Thursday, September 1, 2011

Oh, The Minority Party Blues: The Present and Future of the Georgia Democratic Party

Following the 2002 elections, the Democratic Party was on its way to being firmly ensconced as Georgia's New Minority Party. Roy Barnes loss in 2002 & again in 2010to NathanDEAL Democratic Party will have been absent from the Governor's Mansion for at least another 4 or 8 years depending on the circumstances. The legislative side, they lost the state senate due to party switchers & retirements & in 2005 lost the house due to division & disagreements among the Black Urban Democrats & White Rural Democrats.

But the Democrats’ status as the minority party is not just a product of its failure to recapture the Governor's Mansion; Democrats’ fortunes have been declining in all three facets of a political party’s existence: in government, in the electorate, and as an organization.

At the state level, the Democratic party in government has declined from its once dominant position losing every single statewide constitutional office last year. Only at the local level democrats still reign supreme, but that's too is being threaten by the locomotive that is the Republic Party of Georgia. The democrats here in Georgia have no where to go but up. Demographic changes are one of the keys democrats can start winning again. But that doesn't mean that they should totally write off white voters in its quest to regain some of its lost stature as the party who was responsible of making Georgia the jewel of the south, the empire state of the south, the leading state of the south.

How did they get to this point has to do with political realignment, new citizens moving in from all parts of the country who didn't know what all the Georgia Democratic Party had done to make Georgia such a attractive place to live & raise a family. But poor decisions by party leaders have also contributed to the decline. Taken together, realignment and the Democrats’ own behavior, the growth of the state of Georgia and its increasing identification with the
Republican Party have made it difficult for Democrats to win in a state once considered
a Democratic stronghold go a long toward explaining how Democrats ended up in the minority.

Like much of the South, the state as a whole is becoming more conservative. Republicans set out to attract “traditional” Democrats who felt at odds with their party on issues of national security, law and order, preferential treatment for women and minorities, and social issues such as abortion and school prayer, etc.

But one should not solely attribute the Democrats’ misfortunes to the processes of realignment.
Democrats themselves certainly share in the blame, as many of their decisions over the past ten years have proven unwise. Not having organized county party committees, a built-in ground game (Grassroots Organization), developing a bench of democratic talent (a Farm Team) & nomination candidates who cannot appeal statewide ( like Georganna Sinkfield Secretary who ran for Secretary of State last year & Jim Martin who was the U.S. Senate nominee in 2008) for example.

While the Democrats’ tendency to nominate liberals for Metro Atlanta or liberals from other progressive bastions from the state that has kept them from winning races for statewide, it is not as if they haven’t been trying extremely hard to break out of that rut.

The remaining Democrats in state government are charged with trying to promote the Democratic agenda or at least slow down the Republican Agenda. But Democrats also faced the challenge of rebuilding the party organization in a way that might make future electoral success possible.

The first task for Democrats was the selection of new leadership to reinvigorating the party Organization: (Michael Berlon: Chair of DPG, Stacey Abrams: House Minority Leader, Steve Henson: Senate Minority Leader). Without an occupant in the Mansion, Democrats would rely on a these people to be both the public face of the Democrats in government as well as the field general, marshalling the Democratic response to the Republican agenda. The selection of Michael Berlon over Darryl Hicks who made two unsuccessful statewide attempts for office showed that democrats wanted a progressive counterpoint to the republicans instead of a centrist approached offered by Darryl Hicks.

And while this was largely received as a win for the Progressive vision for the Democratic Party, Berlon also worked to reach out to the center in an effort to broaden the appeal of the Democratic Party.

Together, Berlon, Abrams & Henson face the task of working together to create a viable
message for Georgia Democrats as well as substantive positions on a host of issues. But they didn't stick together when it came to the revamping of the valued Hope Scholarship, which willl make it extremely harder for rural stsudents, as well as students in low performing school districts to obtain a Hope Scholarship so they can attend a college of their choice. Now students have to make a 3.7 GPA in order to obtaion one of these scholarships.

The immediate future of the Democratic Party looks to be a trying time. On the other hand, however, the prospects for ascension to the majority party in Congress are extremely limited but promising. First off, they must get their organization down here below the Gnat Line together. Secondly, Young Democrats of Georgia Committees must be set up in many counties as possible, as well as high school campuses in addition to college campuses like Ft Valley State, Georgia Southwestern State, South Georgia College, Gordon College, Albany State, Brewton-Parter College. Third, they must recruit candidates that fits the background of a house or Senate District. A one size fits all method isn't going to work. I know a few candidates who ran in red districts tried to run as progressive. Not going to Work! Fourth: Stop trying to mimick the DNC. Become the GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC PARTY AGAIN!

And last COMMUNICATION! Patrick Davis who's a politically astute columnist in Macon said this & I quote: "This gap between Atlanta and 'rural' Georgia is still very wide and the Republicans continue to win due to myths and mis-information and I believe this hinders candidate recruitment in various local and state elections. I hate to say this, but as a state party, we are still allowing Republicans to control the debate -- even in counties in which Democrats should do MUCH BETTER in.. One example is Telfair County and its county seat McRae that's usually vote REPUBLICAN. McRae's demographics have dramatically changed in TEN YEARS. It has gone from a population of 2,600 to 5,300. In 2000, it was 53% white, but now in 2010 it is 37% African-American, 32% white and 27% Latino.Where's is the DPG on the issue of immigration reform and HB-87? Local media is non-existent down in this part of Georgia.

And quote Davis again: "Better communication is the main cure for Georgia Democrats. In many places in rural Central and South Georgia, daily media is almost non-existent. So public discourse on an issue such as how the HOPE scholarship being cut and how it... affect rural Georgia goes virtually un-discussed. Most weekly rural newspapers are primarily advertisers with little content or substance. THE DPG has to take on a larger role of getting the Democratic message out. The communication department of the DPG needs to be revamped and expanded. Thus far, those folks have been non-existent.

I absolutely agree with Patrick Davis 100% on this. I have seen stories being reported in the news that occurred 2-3 days ago & sometimes the week before. Communication is key. Hit the small town newspapers, send weekly columns to the editor. This is a area that the party is severely lacking. A state as huge as Georgia, there should be multiple communications people working under Eric Gray at the DPG to get the word at a rapid-like pace.

The democrats have a long, (not too long) way to go before they fix what's been ailing the party.

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