< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: Death Grip Of The Unrepentant Left - Part II - How Dennis Kucinich Destroyed the Ohio Democratic Party

Monday, November 15, 2004

Death Grip Of The Unrepentant Left - Part II - How Dennis Kucinich Destroyed the Ohio Democratic Party

Ohio's lessons for Democrats after 2004 are many. Here's an oldie, but a goodie.

Before Dennis Kucinich started tickling the fancy of the pre-packed sushi buying Sonoma Valley housewife set with his supremely ill-timed Department of Peace proposal, Dennis' disastrous term as mayor of Cleveland laid the seeds that destroyed Ohio's Democratic Party.

After leading Cleveland to default in 1978 over a defense of intellectual integrity known best as obstinance, Dennis narrowly survived a recall attempt, then was soundly defeated in 1979 by a Republican named George - Voinovich. Cleveland's reputation as a bad joke was cemented, and a white, ethnic, male, Republican, claimed the most solid Democratic base in the state of Ohio as his own, a city more than 50% black.

The kryptonite was born. A Republican claiming Cleveland and Cuyahoga County as his base is a death sentence for Ohio Democrats. Voinovich took full advantage, and it was only a matter of time before Ohio Democrats were wiped out - because their base was voting Republican.

Voinovich and his Republican progeny have dominated Ohio politics since 1990 when Voinovich became governor. He and his first lieutenant governor, Mike DeWine, are the US senators. His decades-long, ballot-deep coattails include the now hated Kenneth Blackwell, as well as every other elected statewide office. Both houses of the state legislature are locked in the control of a caveman caucus of Republicans. State Supreme Court? Packed with R's.

The futility for Democrats has been staggering. The last Democrat to win Ohio other than Bill Clinton (1992 & 1996) was John Glenn's 1992 Senate re-election win. Our US Senate candidate in 2004 got 35% (losing Cuyahoga County to Voinovich by 30,000 votes, while John Kerry won it by over 200,000). Our gubernatorial candidate in 1994 got 27%.

For those who would dismiss such failure as worth whatever glory might be gained by principled losing, take your eyes off of the board of elections website for ten minutes and take a good look at Ohio. Fifteen years of Republican domination have made this state a caricature of decline, young people fleeing, our schools crumbling, our tax base dwindling, Republicans so ashamed of their record in Ohio that the current governor was almost never seen campaigning in Ohio with George W. Bush in 2004. But Democrats are impotent to do anything about it...thanks, in the first instance, to the disaster of Dennis Kucinich losing to George Voinovich in 1979.

And Dennis? It was a long road back from oblivion. Dennis got me my start in politics as his Cleveland State campus coordinator when he ran for Congress in 1988 (losing 75-25. yikes). I even helped him finally win the seat he now holds in 1996.

But in tragedy known best to Shakespeare, Dennis' redemption is falling victim again to Dennis himself. As talk of a quixotic presidential campaign grew, his margin of the vote steadily declined, from 75% in 2000, down to 59% in 2004. His laughing stock presidential campaign is the subject of bitter scorn in his hometown, and the Republicans are salivating. He's turned a safe Democratic seat into a legitimate Republican target, soon to require millions of dollars to defend when it should not cost a dime to hold.

He may not hold it next time. People in Sonoma would applaud Dennis' glorious integrity in defeat. People in Cleveland, and Ohio, would be screwed. And Dennis would become not once, but twice, the biggest gift the Republicans ever got - the hand delivery of the largest Democratic base in Ohio for yet another generation.

One man's ideological purity is 10,000,000 other folks' sentence to decline. Remember that, Democrats, as we embark on our big re-think.

Coming soon - Part III - September 11, Democrats, And Moronic Moral Equivalence


Blogger FederalFarmer said...

Can Jerry Springer turn it around for us in Ohio? I'm serious.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Schenker said...

Very interesting Tim. I must say, I did see what was going on over at MyDD and glad you're using this site as a sounding board. That's what we're here for. Let me ask though, your description of Dennis sounds a lot like Nader, but perhaps moreso. Is this part of a greater pattern of liberal leaders? Eventually they all turn into ideologues?

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only do many of them eventually turn into ideologues, but many of them gain tremendous satisfaction -- indeed, inspiration -- from being firmly rejected by the public. It makes them feel like Socrates or something. We think Socrates won that battle in the long run, but is a thousand years of darkness really a price worth paying for being right?

10:49 AM  
Blogger Schenker said...

Extremely good point on Socrates. Extremely good. Almost Clintonian in its awareness. Re-evaluating with pragmatic consideration is extremely worthy and, from 11/2 it seems, quite necessary.

10:55 AM  
Blogger tram said...

