State Democrats reach critical turning point

November 17, 2012

Like many Democrats, I ended election night with polarized emotions. I started off ecstatic. President Barack Obama was overwhelmingly re-elected. Rep. Joe Donnelly was elected to the U.S. Senate, and Glenda Ritz figured out the equation for winning statewide and proved organized labor and social media are still forces to be reckoned with.

Several young Democrats outperformed the Democratic baseline in reliably Republican areas—Ryan Guillory, Katie Morgan, Chris Grider and others. Two young Democrats—Justin Moed and Dan Forestal—were elected to the General Assembly.

Then, reality set in.

Our party must realize voting against the other guy is not a long-term strategy for success. The Indiana Republican Party is smart, the Tea Party fad will go away and we will eventually be forced to campaign on bold new ideas—something our party has ceded locally in the same way Republicans have nationally.

John Gregg and Vi Simpson did everything correctly in the closing weeks of the campaign. Had their efforts been supported by a party more critical of Mike Pence, had there been a stronger state-party-based get-out-the-vote operation, had senior party leaders simply lifted up the race’s priority, we may have won.

Locally, Democrats drove large numbers of votes for candidates aligned with the organization, but personal and policy issues drove a wedge between the organization and at least one Democrat most likely to capture a seat in the state Senate, Mary Ann Sullivan. We cannot be a party claiming to be a big tent and then marginalize highly qualified candidates with different ideological views.

These dynamics have led to a super-minority in the General Assembly.

We have two ways to move forward. One would be to protect the major win of the night—the Senate seat. We have a long tradition of running this strategy successfully; simply look to the Evan Bayh years.

Or we can be bold.

We can build a bench of quality candidates—particularly young Democrats— and propose bold, sweeping initiatives to transform and modernize Indiana government. We must reorganize our leadership structure. Gone are the days of powerful and largely unaccountable political bosses. Here is a world focused on viral interactions and instant grassroots organization.

Finally, let’s be proud of our stances on the critical issues beyond jobs and the economy. Demographics are headed our way and it is no time to hide behind the values making our party the most storied organization in the history of our nation’s governance.

Sam Locke
, president, Indiana Young Democrats

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