September 13, 2015


A Dim Future (Joseph P. Williams, 9/11/15, US News)

An ugly combination of strategic blunders, bad timing, grassroots complacency and superior planning by Republicans has left the party of Kennedy, Johnson and Roosevelt in the midst of a paradox. They can win the most powerful elected office in the world - they've won the last two, and could go three-for-three with a win in 2015 - but can't grasp power at the local level, where party agendas are shaped and real governance happens.

And while Democrats have all but locked down an ever-expanding demographic of young and minority voters, it's a maddeningly fickle coalition in non-presidential election years. When decidedly less sexy House, gubernatorial and state legislative seats are at stake, they stay home as the GOP base electorate heads to the polls like clockwork, handing Republicans more than 900 legislative seats than they had than when the Obama was elected.

"Democrats have put together winning coalitions of young people, fairly highly educated middle class whites and minorities," said Geoffrey Skelley of the University of Virginia Institute of Politics. "It's been a winning combination in presidential cycles, but elements of that have struggled to show up in the midterm elections."

A Democratic Party task force "autopsy" following the 2014 midterms confirms the theory.

Since 2009, "We have suffered devastating losses at all levels of government since 2008 including: 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats, 910 state legislative seats, 30 state legislative chambers [and] 11 governorships." While the party energized young and minority voters in 2008 and 2012, according to the report, its leadership is still largely old and white, and it has struggled to recruit new leaders and fresh-faced candidates at the state and local level.

Put another way: Starting with the GOP's capture of liberal stalwart Sen. Ted Kennedy's seat in true-blue Massachusetts, Democrats have lost once-solid majorities in both houses of Congress, a power outage that party leaders are unlikely to repair any time soon. Republicans now occupy governors' mansions in former Democratic strongholds like Illinois and Massachusetts to match its long-held bastions in the South and Midwest. The GOP also flipped several state legislatures in states like Wisconsin from blue to red, a shift that put them in the driver's seat when it came time to draw up political districts and lock themselves into power for the foreseeable future.

At the same time, in states like Virginia where they didn't get the legislative majority, Republicans increased their political muscle, then shackled Democratic governors who managed to hang on, like Pennsylvania's Tom Wolf, with the same block-the-agenda handcuffs Congress slapped on Obama in Washington.

Posted by at September 13, 2015 8:21 AM

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