Kentucky Blog

Because Kentucky Is Not Called the "REDgrass State"

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Kentucky Democratic Party, R.I.P.

This post has been through several revisions, and I never could quite get it right. I finally said "screw it" and just put down my thoughts about the KY Democratic Party's new leader, the process, and the impending doom - here goes:

I'm not a big supporter of the notion that we need to "move the party to the right" - that didn't work for John Kerry, Tony Miller, or Nick Clooney. Arguably it worked for Ben Chandler, but my money would be more on name recognition than anything. In some respects, though, I don't get the sense that local politics in KY really has so much to do with Democrat or Republican affiliation. On the local level, at least from my 10 years living in a couple rural areas, it seemed politics was more about who had the money - we used to call it "owning such and such county."

In other words, it's more about power - everyone wants it and opportunists look for ways to get more of it. So largely I don't think it matters if a particular candidate favors abortion or free trade or whatever. It's all about grabbing power and hanging on to it at all costs (see David Williams as an example).

But on a state wide basis, the party needs to understand what has happened to it and why its control has been gutted. Democrats cannot present themselves as Republicans in sheep's clothing - Republicans are much better at being Republicans than Democrats are. If a Democratic candidate wants to be a Republican because he/she believes in the Republican platform then by all means, join the Republican party. But so long as they choose to run as the "lesser of the two evils" then they will lose. Just like we saw nation wide in 2004.

If the Democrats truly stand for something in Kentucky, something that is different from the Republicans, then they ought to act like it. But don't solicit our donations to promote an agenda that is antithetical to core Democratic beliefs. To quote Howard Dean:
As important as organization is, it alone can no longer win us elections. Offering a new choice means making Democrats the party of reform—reforming America's financial situation, reforming our electoral process, reforming health care, reforming education and putting morality back in our foreign policy. The Democratic Party will not win elections or build a lasting majority solely by changing its rhetoric, nor will we win by adopting the other side's positions. We must say what we mean—and mean real change when we say it.....

That word—'values'—has lately become a codeword for appeasement of the right-wing fringe. But when political calculations make us soften our opposition to bigotry, or sign on to policies that add to the burden of ordinary Americans, we have abandoned our true values.

We cannot let that happen. And we cannot just mouth the words. Our party must speak plainly and our agenda must clearly reflect the socially progressive, fiscally responsible values that bring our party—and the vast majority of Americans—together.

Whatever you think of the "scream" Howard is right. A tiger cannot change her stripes and become a coyote, so the tiger shouldn't even try. And neither should the donkey. The KY Democratic Party would have done better to find someone that thinks outside the box - someone who can communicate the message of what it is to be a Democrat, and give it a brand name. Someone who can get the platform and agenda out in such a manner that people really understand what the Dems stand for. But so long as the Dems play the game by the Republican rules, allowing them to define the issues and their relative stances, the Dems will lose, and the dishonorable trashing of our constitutional process and the widening of the burden carried by ordinary Kentuckians will continue.

And people like David Williams will always be in charge.


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