What lessons has Harry Reid learned from not one but two midterm wave elections that crushed his party and (finally) booted him into the Senate minority? Not much, it seems. Reid tells Jeremy Peters in a New York Times profile that the American people agree with Democrats on the issues, despite what the polls and two elections have made very clear to practically everyone else. If it hadn’t been for those darned kids at HHS, Reid would have gotten away with another election cycle, dagnabbit (via TWS):
Mr. Reid’s remarks, which he made in an interview from his suite just off the Senate chamber (the door outside will say “Office of the Majority Leader” for another few weeks), reflected a hardening sense within the Democratic Party that voters still supported its positions on issues like raising the minimum wage, college affordability and women’s rights. But Mr. Reid and his fellow Democrats also believe that they did a poor job of communicating their policies in a way that gave voters a reason to look past the deepening dysfunction in Washington.
He acknowledged that he thought Democrats had been in pretty good shape until just a few days before the election. “Things went south quickly,” he said. “But we always thought we had issues on our side.”
In hindsight, Mr. Reid said, it was easier to see how damaging the mismanaged rollout of the Affordable Care Act exchanges had been. “We never recovered from the rollout because the election became one that was directed toward the president. We couldn’t overcome that,” he said. Still, he added, “I should have seen it coming.”
The level of denial here is staggering, but not terribly surprising. The midterms had been running off the rails for Democrats for months, not just “a few days before the election.” True, some of the polling had a couple of races close, such as in Kansas and Georgia, but that turned out to be bad polling, not reality. There was no late-arising turnout surge that changed the dynamics of those elections — just the same ticked-off voters who turned out in 2010, too.
Blaming the massive defeat on the rollout would be akin to blaming the darkness for the Titanic’s sinking. Sure, it was a contributing factor, but the actual cause was steaming at full speed into an iceberg. Chuck Schumer at least grasped that much in his post-mortem a few days after the election (as did Tom Harkin, while missing the larger point). The rollout exposed the incompetence of the Obama administration, but the iceberg in this case was ObamaCare itself, which has always been unpopular with voters. Democrats seized their one moment of having unchallengeable control of Washington DC to shove that down voters’ throats rather than work on immigration or real economic and tax reforms that could have made the recovery something more than Stagnation Lite for five years.
Yeah, Reid should have seen it coming. Practically everyone else did. The only question was the extent of the wave, not the fact that Democrats were about to get buried.
As for the rest of the profile, Peters does a pretty good job of (unintentionally?) showing a politician long past his expiration date. Reid’s bitterness consumes him, and Peters eggs it on a bit himself in his description of a post-election mutiny within Reid’s caucus. He describes six Senate Democrats who refused to vote for Reid as “irascible,” which seems rather ironic after getting that far into the profile of Reid. The soon-to-be Minority Leader pledges to be obstructionist, sneers at the six who voted against him for the position, and in general doesn’t have a kind word for anyone but himself. Reid has collapsed into a caricature of petulance and selfishness, and it’s not clear that either he or Peters realizes it. He’s only a purloined bank deposit away from being Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life.