A couple weeks ago, the CEO for Angie’s List came out loud and strong against the passage and signing of Indiana’s new, so-called “religious freedom” act. The Indianapolis-based company took a position alongside several other large corporations in voicing opposition to the bill, which many argued provided legal cover to discriminate against people, based upon sexual orientation.In the weeks since all the hullaballoo, that Angie’s List CEO, William Oesterle, hasn’t given up his fight against the supermajority of Republicans in Indiana and its (in over his head) Republican governor Mike Pence. Oesterle feels the “fix” to the RFRA legislation did not go far enough and has continued his fight. He stepped down as Angie’s List’s CEO and is now eyeing a run for governor. Did we mention Oesterle is a Republican? In fact, Oesterle was a staffer to former Indiana governor and Republican darling Mitch Daniels.
Already, there are rumblings from the right that Oesterle stands no chance in Indiana by ignoring the social conservatives in Indiana. But here’s my question: where the hell are the Democrats?
Once again, Indiana’s Democratic Party can’t seem to organize a carwash. Here is one of the biggest political bombshells dropped in state politics anywhere and all the state Democrats have been able to muster are a few emails soliciting donations and a rally at the Statehouse. That’s all fine and good, but what they failed to do was show any level of leadership. They failed to capitalize on the momentum in a way that puts a face to their agenda the same way as Oesterle. Ideas don’t win elections. People win elections.
It is not hyperbole to say Mike Pence’s political career is going up in flames. According to Howey Politics Indiana, Pence’s approval rating dropped from 62 percent in February to 45 percent this month. His disapproval rating shot up to 46 percent. By a 2-to-1 margin, respondents of the same poll also said the RFRA bill was not needed. Seems voters were willing to forgive Pence for his previous boneheaded moves as governor, but the unneeded RFRA legislation (after ignoring virtually everyone outside his bubble) has proven to be a bridge too fare; even for Republican voters.
What have the Democrats done with this? Nothing. That sound you hear is nothing but crickets chirping through the night. Who’s stepping forth as the person who will unseat Mike Pence in 2016? No one. Well, no one from the opposition party—whose Indiana General Assembly members could caucus in a phone booth, thanks to tanking in the last three election cycles (and showing no signs of getting out of its own death spiral in the upcoming election).
But who did step up to give a voice and a face to opposition to Mike Pence and opposition to social conservatism? A Republican.
Could Oesterle actually stage a successful insurrection and knock off a wobbly, incumbent? Don’t be surprised if he does. After all, this is a state where social conservatives rallied behind Richard Mourdock and defeated popular and longstanding Republican senator Richard Lugar. It could most certainly happen if enough independents and Democrats choose to vote on a Republican ballot in the state’s primary election, but that’s a long way down the road.
Pence better hope Hillary has a legitimate challenger in her White House bid, otherwise state Democrats will have little reason to not vote on a Republican ballot in the primary…if they want to be rabble rousers.
Indiana’s Democratic Party needs to get in the ring for 2016. It’s only been a few weeks since the RFRA debacle and they’re already losing ground to Republicans. Again. The sad reality is, until Democrats put forth candidates the people can identify, identify with and can support, Republicans will continue to eat their lunch.
Time for Democrats to get hungry and steal it back.