Some people say that there’s a woman to blame
but I know: it’s my own damn fault
Those who have just been shellacked in an election would do well to listen to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville a few times, while searching for their lost shaker of salt. When Republicans get shellacked they inevitably whine about the biased press. That’s a little bit harder now that Fox News dominates Cable, but when did reason ever persuade the wounded heart?
In 2006 and 2008 the Republicans got shellacked nationally. It didn’t happen because the other side cheated or because the press was biased or because the moon was in Virgo. They got beat because they lost the confidence of the electorate. In a Republic that’s getting beat fair and square.
In South Dakota this year the Democrats got shellacked from top to bottom. My esteemed Keloland Colleague and NSU Colleague Emeritus, David Newquist, is ready with excuses. He blames the “the socio-economic factors affecting the Democratic Party in South Dakota.” He doesn’t spell out those factors, but it doesn’t much matter. In politics, as in golf, you have to play the ball where it lies.
I think it is a scandal that the Democrats did not run a candidate against John Thune. David again is ready with excuses. He seems to think that Senator Thune will do such terrible things to an opponent that no human being could dare to challenge him. I think that that is utter nonsense. Republicans Rand Paul in Kentucky and Daniel Webster in Florida bore up under much worse abuse than any candidate has ever dished out in South Dakota. Instead of turning pale and withdrawing, they fought and won. I cannot believe that Democrats in South Dakota are such cowards as David imagines them to be. I think that the uncontested Senate race, the first in the state’s history, was a deliberate strategy.
Nationally, Democrats are looking for their own excuses. One of the most common ones is that President Obama let his foes define him. Here is E.J. Dionne:
President Obama allowed Republicans to define the terms of the nation’s political argument for the past two years and permitted them to draw battle lines the way they wanted. Neither he nor his party can let that happen again.
That’s just another version of the standard excuse used by both sides after bad news: the voters didn’t reject us or our policies! We just didn’t explain ourselves properly.
Nonsense on stilts. When President Obama put forth health care reform as his highest priority (among his other highest priorities), he very clearly defined the terms of the argument. Health care reform would “bend the cost curve downward,” i.e, health care reform would save the nation money spent on medicine. The problem was that no one believed it because it obviously wasn’t true. Even if you believe the CBO estimates, the best you are going to get out of the health care bill is a wash. But the CBO estimates always include caveats indicating that the savings in the bill depend on Congress doing things that it has always promised to do but has never actually managed to do.
Here’s why the Democrats took a bath in this election: First, the economy is in dreadful shape. The President today praised the unexpected growth in private sector jobs. But that growth is not enough to make up for population growth, let alone enough to depress the unemployment numbers. Voters are hurting.
But there are two kinds of pain. One is the kind you have when you break your ankle. It really smarts, but you aren’t too worried because you figure you are going to get better soon enough. The other is the kind of pain that makes you think that something much worse is happening, something that you won’t get over. Pain plus existential fear is a lot worse than just pain.
The trillion dollars a year deficits we are running really worry a lot of us. They make us wonder whether the economic pain we are suffering isn’t more like the persistent cough or the ache in the gut that won’t go away. Maybe the whole system is sick. Does the President have any plan to put us back on the road to fiscal health? That is one thing that he didn’t define very well.
The deficits are the second thing that weighed down the Democrats. The third thing was the health care bill. As the economy stalled and the deficits mounted, the Democrats spent all their energies not on the present crisis but on the thing that they have wanted for decades. The people didn’t want it. The voters expressed their dismay not only in opinion polls but in actual elections, but the Democrats in Congress pushed ahead anyway. That was the third thing.
The economy, the deficits, and the health care bill, in that order, did the Democrats in. They ought to come to terms with that. It might not get better.