that their promise of two years of community college. There were no surprises here, but the pitch to “the mainstream” \(i.e., suburban, white, middle-class voters who hadn’t yet, like most of the eligible electorate, abandoned the possibility of a real civic when introducing Hillary and any other time he had a chance, had reduced the prevailing windstorm to a slogan: “The Democratic Party stands for the American Dreamthat if you work hard, and play by the rules, you’ll make a good living and have a good quality of life, and your children will do better than you have.” As an advertising slogan it was a bit wordy, but it held at least as much possibility as Reagan’s “New Morning in America”and if it didn’t mention democracy, or freedom, or rights, or independence, or power, in the new Democratic party those ideas have officially become sort of oldfashioned political notions, anyway. Hillary and Garry had entered to the swinging strains of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys’ version of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” She closed, as did Friday’s program, to the disco exhortations of KC and the Sunshine Band: “Celebration Time!” It was official: happy days were here again. BACK TO THE PRESENT funny thing happened on the way to the Democrats’ twenty-first century. That was one bit of fallout after the state convention, when a week later the fledgling “21st Century Democrats” became the “Unity Campaign.” On June 14, party leaders announced that 21st Century co-chairman Steve Gutow and much of his organization was shifting over to lead the party’s Unity Campaign, a coordinated effort to promote the statewide Democratic ticket this fall. The fate of the 21st Century Democrats, less than a year old, remains unclearparty spokesmen say it will . still exist, but as a “mainstream issues lobby,” to keep the party focused on economic issues. In response to the Texas Democratic Party’s near-death experience in 1994, Land Commissioner Garry Mauro had recruited his old friend, Dallas native Steve Gutow, to resuscitate the party with an infusion of young blood. With initial seed money provided by Mauro and other party donors, the 21st Century Democrats were born, with Gutow as coordinative chairman. Gutow, a lawyer and political organizer, was the Dallas County co-chair for the Dukakis presidential bid, and a major fundraiser for Ann Richards in 1990. Before returning to Texas at Mauro’s request, he had been in Washington running the National Jewish Democratic Council. Preliminary meetings last fall among party activists helped define the “core issues” that most Democrats felt they could support. The 21st Century Democrats held their first public rally in Austin last January, announcing the goal of refocusing the Democratic party on “pocketbook” issues as expressed in the group’s “New Roadmap Resolution.” The resolution emphasizes economic growth, job security and training, Steve Gutow Alan Pogue educational opportunity, incentives for small businesses, and public health and safety. In May, most precinct and county conventions adopted the resolution, formally ratified at the state convention, where organizers say they also recruited more than five hundred new members. The language of the 21st Century Democrats is strongly reminiscent of the conservative Democratic Leadership Council, which helped propel Bill Clinton to the White House, but the Twenty-Firstersor former Twenty-Firstersbristle at the comparison. Unlike the DLC, Gutow argues, he has organizers across the state charged with rebuilding the party precinct by precinct and county by county, and their entire effort is aimed at reviving the party’s emphasis on the “mainstream” economic issues of middle-income, working-class Texans. Presently, there are six regional coordinators; Gutow hopes to have twenty-five to thirty more area organizers in place by September. The field workers are paid a subsistence wage, and each organizer is required to go through a training program, including a reading of Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky’s primer for organizers. Among its principles, Rules for Radicals advises bluntly that the “job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a `dangerous enemy.'” This is advice that the 21st Century Democrats \(or Unity Camminded that Democrats have long benefited from the deep pockets of Archer-DanielsMidland, Gallo Wines, and ARCO, for instance, organizer Victor Hwang fired back, “If you can find [another] way to finance a major effort for the common man which will wield significant political influence…I’d like to see it.” Hwang’s retort now seems prescient. Although Gutow had initially insisted that his “grass-roots” organization be legally separate from the Democrats, organizers frankly acknowledge that the only way to sustain their ambitious election-cycle effort is with the direct financial support of the party. In addition to Mauro, the initial support for Twenty-Firsters had come from Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock, Attorney General Dan Morales, Comptroller John Sharp, and the Texas AFL-CIO, foreshadowing the full embrace of Gutow by party chairman Bill White. Recalling the defeat of Hubert Humphrey by Nixon in 1968, Gutow says he retained an abiding disgust with Humphrey because he saw little difference between the two candidates. Gutow says he still believes that “there has to be a radical politics,” but he is wary of being a “puritan idealist.” He quotes John Milton \(as it hap pragmatic politics: “A maiden unsullied living in an ivory tower knows no virtue.” Todd Basch and Michael King JUNE 28, 1996 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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