Nothing is more gratifying for a small-d democrat than witnessing the sort of massive outpouring of citizens telling their government what they want and why they want it, as happened in Terre Haute, Bloomington and Evansville last week at the I-69 public "hearings." That was democracy at its best.

Nothing is more disturbing for a small-d democrat than knowing that those citizens' enlightened and heartfelt concerns will be paternalistically dismissed by government officials who have sold our democracy to the rich and powerful. That's plutocracy at its worst. And it's especially galling when the plutocrats are Democrats, capital-d, the alleged good guys.

The question, of course, is what to do next. And one answer is to organize around the brazen, legalized corruption that has plagued the I-69 process from the beginning and knock those responsible for it out of political power.

Specifically, knock John Fernandez from power this year and target Joe Kernan for more of the same two years from now. Both are responsible. Both are vulnerable. And Democrats in Bloomington, Terre Haute and across Indiana - large and small-d - have more than enough political clout to do it.

This is Indiana, after all, and no Democrat save Evan Bayh has ever won a statewide election by any margin much wider than a newborn's hair. I've watched these guys; they're no Evan Bayh.

Fernandez, who's running for Secretary of State, is the obvious first-strike target, for a list of reasons that would be tiresome to write and read in full. But here's a few.

  • He's running for statewide office now, as his Democrat buddies in Indianapolis prepare to drive the I-69 stake deep into Southwest Indiana's heart. Emasculating this off-year statewide Democratic candidacy would put on notice every Democrat with visions of seeking statewide office in the future, especially Kernan.
  • He's running for an office whose duties have no practical impact on individual citizens' lives and one that few, if any, living Democrats except Bayh have ever won anyway. No one gets hurt here except Fernandez.
  • He's the only politician in Indiana who could have made Frank O'Bannon think twice about this multi-billion-dollar giveaway of taxpayer money to vested interests and wealthy campaign contributors. Instead, he chose his own pursuit of political power over the citizens' best interests.

The only force that has any chance of stopping state Democrats from ramming this concrete trail of corruption and pollution down the throats of an unwilling public is a threat to their power. A focused, mobilized citizenry can and should pose that threat, starting with John Fernandez and ending with Joe Kernan.