How the parties handle adversity

HOW THE PARTIES HANDLE ADVERSITY…. Over the weekend, the Washington Post ran a piece with all kinds of Democratic handwringing in the wake of the midterm elections. Plenty of Dems — some on the record, some not — are blaming aspects of President Obama’s style, including his inability to emote and be “an extrovert.” Clinton, the argument goes, felt voters’ pain in ways Obama doesn’t. Politico had a similar item today.

Kevin Drum noted how very annoying all of this is.

Honest, to God, stuff like this just makes me want to scream. Why do Democrats panic so badly whenever they lose an election? Why run to the nearest reporter to spout idiocies about Obama not feeling middle class pain or not being an extrovert like Bill Clinton? Bill Clinton! For chrissake, I like and defend the guy, but he was an extrovert who felt people’s pain and he lost 54 seats in the 1994 midterm. No one cared if he felt their pain. Likewise, no one cares if Obama feels their pain. They want jobs, not pursed lips and moist eyes.

This stuff is so inane, so ego-driven, so self-destructive that it drives me crazy. Why are Democrats such idiots?

I think it’s helpful to look back at how Republicans handled their electoral setbacks in recent years, because there’s a noticeable difference in how the parties respond to adversity.

In 1998, voters were unimpressed, to put it mildly, with the Republican crusade against Bill Clinton. In the midterms, voters sent a message — in a historical rarity, the party that controlled the White House gained congressional seats. It was a stinging rebuke of the GOP and its excesses, and yet, House Republicans responded by impeaching the president anyway. In fact, they did so quickly, ramming impeachment through the chamber before newly-elected lawmakers could take office.

Eight years later, in 2006, voters were widely dissatisfied with the war in Iraq, and wanted to see a withdrawal. In the midterms, the Republican majority didn’t just suffer setbacks; they lost both the House and Senate. It was an overwhelming rejection of GOP rule. In response, Republicans endorsed escalating the conflict anyway, and didn’t change course at all.

In 2008, Democrats took the White House and expanded their congressional majorities to heights unseen in a generation. After years of witnessing abject failure, the electorate wanted nothing to do with the GOP. Republicans responded by changing literally nothing about their agenda, ideas, ideology, rhetoric, tone, attitude, or approach to politics.

In 2009, there were five congressional special elections. Democrats won all five — including one district that hadn’t been represented by a Democrat since the 1800s. Despite frustrations about the pace of change in D.C., voters still weren’t buying what the GOP was selling. Republicans again responded by changing literally nothing.

But Dems just don’t seem to operate this way, and in the wake of midterm setbacks — which were bad, but could have been worse — their handling of adversity leaves much to be desired.