Sure, it was a rough night for Democrats. All of your “thought leaders” were dead wrong about what would happen, and why. But rest assured, the same idiots who told you Wendy Davis was the face of the future in Texas are working furiously to spin the results of the midterm elections away. Here are some life preservers liberal bloggers and mainstream-media analysts will be tossing out, to help dejected Democrats make it through the GOP tsunami:
Republicans didn’t do as well as they could have: This is the remodeled version of the “under-performing GOP” spin, which became impossible to sell when Republican gains in the Senate, House, and gubernatorial races exceeded even the most optimistic projections. The new version of this life preserver is a dingy little ring of pock-marked intellectual Styrofoam with Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s face painted on the side. Warning: it probably won’t float for very long.
The best logical case that could be made for a Republican strategic error is the one Democrats won’t dare make: the GOP should have put more effort behind Ed Gillespie in Virginia, to help him win the race nobody on either Left or Right thought would be so close. Not a single Grumpy Cat in the Democrat electorate will be cheered by the argument that Mark Warner really should have lost, too.
Winning = losing. I expect this to be the most durable spin offered by Democrat grief counselors, since it has the virtue of being difficult to disprove for about two years. The idea is that by increasing their hold on the House and taking a commanding lead in the Senate, Republicans can now be blamed for everything that goes wrong in America from now until 2016, but Obama’s veto pen means they still can’t do anything positive that would satisfy their base or impress the general public. Given the general unpopularity of Congress, this means winning was a trap – they’d have been better off losing!
Of course, you would hear this spin from absolutely no lefty pundits or mainstream-media talking heads if Republicans actually had failed to take the Senate; the universal storyline would have been how Barack Obama and his health-care scheme aren’t that unpopular after all, the GOP had blown its best chance to make gains in the Senate, and they might as well not even bother fielding a candidate for President in 2016.
It certainly is possible that Republicans will blow their opportunity in the Senate. They have a knack for doing that; they tend to mumble about bipartisan compromise and power-sharing, while Democrats instantly purge Republicans and ruthlessly begin implementing deathless bureaucratic nightmares when they gain power, portraying anyone from the minority who objects as a gridlocking filibuster gnome. Conversely, when Democrats are in the minority, the media abruptly declares filibustering to be nothing less than the Spirit of 1776 striding across Capitol Hill to the sound of fife and drum music.
I’d say the big problem with the “winning = losing” spin for Democrats is that President Obama is still toxic, his “pen-and-phone” imperial presidency bluster is going to be swept off the table by panicked Party leaders worried about 2016, Obama himself would rather spend the next two years golfing and finding teenage audiences still willing (or forced by their teachers) to sit all the way through one of his speeches, and there are some sharp Republicans out there who understand the importance of bleeding political capital away from the Democrats by forcing them to oppose legislation popular with the American people. A great many dramas become possible with a Republican +8 (or +9, +10…) Senate gain that would have been difficult to mount if they’d taken the Senate by only a single vote.
May I make a suggestion to the Republican leadership for a wonderful dramatic production they can stage as soon as the new Senators are seated? Make a point of trumpeting how Harry Reid used dirty parliamentary tricks to bury each of the excellent bills you pass, back when he was Majority Leader. Americans will be stunned to hear that, because the media made a point of never, ever telling them about the game Reid was playing. He was able to invisibly murder countless pro-growth House bills without forcing his Party to spend political capital voting against them, or obliging Obama to veto them. The loss of that asset will be brutal for Democrats over the next two years – and great for America! – if Republicans play their cards right.
Democrats lost because they ran away from Obama: Speaking of the Golfer-in-Chief, no prizes for guessing where this spin will emanate from, with tornado force. Obama will claim that Democrats who postured as his adversary, tried to fool voters into forgetting the voted for ObamaCare, and refused to admit they voted for Obama in the presidential elections got walloped. Every Republican should hope, with every molecule of their being, that Democrats accept this spin and make it the official Party line about the 2014 elections. They might get busted down to a rump party in 2016 if they do.
