Leadership Council was formed after the...

THE DEMOCRATIC

October 12, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

THE DEMOCRATIC Leadership Council was formed after the Democratic Party lost the 1984 election in a landslide. Its goal, as pundits like me put it, was to turn what had become a determinedly liberal party into a moderate, centrist entity.

"Not so," says Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute. The PPI is the brain of the DLC and hopes to become the brain of the Democratic Party. "I don't think we ever perceived of ourselves as centrists. I was never comfortable with that. It implies a compromise between two failed philosophies. For example, we are for replacing welfare, not reforming it."

He says PPI wants Democrats to get over the New Deal-New Frontier-Great Society thought process of looking for a federal solution to every problem. "The '90s are not the '30s or the '60s," he says.

He also says he wants to see the party dominated by ideas, not by special interest groups. The PPI's motto is from the British philosopher John Stuart Mill: "One person with a belief is a social power equal to 99 who have only interests."

Marshall sees the PPI becoming a sort of Heritage Foundation of progressivism. The Heritage Foundation is what pundits refer to as a right-wing think tank, and its ideas have energized Republican conservatism for two decades.

Bill Clinton and Al Gore are members of the DLC. DLC/PPI can be expected to provide bodies as well as ideas to a Clinton administration. Marshall has been mentioned by Washington gossips as a possible national security big shot under President Clinton, and DLC chairman Al From has been mentioned as a possible chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Typical of the approach PPI takes are these "seven ideas that will shape the Nineties" in the October 1992 issue of New Democrat, the DLC-PPI magazine:

1. National service. 2. Youth apprenticeships. 3. Charter schools. 4. Decentralized, market-driven health care. 5. Market incentives rather than regulations for environmental clean up. 6. Transfer of federal responsibilities to the states. 7. Pro-democracy foreign policy.

* * *

Life and politics are funny. Intended results often occur -- but for unexpected reasons. In 1989, William Galston of the University of Maryland wrote this for the PPI:

"The Democratic Party must choose between two basic strategies. The first is to hunker down. . . and wait for some catastrophe -- deep recession, failed war. . . -- to deliver victory. . . .

"The other strategy. . . is to address the party's weakness directly. The next nominee must be fully credible as commander-in-chief of our armed forces and as prime steward of our foreign policy; he must squarely reflect the moral sentiments of average Americans. . . ."

RF Now, which is more responsible for today's polls, Bill Clinton's

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