What Governors See in the DLC

To the extent anyone is paying attention to the Democratic Leadership Council's annual convention in Nashville, it's to point out who isn't there.
by | July 31, 2007
 

To the extent anyone is paying attention to the Democratic Leadership Council's annual convention in Nashville, it's to point out who isn't there. None of the Democratic presidential candidates showed up, a testament to how far the centrist Democratic group (unofficial motto: "The people who brought you the Clinton presidency") has fallen.

However, I'm more interested in who is still affiliating with the DLC. Of the 28 Democratic governors, 22 or so have been named DLC's "New Dem of the Week" at least once.

It's easy to see why the DLC would want to latch on to governors: They actually accomplish stuff. Even the most ideological governor has non-ideological initiatives that the DLC can highlight as examples of Democrats "reshaping American politics by moving it beyond the old left-right debate." (That's an official motto).

What's interesting, though, is that governors are still showing the DLC love. Arizona's Janet Napolitano wrote an article for them in April, Kansas' Kathleen Sebelius recorded a podcast last year. Iowa's Tom Vilsack was the group's chairman. That conference in Nashville? Tennessee's Phil Bredesen played host and Maryland's Martin O'Malley was there too.

Part of the reason is that Democratic governors are more moderate than most other elected officials in their party. That's true of Napolitano, Sebelius and Bredesen.

But O'Malley? He's been one of the most progressive governors in the country in his first year in office, making Maryland the first state to require all state contractors be paid a living wage. I bring that up because, besides the Iraq War, the main reason Democrats feel alienated from the DLC is that the group spars with labor unions.

If there seems to be some contradiction there, don't forget, governors accomplish stuff. Presidential candidates are defined by the company they keep -- are you a DLC Democrat or a Daily Kos Democrat? -- but governors are defined by what they do.

No Maryland Democratic activist cares what groups O'Malley is in, so long as he keeps enacting progressive policies. As a result, he (and other governors) can keep extracting whatever benefits they see from DLC participation, be it national exposure, fundraising contacts or trips to the Opryland Hotel, without fear of antagonizing the base back home.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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