It remained the economy, Stupid.
Voters were lashing out in pain at the polls Tuesday, to the benefit of the out party, the Republicans.
The ejected Democrats fell victim to the Great Recession, which rolls on endlessly. They didn’t create the downturn. In so far as elected officials are to blame, Republicans deserve more of the rap because of their unswerving support for the fiscally reckless, oversight-eschewing policies of George Bush.
But the economy was too slow to recover after the Democrats took power, so they paid the price. Even exceptional lawmakers, like Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, went down.
|U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold|
Maybe President Obama should have heeded the advice of economist-columnist Paul Krugman and did a bigger, more aggressive stimulus package. Sure, the Tea Party types would have had even bigger conniption fits than they did. But the result could well have been a faster recovery and thus a happier electorate and continued Democratic control of the House. The stickler, of course, would have been getting a bigger package passed.
Republicans risk trouble if they act on the false belief it was their message that won the day. They claim the people don’t want what Republicans derisively call Obamacare. But try repealing it, and watch the howls of protest. Health care reform helps people much more than it hurts anybody.
Republicans may delude themselves into believing that the people want to renew Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. But those cuts failed to keep us out of the Great Recession and are likely to continue to flop at producing jobs, which are what the people really want.
Republicans may think they were elected to balance the budget by cutting spending. But such action could slow the economy and prolong the recovery and thus alienate the electorate. (See earlier post, "The deficit in Republican thinking.")
There is a silver lining for Democrats. According to the exit polls reported on TV, they overwhelmingly won the youth vote. Trouble is, young people didn’t vote in as big a number as they did two years ago – a failure that allowed the Republicans to romp. Still, the G.O.P. remains a dying party, with only enough strength now to score victories when young people stay home.
But those young people will mature and thus vote more often. At the same time the ranks of the elderly G.O.P. will shrink due to deaths. What’s more, two groups that have sought refuge in the Democratic Party – African Americans and Latinos – are expanding.
Yes, Tuesday was bad for Democrats. But they mustn’t take the loss personally. The electorate was in pain and had to lash out at somebody. What’s more, better days lie ahead for the Dems and, if they stay true to their principles, the country.