Eric Bradner, writing for the Evansville Courier Press, has a column about the Indiana Democrats’ notable lack of message, youth, or energy during a time when they’re in the wilderness.
At the heart of the Democratic demise is an identity crisis. The political climate is harsh, but this isn’t about relitigating the last election. It’s about what happens between that one and the next one, as Democrats try to find a way forward.
The problem is, the people who used to provide their ideas are long gone, and those who are offering new ways forward are — in too many places, at least, and especially during this year’s state legislative session — being pushed to the side.
As far as I can tell, there has been no concerted effort to organize and galvanize young talent. The party’s old guard is squashing what could become its new generation.
Near as I can figure, the two Democratic power centers in Indiana have been embodied by former state House speaker, Pat Bauer, and former U.S. Senator, Evan Bayh. Bauer’s reputation is as a person who is more feared than loved, and I’ve never heard him accused of being a big idea man. Bauer’s most recent moment of ignominy was voting for the marriage rights discrimination amendment. As for Sen. Bayh, he occasionally talked a good game, but in terms of actual accomplishments while he was in office, nothing really stands out except his undeniable ability to improve his own status.
Bradner points out that so far the state Republicans have devoted a lot of their energy moving social conservative wish list stuff – guns everywhere, abortions nowhere; that kind of thing. I think the desire to move those things has been frustrated for years by the Democratic house, and it’s kind of sling-shotting forward. Abdul at Indiana Barrister has suggested that, privately, some unnamed Republicans are concerned that this legislation isn’t necessarily a great idea and they should be focused on other things. But, it seems to me, these more level-headed Republicans have relied on the opposition party to keep the right wing of their party in check. They’ve been silent for so long, the silence has become acquiescence.
The Circle of Life laws of political physics suggests that this swing of the pendulum opens up opportunities on the left end of the political spectrum, but if all Hoosiers can see out of the Democrats are Pat Bauer and the leavings of Evan Bayh, those opportunities won’t amount to much.