Dave Kitchell: Berry best choice for Pence in GOP chair
Wednesday, July 17, 2013 11:11 AM
LOGANSPORT – As a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan, I’m not beyond hearing grumblings from those who contend the Cubs organization is maintaining a nostalgic museum to baseball in the form of Wrigley Field.
It’s a subtle way of saying the only major league baseball, championship-caliber competitors associated with Wrigley Field are those who either have their numbers retired and flying on flagpoles or their old baseball cards are increasing in value with trading on e-Bay. The Cubs are a passive voice team; the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox and Cardinals are active voices.
I relate this example because there are the same whispers about the Indiana Republican Party that are relevant for the Indiana Democratic Party as well.
The selection of Tim Berry as state GOP chair was the best possible choice Gov. Mike Pence could have made. Berry is battle-tested in statewide campaigns, he’s served without a hint of besmirchment and he has the ideology of someone who can be the trunk of a tree instead of out on the limb of one.
But what the leaders of both parties have to recognize is that the country’s demographics have changed and they have to be more inclusive in putting together ballots. Republicans have lost the popular vote in four of the past five presidential elections, and even lost Indiana for the first time since 1964. They will have to change with the times to reflect the voting public, and that means more women and minorities in leadership positions.
It means the parties, which have long had the support from rural counties, will have to become more urban in nature. It means the people running will have to be more educated. It also means elections will probably be more about the center of political debates than the left or right. It also means if state political parties want to produce leaders who can be relevant on a national scale, they’re probably going to have to produce candidates who look more like typical Americans. It’s significant to note for instance that a makeover of Betty Crocker’s image a few years ago took on darker hair and eyes, a move made to reflect the trend of Hispanic Americans in the country.
There also is an ideological shift that may be evident in one recent statistic. The New York Times, which has been embraced more by the left than the right, is now outselling USA Today, a more mainstream-to-conservative publication, for the first time in years. This, too, may be a signal that the nation is moving more to the left.
Berry will be able to field candidates, particularly those for state offices which have been a stable support for the GOP. But many of the big names of the past 20 years in state politics have vanished. There is no more relevance for Dan Quayle, Richard Lugar, Steve Goldsmith and now Mitch Daniels. Berry has the opportunity to forge a path with new names that have no baggage attached. Whether the names will look like Indiana looks from a demographic standpoint remains to be seen.
In short, this is not your father’s Republican Party, or your father’s Democratic Party. It’s the 21st century, and it’s here. In fact, the demographic changes in the past 20 years signal even more change in the next 37 years. Senators such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are exceptions in 2013, but by 2050, the Latino Caucus in Congress may be a very powerful influence on the national agenda – as much as organized labor in the 1930s or the Moral Majority in the 1980s. Will Indiana have a member in that caucus? It remains to be seen, but it could happen. Some would contend it probably should happen if Indiana is to have any standing on a national political stage.
The motivation to field candidates who can do more than just win is simple: If you resonate with the country, you can be a Barack Obama. Skin color won’t matter. Heritage won’t matter. Even party affiliation won’t matter as much. But politics has to matter for a democracy to work.
And the matters of politics are what being a state chair is all about.
Kitchell is a columnist from Logansport.