Given the huge leads Dems garner in opinion polls and that Dem fundraising is keeping pace, if not exceeding, GOP efforts, it's time for HUGE gains in November, isn't it? Isn't it?
Maybe. It's an indictment of Democratic ineffectiveness that we can't take these huge GOP liabilities and turn them into sure-thing pickups in the fall. But the GOP still has a lot of things going for it.
The CW amongst DC Democrats appears to be, "if we're quiet enough, Republicans will do themselves in and we'll benefit." Problem is, that people don't trudge to the polls to vote against candidates. They are required, in our Democracy, to check a box FOR a candidate.
And Democrats are doing everything in their power to ensure that people have no reason to go to the polls. They aren't going to vote for Republicans. That much is clear. But why should they vote for Democrats, the same Democrats who have failed to stand up to Republican excesses over the past five years?
These poll-obsessed and their risk-averse consultants looked at Bush's high numbers in the wake of 9-11 and internalized their appeasement strategy. It did them no good in 2002 and 2004. Then in 2005 and 2006, as Bush's numbers keep finding new lows, these DC Dems can't break their habits.
In the Senate, Harry Reid has shaken shit up and caused Republicans no small amount of heartburn. But in the House, Democrats under Pelosi's leadership have been all but neutered. How many ethics complaints has Pelosi and her team filed? None. And they ostracized Chris Bell when he filed his complaints against DeLay. How did Pelosi react to Lois Slaughter's seminal report on Republican corruption? She quickly and meekly pulled it from her website when Republicans raised a stink. She just attacked Feingold for introducing his censure resolution. And she's leading the charge to destroy sites like this one by regulating them to death. The pattern is clear -- target and eliminate any party individual or institution that stands up to the Republican juggernaut.
I think House Democrats in 2006 would be well served by casting about for a new leader, whether we win the House or not. And to think I was once a fan of Pelosi's ...
These risk averse Dems think that by merely having a pulse, voters will gladly rush to them to save them from Republicans. But in reality, voters (including much of the Democratic base) are disillusioned. Why vote for Democrats who haven't shown an ounce of fight the last six years? What's the point?
The Alito filibuster was supposed to be a disaster for Democrats. Somehow, their numbers didn't suffer. Murtha was going to kill Dems by making them "look weak on defense". But somehow, people seem to agree with him. Now, Feingold's censure resolution is supposed to be a disaster for Democrats. Yet if that was the case, why are Republicans reacting so virulently against it? Bill Kristol admits the censure motion is hurting Bush. Meanwhile, Brit Humes head exploded at the resolution. Not the action of a man confident that Feingold is hurting the Democratic Party.
It was like waking up in bizarro world and reading this headline in the Washington Post: "GOP Struggles To Define Its Message for 2006 Elections". Hey, those headlines are supposed to only run for Democrats!
But fact is, most media coverage is still grossly biased toward Republicans' chances. The latest in the pro-GOP arsenal is the "everything is good for the GOP" storylines.
Bush is popular? That's great for the GOP since Republicans can run on Bush's coattails! Bush is unpopular? That's great for the GOP since congressional Republicans can distance themselves and prove themselves independent! If Dems don't fight back, that's great for the GOP because Dems look weak. If Dems fight back (a la Feingold's censure motion) it's great for the GOP because Dems look "too partisan".
And let's not even get started on media disbelief that people can't stand Bush.
And so on...
Fear and Hate
Terrorism may be losing its salience with a lot of people, while demonizing blacks doesn't play in most of this fall's hottest races (outside Tennessee). So how will the GOP motivate its base this fall?
Gays and brown people. Hate amendments are still making the ballots, while a new generation of anti-gay initiatives are about to hit -- efforts to ban gay adoptions. Meanwhile, immigration is about to hit the big time as Republicans demonize desperate Latinos making their way north to work the shit jobs no one else wants.
No sure thing
I was ridiculously optimistic the last two cycles, and saw that optimism shattered on election night. Democratic early numbers in both 2002 and 2004 were great. Not this great, but pretty darn good. And we saw how well the GOP closed. I don't take anything for granted anymore. And in fact, I assume they can make huge gains in the final days of an election. Add in the general sense of malaise that currently seems to inflict the Dem base, and I've got a bad feeling about this election.
Not that we won't make gains, because it's hard to see how we can't. But we won't make the sorts of gains that we should be expecting given how bad things are for the GOP.
Ironic that I suddenly turn pessimistic when inependent observers are increasingly optimistic about Dem chances this Fall. Hopefully, I'm as wrong this time as I was the last two cycles.