The soul searching in the Democratic Party of the United States has begun. It will be a painful process.
According to the Washington Post,
The biggest stain on Barack Obama’s political legacy may turn out to be the decimation of the Democratic Party on his watch.
The 2016 election has brought a moment of reckoning — and a new era to the party….
What is undeniable is that there has been a systematic erosion of Democratic power during Obama’s eight years in office, and particularly from the heady days of his early presidency.
It is not a small problem:
During the Obama presidency, more than 900 Democratic state legislators were defeated.
On Tuesday, Republicans picked up additional legislative chambers, and continued to make gains in state houses, with 24 states now having the “trifecta” control of both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion. The victories for the GOP Tuesday included picking up the Kentucky House for the first time in almost a century and gaining control of the Iowa Senate.
How did the leadership of the Democratic Party fail to see the depth of disaffection among white voters? How did they fail so profoundly to gauge the level of anger against the political establishment?
How could they have been so woefully out of touch with the reality of their own country? How is it possible to spend a billion dollars polishing and fine tuning the best, most efficient political machine in US political history only to see it drive into the ditch when it needed to perform? How could Democrats fail to generate enough enthusiasm and energy among the general population to win an election in which their competitor consistently made so many egregious errors and blunders?
For TA Frank, at Vanity Fair, the answer is clear. The outcome
was not a surprise because our ruling class—politicians, business leaders, academics, and pundits—was gallingly out of touch, wed to obsolete conditions and tired dogmas.
For former Vermont governor and DNC chairman Howard Dean the way forward is also clear:
We’re going to obviously have a very spirited [presidential] primary next time, and I hope no one over 65 will be in the race. The torch needs to be passed to the next generation, and it needs to stay passed.
The problem the Democrats failed to realistically address under Barack Obama is the challenge of succession planning. The outgoing President seems to agree
“I think of this job as being a relay runner,” Obama said Wednesday morning, as he pondered the results of the election. “You take the baton, you run your best race. And hopefully, by the time you hand it off, you’re a little further ahead, you’ve made a little progress.”
This dilemma is being played out in every institution around the world. My generation, the generation of baby-boomers, need to pass the baton. It appears we are not presently equipped to do a good job of handing on leadership to the next generation.
According to Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), an ardent liberal,
The Democrats were basically obtuse to this, because it was all about winning and holding power, and it was not about deliverables to the American people.
When any privileged group is driven simply by the determination to win and hold power, they inevitably stop paying attention to the people they exist to serve. The outcome is a tragic failure of leadership.
What does it look like for my generation to hand over power to a new generation in ways that will be life-giving for the institutional structures of our day?
How are my peers and I preparing to move off centre stage?
What are the qualities of leadership that are essential for a successful transition of power in any organization?
Succession planning is not easily done. It requires honesty, self-awareness and courage. Perhaps for the leaders of my generation to nurture such qualities within ourselves would be a great place to start developing a strategy for future leadership to emerge.