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Election 2008: Democratic Leadership Council

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Al From
Founder and CEO, Democratic Leadership Council
Thursday, August 28, 2008; 12:30 PM

Democratic Leadership Council founder and CEO Al From was online live from the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Thursday, Aug. 28 at 12:30 p.m. ET to take readers' questions about moderate Democrats in the 2008 election and at the convention.

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

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Al From: Hello. I'm Al From, founder of the Democratic Leadership Council. The DLC is an idea action force that tries to help Democrats broaden their political base and come up with progressive-centrist solutions to the major challenges facing America.

Before, I start with questions I just want to note what an historic and proud day this is for America with the nomination of Barack Obama for President. Forty two years ago, I came to Washington to work for the War on Poverty. I worked in Selma and Sunflower County, Mississippi, where Barack Obama would not have been able to vote. It was our dream that someday we would live up to the promise of America and every young person could grow up to do anything his or her talents would allow. Barack Obama's nomination is a realization of that dream. And every American, whether you're going to vote for him or not, should take note and be proud.

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Arlington, Va.: How effective do you think the McCain campaign recycling Sen. Clinton's ads and quotes against Sen. Obama will be?

Al From: I think the Republicans will do what they always do -- attack, attack, attack. I don't think in the end that will work. Americans are disgusted with the way Republicans have led our country. They want change. They want hope. They America to lead by example again. So as long as Barack Obama lays out his philosophy and his agenda for leading our country, the Republican ads will have little long term effect. The country wants change -- and when Obama assure it he will bring it, he'll roll to election.

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Philadelphia: Is Barack Obama close enough to Democratic Leadership Council positions that you believe most DLC members will support him enthusiastically?

Al From: I believe the leadership of the DLC and DLC rank and file will enthusiastically support Barack Obama. His themes -- hope, opportunity, and responsibility -- are themes the DLC believes in deeply and, in fact, played a big role in injecting them into the lexicon of the Democratic Party. The big promise of his campaign -- to get beyond the old partisan divide and work with people in both parties to solve our country's problems, is the promise and the strategy the DLC has pushed since we began in 1985. So I believe you'll see DLC people pushing hard for Obama this fall.

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Washington: Just a comment: I am confused why all the pundits keep saying "Americans don't know Barack Obama." I just simply don't understand that concept, what with the Internet and all the Google searches. People don't seem to have problems with looking up everything they can on anyone else, so if they can read and use a simple Google search -- they aren't using their brains. Maybe they can't find any dirt on him, so they feel he isn't genuine. I just don't understand....

Al From: Not everybody follows politics every day like you and I do. Most people don't have time to do extensive Google searches. So while we've seen Obama's great talents for 18 months, a lot of people who work hard every day to take care of their families are just learning about him. That's why we have a campaign. And, I'm confident as more people focus on the campaign and see Barack Obama, they'll come to like him and support him.

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Colorado: Who are some up-and-coming Democrats to watch? Obama was giving the keynote just four years ago; who are the next group of Democratic leaders?

Al From: The DLC has made a major commitment to identify and develop the next generation of leaders around the country. We have a DLC Fellows Program to help develop their leadership skills. The Democratic Party is blessed with a proliferation of great up and coming leaders. I always hate to start listing because I always leave someone out. But I'll name a few. We have great young governors -- Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Martin O'Malley of Maryland -- to name just three. Mayors like Cory Booker of Newark, Mike Nutter of Philadelphia, Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, John Hickenlooper here in Denver. And then people you may not have heard of like some of our DLC Fellows -- State Rep. Bakari Sellars of South Carolina, Raj Goyle of Kansas, Andrew Romanoff of Colorado and many, many more.

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Colorado: What is the Democratic Leadership Council's role in the democratic party?

Al From: The Democratic Leadership Council has several roles in the Democratic Party. We offer a political and intellectual home to the progressive centrist Democrats. We provide hard nosed, realistic political analysis and political strategies. We develop ideas that help Democrats solve the big challenges facing this country and connect those ideas to elected officials who actually have to govern. We identify and develop leaders for the future. And, we're known to be willing to challenge old orthodoxies when we believe that's in the best interest of the county and the Democratic Party. I dare say that if you're a Democrat who is pro-growth, pro-opportunity, pro-responsibility, pro-trade, pro-reform, and pro-strength, you'd be very comfortable with the DLC.

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Washington: I'm a bit fearful of this election because I see how the Republican party operates. Besides the failed policies of Bush, I find their campaigns to be completely underhanded and dishonest. Bush did it to McCain in the primaries, Bush did it to Kerry is '04, and now they are poised to run the same game on Obama. Can hope really combat fear-mongering?

Al From: Hope always beats anger. And hope with an agenda for change, prosperity and responsibility will beat the Republicans.

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New York, N.Y.: I personally have found Joe Biden to be one of the most thoughtful and analytical people, with a strong moral base that I believe will help guide our policies, especially our foreign policies, in the right direction. I personally fear that the Bush administration lost a golden opportunity after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to garner international support and lead our nation as a role model for the rest of the world. Do you believe Biden will be good for our foreign relations?

Al From: Joe Biden is a good and thoughtful man. He's been a friend of mine forever. He helped me found the DLC in 1985 and if you back into the archives of this newspaper there was a front page story in November 1985 about a DLC trip to North Carolina that featured Senator Biden. We recently gave him a DLC Truman Award for national security and foreign policy. He's as articulate as anybody on the American scene on foreign policy.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Al, thanks for taking questions from Denver! I've been an Obama supporter from the beginning, I've volunteered for and donated to the campaign, and defended him from pretty much every attack. But when I saw the stage for tonight at Invesco ... even I think the columns are overkill. Whose decision was that? What were they thinking?

Al From: I'm not part of the Obama campaign, so I don't know who made the staging decisions. I think ideas are important in politics. And, I hope and believe when Senator Obama finishes his historic speech tonight, people will remember what he says, not the setting in which he gave it.

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Virginia: What centrist issues are going to be most important in this coming election, and how can the party use moderates to reach out to swing voters?

Al From: I think the big challenges America faces are the big issues for Democrats of all stripes and Republicans and independents as well. Among them: how do we create an upward mobility track for hard working Americans in a global economy -- that includes dealing with middle class anxieties like health care, cost of college, retirement security, ability to own and keep a home; how do end our dependence of oil so we can stop funding both sides on the war on terrorism; how do we get out of Iraq responsibly and constructively and keep America and Americans safe in a world where some people get up every morning thinking of ways to harm us; how do we get beyond the polarized and debilitating politics and bring America together asking every American to contribute to his or her country and give something back to the commonwealth. We have many challenges.

Many years ago one of my mentors, the late Representative Gillis W. Long of Louisiana, who once lost his Congressional seat because of his support for civil rights told me that to win and govern Democrats needed the compassion to care and the toughness to govern. Ideas we push at the DLC follow that formula -- and I believe it is the formula that brings liberal and moderate Democrats together -- and it also had appeal to independents and sensible Republicans, as well.

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Al From: Thanks for this chance to communicate with you. I'd like to end where I began. This is an historic day for America -- and all Americans no matter your party or your candidate -- should be proud and enjoy it. Thanks again for having me.

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