Ahead of Tuesday’s absolute rout of Democratic candidates on virtually every level, Peggy Noonan wrote a compelling and high-minded piece in which she advised both the president and Republicans to accept the results of the 2014 midterm elections graciously. That’s good and noble advice, but she didn’t say anything about pundits. Please allow a bit of reveling in the conundrum facing Democrats.
You cannot lead a party which suffers the losses the Democrats suffered last night and not endure a round of recriminations from your allies. Republicans gained a Senate majority which is large enough to possibly withstand the challenges it will face in 2016. The GOP actually gained governorships when they were favored to lose, by some cautious measurements, no fewer than four. As of this writing, the Republicans have 242 seats in the House – a lead which NBC News expects to grow to 250 when all the votes are counted. It is the largest majority the Republicans have enjoyed since 1929, an era when Democratic progressivism did not yet even exist. The GOP’s victories even extended to takeovers of state-level legislative chambers, where another generation of promising Democratic recruits saw their careers cut short.
Barack Obama, for his part, is doing an unconvincing job of insisting that he does not recognize the scale of the repudiation the voters have delivered him and his party. When few were acknowledging the magnitude of the coming wave earlier this week, Obama’s aides issued a hollow threat to mount a progressive counterattack in his final two years; issuing executive orders and promoting far-left legislation in order to back Republicans into a corner. Yesterday, the president reportedly insisted that he does not feel repudiated. This outcome, White House sources told The New York Times, was a stroke of fate – virtually inevitable – and it does not require much of a course correction on the president’s part.
But Obama’s biggest rebuke has not come from Republican voters but his Democratic allies. “The president’s approval rating is barely 40 percent,” insisted Reid’s chief of staff when asked for a reason for this stunning defenestration of Democratic officeholders. “What else is there to say?”
“I’m sorry, it doesn’t mean that the message was bad, but sometimes the messenger isn’t good,” he continued.
That has to hurt. The unkindest cut came not from the president’s allies in elected office, but from the Hillary Clinton administration-in-waiting. Her allies wasted no time in telling the press that they saw a power vacuum forming within the Democratic Party and the former secretary of state was quite willing to fill it.
For his part, The Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman is ready to speed the Democratic Party’s transition from the Obama to Clinton eras. “The Dems have to reinvent themselves all over again,” he told a sour-faced Chris Matthews on Tuesday night. “The Obama era is over.”
The forces which will seek to serve as Obama’s successors, not merely in office but in authority over the party he once led so unquestionably, are preparing for that fight even today. In a way, the coming repudiation of Obama from the members of his own party is not unique. Unlike Barack Obama’s predecessor, the president is disinclined to suffer insults lightly. While Bush served as a convenient punching bag for the crop of Republican presidential aspirants in 2008, Barack Obama will not go so quietly in 2016.
The circular firing squad is assembling, and the Democratic civil war is coming. It may not be particularly gracious, but conservatives are justified in taking quite a bit of joy from this spectacular turning of the tables.