The Democrats' Big Problem
The left's post-election celebrations are wholly unwarranted.
Consider first the presidential election results. Yes, Mitt Romney was a moderate in conservative's clothing, and yes, Republicans next time must nominate a real conservative. But Obama actually performed terribly by historical standards.
Only five presidents running for re-election in the last one hundred years have gotten a smaller percentage of the popular vote in their re-election bid than when they won the presidency. When Taft sought reelection in 1912, he got less of the popular vote than in 1908, but Teddy Roosevelt ran as a Bull Moose independent.
Herbert Hoover in 1932 had a smaller percentage of the popular vote than in 1928, thanks to the Great Depression. Jimmy Carter in 1980 got less of the popular vote than he had in 1976, running in light of the Iran hostage crisis, the energy crisis, and Ronald Reagan as an opponent. George H. Bush in 1992, with Ross Perot running a powerful independent campaign, got less of the popular vote than in 1988. Obama is another Taft, another Hoover, another Carter, and another George H. Bush -- except that Obama won.
Republicans lost two Senate seats, but that was largely because of boneheaded statements by candidates in Missouri and Indiana and a razor-thin loss in North Dakota. In 2014, Democrats will again be defending a lot more vulnerable seats than Republicans. One Republican will face voters from a state Obama carried -- Snowe, in Maine -- but seven Democrats will face voters in states which Romney just carried -- West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, and Alaska.
In fact, every other Republican seat is in a state which Romney carried handily, while four other Democrat seats -- in New Hampshire, Virginia, Iowa, and Colorado -- came from states in which Romney ran close to Obama. That translates in 2014 into gains, and very likely gains which will translate into a Republican Senate majority. That very fact -- because Senate Democrats can do the math -- means that Harry Reid's plan to make filibusters harder will almost certainly fail: in two years, and perhaps for years thereafter, Republicans may control the Senate.
The House of Representatives was held, and with a clear working majority. This also, likely, is the best shape Democrats will be in in the House for quite a while. The second midterm has uniformly been bad or outright disastrous for the political party which controls the White House. In the elections in 1918, 1942, 1958, 1974, 1986, and 2006, the party holding the White House lost seats (often a lot of seats) in the House. The 1998 Clinton midterm, in a time of prosperity and an impeachment which the gutless Republican Senate punted on, was the single exception to the rule: Democrats gained three seats.
Worse for Democrats, Republicans now control more governorships than before the 2012 election, and these Republican governors are showing a lot of fight on issues like medical exchanges on ObamaCare, Right to Work, voter-identification laws, and tax reform. In a strong Republican 1914-style election, there will be more Republican governors, not fewer, after the midterm.
Even more troubling for Democrats, although it seems to have slipped under the radar screen of most punditry, Republicans came out of the 201 election actually controlling 57 of the 98 partisan state legislative chambers. Nebraska is unicameral and nonpartisan -- but it is honestly Republican. The Virginia Senate is split, although with the Republican lieutenant governor, nominal control is with the Republicans. That means that Democrats control only 40 of the 99 state legislative chambers.
Democrats cannot do anything in Congress or in state governments, and yet America has just been told by the professional political class that Democrats are running the country now. The ubiquitous image of Obama giving advice on college football or his wife telling us what we should eat will set Democrats up for a tsunami in 2014 which will make 2010 look like a picnic.
Obama and his party cannot, in 2014, still run against Bush, and the risible attempts to blame Romney, who has never held federal elective office, will seem obscene. Democrats wanted power and did anything to gain and to hold it. They are about to find out that American voters, ultimately, want results more than rhetoric.
What about the fear that dependency will create permanent Democrats? Some of the worst Democrat midterm defeats -- 1942, 1966, 1994, and 2010 -- were dealt to those very Democrats much enchanted by the New Deal/Great Society mentality.
In short, the Democrats have a big problem -- and no good way out of it.