I live in Monroe County, NY. It includes a primarily Democratic core city (Rochester) with a hub of more conservative, Republican leaning suburbs. The election was for local offices, County Executive (quite powerful), District Attorney, all the local judges, and also all the seats for our county legislators. The local town Supervisor, town Justice and two town Council member seats were also on the ballot. I expected to see Dems running for every office. Every office. Yet aside from the ones where a county wide vote was needed for election, there were no democrats on the ballot. No Democrat running to represent me in my county legislature. No Democrat running for any of the town council seats, or town supervisor or town justice.

None.

Now I understand I live in a suburb, with a lot of Republicans, but not one Democrat could be found to put their name on the ballot for these five offices? Really? It’s like the local Democratic Party said go ahead, dear Republicans, we’ll let you have these positions by default.

Then again, maybe I should not be so surprised when the national party abandoned the fifty state strategy after 2008. When they refuse to allocate any resources to local branches of the party in conservative states and obviously conservative parts of supposedly deep blue states. When all the national party establishment seems to care about is getting the most centrist candidate nominated and elected in even in safely Democratic strongholds (though one has to ask how well that plan has worked for them lately), and when the party establishment (or at least the DNC) apparently has already made up its collective mind as to who the chosen Presidential nominee will be.

I wanted to vote for Democrats today, but there weren’t any on the ballot for five offices. Only Republicans. And those Republicans didn’t have to campaign because – no opposition! What the hell kind of party is this, anyway? Not one likely to be effective even in the face of a Republican party in disarray at the top.

And that’s the problem we have, isn’t it? We have a party that doesn’t contest every election, that focuses it’s energy on electing Dem Presidents and trying to hold on to seats in the Congress they already have, rather than expanding the base, getting people motivated both to run, but more importantly to run on a platform that opinion polls show is a winner. Is it all because of the party establishment’s ties to corporate money and their fear of losing what little of it they have?

My little election might not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but I think it is emblematic with the problems the Democratic Party as an institution faces today. A failure of nerve, of grit if you will, a willingness to back only the sure thing, or at least the sure thing as they see it. A failure to promote a progressive agenda out of fear of losing their corporate sponsors and their gravy train lobbyist jobs. In short, a failure to believe in democracy.

It’s become a party that at the top without a heart, and only the barest hint of a soul. A party afraid to fight. And when the lead dogs are afraid to lead, guess what happens lower down the institutional food chain? Chaos, disarray, dysfunction if not complete collapse. Say what you will about the crazies in the Republican party, but they nominate someone in almost every race across the country, big or small, in heavily Republican districts and in heavily Democratic ones. When was the last time you could say that about the Democrats?

Is it any surprise that the only candidate who has a chance of challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee is a man elected as an independent senator, a man who self describes himself as a democratic socialist. Makes you wonder how we ended up with the pitiful shell of a party we have, one that long ago abandoned fighting for workers and the downtrodden when push came to shove. A party notorious for antagonizing its core ideological supporters, be they unions, traditional liberals or even African Americans (I cite you to Bill Clinton’s welfare reform bill, as just one example).

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