As of this writing (Nov. 18) the best Democrats can do is to hold onto 29 seats in the state House of Representatives, quite a disappointment given what the party faithful were hoping for last summer, when some of the more optimistic (and unrealistic) were predicting that Democrats were going to turn Indiana purple.
That’s not going to be the case, not at all.
Indiana remains solidly red, and will remain so into the foreseeable future. If Jesus Christ himself returned to run as a Democrat, he’d need two or three miracles just to get 45% of the vote. If the current tally in the District 62 race stands, Democrats will actually be worse off in the House, still a distinct minority in the state Senate, and will again be without a single statewide office on their side of the ledger.
Gerrymandering had its say in the outcome, costing Democrats six or seven seats in the House and a couple in the Senate — plus at least one (and possibly two) seats in Congress. But Democrats actually performed worse than the 31 seats GOP gerrymandering allowed, preserving for the Republicans a supermajority in the House and pretty much guaranteeing a further run on civil liberties.
Rural Indiana, which dominates the vote, showed no interest in anything Democrats offered — not women’s rights, not school safety, not public education in general, nor the environment in particular, nothing that would help to improve the state’s dismal showings in recent national rankings. Republicans seem comfortable with mediocrity.
There are oases of enlightenment in this GOP desert where a Democrat can seek refreshment, and it’s there Democrats need to focus attention and commit resources in the years ahead, winning mayoral races and city council contests — any municipal race in which a viable candidate steps forward.
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That means the party turning its back on those looking to make futile attempts at statewide offices or legislative seats in rural districts which, the returns have shown, just can’t be won, no matter how attractive the candidate or deplorable the opponent.
Gayle R. Robbins is a retired newspaper editor and publisher who lives in Bloomfield, where he was born and raised, and where the biggest influences on his young mind were the local Carnegie library and the book racks at Pielemeier’s Drug Store.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Columnist suggests Indiana Democrats focus on winning local elections