THE MARYLAND CHAPTER of the Democratic Leadership...


THE MARYLAND CHAPTER of the Democratic Leadership Council holds its kickoff event tonight in Annapolis.

The DLC was founded in 1985 and dedicated to making the national Democratic Party over into a "moderate progressive" one.

The Annapolis event comes at a time when DLC-ers could not be more pleased with themselves. Why? Well, why not? After all:

* The Democratic Party this year produced its first relatively moderate platform in over two decades. Al From, the president and executive director of the DLC, had something to do with that. He was Bill Clinton's representative in the party's platform deliberations.

* Bill Clinton, whom many (no, most) (maybe all) DLC-ers believe will be the next president of the United States, is a founding member and former chairman of the DLC.

* So is Al Gore Jr.

In 1984, the party lost 49 states in the presidential election. So, not a bad achievement in only seven years. But they knew from the start they could do it. Not! Al From says today that it was his expectation that the DLC wouldn't be the dominant force in the Democratic Party before the year 2000.

Last year he probably thought even 2000 was an optimistic target. The DLC was about to hold its first convention. From pointedly did not invite Jesse Jackson and George McGovern to speak. From said McGovern, who did even worse than Mondale when he ran for president in 1972, and the controversial Jackson stood for the very things the DLC was trying to divorce from the Democratic Party: "old-style politics," meaning politics based on a coalition of blacks and the dependent.

Well, Jackson went ballistic and many commentators came to his defense. The DLC convention was derided as, among other things, a "sham" produced by conservative Republican lobbyists who did provide a lot of the funding). From was pretty low. But, oh, look at him now. He'll be a Very Important Person in Bill Clinton's Washington.

(He and Clinton owe a lot to their old nemesis. A big reason Bill Clinton is as popular as he is today is that he attacked Jackson and Jackson's Rainbow Coalition. After the L.A. riots, Clinton went to a Rainbow meeting and condemned rapper Sister Souljah as a racist. This led to a very public confrontation with Jackson. Clinton didn't blink. A Washington Post-ABC poll taken just before this showed Clinton 10 points behind George Bush and 4 behind Ross Perot. In the next Post-ABC poll, taken with no other headline-making story intervening, he was 2 and 5 points ahead of them.)

Al From likes to say that political parties and organizations like the DLC need a brain. He implies but does not say that he thinks the Democratic Party has been like Dorothy's friend, the Scarecrow, for about 20 years. The DLC's brain, which it clearly wants to transplant into the Democratic Party's skull, is the Progressive Policy Institute.

Monday: The PPI.

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