RePost: The Manifesto of The Third Way Democrats- The New Orleans Declaration

This piece was sent to Sam Dorn by Al From in Spring 2015. I have republished it here.


Formed in 1985 to revitalize the Democratic Party and lead it back into the political mainstream, the Democratic Leadership Council has grown rapidly to become a vital center for progressive ideas and policy innovation.

The DLC is a new generation of elected Democrats from all over the country and all levels of government—men and women who are tackling the challenges of a new political era with vigor and imagination.

Their purpose is to lay the intellectual and philosophical basis for renewing the Democratic Party’s capacity to provide national leadership. To that end, the DLC explores and develops creative policy approaches to fundamental questions of national policy. And, by championing far-reaching ideas such as civic obligation and voluntary national service, the DLC is forging a new Democratic agenda for the 1990s and beyond.

At the same time, DLC members hold fast to enduring Democratic principles- our party’s historic commitment to individual liberty, upward mobility, equal opportunity, resolve in defense of freedom, and civic responsibility.

The Democratic Leadership Council includes nearly 400 elected officials in federal, state, and local posts around the nation. Currently chaired by Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas, its previous chairmen are Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia, Senator Charles S. Robb of Virginia, and House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt off Missouri.


The New Orleans Declaration

A Democratic Agenda for the 1990s

This statement of Democratic principles was endorsed by the Fourth Annual Conference of the Democratic Leadership Council in New Orleans, Louisiana, March 22-25, 1990.


With this New Orleans Declaration, members of the Democratic Leadership Council reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental values and principles that have traditionally guided our party- and can unite it again today.

This Declaration carries forward the best of our Democratic tradition: Jefferson’s belief in individual liberty and responsibility; Jackson’s credo of equal opportunity for all, and special privilege for none; Roosevelt’s thirst for innovation; Truman’s faith in the uncommon sense of common men and women; Kennedy’s summons to civic duty and public service; Johnson’s passion for social justice; and Carter’s commitment to human rights.

It declares our beliefs that the fundamental mission of the Democratic Party is to expand opportunity, not government; in the politics of inclusion; that America must remain energetically engaged in the struggle for freedom in the world; in deterring crime and punishing criminals; in the protection of civil rights; in the moral and cultural values most Americans share—liberty of conscience, individuals responsibility, tolerance, work, faith, and family; and, that American citizenship entails responsibilities as well as rights.

We believe The New Orleans Declaration represents a turning point for Democrats. It declares our intent to transcend our differences, set forth our principles, and forge a broad national agenda to restore America’s economic strength, expand opportunity for every citizen, and promote freedom and democracy in the world.

Even in an era often dominated by 30 second sound bites and by campaign consultants and large television buys, we believe ideas count. The New Orleans Declaration is a clear statement of ideals in which we believe and ideas that will further them.

The specific proposals we offer in The New Orleans Declaration do not attempt to address every national need or solve every national problem. Nor do they represent the official policy of the Democratic Party, or even every member of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Taken together, however, they form a coherent and innovative approach for strengthening our country, reinforcing mainstream values, and enabling millions of our citizens to realize America’s true promise of equal and expanding opportunity- a blueprint for change that most Democrats can embrace.

We view this New Orleans Declaration not as our final word, but rather as a fresh point of departure for a vigorous national debate on how to lead America forward in the 1990s. We believe this Declaration will help put the DLC in the vanguard of that debate.

Bill Clinton


Sam Nunn

Past Chairman

Charles S. Robb

Past Chairman

Richard A. Gephardt

Past Chairman

Dave McCurdy

John B. Breaux

Barbara B. Kennelly

William H. Gray, III

James J. Blanchard

Lindy Boggs

Mike Espy


America is at a turning point, and so is the Democratic Party.

Around the world, democracy has triumphed, thanks in no small part to the faith, resolve and sacrifices of the American people.

Yet as we celebrate and work to consolidate freedom’s gains, Americans face a new challenge: to rebuild the foundations of our own economic security. America’s economic power and international leadership are slipping at the very moment nations are rushing to embrace our values.

This is no time for caution and complacency from our leaders. The measure of a president is not his standing in the polls, but America’s standing in the world.

We want more for America. In the past, at moments of national crisis or uncertainty, Democrats have stepped forward to provide bold ideas and imaginative leaders. The time has come for a new generation of Democrats to lead this country forward.

Here as elsewhere, the old isms have run their course, and old politics must give way to new realities. The political ideas and passions of the 1930s and 1960s cannot guide us in the 1990s. Together we pledge to overcome the forces of inertia and orthodoxy in both parties that keep America from moving forward.

