People will echo the same sentiment later on today and throughout the aftermath of Election Day 2010: Democrats are licking their wounds after the political carnage created by the Republicans’ “tsunami” this cycle. Perhaps they are correct, but at play is a bigger message: due to political overreach, ineptitude and the mood of the electorate, Democrats relinquished a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take hold of American politics as never before.
If Judgment Day 2010 proves anything, it is that Democrats are guilty of forgetting all of the lessons that they benefited from in 2006 and 2008 — lessons that allowed them to gain power in Congress in 2006 and gain the White House in historic fashion on the strength of an unknown politician with a funny name and African heritage.
The verdict from the people of the nation is coming in on November 2, 2010. This judgment comes not just from the Democrat-inspired Tea Party, but notably from the disappointed moderate and independent voters who are turning away from the Obama-led Democrats. The message seems very clear: as politicians, people are not capable of making everyone happy, but if the only folks that politicians focus on making happy once in office are their staunch allies, their political enemies will come out of the woodwork to make quick work of them in the next election.
For Democrats, analyzing the election results will not only be daunting, given the exodus of middle-of-the-road voters from the Obama coalition; it will be glaring as well, given the amount of political capital that was gained and squandered by the Democrats in just two short years. Democrats had the rare opportunity to neutralize their political opponents for a generation, thanks to the Republicans’ failure to diversify their ranks and lead in accordance with their professed principles. Just two years ago, Republicans were overwhelming seen as being too old, too white, too stale, and too apathetic to make a difference in the Obama Era and, in essence, for the foreseeable future. The party’s national brand was crafted by a cast of villains that Americans — including many Republicans — either loved to hate or, at the very least, enjoyed a cool and distant relationship with: Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and those who got caught in embarrassing situations (e.g., Senator David Vitter, Senator Larry Craig, and former Speaker of the House Tom DeLay).
Instead of putting their proverbial feet on the necks of Republicans, Democrats shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with legislative overreach, communication lapses, and political incivility that was highlighted by their backroom deals and arrogance. Because of this, the Democrats are now on trial, one that comes soon after an emotional electoral roller coaster that culminated with a record number of people in the streets of Washington, D.C., to watch hope and change become a reality in January 2009. Now, many of those same people are voting for Republicans.
As with any strong defense in a court of law, incumbents prosecuted by the opposition during election time must wrestle control of the narrative to ensure that the damaging facts against them are not fatal and that the facts supporting their causes are communicated effectively. In the past two years, the Democrats — drunk with an arrogance that led them to ignore the moderate and independent voters they gained in 2008 — fumbled away political capital and long-term opportunities by failing to control the narrative despite being in control in Washington. They exacerbated the incriminating facts by coming to the table without clean hands (i.e., it is hard to criticize the Republicans’ overspending during the Bush years after a failed trillion-dollar stimulus and multiple bailouts that have benefitted Wall Street without helping Main Street.) Further, they have failed to defend themselves fully with facts that support their case, leaving instead the strategy (and subsequent argument) that amounts to saying, “Well, we may be bad, but we’re not as bad as the guys before us.” Given this poor defense, the American people have no choice but to bring down the following verdict as dictated by Republicans on the campaign trail this fall: Guilty as charged.
Lenny McAllister is a syndicated political commentator and the host of “Launching Chicago with Lenny McAllister” at 5 AM on The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM WVON (www.wvon.com) He is the author of the upcoming edition of the book, “The Obama Era, Part I (2008-2010: Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative).” Follow him at www.twitter.com/lennyhhr and on Facebook at www.tinyurl.com/lennyfacebook.