Apparently there’s been some hand-wringing about Josh Marshall’s piece published last night entitled “Events Create New Realities.” Is he giving up on the midterms? Well, no, but Josh has a crucial point to make:
How well will Democrats stand up to the headline that says Republicans win 50 House seats?
And remember, it won’t be “Republicans win 50 House Seats.”
The headline will read “Angry Country Repudiates Obama Agenda, Embraces Small Government Conservative Values.” And that will be the Times. Believe me, it won’t be pretty.
In any case, a lot of folks are thinking, well, sure the Republicans take the House and maybe they even take the Senate. But Obama’s got the veto pen and the big legislation has already been pushed through. And if they come after Social Security, c’mon, let them try: Obama can veto whatever they pass. And they’ll kill themselves for 2012.
But all of this is based on the premise that the Democrats — congressional leaders and the White House — are going to be something like the same people on November 3rd as they were on November 1st. And a lot of painful history, the post-Scott Brown victory period being only the most recent example, says that’s a very bad assumption.
Josh is right. It is a very bad assumption. Blue Blogistan and loyal Democrats, however, can make a difference here.
This is going to be a very ugly midterm. But it will be even uglier if Democrats buy into what will surely be the inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom: America’s voters have rejected progressivism, it’s a conservative country, and — most maddeningly — the Dems took it on the chin because they went “too far to the left.”
Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein, in one of those necessary takedowns of Matt Bai, said it the best:
It’s not complicated at all: Obama’s approval ratings have fallen because the economy stinks. End of story. Anything else is on the margins…and it’s certainly possible that everything else is pushing his ratings up, not down.
The same is true for Democrats generally. That means the last thing we want to do is start getting into a defensive crouch, setting up yet another round of interminable “Rethinking Liberalism” conferences, wondering where we “went wrong,” or why we’re “not connecting.” The economy stinks. End of story.
Or maybe not even that. The economy stinks because (to extend Bernstein’s scatology) the Republicans put it in the toilet. Their policies failed. As Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhardt have demonstrated in their recent superb book, financial crises take a very long time to shake out, particularly because of the key role the financial system plays in directing investment through the economy. Combine that with historic gains in the last two cycles, many of them in Reddish areas, and you have the recipe for a bad cycle. But a bad cycle does not equal rejection. It’s just a bad cycle.
This Congress has accomplished a tremendous amount of good: the stimulus, student loan reforms, financial reform, and of course the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act. If it hadn’t been for the Senate, there would have also been historic climate legislation, a bigger stimulus, stronger support for higher education (particularly community colleges), and probably a much stronger economy. There is nothing for Democrats to be ashamed of.
If the predictions from the polls come true, our tasks will be 1) keeping Nancy Pelosi as House Democratic Leader (if she wants the job); 2) stiffening the President’s spine (which from his excellent statement today on the Bush tax cuts, seems to be in decent shape); and 3) continuing to fight in the trenches for important things, like making sure ACA implementation proceeds, blocking GOP gerrymandering, and attacking conservative talking points. I’ll have more to say more on these in due course, but we cannot do any of these things if we wake up on November 3rd in some sort of ideological stupor, cowed by right-wing browbeating, and lacking the courage of our convictions.
Fight like hell the next two months. Give money when you can. Here’s an excellent place to start. But most of all, let leading Democrats know that they must not back down, no matter what happens. The country, and the world, depend on them getting this message.