David Phelps on Principles & Values
Former Democratic Representative (IL-19)
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The 32 conservative and moderate Democrats in the Blue Dog Coalition hail from every region of the country, although the group acknowledges some southern ancestry which accounts for the group’s nickname. Taken from the South’s longtime description of a party loyalist as one who would vote for a yellow dog if it were on the ballot as a Democrat, the “Blue Dog” moniker was taken by members of The Coalition because their moderate-to-conservative-views had been “choked blue” by their party in the years leading up to the 1994 election.
The Coalition was formed in the 104th Congress as a common sense, bridge-building voice. Since then, the Blue Dogs have successfully injected a moderate viewpoint into the Democratic Caucus. The continuing political success of “Blue Pups” in the 1998 and 2000 elections points to the public’s approval of the centrist, fiscally responsible message represented by The Coalition.
The Coalition has been particularly active on fiscal issues, relentlessly pursuing a balanced budget and then protecting that achievement from politically popular “raids” on the budget.
The Coalition’s proposals on welfare reforms served as middle-ground markers which laid the foundation for the bipartisanship necessary to bring about fundamental reforms, and helped set into law policies reflecting the “common sense, conservative compassion” so often attached to the group’s efforts.
In the 107th Congress, the Coalition intends to continue to make a difference in Congress by forging middle-ground, bipartisan answers to the current challenges facing the Country. A top priority will be to finish the job of truly balancing the budget without counting the Social Security trust funds. Other early efforts will include campaign finance reform, strengthening Social Security, and health care reform. The group also expects to be involved in education, regulatory reform, taxes, defense and veterans affairs.
Since its inception, the DLC has championed policies from spurring private sector economic growth, fiscal discipline and community policing to work based welfare reform, expanded international trade, and national service. Throughout the 90’s, innovative, New Democrat policies implemented by former DLC Chairman President Bill Clinton have helped produce the longest period of sustained economic growth in our history, the lowest unemployment in a generation, 22 million new jobs, cut the welfare rolls in half, reduced the crime rate for seven straight years, balanced the budget and streamlined the federal bureaucracy to its smallest size since the Kennedy administration.
Now, the DLC is promoting new ideas -- such as a second generation of environmental protection and new economy and technology development strategies -- that is distinctly different from traditional liberalism and conservatism to build the next generation of America’s leaders.
America and the world have changed dramatically in the closing decades of the 20th century. The industrial order of the 20th century is rapidly yielding to the networked “New Economy” of the 21st century. Our political and governing systems, however, have lagged behind the rest of society in adapting to these seismic shifts. They remain stuck in the left-right debates and the top-down bureaucracies of the industrial past.
The Democratic Leadership Council, and its affiliated think tank the Progressive Policy Institute, have been catalysts for modernizing politics and government. The core principles and ideas of this “Third Way” movement [began with] Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign in 1992, Tony Blair’s Labour Party in Britain in 1997, and Gerhard Shroeder’s Social Democrats in Germany in 1998.
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