By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – The writer had a complaint.
“Why don’t you ever write about Democrats? Why are you always picking on Republicans?” a self-identified conservative Republican said in an email.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
Those are fair questions.
There are a couple of answers.
The first is that it’s hard to make a case that Democrats matter much right now, particularly in this state. The party of Jefferson and Jackson has an impotence problem that even Viagra can’t fix.
Republicans control the governor’s office and every other statewide post in Indiana state government.
They have supermajorities in the Indiana House of Representatives and the Indiana Senate. That means Democrats can’t even deny a quorum if they want to slow legislative proceedings – which is a polite way of saying that they need to raise their hands and ask permission of the GOP just to schedule a bathroom break.
Thus, Democrats’ ability to shape public policy statewide can be scored somewhere between non-existent and zero.
The picture at the national level is similar.
Republicans control the White House, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and, thanks to the delay-and-maneuver tactics surrounding the latest appointment to the nation’s highest bench, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Democrats have found a way to exert a little more leverage there, largely by tacking against the wind and making deals with President Donald Trump on disaster relief, the debt ceiling and immigration.
But that’s an approach that has some significant costs.
It requires Democrats to partner up with a president they detest. And, by definition, it means they are reacting to, rather than setting, an agenda.
Still, that’s probably the best Democrats can do now, given that they really don’t have an agenda – other than complaining that Donald Trump isn’t a nice person and that he says, does and tweets regrettable and, often, even unforgivable things on a routine basis.
While their complaints regarding Trump are valid, that doesn’t mean Democrats are doing much worth writing about. For good or ill, the president still is the one making the waves. Democrats just are trying to surf them.
And that’s the way it’s likely to stay so long as Democrats remain bankrupt in the original thoughts account book.
Consider their battle cry for the upcoming 2018 House and Senate races.
A Better Deal.
That sounds like something a bad used car salesman would say.
Not just a used car salesman, mind you.
But a bad used car salesman.
A really bad used car salesman.
I know what Democrats were trying to do with that slogan. They wanted both to echo back to the transformative political agendas in America’s past – Theodore Roosevelt’s Square Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal and Harry Truman’s Fair Deal – and to suggest that Trump is conning Americans.
But the slogans TR, FDR and Give-’em-hell Harry conjured up were the sizzle that sold the steak. For the sizzle to be enticing and effective, there must be steak.
And Democrats are on a largely meat-free diet.
At present, Democrats aren’t advancing ideas so much as they are goals – free college, universal healthcare, good jobs with high wages. These goals all are worthwhile ones, but they amount to little more than daydreaming without plans to achieve them.
More important, Democrats can’t identify the bedrock upon which they stand. We know, for example, that, unfortunately, Donald Trump won’t abandon his white supremacist supporters. The line he has drawn may be deplorable, but at least it is clearly drawn.
No one can say with certainty which Americans or which principles Democrats will defend, come hell, high winds or bad polling numbers.
That’s ultimately why I spend so much time writing about Republicans.
They are the ones with the power. They are the ones making the decisions. They are the ones driving the action.
A lot of what they do with that power, a lot of the decisions they make and a lot of their acts are wrong-headed and, at times, even malevolent, but at least they’re trying to do things.
So long as that’s the case, I’ll write about them.
When Democrats start doing things that mean something, I’ll write more about them.
Not so much.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.