Get used to it, liberals: It could be six years before Dems accomplish anything new

Politicos and pundits are used to thinking in two-year cycles, and it’s easy to convince oneself that, in 2012, Obama will be able to capitalize on an improved economy, favorable voter-turnout patterns, and a weak GOP presidential field in order to sweep into office with a renewed mandate. But that misses a big part of the picture. Even if Obama wins reelection by a comfortable margin, it’s most likely that the House will remain in Republican hands and Democrats will lose seats in, and perhaps control of, the Senate—and beyond that, Republicans will probably do fairly well in 2014. In other words, we could be looking not at two years of damage control, but six…

So what’s my point, other than to pour cold water on Democratic hopes for a quick revival after a really bad midterm election? It’s that progressives need to begin adjusting their expectations. Up until now, many Democrats have judged Barack Obama according to the hopes he inspired in 2008—that he might not only undo the damage inflicted on the country by George W. Bush, but end more than three decades of conservative ascendancy and usher in a period of progressive reform. We have been judging Obama according to our wish-list: the public option, cap-and-trade, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And we have been disappointed when he fails to deliver.