Election 2014: Beware of False Tears in the Democratic Crying Towel

I like to think Nancy Pelosi was just joking when she said on Jon Stewart's Daily Show that if Republicans won control of the Senate, it would be “the end of civilization as we know it.“  But the power-grabbing progressive from San Francisco is hardly imbued with a subtle, sarcastic wit.  So no doubt she meant every word she crooned to the partisan Stewart audience, as she had a few years earlier when urging her charges in the House to pass the Affordable Health Care bill in order to know what was in it. 

Nancy Pelosi’s clueless bravado is, at least in part, the result of her perennial sense of security.  She was born into wealth and married into more.  She is the scion of a political family and represents a district whose constituents overwhelmingly support her political views, to the extent that she barely has to campaign for re-election every two years.  This enables her to transfer amassed wealth from her own political coffers to the campaigns of Democrat candidates running in more competitive districts.  Pelosi’s ability to raise and distribute funds among partisans is the key to her irrational power within her own party.   

But while the former speaker of the House may not always see the big picture, she totally gets the idea of sweating the small stuff.  At a recent press conference, when asked about “illegal immigrants,” Pelosi was quick to correct that term to “undocumented workers.”  Her noble sense of political correctness extends to all those whose votes her party’s ambitions require.  Obviously, this does not include Republicans, whom she treats with the utmost disdain.        

The chances of Ms. Pelosi regaining her leadership in the House after the 2014 elections is almost nonexistent.  And like many Democrats this year, she is doing a lot of handwringing at the prospect of a Republican Senate takeover.  Ordinarily, the bigwigs in both political parties try their best to sound optimistic about their prospects, regardless of the facts.  Even when poll numbers are bleak, the tendency has always been to play them down and anticipate a big turnaround on election day.

But this year, a general sense of optimism among Democrats seems to be off the table. For example, I attended a recent lecture given by a college professor and die-hard Obama supporter, who began his talk by emphatically – if glumly – stating that Republicans will gain control of the Senate in the mid-term elections.  He further predicted that voter turnout would be at an all-time low, because the constant savaging of President Obama by Republicans has diminished Americans’ appetite for the political process!  He sadly pointed out how old and tired his hero in the White House has become.  (So now it seems Republicans are also to blame for the president’s hair turning gray!)  No mention was made, however, of the fact that many Democrats running in the midterm elections are distancing themselves from President Obama. 

There is the same underlying sense of discouragement – almost desperation – in the pleas for money and votes churned out constantly by the DNC.  If Democrats don’t give and/or don’t vote, they warn, it’s Armageddon for America, another riff on “the end of civilization as we know it.”  Such scare tactics have been employed very effectively by Democrats in the last couple of elections.  For a party that only six years ago campaigned on a platform of “hope” and “change, ” this is an about-face.  But “hope,” it seems, has left the building.  And “change” has been lost in the fog of indecision and ineptitude that has clouded this administration.   

The hollow promises traditionally trumpeted by Democrats – more jobs, better education, cleaner environment, rights for women and minorities, etc. – are still a prominent part of the playbook.  But there has been a renewed impetus on threats of what will happen if Republicans take control.  So the overarching campaign argument for Democrats boils down to what they will do for the voters versus what Republicans will do to them.  Regrettably, the spirit of hope and change has morphed into fear and loathing.

But don’t be fooled by the seeming dispiritedness of Democrats in this election cycle.  It would be folly to suppose that they are throwing in the crying towel, even  in the contested congressional races in which Republicans now enjoy a lead.  In fact, they are pouring unprecedented amounts of money into these contests.  The neck-and-neck Senate race in North Carolina may end up being the most expensive of its kind in campaign history.  All the Democrat “defeatist” rhetoric is nothing more than a ploy to propel the party’s reticent followers to the polls, even while giving Republicans an undue sense of optimism.   

Look at this tactic as a modern “spin” on the popular Aesop’s fable, as Democrats portray themselves as the put-upon tortoise in a race against the Republican hare.  Fortunately, our highly developed political sense of smell can detect another animal in the mix.  And every twitch of the rat’s black whiskers should remind Republicans that temptations during the last weeks of the campaign to relax efforts or to rest on the laurels of prediction could lead to a disappointingly different outcome in the race to the finish.