Today, we declare our intent to transcend our differences, set forth our principles, and forge a broad national agenda to restore America’s economic strength, expand opportunity for every citizen, and promote freedom and democracy in the world.

With this Declaration, we take our case for change to the people.


We don’t need polls to tell us who we are. We know where we stand, and we reaffirm the enduring principles that guide us.

In keeping with our party’s grand tradition, we share Jefferson’s belief in individual liberty and responsibility. We endorse Jackson’s credo of equal opportunity for all, and special privileges for none. We embrace Roosevelt’s thirst for innovation, and Truman’s faith in the uncommon sense of common men and women. We carry on Kennedy’s summons to civic duty and public service, Johnson’s passion for social justice, and Carter’s commitment to human rights.

We believe the promise of America is equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.

We believe the Democratic Party’s fundamental mission is to expand opportunity, not government.

We believe in the politics of inclusion. Our party has historically been the means by which aspiring Americans from every background have achieved equal rights and full citizenship.

We believe that America must remain energetically engaged in the worldwide struggle for individual liberty, human rights, and prosperity, not retreat from the world.

We believe that the U.S. must maintain a strong and capable defense, which reflects dramatic changes in the world, but which recognizes that the collapse of communism does not mean the end of danger.

We believe that economic growth is the prerequisite to expanding opportunity for everyone. The free market, regulated in the public interest, is the best engine of general prosperity.

We believe the right way to rebuild America’s economic security is to invest in the skills and ingenuity of our people, and to expand trade, not restrict it.

We believe that all claims on government are not equal. Our leaders must reject demands that are less worthy, and hold to clear governing priorities.

We believe a progressive tax system is the only fair way to pay for government.

We believe in preventing crime and punishing criminals, not explaining away their behavior.

We believe the purpose of social welfare is to bring the poor into the nation’s economic mainstream, not maintain them in dependence.

We believe in the protection of civil rights and the broad movement of minorities into America’s economic and cultural mainstream, not racial, gender, or ethnic separatism. We will not tolerate another decade in which the only civil rights movement is backward.

We believe government should respect individual liberty and stay out of our private lives and personal decisions.

We believe in the moral and cultural values that most Americans share: liberty of conscience, individual responsibility, tolerance of difference, the imperative of work, the need for faith, and the importance of family.

Finally, we believe that American citizenship entails responsibilities as well as rights, and we mean to ask our citizens to give something back to their communities and their country.


Democratic Ideas for the 1990s


As we enter the 1990s, we believe Democrats must be the architects of national purpose, not just the mechanics of government policy.

With this Declaration, we offer a set of ideas for moving America forward. These proposals do not attempt to address every national need or solve every national problem. But together, they would strengthen our country, reinforce mainstream values, and enable millions of our people to realize America’s true promise.

Our ideas address challenges the Republicans have failed to meet. In the last decade, Americans have witnessed a real decline in U.S. economic power. The world’s greatest trading nation has become its greatest debtor nation, putting our economy at the whim of foreign lenders. The federal government has been immobilized by insolvency, sharply limiting our ability to invest in the future. Our children have slipped behind in educational attainment and our workers are less literate than many of our international competitors, just as the best jobs have begun to migrate across national borders to the most highly skilled workers. Our products no longer set the world standard, as U.S. managers in industry after industry have surrendered technological leadership to competitors from Japan and elsewhere.

Here at home, the social fabric of our society has been weakened. The Republicans have redistributed America’s wealth upward, further widening the gap between rich and poor. Their policies have left America with one of the most regressive tax codes in the world. Ad they have drained moral urgency from the fight against poverty, even as an underclass of homeless and jobless has emerged in our cities.

Unlike the Republicans, we believe that with purposeful leadership, the American people are willing to tackle these challenges. Our ideas for the 1990s offer bold new ways to solve them.


America lost ground in the world economy of the 1980s. We believe the 1990s must be an era of national renewal—a time to restore America’s economic strength and technological leadership in world markets. We need an economic strategy that plays to America’s enormous but neglected strengths—an unparalleled scientific base, a top-flight system of higher education, a skilled and flexible workforce and a vibrant entrepreneurial tradition.

Old institutions and entrenched interests are slowing America’s adaptation to the new realities of a post-industrial, global economy. We need fundamental changes in the way our society is organized to do business.

Therefore, we propose a new set of public and private actions designed to create a more dynamic, democratic capitalism:


-Reordering federal tax and spending policies to create a sound fiscal environment for growth and enterprise, and to restore tax equity;

-Instituting sweeping reforms in public education;

-Enlarging the nation’s supply of skilled workers through a nationwide system of youth apprenticeship;

-Making strategic public investments in human capital, infrastructure, and technology;

-Expanding international trade, opening markets to U.S. goods and fighting protectionism both in our market and abroad;

-Spreading individual ownership of economic assets, through employee stock ownership, savings incentives and other means;

-Promoting gain-sharing plans to link pay to performance for workers and managers alike;

-Encouraging more workplace democracy to ensure greater flexibility and productivity, and;

-Guaranteeing that no American family with a full-time worker lives in poverty.


