Forty Years in the Desert

Funny how what goes around comes around.

I caught Jon Stewart’s interview with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich last night and while I admit to being just a smidge gleeful having lived in his district during the time of his ouster, the man that Stewart interviewed showed few signs of the Newt of old. But I digress. The point I am getting at is that during the interview Gingrich referred to the Conservative movements time out of power, from Goldwater to presumably W, as their “forty years in the desert.”

During those forty years pundits and lefties alike proclaimed the death of the Republican party on many occasions, using the same rhetoric we hear tossed around about the Democratic party of today. Being the political junkie I am I find it crucial to examine why such a “near dead” movement has been able to rise back to power. From what I can see the Republican party owes its current position of power to a long-term grass roots effort to elect conservatives at all levels of government beginning with local and municipal offices.

In the June 20 issue of The Nation (yea, I can’t understand how I already have the June 20 issue either but bare with me) John Nichols has an article entitled Urban Archipelago: Progressive cities in a conservative sea that goes a long way toward laying out the first steps of the Democratic party’s exit from what I hope will not become forty long years in the desert. Nichols’ main point is that American cities are key to grooming the future of Democratic politicians. I could not agree more.

In his analysis Nichols points to mayors in cities like Lawrence, KS, Los Angeles, CA, Madison, WI, and West Palm Beach FL as the future of the party. These and other cities around the country are enacting progressive legislation in a way that could never happen in Washington. If the reason people elect Governors to the Presidency is their track record as Chief Executives then why not elect Mayors? Many of them preside over populations larger than most states.

Shortly after reading this article I admit to being a little ticked that he did not mention Pittsburgh among his list of progressive cities but then I realized something, progressives need to win races not just be active to be effective. Now I am speaking to all Pittsburghers here when I say you have among you the future of the Democratic party and you chose, this time around, not to let them in the door. That was a mistake that, like everything else in Pittsburgh, will put us a good six years behind the rest of the country. Unless you want to wander in the desert for a full forty years I urge you to not let that mistake happen again. For the rest of you, pay attention to your urban centers for they hold the keys to the return of the Democratic party.

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