Success has a thousand fathers, and defeat has … one, according to centrist Democrats who suddenly found their voices in the wake of electoral disaster. It didn’t take long for the moderates who got bulldozed by Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and then discarded by the dozens in Tuesday’s midterms to fix blame for the defeat. And for their progressive colleagues, it didn’t take them long to blame the moderates, but they all agree on one particular goat for the debacle:
The party’s bloodied moderates Wednesday released two years of pent-up anger at a party leadership they viewed as blind to their needs and deaf to the messages of voters who never asked for President Barack Obama’s ambitious first-term agenda.
Liberals pushed back hard: The problem, they say, was those undisciplined moderates, who won delays, unsightly compromises and a muddled message from a too-accommodating administration.
Yet a third group of Democratic politicians and operatives blamed not policy but a failed sales job for the party’s woes.
One thing all sides agree on: The White House blew it.
There seems to be more than enough blame to spread around the Democratic Party. For one thing, every House Democrat can blame himself or herself for making Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House. She insisted on a go-it-alone approach from the first day of the 111th Congress when anyone with a lick of sense could have foreseen the dangers of not spreading the political risk of gimmicky, big-spending bills to the GOP. They knew that Pelosi wouldn’t work with Republicans when they elected her to that leadership position; they could just as easily have selected Steny Hoyer, who may not have been as “progressive” as Pelosi but understands the long game a hell of a lot better.
Make no mistake about it: the GOP made Pelosi the poster girl of this election for a reason, and it resonated.
Evan Bayh ripped Obama yesterday in the New York Times for both misreading the mandate and focusing on health-care reform and other progressive hobby horses rather than the economy. But self-described Democratic moderates in the Senate, with the exception of Bayh, failed to raise an alarm, too. Had Blanche Lincoln, Max Baucus, Jon Tester, Ben Nelson, and Bayh banded together to put aside ObamaCare and cap-and-trade, it would have forced Obama and Pelosi to refocus on the economy first. None of them stood up to Obama except on procedural and secondary policy matters, and they all caved on it at the end. They did so despite the anger of voters who had been telling them for months to stop trying to recreate the one-sixth of the economy that mainly worked and focus on the parts of the economy that needed attention.
The White House is like a quarterback on an NFL team or a starting pitcher on a baseball team. They get credit for the wins and have to shoulder personal responsibility for the losses. But just as with these analogues, big losses belong to the entire team. Obama deserves his share of the blame, but the failure belongs to every single Democrat in both chambers of Congress as well.