Democrat voters with faded Obama posters on the walls of their bedrooms might tell themselves this fairy tale, but I doubt any of the heavy hitters in Party leadership buys it for a microsecond – among other things, they know how to read exit polls – and I know for a fact that nobody in Hillary Clinton’s orbit is going to push it, which means Clinton sycophants in the media won’t serve it up as post-election analysis. Behind closed doors, the Democrat Party is furious at Obama for shooting his mouth off about how the election was a referendum on his presidency; they’re angry because he was right. Hillary’s operatives will nurse that anger and build it into the case for presenting her as the more capable, less ideologically rigid Democrat who can clean up the mess after Obama leaves office.
This will enrage Obama and his loyalists. The smart thing for the incumbent President to do would be to simmer down, enjoy his remaining luxury vacations at taxpayer expense, let Hillary peddle her “new kind of Democrat” story, and wait until the inevitable round of history revisionism beginning around 2018 to rescue his “legacy.” Barack Obama is fundamentally incapable of remaining quiet while Hillary Clinton walks all over him. He’s running around this morning saying he “doesn’t feel repudiated” by the election results, even though he famously declared his policies were on the ballot. Of course, you’re not supposed to remember anything Barack Obama said the day before yesterday, especially if it has anything to do with keeping your health care plan.
Obama dead-enders will spend the next two years telling the American people they’re fools because they don’t appreciate what he achieved by spending their money. It’ll be fun to watch.
The election was just an anti-Obama temper tantrum: The converse of the preceding spin fart is that Republicans have absolutely no mandate to govern whatsoever, and in fact people hate their guts. The voters who gave those Republican candidates historic victories from coast to coast were using one hand to cover their mouths and hold down the bile, while they used the other to fill out their ballots. Why, this was hardly an “election” at all – it was more like a snit fit. “You little scamps!” Democrats will say, tousling the hair of those angry little voters. “We sure got your message about how you want Obama to be an even more magnificent President than he already was!”
That’s probably not going to provide a lot of emotional comfort food to a Democrat base that has been told to emotionally embrace Barack Obama as their own personal savior, and of course it won’t last long with the aforementioned Obama dead-enders. The President himself will blabber something about how the voters made it clear they want more cooperation in Washington. The only way this spin survives through the first quarter of 2015 is if Republicans buy into it. They won’t.
Republicans only won because of “dark money”: I heard this one floated a few times on MSNBC last night. Mumbling about Republican campaign finances will amount to doubling down on the strategy that got Harry Reid tossed out of the Majority Leader’s office. He pretty much hijacked the Senate to turn it into a left-wing crank blog where he ranted about the Koch Brothers day and night. Campaign-finance obsession is very far down the list of priorities for the general electorate; they might perk up over actual crimes, but they just don’t respond to whining about how the other guys are better at legally raising money.
It’s not as if Democrats don’t raise and spend titanic sums of money on these races, and they also have the astoundingly valuable in-kind contributions of biased media and union ground-gamers. The public is acutely aware that Barack Obama did very little other than fundraise and relax on the golf course for the past half-year, while the world came crashing down in flames. It’s one of the reasons he’s so unpopular. Speaking of fatcat Democrat donors, if anyone would like to buy a used-up, worn-out political party dirt cheap, please contact Tom Steyer with your best offer.
Republicans won because white racists and cranky old people support them: This might get a few thumb-sucking Democrats through the weekend, but it’s not a storyline you really want to repeat where the general public can hear you, because one of the big lessons of the 2014 Republican blowout is that voters don’t like being insulted. Who knew, right?
Good luck pushing the “angry old white men” line against the party of Mia Love, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Joni Ernst, and Elise Stefanik… the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Cecilia Abbott, the first Latina First Lady of Texas, might not be interested in your thoughts about her husband and all his voters are racists, either. Greg Abbott’s defeat of Wendy Davis was nothing less than epic in every demographic, including women and Hispanic voters.
