Monday, February 13, 2017

How To Rebuild a Party - The O'Malley Way

Martin O'Malley not only wants to run for President again in 2020, he wants to save the Democratic Party from itself.
The former Maryland governor and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate is wasting no time in helping to put Democrats - now on the verge of extinction - back on the road to recovery by putting his money where his mouth is.  You might recall that O'Malley had pleaded with Democratic leaders to pay more attention to state and local races and was ignored, and the results of that inattention can no longer be dismissed.  (The party itself is being dismissed.)  So that's what he's doing - addressing the problem.  He was in Delaware this past Saturday campaigning for Stephanie Hansen, the Democratic nominee for the special election for the Delaware state Senate seat  in the Tenth Senatorial District, which Democrat Bethany Hall-Long recently vacated to become the state's lieutenant governor.  The outcome of this election decides party control of the state Senate.  The election is scheduled for February 25.
Hansen (below) is the sort of Democrat that O'Malley wants to see at all levels of government.  She is for preserving open space and balancing development with open space preservation, improving public schools, and preserving property tax credits for elderly constituents on a fixed income.  In other words, she, like O'Malley, is a progressive but not a nut about it. 
O'Malley has already campaigned for Democrats in state legislative races, most notably for Jim Lykam in a special state Senate election in Iowa, which Lykam won.   O'Malley knows that, if the Democrats have any chance of coming back for 2018 and 2020 and avoid the fate of the Whigs in the 1850s, they have to win at the local level and work their way up. They need state legislative seats, school board seats, municipal council seats, mayoralties, and county executive positions - then they need to regain governorships and U.S. congressional seats.  And they need to engage voters on the local level and find out what's on their minds, not just read opinion polls.  That's why O'Malley is supporting this man for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairmanship. 
He is Pete Buttigieg, the current mayor of South Bend, Indiana. An openly gay man who served in the Navy Reserves during the Afghanistan War (and while he was mayor, at that), he has made redevelopment of South Bend a top priority in his administration, and he's made a point in getting things done and showing how municipal government can work.  More to the point, though, he's young, he's experienced, he's smart (he was a Rhodes Scholar) and he's a Midwestern Democrat who knows how to talk to people in a region of the country that went solidly for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.  Which is why he's perfect for the job . . . well, not entirely perfect.  He's still an incumbent officeholder, and that may impede him should he be elected chairman.  But Buttigieg, a millennial, represents the future of the country far better than Tom Perez or Keith Ellison; he's mostly been  unsullied by inside Washington politics.  (Buttigieg did work for an international-policy consulting firm in Washington for a year.)  
Alas, I have a feeling that Buttigieg won't get the nod to run the DNC.  Why?  Because he's a logical, sensible choice - can't have anything like that in the Democratic Party!  But maybe Democrats, who choose their national committee chairman on February 26, should heed Buttigieg's words ("We have to have the humility to figure out where the party fits in the broader movement, not the other way around," he told a DNC forum in Baltimore) and those of his chief backer.  Because guys like Buttigieg and O'Malley know what the Democratic establishment apparently doesn't - the party has to get back to its roots and reconnect with working people, else it will disintegrate the same way the Whig Party did after the Whigs found out too late that nominating another old war hero for President (Winfield Scott) wasn't enough to endear themselves to the electorate.  Similarly, nominating another Clinton for President wasn't enough for the Democrats to endear themselves to the voters either.     

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