Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Troubling, Indeed

Stuart Rothenberg writes:

With a nearly 80-seat House majority, 60 seats in the Senate for more than eight months, a GOP brand so damaged that the party looked completely incompetent and a charismatic African-American president taking over from a failed two-term Republican president, you’d have thought that Democrats were set up for a pretty decent two years.

But only one year after the passage of the economic stimulus that was advertised as the first step to revitalizing the American economy and getting Americans back to work, the outlook for November is increasingly troubling for Democrats.

Troubling is one way to put it. He lists the problems. There is “depressing” economic news. Then, the “Democrats have botched their top legislative priority — health care reform — in so many ways that there is plenty of blame to go around. Yes, they may pass a comprehensive bill, but at a steep cost.”Next you can add in the ethics scandals, made more juicy for the media because the Democrats “ran against the ‘culture of corruption’ just a couple of cycles ago.” Then there is Obama (“it’s the rise in his disapproval ratings from the mid-20s in early March 2009 to the mid-40s now that ought to be troubling for Democratic strategists”) and all those disaffected independents who have gone “from virtually mirroring the sentiments of Democrats during the last two election cycles to now more closely resembling the views of Republicans.”

Kind of a mess, isn’t it? What is remarkable is that at multiple points — after the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races or after Scott Brown’s election — Obama and the Congress could have looked up, taken stock, and readjusted. They either didn’t care that their party was plummeting (“Take one for the team!” they essentially keep telling to panicky Democrats) or really were deluded, believing that none of these elections or polling was indicative of anything they were doing wrong.

Obama has already hinted that a single term might be good enough for him. But in his hubris (hubris is like this, of course) he has neglected to recognize that his own political nosedive has real-world consequences both for his agenda (no one is taking his political advice all that seriously) and for his party. That may all become clear after November. As he said, that’s what elections are for.