IBJOpinion

EDITORIAL: Democrats need to share ideas to stay relevant

 IBJ Staff
April 2, 2011
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IBJ Editorial

Indiana House Democrats congratulated each other for stopping anti-union legislation as they returned from self-imposed exile in Illinois on March 28, but they had no one but themselves to blame for the hiatus.

Had party leaders paid attention during last year’s election season, they wouldn’t have found their backs against the wall this year, compelled to make last-ditch efforts to stop right-to-work bills and other legislation they deemed unacceptable. If Democrats had put forth a compelling vision for the state, it might have given voters reason to send more of them to Indianapolis and prevented the lopsided Republican majorities.

Hoosier Democrats point to anti-Obama sentiment for losing a dozen seats in the Indiana House and four in the Senate in November, giving the Senate enough seats to pass laws without Democrats and leaving the House with a 40-to-60 minority.

Without a doubt, Obama was a factor. But the state party took few steps to counter GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels’ fundraising machine and the squadron of fresh candidates he recruited.

The bigger point, though, is that the party failed to articulate where it wanted to take the state. If Democrats had a vision for solving pressing issues like education parity, revenue shortfalls and international competition, they didn’t say much about it. Voters can be excused for missing the talking points.

Republicans have been the idea party since Daniels first campaigned for office in 2004. Democrats have opposed many of his goals, but they haven’t served up compelling alternatives.

When political parties fail to deliver attractive options, citizens lose. Republicans are similarly shorting the public at the national level by not offering a coherent, forward-looking agenda.

Let’s hope Indiana Democrats find their pulse soon.

Let’s focus on jobs

Maybe it’s naïve to hope for substantive politicking about job creation at a time when unemployment is high, but voters nevertheless should expect it from Republican Mayor Greg Ballard and his toughest Democratic opponent as they look toward the May primaries and the November general election.

Ballard is touting 8,702 job commitments in 2010 as a record for the decade, which includes his three years in office. Democratic challenger Melina Kennedy charges Ballard with opportunistically equating commitments with jobs actually created.

Kennedy is right that Ballard overplays his hand. Ballard, like most politicians who take credit for new jobs, hasn’t exactly gone out of his way to emphasize that the commitments are only best-case projections.

But Kennedy, who led economic development under Ballard predecessor Bart Peterson, is majoring in the minors.

As IBJ reporter Francesca Jarosz pointed out in a March 28 article, job commitments are notoriously difficult to track. While Kennedy has a point in calling for the city to better log which ones have been fulfilled, Ballard isn’t irresponsible for not doing so. After all, if no job is created, no incentives are granted.

Ballard should tone down his claims, and Kennedy should find a better reason to replace him.•

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To comment on these editorials, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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