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Dems Should Learn from Their State Labs

My DD's Scott Shields has a post following up on Justin Blum's Sunday WaPo article about 'blue states" leading the charge in creative energy reforms. Yes, we know, it's hard enough to keep up with national politics, let alone what's going on in the individual states we don't call home. Yet, the point is well-taken that the states are laboratories for innovative policy, and if a new legislative reform meets with impressive success, it should be publicized and replicated.

Shields faults the WaPo piece for its narrow definition of "blue" states as those voting for John Kerry in '04. He argues that states with Dem Governors and/or legislative majorities ought to be included for a fuller picture, and serves up Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer's plan for coal liquefaction as exhibit "A".

Shields points out that blue states are also pioneering creative ethics reforms. No surprise there. How could it be otherwise? Yet it does merit a special reminder for Dems looking for fresh policy alternatives amid mounting GOP scandals. To this we could also add social reforms, such as the Maryland state legislature's recent measure, passed over the GOP governor's veto, to require Wal-Mart to spend a higher portion of the state's budget on health security for its workers.

The oft-repeated cliche that "the Democratic party is devoid of ideas" has been nicely refuted by Shields and Blum, and Dem candidates and campaign staffs should master their points. As Shields concludes:

Not only do the national Democrats have a small mountain of policy proposals sitting on the shelf, waiting for Democratic majorities in Congress to pass it, but Democrats in the states are actually getting things done. If anyone wants to know what Democratic control in Washington would look like, look to the states.

This challenge takes on heightened importance, considering that Dem prospects for winning a majority of state governorships in November are exceptionally bright. (See our December 5 th post) Dems may well be on the cusp of an historic opportunity to reverse years of GOP gerrymandering and turn the states into shining demonstration projects that can shape national policy.