The hard, cold truth for Democrats, and perhaps one of the biggest results of the 2014 wave election, is that the race card is just about played out. Maybe that’s not too surprising, given that the nation elected and re-elected a black President. Black voters are not enthusiastic about the performance they’ve been seeing from the Party that takes their monolithic vote for granted, and while there isn’t as much discussion of the black middle class as their used to be, it remains quite healthy… and not wild about the sort of race-baiting that leads to violent riots. The disgusting Democrat efforts to whip up black turnout by blaming Republicans for the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown didn’t work. We must not permit the media to erase the memory of those efforts; a steep price must be paid by Democrats for making them.
This election was just a bout of anti-incumbent fever: In which not a single Republican incumbent in the Senate lost? This one’s dead already, but I can still hear its death rattle on Twitter. It should be rolling through the crematorium by lunchtime.
This election proves democracy is broken, so we should get rid of it: Popular in the egghead community, but a non-starter with everyone else. Let me break this gently to the furrowed-brow set on the Left: we’re not going to abolish midterm elections, or abolish Congress in favor of a dictatorial presidency.
Voters are stupid idiots: Unsurprising to see this one getting passed around among the snob Left, but as mentioned above, voters don’t like to be insulted, especially after they send a signal as clear as the one they delivered Tuesday night. It’s natural for partisans to wail that the voters don’t understand what they just did, and it won’t matter much if we hear that sort of thing for a few days – the electorate is willing to give partisans a little time to sob their way through the aftermath of a tough election – but you really don’t want to push this spin with any enthusiasm after, say, Thanksgiving.
The “idiot voter” meme grows from the Left’s misunderstanding of what conservatives mean when they talk about “Low Information Voters.” LIVs are not stupid. They’re uninformed, misinformed by biased media, or disconnected from politics. A healthy political system has plenty of room for Low Information Voters; small-government conservatives don’t look down on them with contempt, because they think the livelihood of hard-working men and women should not depend on spending hundreds of hours mastering countless topics so they can defend themselves from predators at the ballot box.
People voted for a competent Big Government: “I don’t even know if they care what gets done,” huffed Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC. “They want something done competently.” This is a variation on the “voters are idiots” spin; the voters are sheep, and they hunger only for a wise and competent shepherd to manage their lives. The incompetence of Obama’s government was certainly a factor in his low approval ratings, but look: whatever else you can say about their level of civic knowledge, most voters understand that House and Senate victors don’t directly control the competent execution of government. They write the laws that shape the course of government… when we have an executive branch that actually respects the law. Small-government conservatives will want to persuade the public that Big Government cannot be fixed merely by putting a few new people in charge of it. I strongly suspect the American public is receptive to that argument at this point.
This election was all about Ebola: No, it wasn’t.
Bonus – Our issues won, even though our candidates lost: This hardy perennial is once again in bloom, to judge from some Twitter responses to this post. It’s very comforting to think that those who beat your candidates like drums were nevertheless playing your tune. There’s some justification for this belief, as a strong campaign can wring concessions to powerful ideas from the victor, especially if the final vote was close. Effort is what moves the window of political opportunity, not just victory.
However, it’s very difficult to find any Democrat ideas that supposedly forced Republicans to bend the knee, in order to eke out victories in 2014. The “War on Women” piffle that won Obama’s re-election is dead and gone. Minimum wage hikes remain roughly as popular as they always are… along with the public’s sense that shaky high-unemployment “recoveries” aren’t the right time to implement them, and the accurate suspicion that very few politicians eager to be so generous with other peoples’ money have ever signed a paycheck themselves. ObamaCare left Democrat corpses strewn across the nation… and the big premium increases, kept carefully hidden from the American people until after the election, are about to blow up. The competence of the Left’s beloved Leviathan State has been so tarnished that it already made the list as one of the other post-election excuses for the Republican wave. It’s certainly possible for issues to advance even when electoral losses are suffered – Democrats generally understand that better than the Republican Party does – but it’s rather difficult to see what liberal idea is popping out of Democrat graves today, wearing a big smile and giving double thumbs-up.