In order to meet the challenges of the 21st Century, we must radically lift the level of public education in America.

We applaud the national education goals, recently adopted by the governors and endorsed by the President. They focus on performance, and are rooted in the realities of the global economy. All children must be physically and mentally ready to learn when they start school. The on-time high school graduation rate should go from 75% to 90%, the international standard. When they graduate, all students should have a core of learning in language, math, science, history, and geography, and national tests at the 4th, 8th, and 12th grades should measure their progress towards this goal. Our students should lead the world in math and science achievement, not lag behind in 13th, 14th, or 15th place as they do today. All our workers should be literate and should have access to a world-class system of lifetime learning. And all our schools should be safe, disciplined, and drug-free.

The problem is, we cannot achieve these goals without a radical restructuring of American education in every state and school district, and without a real commitment from our political leaders to close the huge gap between what they say and what they do about education.

At the state and local level, that means we need to take bold new steps to:

-Involve business and community leaders in dealing with the social problems that plague America more than her competitors, including high rates of teen pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, and high school dropouts;

-Give parents more choice in the schools their kids attend;

-Expand incentives for gifted students to enter the teaching profession, and provide opportunities for academically qualified adults who don’t have education degrees to become teachers;

-Ensure that children spend more time learning each year;

-Hold parents accountable for the role only they can play in making sure their children come to school and in encouraging them as they learn; and

-Give individual schools through their principals and teachers the freedom to experiment and the power to make decisions that sanction problems and reward success.

At the national level, the President and Congress need to fulfill their long-recognized obligation to provide preschool education for all children who need it. We believe that no American should be denied the opportunity to attend college or get post-secondary training solely for lack of money. By offering young Americans substantial college aid in return for national service, we can achieve that goal. We also must establish a national report card, issued annually, on the performance of students, schools, states, and the national government in moving toward the achievement of national education goals for the year 2000.


Lifting academic standards is half the battle—the U.S. also urgently needs to bridge the gulf between school and work. Germany and other nations have long used school-based apprenticeship systems to help their non-college-bound youth get the skills they need for rewarding jobs and careers. To improve the job prospects and productivity of the “forgotten half” of young Americans who do not attend college, the U.S. should likewise build a nationwide youth apprenticeship system in our schools.

Under youth apprenticeship, U.S. high schools would add a vocational education track that includes extensive on-the-job training at local businesses. With government acting as a catalyst, schools and businesses would work together to blend strong academic and technical learning with work at job sites for students who seek certification in an occupational field rather than a college education. By connecting success in the classroom with the chance to acquire marketable skills, youth apprenticeship would also give at-risk students a powerful new incentive to stay and do well in school.

Taken together, youth apprenticeship and voluntary national service can create a universal path to a good job or college education for all Americans willing to work hard or serve their country.


For a decade, the Republicans have undermined America’s sense of national purpose by exalting self-interest over common interests. It is time to define new duties for citizens as well as government. And it is time to replace the politics of entitlement with a new politics of reciprocal responsibility.

We propose a new, civilian version of the G.I. Bill that would promote upward mobility and encourage Americans to serve each other and their country. We envision a series of voluntary national service opportunities springing up in communities across the country: a Citizens Corps that offers educational and housing assistance to those who volunteer for public service; a Teacher Corps that would remove barriers to entering teaching; an Earth Corps to enlist youth in the battle to protect the environment, here and abroad; and a Police Corps to combat crime by putting more police officers on the streets.


Government’s first responsibility is to keep public order and protect law-abiding citizens from harm. Where government has failed in that duty, our poorest citizens have suffered most. Yet in recent decades, the U.S. has unwittingly allowed itself to unilaterally disarm in the domestic war against violent crime.

In 1950, there were more than three police officers for every violent crime reported in American cities. Now, more than three violent crimes are reported for every cop. We propose a Police Corps to restore public order in our communities and protect citizens by putting more police officers out on the streets, fighting crime. The Police Corps is, in essence, an ROTC program for police officers. In exchange for four years of college education and training, participants would give four years of service in their state or local police departments.

The Police Corps answers the need for a constructive federal role in fighting crime, which is chiefly a local responsibility. It would significantly expand the supply of college-educated police officers, and make special efforts to recruit more minorities. Just as important, it represents a new commitment to the philosophy of “community policing”—a preventive approach to crime that puts cops back on the neighborhood beat.


