Success begets success

SUCCESS BEGETS SUCCESS…. It’s not exactly a secret that congressional Democrats, predisposed to panic, are feeling an overwhelming sense of dread right now. But elections aren’t decided in February, and it’s not entirely fanciful to believe some key accomplishments over the next several months can prevent an electoral disaster.

Senator Evan Bayh’s abrupt announcement on Monday that he will retire at the end of his term has further united disparate voices within the Democratic Party behind the idea that legislative action is the only remedy to avoid future political calamity.

In the wake of the Indiana Democrat’s announcement, a host of figures — from the progressive wing of the party to devout centrists — have chimed in to warn that failure in jobs and health care legislation have sapped the party’s momentum and fortunes.

Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the blog Daily Kos, said that the best way for Democrats to salvage the fate of the party before the 2010 elections is clear: “Deliver on their campaign promises.”

For all the palpable anxiety in Democratic circles, there’s still time. Sinking poll numbers are largely the result of inaction — Americans want to see results, and they’re not getting any. If Dems run for the hills, matters will only get worse.

The panic is predictable, but unnecessary. President Obama’s approval rating in the Gallup tracking poll released yesterday was 53%. Congress can soon pass a jobs bill, and health care reform can finally get done soon after. In the coming months, the national employment picture is expected to get stronger.

A proposal to reform Wall Street is both popular and feasible, and can be passed this Spring. An energy bill can come to the floor before the summer.

These are the kind of steps that will inspire confidence, motivate the base, and demonstrate the majority’s ability to govern. A “comeback” narrative can kick in, just as voters begin to evaluate candidates for the midterm elections.

And what of Republican obstructionism and the Senate’s inability to hold up-or-down votes? Health care can and should be completed through reconciliation, so the GOP’s intransigence is irrelevant. Indeed, reconciliation has to be considered as much as humanly possible.

In other instances, the GOP may be reluctant to block votes on a jobs bill and Wall Street reform. If they do, the Democratic leadership may need to consider declaring this a “crisis” situation, and characterizing Republican efforts as a slow-motion government shutdown. All alternatives — including the “nuclear option” — will have to be on the table, and can be easily justified. In a crisis situation, a responsible governing party simply cannot allow a crazed minority to shut down the levers of government.

2010 can, in other words, be a strong year. It just might take a little audacity.