Chris Douglas

The Error... and the Peril... of Democratic Strategy

Filed By Chris Douglas | June 22, 2006 5:49 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics

Because conservative Republican control of the House of Representatives and a right-wing surge in the Indiana Senate are together literal and announced threats to Constitutional rights and an independent judiciary in Indiana, anyone who opposes the desecration of the Constitution must sorrowfully conclude that conservative Republicans, playing on religious bigotry, cannot be trusted with power over both houses of the legislature. Educated people of both Parties, therefore, should find common cause.

But it is for this reason that I believe the strategy conveyed publicly by the Democratic Party is not only unconducive to common cause, but presents problems for reasonable people of both parties who favor civil rights and economic progress together. Beware of the Democratic Party's ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, seize the swampy low ground when proud high ground is so clearly within its grasp, and position to embrace and reinforce conservativism, rather than counter it.

I write with the following observation. The 37% of the population who favor Governor Daniels really are not the

conservative base of the Republican Party, which has never favored the Governor, but the moderate wing not only of the Republican Party but the Democratic Party as well. The governor lacks popularity with Republican social conservatives, who have known him never to be truly in their ranks, and lacks popularity with staunch Democratic partisans, who would never support any Republican. But I hear from many directions beyond the Republican Party... from staunch old-line liberal democratic progressive professionals nearing retirement... from young female marketing executives... from gay democratic business, professional, and legal people... commenting that Daniels seems (in contrast to just about every other politician in Indiana) determined to do something to get our economy moving up from dead, even if it means assuming a mantle of unpopularity.

And while moderate Republicans are disgusted with the religious right, they (I include myself) are also not pleased with the lack of serious economic leadership that has flowed from the Governor's office, or from anywhere in Indiana's political classes, for years. Finally, Daniels is showing serious leadership, which has also proven to be effective. LIke parents in a family forcing the kids to eat their peas so they can grow strong and healthy, I hear educated and progressive business and professional people of both political parties supporting both daylight savings and the toll roads (not to mention taxes on cigarettes) as necessary, important, and salutary measures, but the very measures that have lost the Governor the support of people of hidebound conservative temperament.

Now, some leadership in the Democratic Party propose to run not against the disgraceful leadership of the House of Representatives, not against Republican senators who support flogging, but against the one entity of relative moderation and sanity in the Republican Party, an entity that I hear even moderate democrats supporting.

This strategy of opposition has two problems: First, it will lead the educated business class in Indiana to conclude painfully that if the Democrats get control of the house, the Governor's economic program is through. That means that those who favor a strong economic program, who have no sympathy for the Republican majority of the house (which Republican majority had little to do with the Governor's program, except vote for it, however reluctantly), must consider that the Republican majority is essential to protecting and forwarding the only serious economic development program to be offered in decades. Suddenly, in the eyes of those who favor economic resurgence in Indiana, who have no problem with foreign investment, who are globalist in their thinking, must regard the Democratic Party as likely to promote a return to economic stagnation. The threat is that Corporations, businesses, and even labor unions in Indiana will begin to circle their wagons around the Republican majority in the House, all entities that would be comfortable with Democratic leadership if that leadership appeared capable of working in a manner supportive of the Governor's program of economic revitalization. And these entities are the moderate forces, not the conservative forces, of the Republican Party.

The second problem, and it is evident in the person of John Gregg leading the charge at the Democratic convention against Daniels, is that the ennunciated Democratic strategy is to reach around political moderates in Indiana and entice the social conservatives... the people who in their zenophobic ignorance oppose foreign investment in Indiana's infrastructure and can't understand why Indiana's clocks should remain synchronized with the national economy. But these are also the people who denounce gay citizens, who drive gay children from their homes and churches, who are responsible for Indiana's high suicide rate among youths, who resent Daniels for his nondiscrimination policies and for his silence to date on the topic of the marriage amendment. John Gregg, on the other hand, returned his survey to Justice Inc in 2000 with only one question answered: ABSOLUTELY NOT with regard to the recognition of same sex relationships.

So that is the Peril... Democratic leadership choosing to run as anti-business and pro-social conservative. Under those circumstances, if they gain control, will they take another bullett for the gay community? Or, based on a strategy that has forced Indiana's leading businesses uncomfortably into the conservative Republican House camp, while also laying a claim on the most backward and zenophobic camp in the Republican Party, will they find it necessary to pass the marriage amendment in order to retain power?

My fear is that John Gregg's calculations may be correct and successful... in which case we could emerge in Democratic victory with the worst of two worlds: An end to the first serious economic development initiiatives in Indiana in decades AND an end to Constitutional equal protection for gay citizens.

I also fear that John Gregg's calculations may be unsuccessful; that having trashed the Governor's program and thereby having given the Republican Party high ground on the topic of economic development; and that Republican moderates who might have voted Democratically instead will be forced to stay with GOP conservatives as the only defense of the Governor's economic program. Under those circumstances, a victorious Republican House conservative majority may emerge positioned to continue its unconscionable assault on the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.

Either way, I urge a strategy more conducive to both economic and social progress, a strategy that thinking moderates of both parties can support.

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So, John Gregg is planning on running against Daniels?

Chris Douglas | June 23, 2006 6:53 AM

No. Gregg was either speaking for himself in uncoordinated fashion, or speaking to a coordinated theme, I don't know which. Either way, his speaking points represented a direction potentially destructive to the interests of both economic development and social progress, which should be united.

For the Democratic Party to combine in an attack on the economic development program of the governor, which is a legitimate program fairly devoid of political posturing, is to drive the serious economic interests of the state into solidarity with of a Republican House majority. Because that Republican House majority is driven by political interests that are socially conservative, not economically progressive, theat Democratic strategy creates an unfortunate repellant to business, which I think is dangerous to the gay community and potentially counterproductive to the long term interests of the Democratic Party, unless the Democratic Party views social conservative voters, and the policies they pursue, as more desirable than the moderate business-driven middle.

I wasn't at the Democratic Convention, and I know press accounts are not perfect representations, so if better informed individuals believe the Democratic strategy was not poorly represented, I am eager to be corrected. In fact, that's the point: The Democratic party, in my opinion, needs to begin "clarifying" its position in such a way that is not repulsive to educated moderates of both parties.