By now, everybody knows about the shockingly bad electoral conditions for Democrats. If a Republican has a good chance to win Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts, then almost every Democrat in the country has to be scared stiff.
But the electoral problem creates a more immediate predicament for Democrats, and I think we're going to see two sustained Democratic freak outs as they try to figure out how to address this.
- The 2010 elections may mark the end of the Democrat's ability to move a lot of the really big legislation/regulation.
- But if they try to move the really big legislation/regulation before the 2010 elections, they're only going to make their electoral situation worse.
The first Democratic freak out will be an internal Congressional fight in 2010 over whether to (1) move big and fast while they still have the votes, or (2) slow down and preserve as many seats as they can.
The second Democratic freak out is going to occur in 2011 and beyond, when Democrats try to figure out what the lesson of the 2010 elections really is.
- Progressives - and especially the netroots - will say the lesson is "Damn the Republicans, Full Speed Ahead", but that's what they always say. Revolutionaries like bold action more than practical details.
- Moderates/pragmatists will say the lesson is "don't try to do too much, take smaller steps, make reasonable compromises". But that is more effective at maintaining power than accomplishing major policy goals.
I think Congressional Democrats are going to become awfully pragmatic. I'm not really sure where the White House will end up, especially if Rahm Emanuel leaves. We are definitely going to see a lot of bargaining and ugly deal-making.
Nobody would have predicted this a year or two ago, but....is this going to be the triumph of the DLC over the Progressives within the Democratic Party?