By John David Dyche
The best thing about giving advice to Kentucky Democrats is that they will not take it. They would rather lose than make changes recommended by a Republican.
Nonetheless, here are some things state Democrats should do to stave off political extinction. If they stubbornly cling to the people and policies of the past, however, their days of political relevance are few and dwindling fast.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Even though new House leadership elections are not scheduled until the 2017 legislative session, rank and file House Democrats should revolt now and demand immediate changes.
Oust Greg Stumbo as state Speaker of the House. Stumbo’s shtick has grown stale and he personifies the old days and, worse, discredited ways.
Elevate the respected John Tilley of Hopkinsville to Speaker. He would be a distinct improvement in both style and substance from Stumbo.
Democrats should bring even more new blood into their House leadership team. Sweeping out the old guard and shaking things up would show voters that you hear them loud and clear on changing the stale status quo.
Would such major change be risky right before next year’s elections that could transfer control of the House to Republicans? Yes, but desperate times call for desperate measures and doing nothing is even riskier.
Without bold action, the state House will soon be a lost cause for Democrats like the state Senate already is. Registration trends and voting patterns portend a dependably Republican red state at all levels and soon.
Do a comprehensive reconsideration of every policy position and interest group. Instead of simply digging-in on issues and doubling-down on the same supporters, conduct a ground-up review of everything the party stands for and every source of its funding.
If this does not produce some significant shifts you are not doing it right. You must quickly convince voters that you are not your grandparents’ Democrats.
Offer some original and specific policy proposals on big issues. In the recent race for governor, victorious Republican Matt Bevin reaped rewards for having ideas whereas defeated Democrat Jack Conway’s “platform” was a pile of pallid of mush.
Make your case based on data and do not rely on demagogic appeals to class warfare and emotion as you so long have. Remember how Conway paid a price for failing to advance an energetic, information-filled defense of expanded Medicaid and the state health exchange.
You are perceived, rightly, as a party that puts primary emphasis on government. Your every utterance should emphasize creating growth and jobs in the private sector and raising the disposable income of Kentuckians.
Sure, keep standing up for the forgotten and powerless people, but do not let that become a reflexive habit of wanting more money to do more of the same. Good intentions are important, but results matter even more.
Do not wage an obstructionist war against Bevin. He won a mandate, so honor it as much as you can while respectfully offering alternatives on which you can wage next year’s House races.
Declare – formally and literally -- your independence from the national Democratic Party. Do not fall into the trap of unthinkingly endorsing Hillary Clinton for president or bringing her or Bill here to campaign for your U.S. Senate candidate next year.
The Clintons may be marginally more popular in Kentucky than President Obama, but they are utterly ineffective in Kentucky now. To confirm this you need only look at last year’s Senate race in which Republican Mitch McConnell destroyed Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes despite seemingly daily Clinton visits to the commonwealth.
In the Senate campaign find a charismatic personality who can run to the right of Republican incumbent Rand Paul on national security issues. Your candidate will also need to be able to spell out the real world impacts of Paul’s balanced budget and tax proposals.
To stand any chance at all your candidate will have to run an imaginative, interesting, and unconventional campaign. It needs to start soon.
Republicans have recently won big races with independent, original outsiders like Paul and Bevin. Surely there is someone like that somewhere among the state’s 1.685 million registered Democrats.
Democrats will undoubtedly ignore this unsolicited advice mainly because of its source, but also because of its difficulty. Too bad for them and for Kentucky.
(John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche)
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