Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Kentucky Fried Democrats

The Democratic Party is in worse shape than you thought.
Pundit Matthew Yglesias recently wrote how the Democratic Party is in deep trouble because, despite the clown show that is the 2016 Republican presidential nomination contest,  the Republicans are actually in very good shape.  They control over two-thirds of the state legislatures, 31 governorships, and both houses of Congress.  Also, the Republicans have many young leaders like Paul Ryan, the newly installed Republican Speaker of the House, while the Democratic leadership in increasingly represented by people old enough to qualify for the same Medicare program that Ryan is trying to cut into oblivion.  And nowhere was that more obvious in last week's elections than in Kentucky.
Five years ago, Chris Matthews predicted that Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, Rand Paul's Democratic opponent in the 2010 U.S. Senate race in that state, would go on to better and greater things.  Last week, Conway lost the Kentucky gubernatorial election - an election in which polls showed him ahead with a slight lead - to Tea Party Republican Matt Bevin by eight percentage points, despite Bevin being unpopular within his own party, being seen as a tool of big business, and being adamantly opposed to the state's health-care exchange.  Conway was seen as too slick and too calculating to connect with the voters, and the uproar over gay marriage caused there by Kim Davis's martyr act had to do something with the result as well.  (I told you she was part of  conspiracy to shift the electoral polls in Kentucky.)  Conway, for his part, proved to be ineffective in delivering the Democrats' message to people who vote Republican and against their own interests.  And he's the latest young Democrat to go from rising star to shooting star. 
To be fair, the 2015 elections - which also saw Republican Phil Bryant re-elected governor of Mississippi - weren't a complete disaster for the Democrats, despite the media's attempt to frame it as such.  In New Jersey, Democrats expanded their majority in the state Assembly, further embarrassing Governor Chris Christie in the middle of his presidential bid.  Pennsylvania voters just elected three Democratic justices to the state Supreme Court.  But the Democrats lost the highest-profile contests, and liberals who pushed for legalizing marijuana in Ohio and preventing a repeal of an anti-discrimination law against gays in Houston came up embarrassingly short.  The Democrats are increasingly perceived as a party that can't sell its ideas (assuming it has any) to the general public even when the GOP is completely bankrupt of intellectual fervor and sensible policy proposals.  Yes, Jim Kenney, a Democrat, was elected mayor of Philadelphia - but a Democrat is always elected mayor of Philadelphia.  The Democrats may be able to push back against the disaster narrative with a victory in the November 21 Louisiana gubernatorial runoff election between Democrat John Bel Edwards and Republican David Vitter, but they'll still have a net gain of zero governorships.
With its leaders aging, its power base diminished, and its irrelevance on the increase, the party began to think of nominating a sixty-something veteran to get its mojo back.  The Democrats in 2015?  Nope - the Whigs in 1851.  The Whig Party in 1852, a year that saw Henry Clay and Daniel Webster drop dead on them, nominated General Winfield Scott, a veteran of the U.S.-Mexican War, for President.  Once again, they nominated a war hero, but this time, unlike the previous two times they tried that old parlor trick, they lost, and the party fell apart soon after.  Now Democrats are going to try something that worked for them twice before - they're going to nominate a Clinton.  Yes - I've said it before, and I'm saying it again!  The Democrats are going the way of the Whigs!
The Democratic Party needs new blood and new ideas if it wants to avoid that fate.  Martin O'Malley, in my view, represents both.  But even my second choice for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders - old blood though he may be - has new ideas.  Hillary doesn't even have that going for her.  What ideas she does have are ideas that have been poll-tested, and the few fresh ideas she does espouse have been co-opted from her Democratic rivals.  She's banking on the Clinton name and the Clinton machine to put her in the Oval Office, as well as counting on nostalgia for the good times of the 1990s. 
News flash:  The nineties are over.  And the Democratic Party will be as well if it nominates Hillary for President.  But at least the party, like the Whigs, will have a better reputation after it's gone.
See what I mean? :-O
It's troubling, though, that Jack Conway - running for statewide office in Henry Clay's Kentucky, ironically enough - went down to defeat despite his freshness and his vitality.  No longer the future of the Democratic Party, he's now the party's canary in the coal mine.  

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