Democratic Leadership Council founder From provides a deep insider’s view of the council’s agenda-setting evolution and the guiding of Bill Clinton into the White House.
Before Clinton’s 1992 election, the Democratic Party had been irrelevant in the previous six presidential election cycles, with the exception of Jimmy Carter riding the Nixon debacle. Still, From refused to participate in the death spiral, choosing instead to resuscitate fundamental elements of the party identity: opportunity and responsibility, lack of special privileges, no-nonsense internationalism, tolerance, inclusion, national service and community. The author begins with the pre-DLC strategizing, moves through its formative years with Charles Robb and Sam Nunn, and closely follows Clinton’s ascendency. He offers an advanced course in political maneuvering, an often messy affair with countless incidents of treachery and backfiring. He discusses how to promote civil rights but not alienate the Southern vote, how to counter the influence of party bosses and interest-group leaders, how to captivate important audiences outside the Congress (press, political strategists, intellectuals, policy wonks), and the importance of a policy institute and regional chapters. Though the author occasionally paints in broad strokes, he provides useful examples throughout. From is a results man and likes to sink his teeth into problems, ranging from combating inflation to the prickly issue of Clinton’s alleged paramour Gennifer Flowers, though he is not averse to a bit of chest-thumping (“Over the next three years, [Ed] Muskie, with me at his side, sowed the seeds for what would grow into the important underpinnings of the New Democratic movement”). From’s main interest, however, is the continued tuning of the DLC platform, including “spending reductions, modernizing entitlements, and increasing revenue by reforming the tax code.”
A well-detailed guide to the organizational and philosophical workings of one successful political strategy.