Is it hyperbolic to say the Democratic Party is in the midst of a nervous breakdown? I have been covering national politics since 1988, and I don’t remember a situation quite like this. The signs of a crack-up are everywhere. Democrats still think they can somehow win a news cycle by demonizing John Boehner. Chuck Schumer goes on the Senate floor and suggests Democrats are getting the same political mileage out of “millionaires tax” that Republicans have gotten over the years from using “death tax.” Politico has a story with blind quotes from Hill Democrats who are furious that the White House isn’t using some sort of mythical leverage over Republicans to extract concessions in exchange for extending all the Bush tax cuts — including continuing to try to trade for DADT and the Dream Act (rather than things dealing with jobs). Two members in good standing of the Professional Left — moveon and the PCCC — are spending its members’ money on TV ads demanding that the president exercise this same mythical leverage to stand up to the GOP.
Mark Halperin, and many others, look at Congress and see the 63 House Democrats and 6 Senate Democrats whose seats will be taken by Republicans, and see a stinging rebuke to this traditional tax-the-rich mentality on Capitol Hill. But the Democrats who survived the GOP wave feel like it didn’t really happen. (In California, New England, and New York’s statewide races like Schumer’s, they may have a point.)
In these Democrats’ minds, the rebuke of Washington didn’t really apply to them. Their constituents still love them — and they’ve been gerrymandered to keep it that way. Why should they give an inch on their traditional ways of thinking? It didn’t hurt them on Election Day 2010; they’re willing to bet it won’t hurt them on Election Day 2012.
The only congressional Democrats who understand the message of 2010 are the ones currently cleaning out their offices.