An ideological mind is a stubborn mind, often. Whether it is full of Liberal or Conservative concrete, it can make people thick-headed and a real danger to their own movements. Nader is a good example. Ralph has done many, many good things and he is a tireless advocate for the people. The personality traits which served him well at advocacy then, make him look like an idiot as a politician and harms the very people he has always fought for.

It sound like Kussinch may have the same problem.

Strict ideology does not serve well in politics, at least not for long.But, damn, ideologes on the far left or far right can sure do some real damage while they are in power.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Sharpshanks said...

Because I don't like that MyDD website, I've decided to reply to a comment from Russo's diary over there announcing the story over here. The reason I don't like MyDD (in the interest of full disclosure) is because I'm not a contributor. Hee hee.

Alright, someone over there said something to the effect of Cleveland saving all sorts of money cause Denny didn't privatize the electricity muni. I admit, I don't know jack about the deal. But let me offer an insider's take on why this evaluation is substandard.

As a muni, you can "privatize" in a myriad of ways. It's not an all or nothing situation and you can structure the terms so that the muni's downside risk is minimized, if not altogether avoided. Its silly, economically silly and absurd, to say that something of value can't be capitalized on because in the future, it will be more valuable. That's the whole reason WHY you capitalize on valuable assets. Denny's failure to get any equity out of the asset and return it to the city is a failure of simple imagination. And judging from Tim's post here, it seems that imagination is lacking in many respects.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I eat pre-packed sushi... but I also eat fried chicken while watching pro-wrestling. I like wines from Sonoma Valley, but I also like warm Miller High Life. Is there a place for me in the Democratic party?
The average 18-29 yo.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I volunteered for Dennis in his Presidential campaign. I think you're being more than a little unfair to him. If anything, he doesn't have the power to bring down the ODP. The ODP brought down the ODP. He's just a good guy trying to stick to his principles.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is kind of silly. There are larger demographic and cultural and economic reasons why white ethnic voters drifted rightwards from Nixon in 68 and 72, and Reagan in 80--- and this is across the nation, not just in Ohio. And the Republican party has always had a lot of traction in Ohio. So Kucinich has been having to tug up hill. And IMHO Ohio was won by Kerry in 2004, if there had not been electoral fraud, on the basis of a center-left campaign.

Tim, anger is a stage of grieving which you've got to get past.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Federalist X said...

"Anger"? What's that about? Why do so many people see "anger" in Tim's post? I confess, I don't see it. Also, of course there were other reasons why voters shifted turned towards Nixon and the right. I didn't think Tim was saying that the electorates righward swing was because of Kucinich. I thought he was saying Kucinich was a symptom of a larger problem with liberals at that time, and that is: their unwillingness to play pragmatic politics. We're seeing that sort of unwillingness rise again. Seems like everytime one generation of Democrats learns the lesson that principles are useless in politics if they don't effectuate power, the next generation of Democrats decides that's obsolete, too old-school, and they've got a better, more principled and ideologically pure argument which will win over the masses. Voters aren't stupid, they know which side butters their bread (check out the latest exit polls broken down on personal income level... you think those people were voting values and not pocketbooks? You're crazy!). Until us Dems start playing politics and stop playing philosophy, we're gonna lose till the cows come home.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read a lot of anger in Tim. I went to the MyDD site and read up some of his posts there, and he was not a happy puppy. I agree with the earlier post that he needs to work through these issues a bit. We all are coping with November 3 in different ways.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Tim Russo said...

the lesson here is that when you hand over your base to the Republicans the way Dennis did, you will lose for a generation. that is what happened in ohio.

Many villians can be found in ODP's autopsy. Not least of which are the boobs who get elected in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County and just let the party rot. ODP had as much to do with it's own destruction as Dennis, true.

but when every single candidate statewide has to face a battle for the base, in the base, they are doomed, no matter how good the party apparatus may be. ODP didn't do that. Voinovich, via Dennis Kucinich, did.

the lesson for Democrats nationally is that when the lefter than thou urge us to elect Howard Dean as DNC chair, get even more anti-war, scream louder, recount elections that are over, donate to OTHER POLITICAL PARTIES to fund said recount, withold donations to OUR OWN PARTY because they won't ask for the recount, re-trench ever more to our base....

that is the cliff of electoral oblivion we are looking over.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article is, flatly, idiotic.

Ohio has been a Republican-leaning swing state for a century. John Kerry is only the third Democrat in 80 years to perform better in the state than he has nationally- and the first since Woodrow Wilson in 1916 to do so in an election that was even vaguely competitive nationally.

Cleveland had been a national joke for decades. The infamous Cuyahoga River fire was a decade before Kucinich's term as mayor; Cleveland's population peaked in 1950. Kucinich had the misfortune to be sitting in the mayor's office when the music finally stopped.

The problem is not "principled" candidates, it's bad candidates. Produce evidence that the Ohio Democratic Party is beholden to "the far left"- and define the term, for that matter- or STFU.

5:59 AM  
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