Going On Defense the Next Two Years
For the sake of argument, let’s concede that Democrats are about to lose the House, or at least end up with a House populated with dozens of Tea Party kooks who are willing to shut down the government and work with their GOP corporate masters to turn the next two years into an ongoing investigation of the Obama administration. To me, the immediate result would be that Nancy Pelosi loses her leadership perch and the Democratic caucus reverts to Steny Hoyer’s leadership, a dealmaker and decent long-range thinker who isn’t a lightning rod. Let’s also stipulate that it’s entirely possible that the Senate falls into Mitch McConnell’s hands as well, who would find himself with his own problems in keeping his Tea Party nutcases in line, assuming he wants to. The net result is that Harry Reid is no longer in the leadership, if even in the Senate and the Senate Democratic caucus falls to Dick Durbin, another good pickup.
My point is that despite the dire prognostications about the impending Democratic drubbing, the party has a way forward these next two years led by new leaders who can play effective defense rather than the visionless and pathetic offense of the last two years. Even with a GOP congress that will certainly try and roll back everything to 2006 while pushing the administration into a defensive crouch that Obama should have done to the GOP, there are ways for the Democrats and their new leadership to effectively counterpunch. The path towards success these next two years is an all-encompassing focus on the economy, something that the Obama administration failed to do during the first two years. There are economic policy options Democrats can push while forcing the GOP to account for its “more of the same” agenda of investigations and tax giveaways.
I’ve moved past the argument I’ve been making for months that Obama blew his tenure by going all in on a flawed health care reform plan while being short-sighted on financial reform and the stimulus. No one will be able to convince me otherwise on this. Thinking that he could pivot to something as major as health care reform without knowing if the economy was truly on the mend was political negligence. Obama has not only failed to hold the GOP accountable and get this country moving on necessary incremental changes in critical areas, but his inability at presidential leadership, communication, and strategic planning is about to cost the Democrats dozens of good people on Tuesday. Yet as sad as this will be, it doesn’t mean that he’s a goner for 2012, no matter what stupid stuff David Brooks says about moving to the middle. Simply put, if Obama and the Democrats focus on the economy, and build their messaging around pointing out how the “new” GOP is simply the same old GOP but with crazier people who don’t really care about Main Street, then he’ll have no problem defeating most GOP nominees in this Tea Party environment, something Brooks overlooks. When Jim DeMint or Sarah Palin emerge as likely GOP/Tea Party candidates in 2012, does Brooks really think Obama loses to them?
As Krugman says, Democrats need to focus their arguments on doing what it takes to restart middle class economic growth, while pointing out that the GOP is only fixated on destroying Obama and letting Corporate America run the country. That by itself totally undercuts the Tea Party/GOP/Corporate America coming agenda. Obama can defend himself by pointing to his limited successes, and relentlessly force the new GOP majority to explain its remedies for our problems while dodging their subpoenas. As for Democrats in Congress, two years of investigations by Tea Party crazies hell bent on destruction at the expense of economic fixes for Main Street can turn 2010’s disappointments into 2012’s resurgence.