America’s leaders in both parties need to show civility and work with those who disagree with them, Dan Glickman, a former U.S. House member and agriculture secretary, said at Saturday’s DemoFest at the Hyatt Regency Wichita.
About 100 activists, state party leaders and young Democrats from across the state gathered for a day of comradery, training and energizing ahead of November’s general election.
“We had some opportunities for our caucuses to meet. We did a little bit of training on ‘get out the vote’ and (Gov. Sam Brownback’s) tax plan,” said Joan Wagnon, chairman of the Kansas Democratic Party and former state secretary of revenue.
But what brought the crowd to its feet was Glickman’s speech. The Wichita native and graduate of Southeast High School used a mixture of warmth, humor and storytelling to tout his message of getting along.
“You have to be able to reach across the (party) line and be able to work with people,” Glickman said. “Competition works. It’s not healthy to have excessive one-party government.”
Glickman, who spent 18 years in Washington, D.C., representing the 4th Congressional District, specialized in agriculture and served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He told the crowd that “one segment of the American economy is doing extremely well. That is agriculture.”
He said that agriculture has strong bipartisan support and that Kansas has a great history of bipartisan leadership.
He admitted that the Democratic Party has a lot of work to do to get its message out in Kansas, where an increasingly conservative Republican Party controls the governor’s office, both houses of the Legislature, state elected offices and the state’s congressional delegation.
To do this, Glickman said, Democrats need good candidates, good fundraising and good organization. And, he said, the message has to be good.
“We have a huge amount of unemployment and underemployment,” he said. “We’re in uncertain times. The American people are disenchanted.”
Glickman now serves as executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, a bipartisan group that explores policy issues. Glickman said that neither party is immune to engaging in “perpetual tribalness” or polarization.
“A lot of the news is not news; it’s advocacy,” he said. “It’s on both sides.”
Glickman said there is a reason that the Founding Fathers created a balance of power in American government.
“They deliberately wanted one foot on the brake and one person on the accelerator at all times,” he said.
When a person in the audience asked if he would run for governor, causing a few others to add, “yeah,” Glickman said, “I’m going to help, but on the outside.”
Glickman said he also is concerned that children are not learning civics. Education is a priority of his, and he said that we cannot ignore teaching youngsters about how government works.
“He is my favorite,” said Natalee Story, who drove to Wichita from Winfield to attend the gathering. “He is terrific. He always has been.”