This race has the potential to be the most important Delaware race in at least 45 years. In 1972, upstart Joe Biden defeated incumbent US Senator J. Caleb Boggs in a year where the D’s suffered defeat after defeat (It was the Nixon defeats McGovern presidential landslide).
It’s quite possible that the 2018 US Senatorial race could be another transformational election. In fact, it will be if my dream scenario plays out.
Incumbent Tom Carper has been an elected official since 1976, when he first became State Treasurer. He has been the de facto leader of the Democratic Party since the mid-1980’s, when he overthrew the New Castle County D ‘machine’ that had been controlled by Gene Reed. In so doing, he flushed the system clean of trade union money that largely changed hands in bags in order to make way for campaign cash transported by computer from Delaware’s financial institutions to the state Democratic Party. And to Carper’s campaign coffers.
He has effectively controlled the Party ever since, promoting his ‘children’ to run for public office and, in the case of John Carney, forcing Ruth Ann Minner to put him on the ticket as her Lieutenant Governor nominee. In so doing, he has placed a premium on those who share his Chamber of Commerce worldview and, through his control of the Party, has largely discouraged significant grassroots access to the so-called Democratic coalition. When Ed Freel and party leaders gathered to decide where to prioritize, liberals in particular were almost always on the outside looking in. Better a Chamber R than a liberal D.
With the rise of some genuine grassroots candidacies this year, ranging from Bernie Sanders at the presidential level, to the campaigns of Bryan Townsend, Matt Meyer, and Eugene Young, among others, access to public office among the grassroots is far closer than it has been since, well, forever. We now have a burgeoning effective grassroots political movement in Delaware. With a relatively thin bench amongst the usual suspects, the time is ripe for newcomers to step in, run for office, and take over the Party.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s look at Tom Carper and his prospects for 2018.
On the surface, you would think that Carper’s prospects would be strong. In fact, however, he has never been more vulnerable.
First of all, here are some reading assignments for everyone:
You want to read more? Just do a search on Delaware Liberal by typing in ‘Carper’. There’s LOTS more. Carper’s been a disaster.
Delaware can no longer afford a DINO like Carper in the United States Senate. No more Stockholm Syndrome Third Way D’s.
You’re saying, “That’s all fine, Steve, but how can we POSSIBLY challenge someone as entrenched as Carper?” I’m glad you asked. Here’s how.
Like many incumbents who haven’t faced a tough race in at least twenty years, Carper has gotten older and hasn’t had to campaign all that hard. We know that his health is not what it used to be. We know that he is finally being challenged on his record. We don’t know how he’d hold up against a strong challenge.
And here’s what’s changed. The entire political landscape has shifted with the election of Donald Trump. The Delaware Way notion of ‘reaching across the aisle’ is now viewed as anathema among grassroots Democrats.
Here’s what else has changed. For the first time in Carper’s lengthy reign, the forces are finally aligned for a serious challenge. Not only are people creating a sustainable grassroots political presence in Delaware, but there is also at least one prospective candidate with the potential to both challenge Carper and to defeat Carper. If Carper even opts to take on the challenge.
Let me be clear. Given no serious opposition, I would fully expect Carper to run again. But what would he do if faced with an imposing challenger? More than anybody, Carper knows the moment when it became clear that he would defeat Bill Roth and become a Senator. That was the moment when Roth fainted during a televised interview and literally dropped out of the picture. It was at least as bad as what happened to gubernatorial candidate Montgomery Burns when he spit out a piece of that three-eyed fish at the Simpsons dinner table. It. Was. Over. How would Carper hold up intellectually and physically if presented with a vigorous challenger? Does he really want to be remembered for a moment just like what befell Roth?
Enough teasing. Here’s my scenario, and I see it as a genuine possibility. Between Delaware United, Network Delaware, and other closely-aligned grassroots organizations, we now have the volunteers, fundraising potential and enthusiasm to mount a significant challenge to Carper. Oh, and I think we have the candidate.
While Network Delaware can impact elections up and down the ballot, there’s no way that Eugene Young has not considered how his own political future could be impacted by this organization that he has helped to create.
So here it is: Eugene Young announces some time this year that he is exploring a run for Senator. That would have the impact of (1) sending Carper out in search of more heavy-doody adult diapers; and (2) giving other potential candidates candidates pause before rushing into a political vacuum should Carper decide not to run.
Young is the ideal candidate for this race. He almost won Wilmington’s mayoral office, losing only b/c of the calculus of one too many black candidates. He made virtually no political enemies in the process, running an inclusive campaign that galvanized hundreds of volunteers throughout the state. Even Carper took note, urging Mayor Mike to hire Young. I think now you can see why. If I were Carper, there’s no way I’d want to even consider the prospect of being primaried by him.
Another major advantage of a Young candidacy: Insurgent candidates up and down the ballot. Tired of Charles Potter? You’ll have someone worth voting for. Margaret Rose Henry and Bob Marshall retiring? You’ll have alternatives with vision.
Oh, and should Young win, look at the future. Bryan Townsend for governor in 2020? Why not? Kim Williams and Sean Matthews moving up? Why not? Like I said: A transformational election and an energized grassroots-based Democratic Party. A new Democratic Party. Not to mention a fitting coda to the DINOsaurs.