Ohio Democrats are flailing

When members of the minority party keep saying things but no one’s paying attention, are they making a sound? (Think, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”).

While the question may appear flippant, it reflects the current reality of the Ohio Democratic Party. Not only have Democrats been locked out of statewide political offices since 2010, they are so few in number in the congressional delegation they could meet in a phone booth. (Don’t know what that is? Do an online search).

The bottom line is that Democrats in the Ohio General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegation have been marginalized. They don’t matter.

The Republican majority in the Legislature has enacted major laws without votes from Democrats, while Ohio’s four Democratic members of Congress are at the mercy of the GOP, which controls both chambers, to get anything of significance for their districts.

But none of the indignities of being in the minority compares to what happened last Thursday. That’s when the 17 Republican candidates for the GOP nomination for president converged on Cleveland, a Democratic stronghold, for the first of many debates.

FOX Cable News sponsored the two gabfests, the one earlier in the day that featured the second-tier candidates and the 9 p.m. event that had 10 participants, including the ever-popular governor of Ohio, John Kasich, and the current national political phenom, billionaire businessman Donald Trump.

The fact that Ohio could well determine the winner of the 2016 presidential election and that the Democratic nominee will need a huge margin of victory from Cleveland and Cuyahoga County made the presence of the Republicans all the more significant.

Vying for attention

There was so much hype leading up to the Thursday debates that Democrats were all but forgotten. The day before the event, they took to cyberspace in a desperate attempt to get a word in edgewise for national and international press coverage.

But the Democrats just could not grab the spotlight away from Trump, a real estate tycoon from New York City and former host of the very popular reality TV show, “The Apprentice.”

Trump has defied the political experts who viewed him as a flash in the pan when he first announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination.

But his first- or second-place standing in national and state polls makes clear he has struck a chord with Republican primary voters.

Indeed, Trump, who is spending his own money on his campaign and has not taken any contributions, is igniting the passions of independent voters and, even some blue-collar Democrats.

He is getting his support from people who earn less than $50,000 a year and who aren’t college graduates.

At least one state party chairman publicly voiced concern that if Trump is on the ballot at the time of Ohio’s primary next year, some Democrats could be inspired to request a Republican ballot just to be able to vote for Trump.

Chairman David Betras of the Mahoning County Democratic Party has reason to worry. He has witnessed first-hand the declining political fortunes of his party and knows that Republicans have a firm grip on state government and the congressional delegation.

Thus the question: What can the local, state and national Democratic parties do to trigger the passions of their faithful?

Find a Trump. Find a candidate for president who is so outlandish and egotistical that voters will be drawn to him like moths to a flame.

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