Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

The New Democrats

The Democratic Party earned its reputation as the Mommy Party for a reason. No societal problem was so big that a federal government program couldn't solve it. Anybody remember the New Deal? Great Society, anyone? But there's a new breed of young members of the party who are keen on taking the party in a new -- and more productive -- direction.

Rep. Artur Davis (Ala.), Newark Mayor Cory Booker, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris were panelists at a Time magazine breakfast forum this morning at Baur's Ristorante featuring public officials it deemed "hot shots." Their embrace of a post-ideological philosophy toward the problems they must address (that don't rely on Washington) and their unabashed criticism of the Democratic Party showed why they are surfacing on the national radar.

When asked what their common gifts were, Newsom said, "The gift that we share is the willingness to innovate, the willingness to fail. We are not waiting for Air Force One to rescue us." Another gift is a willingness to buck their traditional allies. "We haven't had an honest conversation about things in the Democratic conference," Booker said. He then launched into a discussion about the inability to fire non-performing teachers or to grant merit pay to teachers who go the extra mile. "We're too beholden to special interests," he said.

"We [Democrats] do a very good job of saying what we're for," Davis said. But Democrats "don't do a good job of discussing the things we don't like," he added. And he faulted the party for dealing with people's visceral reactions to their anxieties by making them feel like their concerns are not based in fact. "We have to figure out how to address people's anxieties," Davis noted.

One anxiety is crime. And Harris made a compelling case for why Democrats need to make a connection between education and public safety. Whereas the Dems of old would wax poetic about the root causes of crime, she said, "It's not about rehabilitation. It's about public safety." She followed up by saying something that would have been considered heresy a few years ago: "What Democrats have to do is understand that Republicans have it right" in framing the debate on public safety.

Hearing Harris's blunt assessment was the rhetorical equivalent of opening a window in a musty old room. The fresh air breeds renewal. No matter what happens in November, the change Sen. Barack Obama is looking to bring to America's political discourse and problem-solving is already underway.

By Jonathan Capehart  | August 26, 2008; 6:58 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Making Progress on Race
Next: Progressives: No Longer Playing Defense


Maybe somebody should've asked Newsom whether the homeless situation in San Francisco shows his "willingness to innovate" or his "willingness to fail." All this New Dem talk is a joke. A walk down Market Street in San Francisco is NOT a joke.

Posted by: San Franciscan | August 27, 2008 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Cory Booker's been on this "teacher reform" kick for a while now but painfully oversimplifies the issues involved. He should realize there are "special interests" that genuinely care about the quality of education and should figure out a way to reach them -- if he'd been paying attention, he'd know that Randi Weingarten, for example, is someone he should be talking with -- not AT.

Posted by: Plain Dem | August 27, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

From what I've observed, Kamala Harris is not the least bit interested in public safety. In her first high profile act as DA she alienated the police by refusing to seek the maximum penalty for a bold cop killer. Oakland pimps & dealers come here to work because it's easy pickings. Nutjobs screaming & attacking people on busses & car break ins are considered normal. The town is crawling with illegala delaing crack that are given "Amnesty". She has shown a tendency to plea bargain nearly every thug in town, and our streets are awash in blood, literally. I had to walk across puddled traces from a shooting this morning on my way to work, two blocks from city hall. Republicans may "frame" crime,whatever that means, but these lazy silver spoon Democrats just ignore it.

Posted by: lilmike | August 27, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Please, PLEASE, Obama campaign, I hope you get the message that Kamala Harris is one of the most incompetent DAs in the history of California. Do you need evidence? Read about the witnesses she is charged with protecting that have been murdered, the undocumented/illegal/whatever CONVICTED gangbangers that are shielded by her office from deportation, released only to execute innocent people days later (this has happened multiple times), the complete contempt for prosecuting drug crimes, the focus on soft crimes that inflate stats, etc. News flash: SF is the best city in America to murder someone and get away with it, and Harris is much of the reason why.

Heard about the scam her office ran to fraudulently get millions in federal border crime money? Cost SF $5 million at the end of day, and probably was a crime. She took full responsibility for the fraud then pretended she never heard of it.

Her priorities: much fanfare for a prostitution decriminalization bill that would protect pimps rather than prostitutes:

She also announced recently that, after large cutbacks in her stuff, she would devote three fulltime staff to prosecuting parents of truant schoolkids.

Check out what has happened on her watch recently :

Obama needs people that do things, not just look pretty. Her hypocritical "public safety" speech sets a new standard.

Posted by: bill | August 27, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

If the Republicans have it right, San Francisco has it wrong. If you want to check out public safety in San Francisco, check out San Francisco's murder map:

Or San Francisco's crime map (City Hall is at McCalister and Polk. Plug that address in to see how many burglaries, larcenies, and drug offenses occur within a block or two of City Hall)

Posted by: 911 a Joke | August 27, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

News Flash: Kamala Harris is against the measure to decriminalize prostitution. Her claim is that she cares about sex trafficking. However, since the 2006 passage of the California Trafficking Victims Protection Act, there has not been a single prosecution for sex trafficking in San Francisco.

New Flash: International experts on sex trafficking, from the Global Alliance to End Trafficking in Women, say that decriminalization will help reduce trafficking crimes. Clients are often the first to report such abuses, and if the authorities can have a good relationship with clients, they will come forth with evidence of trafficking.

Kamala Harris and the Mayor both use sensationalist distortions, rather than talk about the facts, including the fact that they have not done a thing to actually stop trafficking, and they insist that we continue with the status quo.

I think the decriminalization measure will pass, and people will see through the sensationalism.

Posted by: slava | August 28, 2008 12:44 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company