by Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
I spent a good chunk of Saturday hanging out with the Indiana Democratic Party at their state convention in downtown Indianapolis. Now you might think that with our respective politics it would be a contentious relationship, not really. In fact, it’s very similar to my relationships with Indiana Republicans and Libertarians, there are some things we agree on and some things we disagree on and there some Democrats I consider very close personal friends and some who I have as much use for as a certain former U.S. Senate candidate who lost his own Congressional District in the May primary.
Now with that said, whenever I go to these events, I keep an open mind, but it’s also sprinkled with a certain amount of skepticism. For the most part, the Democrats did not do anything at their convention that was unexpected. They nominated their candidates, heard from former Attorney General Eric Holder and they said there was too much one-party rule in Indiana. They accused Republicans of rolling back voters’ rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights and just about everyone else’s rights and it was time to bring some balance back to the Statehouse.
While I didn’t necessarily agree with the content, Indiana Democrats got points for style and delivery. And I give them credit for their energy and enthusiasm, which they will need to help counteract the Republicans’ organizational prowess.
One thing that did somewhat surprise me was when incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly embraced his vote on Obamacare, to the point where it could have been interpreted that he took pride in casting the deciding vote to keep it from being repealed. Republicans went after Donnelly in a news release saying he was doubling down on a policy that “perpetuate(d) the premium spikes, lost coverage and overall chaos and disarray.” When I asked Donnelly about that line shortly after the convention, he noted that he had won two elections after voting for the Affordable Care Act and he didn’t seem too worried about Republican attacks. My political instincts tell me the Donnelly folks have polling which shows the moderate and independent voters that will decide the U.S. Senate race don’t blame him for any ACA shortcomings. But that’s just a hunch.
I also took note of the remarks by Secretary of State candidate Jim Harper, Treasurer candidate John Aguilera and Auditor candidate Joycelyn Whittaker for more openness and transparency in government. While they all gave good speeches and energized the audience, I’m not sure how well that line of attack will play in the general public, notably when Indiana has won awards for openness and transparency in government and data management.
Where I thought Democrats were at their strongest was actually with their women’s’ caucus meeting, which from all accounts was crowded and energized. Two things you want going into an election season and if Democrats can motivate enough women to come out, things could get interesting in the Fall.
So overall, what did I walk away with from the Indiana Democratic Convention? As I said, I thought there were energetic and enthusiastic. The last time I saw this kind of energy in a mid-term was back in 2006 when the Democrats picked up three Congressional seats. However, despite that energy, I still think Republicans have a much stronger ground presence, so the going forward I think it comes down to this, can Indiana Democrats generate enough of a blue wave to overcome the red wall Republicans are building?
We will see.
Abdul-Hakim is the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org. He is also an attorney with the Indianapolis law firm of Lewis and Wilkins LLP.