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Al From, the Old Warrior, Steps Down
News came this week that Al From, the CEO of the DLC, is stepping down after 24 years at the helm. As he looks backs at those years, Al certainly has a great deal to be proud of. The DLC was instrumental in mounting the first sustained, center-left intellectual and political response to the rise of modern conservatism, and was central to crafting the argument that became the core of Bill Clinton's inspiring campaign and successful Presidency. The language, arguments and analysis of those days, while they are perhaps not as fresh as they once were, are still are very much alive and still influential in today's Democratic Party.
There is a strong argument to be made that the DLC has been the most influential think tank in American politics over the past generation. Some may argue that the Heritage Foundation did more for the conservatives than the DLC for the center-left. However you come down on that one, what we do know is the DLC helped set in motion a period of party modernization that has helped the Democratic Party finally, in this last election, led by Barack Obama, overcome the potent and ultimately ruinous rise of the New Right and become once again America's majority party.
But as an alumnus of the DLC, I can say that I think Al From's greatest legacy may not be the Clinton Presidency or the many politicians the DLC has helped over the years. Al's lasting legacy may very well end be in the intellectual leaders he helped train, and the many DLC-inspired institutions these leaders have gone on to create. The Third Way, NDN, Democracy Journal, Education Sector, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the newly independent Progressive Policy Institute and of course, the new DLC under Bruce Reed, can all trace their lineage back to Al From and the DLC. Al helped birth a Presidency, but he also helped spawn many vibrant institutions who will be in their own way carrying on his mission for years and perhaps generations into the future.
His argument that "ideas matter;" his understanding of the need to revitalize the great progressive tradition which had lost its way; his own entrepreneurial spirit, and intolerance of lazy compromise, helped inspire not just a President, but thousands of elected officials, writers, thought leaders and next generation progressive entrepreneurs. While I had my differences with Al over the years, I for one hope that he looks back with bountiful pride at the dynamic, modern and successful 21st century progressive movement and Democratic Party in place today, ones he very much helped architect and create.
From those of at NDN, we thank you, Al, for your years of passionate service, and wish you good luck in this next chapter in what has been a full life, hard fought and well-lived.