Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Coming Democratic Crack-Up

Eight years in the White House tends to make a national party lethargic and ideologically spent. The opposition, in contrast, is usually made lean, hungry, and focused by being out of power. This seems to be caused by tamping down or papering over major differences and ideological conflicts between different wings of the party in power, differences that being out of power allows a party to work out more effectively.

The Democrats have been in the White House for going on seven years, and the cracks in the ideological unity are showing. For all the talk of Republican "Tea Party vs. Establishment" disunity, the Democrats have a major battle brewing for the future of the party, a battle only partly obscured by the party's currently united support for Hillary.

The New York Times -- hardly a conservative source -- lays out in extreme detail the extent to which the fissures in the Democratic Party's foundation seem poised to become major fault lines that will lead to the crack up of the party in the near future.
For all the much-discussed ailments of the Republican Party — its failure to win the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections; the corrosive bickering between its mainstream and its Tea Party stalwarts; and the plummeting number of Americans who identify themselves as Republicans — the inescapable reality is that the Democrats have fallen into a ditch arguably as deep and dismal as the one Republicans have dug for themselves. “It isn’t that the Democratic Party is struggling,” says Jonathan Cowan, the president of the centrist policy center Third Way. “It’s that at the subpresidential level, it’s in a free fall.” The Democrats lost their majority in the Senate last November; to regain it, they will need to pick up five additional seats (or four if there’s a Democratic vice president who can cast the tiebreaking vote), and nonpartisan analysts do not rate their chances as good. The party’s situation in the House is far more dire. Only 188 of the lower chamber’s 435 seats are held by Democrats. Owing in part to the aggressiveness of Republican-controlled State Legislatures that redrew numerous congressional districts following the 2010 census, few believe that the Democratic Party is likely to retake power until after the next census in 2020, and even then, the respected political analyst Charles Cook rates the chances of the Democrats’ winning the House majority by 2022 as a long shot at best.

Things get even worse for the Democrats further down the political totem pole. Only 18 of the country’s 50 governors are Democrats. The party controls both houses in only 11 State Legislatures. Not since the Hoover Administration has the Democratic Party’s overall power been so low. A rousing victory by Hillary Rodham Clinton might boost other Democratic aspirants in 2016; then again, in 2012 Obama won 62 percent of Electoral College votes yet carried 48 percent of Congressional districts and a mere 22 percent of the nation’s 3,114 counties. Through a billion dollars of campaign wizardry, the president did not lift up but only managed to escape a party brand that has come to be viewed in much of America with abiding disfavor.
Read the whole thing.

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