Fear can (and should) be a powerful motivator

FEAR CAN (AND SHOULD) BE A POWERFUL MOTIVATOR…. The lead Politico story this morning reports on the borderline-panic among leading Democrats about the midterm elections. It’s not a pretty picture.

Top Democrats are growing markedly more pessimistic about holding the House, privately conceding that the summertime economic and political recovery they were banking on will not likely materialize by Election Day.

In conversations with more than two dozen party insiders, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the state of play, Democrats in and out of Washington say they are increasingly alarmed about the economic and polling data they have seen in recent weeks.

Hopes earlier this year that economic conditions would noticeably improve by the fall have given way to a discouraging reality. Dems thought to be in relatively “safe” districts are now seen as vulnerable. The article quoted an unidentified Democratic pollster saying the party’s House majority is “probably gone.”

The dread is not universal — some leading party strategists said the crushing pessimism is mostly “inside-the-beltway chatter” — and the campaign committees are taking steps to help mitigate losses. Politico added, “Republicans have been out-raised and out-spent at the national level and in many of the key races.”

But it’s nevertheless safe to say that the political winds are picking up, and they’re not at the Democrats’ backs.

None of this, however, is new. Indeed, many of us could have sketched out the entire article in our heads before reading it. The question the Politico didn’t get to is what Democrats plan to do about their predicament.

The article said there are competing strategies about the elections, but Dems “mostly agree there are few good options beyond grinding it out in each individual race.”

There may be limited “good options,” but there are options. For example there are Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, and Dems could use the limited legislative calendar to push strong bills — job creation, small businesses, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” energy — that voters might like, and which might motivate the Democratic base to turn out.

Sure, Republicans will oppose everything, and will very likely prevent votes in the Senate. But there’s nothing wrong with putting up a fight, showing voters the party’s priorities, forcing the GOP to cast tough votes shortly before an election, and giving the party something to be excited about.

It’s better than hoping for the best.