Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, is a dead man walking. Though his mid-term senate race is more than a year away, he holds a seat in the Senate deeply coveted by the Republicans. They will dump untold resources into the race to win a seat from the Democrats and bolster their majority.
The current story in this race is the impending primary between Rep. Luke Messer, R-6th Distict, and his colleague Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th District.
The identity of the Republican Senate candidate doesn’t matter, as whoever challenges Donnelly will have the full backing and power of both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
That leaves Donnelly with the unenviable position of running as a centrist Democrat in Indiana, where Republicans are the only game in town.
This is not any of Donnelly’s fault.
Five years ago, he became Senator at a time when centrism and moderation were still viable routes to electoral victory. That time has passed.
The collapse of traditional center-left and center-right political parties has occurred throughout the United States and Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel suffered huge losses to an insurgent far-right in the recent German elections.
French President Emmanuel Macron became the establishment’s only viable option with the implosion of the French Socialist party and the rise of Marine Le Pen.
While both of these leaders won their respective elections, each lost power in other ways. For Chancellor Merkel, it was her party giving up seats in parliament to the far-right party. And for President Macron, it was the realization that he was not necessarily a strong candidate, but simply the better alternative.
The elite in the United Kingdom are coming undone at the pending and inevitable horror of far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister.
In our country, despite what Democratic party leaders believe, both Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, permanently buried the longstanding moderate consensus.
I hope that Donnelly’s people are scrambling to find a message for next November that will keep their man in power, but I fear they will learn all the wrong lessons from last year’s failure of the Democratic Party and of centrist parties the world over.
If Donnelly’s plan is to appeal to moderate Republicans and give a nod to Evan Bayh’s embarrassing Senate bid, then Messer or Rokita might as well be coronated now and the election scrapped.
I have vivid memories of Bayh’s TV commercials last election, where he emphasized his “Hoosier values” and “fiscal conservatism.”
Hillary Clinton ran the same shtick, giving the finger to her progressive base while openly courting Bush donors.
Our problem here is a Democratic party so dedicated to corporate and private power that they’ve made themselves insolvent for the social-democratic base of the country that votes for them.
Since former President Jimmy Carter, the Democratic Party has had only two accomplishments: the legalization of gay marriage and the institution of Obamacare, and the latter is a conservative health care plan anyway.
Furthermore, the only reason both policies exist is thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts, who, though appointed by former President George W. Bush, was the tie-breaker on those two votes.
If Donnelly runs the safe moderate Republican campaign, his loss will be greater than Bayh’s.
But there is another route. A courageous first step for Donnelly would be endorsing single-payer health care.
Donnelly has yet to do so, and I’m certain the fact that he’s received $246,000 from the pharmaceutical industry and another $270,000 from insurance companies will affect his stance. Even worse, he’s been ranked the “least effective Democrat in the Senate.”
If he refuses to move closer to the left and leave behind his centrist stance, it may cost him his seat.