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Columns

Democratic Leaders Diss Conservative Democrats at Their Own Peril

November 14, 2016 - 6:00am

Democrats are in trouble, but not for the reason you might think.

Both at the national and state level there are going to be new party leaders to take over from the incumbents as Donna Brazile has been discredited for leaking questions to Hillary in advance of the last debate and Allison Tant has signaled that she’s ready to let someone else take the helm here in Florida.

New leadership after a hard-fought but lost-opportunity election is always welcome, so what’s the problem here?

Have you seen the names under discussion?

Nationally, the Bernie Sanders far-left wing of the party is pushing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. and retread Howard Dean has nominated himself to come back and rescue the party.

OMG! Don’t you Dems get it?

You didn’t lose because you were low on traditional liberal Dems, you lost the race because you lost Middle America -- middle-class Americans.  White men and white women didn’t vote for the candidate with the “D” behind their name. And they’re certainly not going to feel more comfortable about a party that is going to be led by an African-American Muslim from Minnesota, or a former national chair from socialist Vermont.

The Democrats have been bleeding -- no, strike that ... hemorrhaging -- white voters ever since Richard Nixon won in 1968.  That begat the Silent Majority movement, which gained steam under Ronald Reagan in 1980 when “Blue Dog” Dems or “Reagan Democrats” stayed home with the Republicans to elect the conservative president.

In the ensuing score of years, centrist New Democrats like then-House Speaker Richard Gephardt, Lawton Chiles, Sam Nunn, Joe Lieberman and others rallied around Al From to create the moderate Democratic Leadership Council.  

Though the DLC was roundly criticized by liberal Dems as simply being “closet Republicans” -- and I was a card-carrying member! -- we believed that government alone wasn’t the answer to America’s problem, that public-private partnerships were the right way to go, “Not Left, Not Right -- a Third Way.”

Led by moderate Democrats from America’s heartland and Southern Democrats (OK, Joe was from the northeast, but he was always a different kind of guy), they assessed that Democrats wouldn’t be able to recapture the White House unless mainstream white voters returned to the Democratic fold.

So, when pragmatic, charismatic Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, he relished taking on big government issues like “ending welfare as we know it,” and “making government smaller” which resonated with middle class Dems who had felt for a long time the party had become out of touch with their concerns about America’s growing entitlements, a vestige of the LBJ era.

 Clinton sealed his moderate cred when he dissed extremist hip-hopper Sister Souljah at a Jesse Jackson Rainbow Coalition event, and that gave solace to many middle-class Dems that this Clinton was a different kind of Democrat, and he deserved their vote.

Fast forward to today.  Obama’s election, and reelection, was the chance for Middle America to reject the bigot rap and embrace change, while they were questioning whether John McCain and Mitt Romney’s were really conservative enough.

Despite Trump’s damaging comments about Latinos and other minorities, exit polls show that he still did better with those groups than McCain or Romney.

Which brings us to Ellison and Dean.  They’re not the ones who can help the Democrats because they already have a lock on America’s liberal constituency. What they don’t have -- and they won’t get -- is the support of middle class voters who reject the notion of more entitlements like a free college education, because they intuitively understand that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Someone must pay for it and all the other things that Sanders-Clinton promised, and middle class voters don’t believe the burden won’t fall on them.

A party leader from the North or the Northeast isn’t going to mean anything other than the same ol' philosophy which was soundly rejected just a week ago by these white voters.

As for Florida, the names being mentioned can be likewise lumped in with the national Democratic leaders.

Dan Gelber.  Alan Clendenin.  Dwight Bullard.  These aren’t the names of mainstream Dems; these are simply a new group of out-of-touch ideologues that have condemned the Florida Democratic Party to minority status since 1992.

The Fair District Amendment was supposed to be the party’s savior.  What the Democratic leadership has consistently failed to learn is that it doesn’t matter what the registration numbers are unless you can deliver a Democratic candidate that appeals to the moderate instincts of Floridians.

Democratic fundraiser Chris Korge in a Miami Herald article said the party here is in danger of becoming a party of ethnic minorities: “The average white guy feels like the Democratic Party kind of left him behind.”

The party simply and blindly refuses to accept the fact that there are many fiscally conservative Democrats, like me, across Florida who were happy to split the ticket if that’s what it takes to send a strong message.  

Don’t just pass us off as racists because we want to help others, but only if they’re willing to help themselves first.

Ignore us and the Democratic Party nationally and in Florida will continue to suffer at the polls.

Barney Bishop III has been lobbying in the criminal justice and behavioral healthcare arena for over a quarter of a century and can be reached at barney@barneybishop.com

Comments

I was a DLC member from a distance. I learned about them in 1990 and followed Bill Clinton's record in Arkansas so much so, that I was a Democratic District Leader rebel in NJ to the very Liberal crowd of Cuomo and Bill Bradley rooters. When Pres Bush's approval was near 90% after the Iraq war, the whimpy Cuomo & Bradley dropped out and gave Bill Clinton his opening. The only adjustment in the DLC platform(if it were around today) would be for Fairer Trade. I believe that a DLC like movement with a focus on millinenials would reinvigorate the Democratic Party.

Barney, Well-put , as usual. You are the "Enigma Machine" the Democrats need. You have, indeed, broken the code...but will anyone listen? If the past is any indication, I think not. I'm way over needing justification, but your cogent outline exactly describes why I became a "registered" Republican...in 1988.

Doesn't ANYONE remember Donna Brazzile being FIRED from the "Dukakis Campaign" for her 'on air' lying about George Bush Sr. ?? (Head or he cliffs Lemmings,.. "Nirvana" awaits you below..). [I MUST say, I'm enjoying this "Trump win" immensly !!!!] (:-0)

NOPE, Democrats DON"T GET IT!!!... "Bring back" Howard Dean?!?!> (If THAT wasn't so sad, it would be funny..."An embarrassing clown" is what the Party ALREADY has far TOO many of. AND Keith Ellison????..REALLY??? One of Detroit's "Sons" and" Louis Farrachand's Nation of Islam" members, and a FIVE term Congressman from Minneapolis, with NOTHING to show for it. YOU CAN DO BETTER MINNESOTA! !! MUCH BETTER ! AND, GOOD GRIEF: Add Al Franken to these two and you have "Larry, Moe & Curly" ALL OVER AGAIN ! (and as long as we're on the subject,.. Read: pg 76 of Peter Scweitzer's book "EXTORTION" and you will learn about 13 term Congressman Collin Peterson. Minnesota is "rotting away" slowly, like "Chinese water torture"...and Voters don't seem to notice or care... (PERFECT Democrats !)

My friend, C Breeze, hits the nail on the head. Brazzile was a known liar, yet she was brought into a position of importance. So far, the Dems haven't learned a damned thing from within their own party, so I find it awfully difficult to believe they will learn now. Sad, very sad. GO TRUMP!!

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