The environment has become a matter of family safety and national security. For a decade, the Republicans have failed to protect our air, land, and water from pollution. They have refused to take the lead, as America must do, in combating the global ecological crisis.

We support a Strategic Environment Initiative to provide more vigorous American leadership on global warming, ozone depletion, sustainable development, and other pressing environmental issues. Here in the United States, industry needs to start providing the level of environmental protection the American people want and deserve. Polluters should be help responsible for their actions, and where pollution is a crime, executives should go to jail. Moreover, the time has come for market-based solutions that will make polluters pay the true costs of pollution, and reward consumers and manufacturers for actions that make good environmental sense.

In the 1990s, environmental protection will be a precondition for economic growth. We need stronger national efforts to promote recycling, preserve wetlands, provide safe drinking water, and clean up hazardous waste.


Millions of hard-working Americans live in poverty even though they have full-time jobs. We propose a Guaranteed Working Wage that would enable all full-time, year-round workers who support a family to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Under this proposal, the current Earned Income Tax Credit would be redesigned and expanded so that it, together with wages they earn by working and the food-stamp benefits for which they are eligible, would raise the total incomes of full-time, year-round workers who support a family above the poverty level. Fully implemented, this Guaranteed Working Wage plan could end poverty for nearly four million Americans in families with a full-time worker. It would also help another seven million poor Americans in families with part-time or part-year workers.


We need a welfare system that will help people climb out of poverty, not keep them poor. We propose to create new savings accounts called Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) in order to help low-income families save and to build financial assets. IDAs are modeled after Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and likewise would receive favorable tax treatment. However, government would also match contributions to IDAs by low income citizens, and those savings accounts would be restricted to four purposes: post-secondary education, home ownership, self-employment, or retirement.

The administration has proposed a generous new tax break on savings for the upper-middle class. We believe any new savings plan should instead make saving easier for those who can’t already afford it.


We support creation of an Emerging Democracy Initiative that would move quickly to export democratic capitalism and democratic values to emerging democracies. Every dollar spent transforming major dictatorships into well-functioning democracies strengthens our strategic position in the world, and helps create new markets for U.S. products.

We need to move beyond traditional forms of economic and military aid by providing new forms of democratic assistance—from American scholarship programs for foreign students to democracy grants and technical expertise for groups working to build democratic institutions within their countries. Financed in part by transfers from the military budget, the Initiative could operate through existing channels (AID, the Peace Corps, etc.) and be expanded through a kind of “freedom-sharing”—sharing the welcome burden of democracy-building with our allies.


To build a solid foundation for our future economic security, we must invest so that our economy can grow—and we must pay for those investments.

We need a new, common sense approach for dealing with the Republican legacy of fiscal paralysis. We cannot continue to allow the cynical use of the social security apparatus, raised from a regressive tax on labor, to mask the true scope of America’s fiscal crisis.

The old budget politics of the right and the left don’t work anymore. We can’t tax our way out of the deficit, and we can’t cut our way out, either. We have to invest and grow our way out. To make room for strategic investments in our public infrastructure and human capital—such as those we propose in this Declaration—we will need to cut spending and raise revenues.

Sensible deficit reduction requires neither taking a “meat axe” to federal spending nor placing an excessive tax burden on average families, but rather a reordering of federal tax and spending priorities to create a sound environment for growth and enterprise. That means taking a hard look at federal entitlements and subsidies; cutting spending for low priorities and eliminating outmoded programs; reducing the military budget to adjust to new world realities; making strategic public investments in human capital, infrastructure, and technology; turning over to the states functions that they can perform better than Washington; and, restoring to progressivity the tax code.

We believe in financing the operations of government through progressive taxation. The U.S. has one of the world’s least progressive tax systems, thanks largely to the steady rise (including seven increases in the last decade) in the Social Security payroll tax. The payroll tax burden on average American families needs to be reduced and progressivity restored to the overall tax structure so that Americans are taxed according to their ability to pay.


These ideas will help us meet the challenges of the 1990s—to restore America’s economic strength, expand opportunity for every citizen, and promote freedom and democracy in the world.

They represent a starting point—not an end—to our agenda for America. We have other goals as well: to fight the scourge of drug abuse by placing every drug user into treatment by the end of this decade; to assure basic health insurance coverage for 31 million Americans who are now uncovered; to provide every family with the opportunity to secure decent and affordable housing; and, to accomplish a smooth transition from the defense buildup of the 1980s to the economic buildup of the 1990s.

This is what we want for America—a chance to serve, a duty to learn, and new paths to prosperity, in a society that is just and a world that is safe and free. We invite the American people to join our cause and help us build a better and stronger America in the 1990s.

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