Democrats still asleep at the wheel

It needs be said again that whoever bears ultimate responsibility for charting the political course of the national Democratic Party is doing an altogether lousy job. And after having been so frequently check-mated in recent times by crafty tacticians on the other side, you wonder why the Democratic Party rank and file would continue to trust the party’s navigation to an individual or individuals ill-suited to aggressively meeting the challenge of a right wing determined to impose its will on the country’s governance, at all levels and by any means necessary.

The recent state and local elections, practically a non-presence on the national radar though they were, underscored yet again how badly Democrats are being out-maneuvered by a Republican / Tea Party thrust, whose end game of a society knee-deep in many of the regressive values of yesteryear, has been crystal clear for quite a while.

Of course, the overwhelming disgust over Democrats’ sorry performance in these match-ups is that there’s no mystery as to what the problem is and it doesn’t require rocket-science smarts to ascertain where lies a solution. It has simply to do with Democrats pretty much losing by default in the voter turnout game. A disturbingly large portion of the electorate that votes Democratic isn’t motivated to vote, except in presidential elections. And even so, participation tends to rise to acceptable levels at those four-year intervals only when the presidential contest has generated the type of buzz that guarantees voter interest.

That the Democratic Party hierarchy needs to seriously address the turnout problem is obvious. But it’s also obvious a game plan evidencing awareness of this doesn’t exist. Had there been such an animal, the Democratic Party’s experience in last week’s gubernatorial election in Kentucky, for example, would likely have concluded differently. The Democratic candidate, widely favored to win in pre-election polling, wound up losing to a guy who has been portrayed in media reports as something of a wacko. Another Democratic giveaway was thus added to an embarrassingly burgeoning list when it was revealed that only 30 percent of eligible Democratic voters went to the polls in Kentucky.

To some small extent, perhaps, chastisement of an inattentive or indifferent citizenry is understandable. But there’s no doubt the giant share of blame for this routinely apathetic voter behavior lies with those upon whom rests the onus to make the case for civic engagement. It doesn’t help matters that public perception of elected officials, as measured in polls, in many instances now stands at historically low ebbs, single-digit job approval for Congress probably being Exhibit A. Anemic overall approval numbers would suggest discontent on both sides of the political divide. But unfortunately for Democrats, whatever anger with elected officials’ performance levels that there is on the other side, it doesn’t extend to being passive about the voting process, at least not to the degree it compromises Democratic voting. The fanaticism with which the right-side element has sought to have their policies and principles dominate the landscape clearly trumps any disaffection with under-performing elected folk.

Job one for Democratic masterminds is impressing upon Democratic voters the lurking danger of their non-participation in the electoral process aiding and abetting a dicey transformation of the country’s social framework. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to have moved the needle, that manifestations of that chipping away at what were hard-won, revised markers of social advancement continue without let-up – such as voter suppression initiatives, reactionary posturing against labor, measures reflecting “gun rights” hysteria and all the rest.

The right wing’s concerted undertaking to re-shape America in the image of its choosing is a big deal, to which clearly not enough of the polity is attuned. In the Republican / Tea Party bloc’s control strategy, the states loom large. And the comfortable advantage it holds in control of governorships and state legislatures should be a concerning reality to the rest of us. Among governorships, Republicans hold 31, Democrats 18, with one Independent. In legislatures, Republicans control 31, Democrats 11, with eight having split control.

It is from GOP-controlled states that have come many of those nefarious rollbacks of what looked to be progress… like unabashed accommodation of corporate overreach or measures enacted in non-traditional state policy areas like immigration. Where such reverses occur in states that are unalterably red, there’s seemingly not much, at least for now, that could be done by way of halting the march. Where Democratic voter apathy facilitates this attempted throwback to an inglorious past, there can be no excusing the abandonment of responsibility. Democratic strategists’ failure so far to embark on a major messaging effort that communicates to their base the critical urgency of the moment, is insufferable.

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