In crisis, people tend to cope by clinging to whatever silver linings they can envision. Politicians are no exception. Rahall insists that he “won’t be in the backseat” in the new Congress. “I may not be at the wheel,” he says, “but I’ll be riding shotgun at least. That’s a big deal.” In the meantime, Rahall says he’ll be able to focus less on “universal challenges” and more on “local issues in West Virginia”—another way of saying he will be more parochial.
Frank freely concedes that he’ll have “more free time” on his hands. And Waxman comforts himself by claiming that his party is poised for a comeback in 2012. “I don’t think it was fair that we lost this time around,” he says, blaming the Democrats’ downfall on the lousy economy that President Obama inherited.
Whether or not Waxman’s dream comes true, the immediate reality of life on the Hill is looking more like a nightmare. “Losing on a day-to-day basis and seeing the Republicans prevail when I so strongly disagree with them—that’s not going to be easy,” he says. “It’s a less-than-pleasant situation.”