidential nomination–most notably Governors Sebelius, Schweitzer and Bredesen, who often appear on Veep “lists” along with New Mexico’s Bill Richardson (assuming he’s not at the top of the ticket) and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack.
Bredesen delivered a speech that was put together in a very interesting way. He bagan by talking about Tonnessee’s frontier heritage, segueing to his and his wife’s “twentieth-century pioneers” move to Tennessee from the northeast in the 1970s. He then discussed “barnraising” as part of the frontier legacy, and described the process wherein parts of a barn were built on the ground separately, and then literally “raised” into place. . Suddenly, but very smoothly, he started talking about incremental health care reform using the metaphor, suggesting that piecemeal reforms that addressed costs, improved quality, and covered kids, could be “raised” quickly into a universal system.
Given the complex and sometimes soporific nature of most discussions of incremental health care reform, it struck me as a brave and interesting effort to give the subject some vision and poetry. But you definitely had to hear the whole thing.
On the other hand, Bredesen’s stock was probably not improved by Rep. Jim Cooper’s introductory remarks. Trying to emphasize Bredesen’s popularity in Tennessee, Cooper noted that the Governor won all 95 counties in his re-election bid, “even though he’d just cut 400,000 people from Medicaid coverage.”
To borrow the punch line from a profane old joke about several men in a church who are competing with ever-more-lurid accounts of their pre-salvation depravity: “Don’t b’lieve I’d a told that, brother!”

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