What Conservatives Can Learn From DLC Modernizers

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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It wasn’t that long ago when the Democrats were the party in the wilderness. Between 1969 and 1993, a Democrat occupied the White House for just four years. That all changed with Bill Clinton. And a relatively unsung Democratic reformer named Simon Rosenberg played a key role in modernizing efforts that helped elect Clinton — and Barack Obama.

That’s why I recently invited him on my podcast to discuss what he learned along the way.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Rosenberg told me about his efforts to persuade Democrats to change their way of thinking. It wasn’t easy. As he told me,

What’s the old line about Thomas Kuhn [who] talked about paradigm shifts? … When I was in college, I asked my professor — when we were studying intellectual history — and I said, “Well how did people in the old paradigm shift and become believers in the new paradigm?” And his answer was, “Well they don’t ever — they have to die and go away.

We both laughed. But the good news is that Rosenberg has a less extreme theory that those of us hoping to modernize the conservative movement might apply:

Part of my job was to accelerate the career development … in the way that Gingrich did at GOPAC.

… When I built [New Democrat Network] in 1996, I studied two organizations: I studied Emily’s List and GOPAC.

… You need a new GOPAC. You need the next generation of GOPAC that is not electing more anti-establishment sort of “burn the house down” kind of conservatives. But you need ones that are electing more Marco Rubio, kind of, and Ronald Reagan-like conservatives.

Listen to streaming audio of our full conversation here. And download the podcast on iTunes.

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Matt K. Lewis