The DLC convention in Nashville this weekend featured a keynote address by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and ended with remarks from President Bill Clinton.

Coverage of the speeches can be found at the The Commercial Appeal, the Knoxville News Sentinel, and the Nashville Tennessean.

None of the current Democratic presidential candidates, who were all were invited to attend, made it to the conference. The conventional wisdom is that they are campaigning hard to the left during the primaries to appeal to the base, and will come courting the middle in the general election.

The DLC gets hammered a lot by the Democratic Circular Firing Squad for being "GOP-lite" on too many issues, and rightly so in many cases. Perhaps, though, the party as a whole should keep an open mind about moderate ideas, and keep an open dialog with moderate Democrats and Republicans to find common ground and educate one other as necessary.

For example, the DLC is considered business-friendly, but what's wrong with that? Capitalism drives America and our economy and makes us what we are. As Clinton said in his speech yesterday, "The last time I checked, the best anti-poverty program was a job," and "We're 4 percent of the world's people; we have about 25 percent of its annual income. In order to keep that, we've got to sell something to the other 96 percent of the world." It's hard to argue with that.

There's a dark side to capitalism, though, and its praticioners have gained too much power and influence while more responsible and thoughtful people argue about how much regulation is enough and whether "free markets" are really free. And free trade is great, but it has to be fair trade and too many of our "free trade" deals are one-sided and we don't enforce even the meager human rights and environmental provisions, as Clinton also noted.

Clinton points to his success with welfare reform, which is widely criticized by more socially liberal Democrats. But who would disagree with the notion that anyone able to work should work and if you work you shouldn't live in poverty? On the other hand, the idea is better than the execution. "Able to work" means more than just mentally and physically able. It also means being ready to work with the right education, skills and training. It means a social support structure for single parents and two-earner families. It means affordable housing and transportation. It means available jobs and a strong economy.

There's plenty of other happy rhetoric in the DLC agenda, such as "We believe government must combat discrimination on the basis of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation; defend civil liberties; and stay out of our private lives." Who could argue with that? But actions speak louder than words, and DLC/Blue Dog Democrat candidates who supported the anti-gay marriage amendment did not live up to that principle. And what about the Patriot Act, domestic spying programs, and other affronts to civil liberties?

Another DLC goal is "A modernized military equipped to deal with emerging threats to security, such as terrorism, information warfare, weapons of mass destruction, and destabilizing regional conflicts." Yet the DLC/Blue Dog Democrats in Congress voted for a war in Iraq that has weakened our military and created destabilizing regional conflicts.

On the other hand, the DNC Democrats are still running on a 2006 anti-war platform that helped pick up a few seats in Congress. Almost everyone agrees that we need to end the occupation of Iraq. But that chapter of American history will close, hopefully sooner than later, and it will then be time to move on to the other problems that have been neglected for the past seven years. Mainstream/DNC Democrats are going to have to start offering up solutions pretty soon. Perhaps they could take some cues from he DLC playbook.

The list goes on and on, but Democrats of all stripes might do well to review the DLC Hyde Park Declaration to see if there isn't some common ground. The "Ideas" menu at the DLC website has hundreds of position papers on every important issue facing America, and there are some great ideas there.

If America can agree on worthwhile goals we can start working towards achieving them. If the Democratic Party can unite DLC Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats, Liberal Democrats, Progressive Democrats, Social Democrats, and all the other brands of Democrats and the growing number of disenchanted moderate Republicans, they'll have a better shot at electing leaders who will promote progressive policies and actually start solving some of America's problems.

But first they have to agree on some principles, and then they have to make themselves accountable for upholding those principles. Progressives can find plenty of areas for agreement with the DLC Democrats, but the DLC Democrats must stand by their principles and not sell out the party or its principles just to get elected.

As for what those principles should be, perhaps it's time to get back to basics: "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."