Jewish World Review Nov. 8, 2010 / 1 Kislev, 5771
Dem fantasy: He'll just go away
By Jack Kelly
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Democrats who didn't drown in the Republican wave had to be dismayed by the news conference President Barack Obama held Wednesday before jetting off to India.
Particularly unhappy, I suspect, are the 12 Democrats in the Senate from states that voted Republican Tuesday who are up for re-election in 2012.
In essence, what the president said (in many, many more words) is that he heard what the voters were saying, but would ignore it.
"The election was above all a referendum on the president's policies, but his big takeaway was not to relitigate his agenda," noted Peter Wehner, who was an aide to President George W. Bush.
"He still just cannot admit that his radical policies and their effects on the economy are the cause of his devastating political rebuke," wrote the historian Victor Davis Hanson.
How devastating was the rebuke? Republicans gained at least 61 seats in the House. (At this writing, 11 races were undecided.) In the Republican landslide of 1994, the GOP gained 52 seats. In the Republican landslide of 1946, the GOP gained 55 seats. There will be more Republicans in the House in January than at any time since 1947.
"Get used to Republican control of the House of Representatives. It's going to stay that way for a long time," Jonathan Chait advised readers of the liberal New Republic.
Most congressional districts lean Republican because Democrats are concentrated in cities and university towns. And Republicans did spectacularly well in races for governor and state legislative seats. These are the people who will redraw congressional district boundaries next year.
"Partisan gerrymandering can be an extremely powerful tool, and combined with the natural geographic gerrymander can give Republicans an overwhelming advantage, if not an absolute lock," Mr. Chait said.
The bad news for Republicans is that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is still the Senate majority leader. His victory, coupled with an upset in Colorado, likely held the Republican gain in the Senate to "only" six. (At this writing, the race in Washington state is still unsettled. So is the race in Alaska, but that's a contest between two Republicans.)
On the other hand, the good news for Republicans is that Harry Reid is still the Senate majority leader. Mr. Reid was not effective when Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority, and he is nearly as unpopular as outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who may be ousted as Democratic leader after the drubbing her troops took Tuesday. It's good for Republicans to have at least one figure Americans love to hate leading the Democrats in Congress.
Leading the Senate is like herding cats. Sen. Reid would have difficulty even if he were more competent. He has a sharply diminished majority in a body where 60 votes are required to pass anything substantive. And Democrats running in 2012 figure to be skittish about casting votes like those which cost so many of their colleagues their seats this year. Sen. Reid's control is more nominal than real.
But that nominal control is important, in a bad way for Democrats. Harry Truman was able to counter the Republican landslide of 1946 with a landslide of his own in 1948 by running against a "do nothing" Congress. With Democrats in control of the Senate, this would be hard for Mr. Obama to do even if he possessed Truman's political skills, which he does not.
With Mr. Obama willing to make only cosmetic changes to his agenda, we're headed for two years of gridlock. The House will pass bills to repeal Obamacare and reduce the size of government. These will be killed in the Senate or vetoed by the president.
But a clear choice will be established for 2012, for which the midterms were merely the preliminary bout.
The new electoral map is daunting for Mr. Obama as he contemplates re-election. Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin turned red, Pennsylvania and Michigan pink. It's difficult for a Democrat to be elected without carrying Ohio or Florida, impossible without Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Perhaps the most significant contributor to the Republican landslide Tuesday was the defection from the Democrats of working class whites. If Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee in 2012, there will be little reason for them to return.
I suspect many Democrats think they'd be better off with someone else.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration.
© 2009, Jack Kelly