Lennox: Democrats struggle with old leaders
The Democratic Party is in a dire state. So much so that it can no longer seriously claim to be a national political party.
Heading into the new Congress a third of Democratic members will come from just three states: California, Massachusetts and New York. Then there are the state legislatures, where Republicans control 67 of the 98 chambers with partisan elections. That’s significant because state legislators are the politicians most likely to run for Congress in future election cycles.
Making it worse is Democratic leadership.
Nancy Pelosi won re-election Wednesday as Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, despite failing to win a majority in the last four elections.
She should have been given the boot after losing in 2010, but Pelosi kept power because Democrats don’t really have a front bench. Almost all of the party’s leaders — outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and his replacement Chuck Schumer, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — are senior citizens.
Yet they keep their power because outside of racial and ethnic minorities in big cities, Democrats have limited appeal beyond aging hippies and left-wing academics in college towns and the gentry liberals clustered along the East and West coasts.
As a San Francisco liberal, Pelosi epitomizes just how insular and tone-deaf Democrats have become.
This is the party that embraces Colin Kaepernick and panders to the anti-police militant left. It’s also the party that thinks picking a fight with President-elect Donald Trump over the legality of flag burning is a winning issue.
Here in Michigan, Democrats will continue having problems in Bay, Macomb, Monroe and Saginaw counties — traditional blue-collar, Democratic bastions that voted for Trump — when their priorities are the causes célèbres of Berkeley, California, or the tony precincts of Ann Arbor and East Lansing.
Things aren’t any better in the upper house of Congress, as Schumer’s strategy for rebuilding the party in a year when it should have won back a majority involved giving pretty much everyone in his Senate caucus a leadership title.
Making it worse is the Democratic National Committee, which looks like it will be taken over by Congressman Keith Ellison, a Detroit native who represents the Minneapolis-area. Ellison is the front-runner for national chairman.
As an African-American convert to Islam he would give Democrats a veneer of diversity, but it’s difficult to see Ellison, who is about as close to being a Marxist as you can get, making inroads with the sort of voters the party needs.
All this means Republicans should keep their majorities through 2020, when redistricting occurs after the federal census.
That’s assuming the Republicans don’t screw things up, as they did the last time they controlled the White House and both houses of Congress.
Dennis Lennox is a Republican-aligned public affairs consultant.