Is the Democratic Party doomed, too?
Matthew Yglesias believes that the Democratic Party shouldn’t feel too over confident about the current implosions going on in the Republican Party.
Matt’s argument hinges on the fact that the Democratic Party is in shambles at the state level. The GOP controls the vast majority of state legislatures, governor’s offices, and other state-wide elected positions like Attorney General. He notes that the Democratic Party does have a strong hold in California but “in what Democrats should take as a further bleak sign, four of the 11 states where they control both houses of the state legislature — Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois — have a Republican governor. This leaves just seven states under unified Democratic Party control.” He doesn’t seem to point out red states like Kentucky with Democratic governors.
In the end, he uses these facts to caution against the Democratic Party swinging to the left. Matt writes:
[B]ut there are many states in which labor unions are neither large nor powerful and non-labor national progressive donor networks are inherently populated by relatively affluent people who tend to be emotionally driven by progressive commitments on social or environmental issues. This is why an impassioned defense of the legality of late-term abortions could make Wendy Davis a viral sensation, a national media star, and someone capable of activating the kind of donor and volunteer networks needed to mount a statewide campaign. Unfortunately for Democrats, however, this is precisely the wrong issue profile to try to win statewide elections in conservative states.
I’ve argued here before that politics is often a battle between the romantics and the pragmatists and also the optimists and the pessimists. There are Democratic supporters who are in love with the idea of Trump winning the GOP nod because they think that it means HRC will be a shoo-in for the White House. I spend too much time worrying about Trump’s victory to enjoy the possibility. Here Matt seems to be doing his pragmatic worrying routine and I think he is overreacting a bit.
Massachusetts and New Jersey do have Democratic legislatures but they also have long histories of Republican leadership. For as long as I have been alive, New Jersey generally seemed to split their representation in the Senate between both parties. Massachusetts and New Jersey have also had a fair deal of Republican governors.
I agree with Yglesias on the importance for the Democratic Party in taking back the House and the Senate but the problem is that Matt only provides the first step. He believes that the Democratic Party needs to admit that they have a problem at the local and state level. He doesn’t say what steps 2, 3, 4, or 5 should be.
The United States Constitution currently seems to provide a significant advantage to team Red when it comes to the House and the Senate. There are a lot more smaller and more rural red states than there are blue states with large cities. The Democratic Party is currently the party of cities and select inner-ring suburbs. They tend to dominate or do well in states where the majority of the vote is urban-based like New York, California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, etc. Vermont and maybe Hawaii are the rare rural states that are dominated by the Democratic Party. Cities in deep red states like Texas (Austin) and Utah (Salt Lake City) tend to develop reputations as Democratic/Progressive freeholds. Both parties are becoming more ideologically cohesive. The Democratic Party that produced Carl Albert from Oklahoma is not going to be the Democratic Party of Barack Obama, Black Lives Matter, defending Planned Parenthood, Healthcare for all, Immigration reform, Climate Change, gun control, and other progressive issues. The nation that produced Democrat Carl Albert from Oklahoma is going to be a very different one than a nation that produces Democrat Barack Obama from Illinois and Democrat Kamela Harris from California. I would rather live in the nation that produces Barack Obama.
The situation for the foreseeable future seems to be that the GOP will have a lock on midterm elections and the Democratic Party will have an advantage for the White House. The ideological cohesiveness of both parties creates these advantages and disadvantages. I would like to see the Democratic Party be more competitive in midterm years and local elections but not if it means giving up everything that I hold dear about being a member of the Democratic Party. I support the Democratic Party because I believe in a liberal platform and I don’t see the point in supporting a party just to see it turncoat on ideas and ideals. There are probably plenty of people in the Republican Party who rightly feel the same way.
Image by Allison Harger