Meet Ashley Bell, a young man who looked to have a bright future in the Democratic Party. Now he looks for a brighter future — as a Republican. The former national president of College Democrats of America has joined an exodus of moderates and conservatives from the Democratic Party in the South after the midterm elections:
For Democrats, Ashley Bell was the kind of comer that a party builds a future on: A young African American lawyer, he served as president of the College Democrats of America, advised presidential candidateJohn Edwards and spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
But after his party’s midterm beat-down in November, Bell, a commissioner in northern Georgia’s Hall County, jumped ship. He joined the Republicans.
Bell, 30, said he had serious issues with the healthcare law and believed that conservative “blue dog” Democrats in Congress who shared his values had been bullied into voting for it.
Bell’s defection is one of dozens by state and local Democratic officials in the Deep South in recent months that underscore Republicans’ continued consolidation of power in the region — a process that started with presidential politics but increasingly affects government down to the level of dogcatcher.
The defections in Louisiana gave the GOP its first legislative majority in over a century. In Alabama and Texas, they created Republican supermajorities. The Democrats may have chosen Charlotte, North Carolina for their 2012 convention, but the South has increasingly become hostile territory to Democrats, as former Blue Dogs feel the party has become hostile to them.
This shows that the midterm elections were no fluke. What we saw was a genuine realignment, not just a hiccup, at least in the South. The pretense that the current Democratic Party leadership of Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid welcomed diversity of thought on policy died hard in the 111th Session of Congress. Instead of paying attention to conservatives and moderates in their ranks that expressed skepticism over ObamaCare and demanded the focus remain on the economy, Pelosi and Reid steamrolled them into voting for the deeply unpopular health-care bill — and consigned most of them to electoral losses last fall.
Politicians like Bell and Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell understand what Beltway Democrats apparently want to ignore, which is that their leadership has lost touch with Americans across the country. Not only is there no room for what used to be known as Blue Dog Democrats in the Democratic coalition, they have seen outright hostility towards their positions from the Democratic Party. These politicians understand that surviving means aligning themselves with the GOP.
When Reagan won his two big victories, he did so with the support of what were called Reagan Democrats, especially in the South, who backed Reagan but stayed with the Democratic Party. Obama and Pelosi have done what even Reagan couldn’t do — convert Southern Democrats to the GOP.