If you’re stuck with a two-party system with no viable third-party outlet, the only way a disillusioned electorate can signal its rejection of the party in power is to allow the other party to win, even if that party is full of extremist nutcases, charlatans, demagogues and even convicted thieves (see Florida). That’s the closest I can come to a rational explanation for what just happened, but it’s not enough.
The national Democratic leadership, from President Obama down, ran without an agenda for what they would do to address the nation’s most pressing problems. Never mind their failure to confront climate change, corporate power, immigration, DADT, two losing wars. They have no viable plans on the most fundamental economic issues that seem to worry voters the most.
Neither the White House nor the Democrats’ Congressional leaders offered a credible economic stimulus or jobs program that would reduce the 9.6 percent unemployment in the foreseeable future, and they couldn’t explain how or when the nation’s 15 million unemployed would find work. The depressed housing market and corresponding loss of savings/wealth continue as a massive drag on the economy, but the Administration still does not have a coherent plan to turn that around or to address the foreclosure crisis in a fair, reasonable manner. Extend and pretend is a loser policy and loser politics. Why should anyone vote for them?
While soon to be ex-Speaker Pelosi’s House passed a ton of useful legislation, much of it died in Harry Reid’s dysfunctional Senate. Dozens of Democratic House members (nearly 30 Blue Dogs but also a few worthy progressives) lost their jobs because of it. Voting for or against the health care bill, stimulus, etc, may not have mattered, but I’ll leave that analysis to others. . . .
Even the signature pieces that passed provided the reasons for the public’s disgust. You can’t claim to have reformed Wall Street if you deliberately refuse to condition the bailouts to restructure the banks and clean out the culprits who tanked the economy and looted their companies, while “reform” leaves them still in charge, richer and more powerful than before. You can’t claim to have solved America’s health care crises by empowering the insurers, providers, and drug companies and shielding them from oversight and competition from public alternatives. And you can’t run on having achieved the long-delayed health care reform when the only thing voters see before 2014 is declining coverage at work, higher insurance rates and massive waivers for insurers seeking to avoid the few worthwhile reforms that were supposed to start early. How could you allow seniors to be misled into believing Medicare was at risk, or signal you’d allow those who hate Social Security to slash it? Was there no one in the White House or Democratic leadership who could foresee this failure?
But the worst feature of Tuesday’s elections is that they leave the country in the middle of dangerous rapids in a swamped boat, no paddles and suspect life jackets. The Republican Party is led by buffoons and now driven by crazies, cynically manipulated by corporate power to serve corporate ends. Even the most charitable assessment must concede their vague “solutions” will make every major problem facing the country worse.
Meanwhile, the nominal leadership of the Democratic Party has failed the basic tests of policy and political competence, but Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and the abysmal crowd of political consultants and Third Way hacks who presume to advise them are all still there.
They should all have been swept away. They have blown the most hopeful opportunity for effective reform we could have asked for. Instead, they virtually destroyed the Democratic brand only two years after voters soundly rejected George Bush and even Reagan’s mindless laissez faire approach to corporate economic and political power. Except for Rahm Emanuel, those who destroyed hope, starting with Obama, blew this once in a lifetime chance but are still there, fully prepared to blame everyone but themselves for this debacle.
If there were any honor or integrity left, there would be massive resignations at the top, today, starting in the White House and all the way down the party leadership. But don’t hold your breath. The White House geniuses who authored this debacle thought it would be a terrific idea to send the President out of the country to “get the elections behind us,” so he’ll soon be on his way to India, Indonesia, and Japan to do…what? Clueless.
It will take days to survey the damage and rescue the few survivors. But soon we have to figure out how to rebuild and reinvent democracy.