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Crashing the Party    cover photo

Crashing the Party 2016

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Passion River Films, 154 Mt. Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059; 732-321-0711
Produced by DLC Film Productions LLC
Directed by David Sigal
DVD, color, 88 min.

Middle School - General Adult
Democratic Leadership Council, Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, Al From

Date Entered: 10/18/2016

Reviewed by Christopher Lewis, American University Library, American University

Crashing the Party is the story of the genesis of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) in 1985 and its role in reviving the Democratic party, most notably in its strategizing to win back the presidency in the 1992 election. Because the DLC intentionally challenged the prevailing orthodoxy of the party at the time, in areas such as welfare reform and national defense, it was regarded with suspicion and disdain, and only under the steady intellectual leadership of Al From was it able to develop new ideas and foster a new generation of leaders, most notable among them, Bill Clinton, who the party would support. The latter half of this documentary focusses on the first campaign of Bill Clinton and how he came to embody that new message of “opportunity, responsibility, and community.”

Though a bit hagiographic in the telling, this is an important documentary for understanding how the moribund Democratic Party was brought back to life in the late 1980s. It wasn’t an easy change because it meant a necessary move to the center, where the voters were, and a turning away from some of the more recognizable liberal leaders of the party (e.g. Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy, Dianne Feinstein, Mario Cuomo) in favor of the decidedly less exciting and more hawkish, pro-business leaders (e.g. Sam Nunn, Chuck Robb, Al Gore). In Jesse Jackson’s words, the DLC represented “Democrats of the leisure class.” The philosophical differences between the camps were overcome during the candidacy and presidency of Bill Clinton, who had been groomed by Al From for the job. Though as evident in the intense battles pitched between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton, intense intra-party battles between the centrists and the liberal left still persist.

The video is replete with interviews with many of the principal participants as well as a good collection of source footage to tie the narrative together. Highly recommended for academic and public libraries.