Now that most of the punditry has silenced over what Pres. Obama called a “shellacking,” there is still something missing from the questions asked of the midterm election results. The question isn’t whether or not the election results were a referendum on the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. It’s not how can the Democrats possibly do anything now that they have lost their supermajority in Congress. The question is – what will the Democrats learn?
There is certainly a lesson to be learned from the election results, but will the lesson they learn be the right lesson? Will they mistake the results as a turning of the tide, or as false proof that the nation stands to the right of center on the political spectrum? Will they think that they were too forceful in their measures, and should seek the middle ground with Republicans? I hope the Democrats don’t take any of those things to heart, because they are all wrong.
Too long has the Democratic Party scuttled away from the word liberal, which has been successfully turned into an epithet by conservatives. I watched during the campaigns as congressmen from districts across the country employed the most asinine of tactics – running against their own platform. Most notably condemning the healthcare reform legislation they voted for.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unpopular. However, the law’s unpopularity isn’t for reasons that many would like to think. Certainly, there will always be groups that will decry the law as socialism and never support it, but that isn’t why many Americans dislike the law. Voters who say the new health reform law was too conservative outnumber by 2 to 1 those who support repeal, according to a poll by The Associated Press.
In other words, the Democrats compromised too much with the Republicans during the healthcare reform debate, rather than not enough. Will that lesson be learned? Or during the 112th Congress will the Democrats still try to engage the Republican Party in their version of bipartisanship which entails watering down legislation and then proceeding to vote against it.
The so called “lame-duck” session of Congress will be somewhat of a pop quiz to see what the Democrats have learned. There first test will be on the issue of tax cuts. Will they vote A) to compromise on the issue of the Bush tax cuts, and extend the cuts even for the wealthiest of Americans or will they B) follow through on their rhetoric and allow the tax cuts to expire on the higher income brackets?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, funny enough the only member of the Democratic leadership that seems to have any cojones, said she will schedule a vote on the tax cuts “this week,” and will only vote to extend them to the middle class. Although, she will lose her post as Speaker of the House next year to John Boehner, it seems that unlike President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, that Speaker Pelosi has indeed learned something.
The lesson is simple, the Democratic Party needs to be that – the Democratic Party, a party that is traditionally liberal. Also, the strategy of capitulating and compromising before the negotiations have even begun needs to end. I would encourage those in the Democratic leadership to maybe read a page or so of Machiavelli’s “The Prince” and maybe then those politicians will learn a thing or two about playing politics instead of patty-cakes with their opposition, the Republican Party.
So, what will the Democrats learn?