Conservatives must hope that the White House takes this sort of gibberish about the Massachusetts debacle from Frank Rich seriously:
It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet. Brown had the good sense not to identify himself as a Republican in either his campaign advertising or his victory speech.
Everything is fine, perfectly fine. According to Rich, the real issue is that Obama was not angry enough or wasn’t everywhere enough. Or Left-leaning enough. You can almost sense Republican candidates and operatives holding their collective breath, smilingly nervously and whispering to each other, “They couldn’t be that obtuse, could they?”
As if the Democrats didn’t have enough problems, Rich and many other of his ilk are counseling Obama to go hard Left and shed any facade of bipartisanship. This certainly will test just how low the Democrats’ standing with independent voters can go. If Massachusetts proved anything, it is that the course that Rich counsels — gin up the base — is a losing proposition. Should the White House and Democratic congressional candidates follow that advice, they will cede the entire Center of the political spectrum to the Republicans, who will gladly scoop up those voters, forge a coalition with enthusiastic conservatives, and roll to victory in race after race. That is precisely what happened in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
It remains to be seen whether Obama is going to follow Rich’s advice, and more important, whether anyone on the ballot in 2010 will be dim enough to do so as well. Republicans can dream that Democrats will plunge over the political cliff, but they shouldn’t count on it. Unlike New York Times columnists, members of Congress get out now and then, read local press, and pay attention to polls. Their future depends on it. And when they do, they might realize that the problem is not too little leftism, but too much, and not too little political demagoguery, but too much.