The ‘Hopey, Changey thing’ took a big hit two nights ago. I spent part of election night in the ballroom at the Riviera Hotel in Palm Springs where the Coachella Democrat clubs held their ‘victory’ celebration.
At least in California Democrats had something to cheer about. Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown defeated the new media mogul twins Meg Whitman and Carla Fiorina. So the groans were more muted at the Riviera.
Elsewhere it was an unmitigated disaster for the Democrats and Obama. They lost almost every marginal seat won two years ago. They lost traditional Democratic seats like Feingold’s in Wisconsin. They lost governorships in key swing states like Florida and Ohio.
They almost lost it all until Harry Reid and Manchin in West Virginia pulled out wins that meant the Democrats still hold the Senate. But they are hamstrung agenda wise with the President’s room reduced to foreign affairs, his legislative veto and the bully pit.
What was this thrashing all about?
Easy. Election day I pulled out of Ralph’s parking lot after getting a jug of milk. Standing at the exit was a middle aged Latino guy with a sign begging for work or money. It’s a common sight down here. Picking up a paper it’s hard to miss the thirty or forty pages of foreclosure notices filling the classifieds. And then there’s the unemployment rate in the valley nearing 19%.
This place is an economic disaster and hope has given away to fear and anger. In California much of it is directed at the Shwarzenneger administration, hence the decent night for Democrats.
Elsewhere it was Obama and the Democrats who carried the can. Nobody cares or even knows they stopped the bleeding. Nobody cares that at least they have a plan for recovery. A plan’s no substitute for a job or a house.
People are just mad. And the Republican strategy was brilliant. All they did for two years was pour fuel on the fire. They had a strong message and a cohesive strategy to obstruct and drive the anger. Otherwise they stayed out of the way – no proposals, no real policy, certainly no plan that can be scrutinized.
Add to that all the money that third party groups poured into attack ads and you have a maelstrom of electoral destruction.
Compare that with the Democrats who had nothing except a grab bag of policy. For a year and a half there’s been no cohesion and no message. It’s the weak party system at its weakest, just when they needed to be strong.
I don’t hold out a lot of hope for a big turnaround. The economic news isn’t picking up. And the new political make-up of the Congress and Senate means little legislative movement in the near future.
Listening to the Democrats in the ballroom Tuesday night I got a sense that there was a lot of blame the media and blame the people but little appetite for a look inside at their own contributions to this mess.
That’s too bad because if the Democrats can’t start telling a single, compelling story that shows movement from hope to solutions that work this will be just the first round of the reckoning.