It was a blowout. By winning more than sixty seats in the House, with close races still trickling in Wednesday morning, the anti-Obama wave of 2010 has already secured a prominent place in American history. Even conservative estimates—say low sixties—will place the 2010 midterms well above some of the largest shifts in party power in the modern era. This is bigger than the Newt revolution, which netted fifty-four seats in 1995, and significantly higher than the forty-nine seats that Democrats took after Watergate. In fact, you have to go back to the dramatic backlash to FDR in 1938 to find a midterm wave larger than the angry tsunami that crested on Tuesday. (The GOP netted eighty-one seats that year.) So what does that mean?
Since so much of our political discourse lives in an imagined future, like some sort of really annoying version of T2, analysts were spinning their explanations before most ballots were cast.
Today’s New York Times has analysis from Evan Bayh, a retiring centrist/moderate/presidential aspirant, which was obviously penned before polls closed in order to make it to press. "We were too deferential to our most zealous supporters," he bemoans (huh?), and Democrats "over-interpreted our mandate." Bayh’s solution is to focus more on GOP priorities like tax reform, government spending freezes and entitlement cuts. Third Way, a think tank that was literally founded to push Democrats to the center, has been pushing a similar line this week.
It is truly bizarre, because on Tuesday, voters rejected the very Blue Dog Democrats who have been following that exact approach.
The Blue Dog caucus was literally cut in half yesterday, from fifty-four to twenty-six members. Now people can argue whether that is good or bad—but no serious political observer can say the strategy worked.
Loudly breaking with Obama on healthcare was not a winner, either. "Of the 34 Democrats who voted against the health care bill in March—24 of them were Blue Dogs—only 12 won reelection," notes reporter Jon Ward.
With such a strong current for the GOP, of course, there are few signs of what does work for Democrats right now. Yet ruling out the Blue Dog dance is a fine start. As Dr. Paul will tell you, in politics, first, do no harm.