Former Dem Governor Douglas Wilder: Democrats ‘Whistling by Their Graveyard’; Time for White House Political Shake-Up

By Lindsey Ellerson

Feb 15, 2010 1:30pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, D-Va., was an early supporter of President Obama — and something of a trailblazer for him, as the nation’s first elected African-American governor. Now, the 79-year-old Wilder is leading efforts to sound alarm bells about the state of the Democratic Party. On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Wilder told us that the Obama White House still seems not to get how toxic the political environment is this year — or how drastic the steps that need to be taken to change that are. “I think the problem that we have is that some people have been whistling by their graveyard, as if nothing is going on — ‘Well, everything is fine,’ ” Wilder, who served as Virginia’s governor from 1990-1994, told me and ABC’s Jonathan Karl. “And they keep talking about the president’s personal popularity. And we see in recent polls coming out in the last several days to show that that might not be the case. And so I think it’s anybody’s guess as to how bad it could be in terms of the House being taken over, in terms of the Senate even now.” Wilder last week called for DNC Chairman Tim Kaine — a fellow former Virginia governor — to leave his post in the wake of a string of electoral setbacks. He told us that, aside from replacing Kaine, the president needs to widen the circle of advisers he listens to. “Why the people around the president — if they’re advising him to stick with health care, stay with health care, give the kinds of monies for the stimulus package that were given with no strings attached, and then to come back and say ‘well, we’re going to get on jobs,’ – but when?” Wilder said. “And the confidence of the American people is dwindling on a steady basis.” He continued: “Do you need to listen to other people? Do you need to reach out to other people who’ve had some experience in governing, rather than getting elected? He had the most brilliant team to assemble to get him elected. The question is: are these people capable of governance?” Said Wilder: “I know that most of the American people want to see him do well. But you can’t do well the way you have been continuing. You’ve got to stop that and get a different direction.” On Sen.Evan Bayh’s surprise decision to retire rather than seek another term in 2010, Wilder said: “Wow… For the Democrats to lose him it’s big, big, big!” Republicans, he said, are likely to make “substantial gains” in both the House and the Senate. Wilder also pointed out that, even if Democrats do retain control of the Senate, they’re likely to have a considerably narrower majority than the one that’s produced so much frustration this year: “Let’s assume this — if you can’t do it with 60 votes, and if you can’t do it with 59 votes, a single reduction will bring about a great deal of difficulty.” Watch our full discussion with Wilder HERE. We also chatted with Jonathan Krohn, the 14-year-old author of “Defining Conservatism: The Principles That Will Bring Our Country Back,” on “Top Line” today. Watch the segment with Jonathan Krohn HERE.

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