All over the web, newspapers and other media, Democrats are offering all sorts of ideas of what’s wrong with the Democratic party (Slate has a good roundup of these opinions). I’m reminded of when a basketball team loses by one because they missed the final shot: some blame the final shooter, others blame the players who missed free throws, others blame stupid fouls, missed lay-ups, and so on. You lose a close election for many reasons, not one particular reason.
I think the real question is: did you lose a game you should have won, or did you actually not have any business even being in a one point game (I’ve been a Bullets/Wizards fan so I know this one).
This is what the Democrats need to figure out:
1) were they competitive, and just needed to improve a little bit; or
2) do they have deeper problems, and they are destined to remain out of power for an extended period of time?
Right now, it’s hard to say. On the pessimistic side, I think the Republicans are going to flog the national security horse as much as they can. They will probably try to rally their base with school prayer initiatives. And the other problem is that the Democrats have not offered a cohesive economic alternative narrative; right now, how would a person making $50,000 and up gain economically in the short term from the Democratic program? Democratic policies are beneficial to this group, but they’re often indirect, as opposed to Republican birth taxes (“tax cuts”). While some far-reaching proposals could do this (universal, portable healthcare; universal day care), for the most part, Democratic policies are remote.
On the optimistic side, we kicked butt in Colorado, which isn’t typically thought of as a Democratic stronghold (and it seems that anti-gay bigotry didn’t hurt Democrats there). In addition, young, first time voters favored the Democrats, which reverses a decade-long trend. In addition, the party establishment is realizing some obvious things that have to change.