When the Democrats lose the Senate

Remember how you felt November 4, 2008, when you first began to believe that Barrack Hussein Obama would become the 44th President of the United States? Do you remember why you felt so proud to be an American, a member of the human race, a citizen? I do.
What was noted at the time was that Mr Obama had waged a campaign that situated him back on the side of working families, immigrants, the unemployed and unemployed, women, the elderly, and minorities. But, what made me most excited was that, when his opponents characterized Mr Obama as a “socialist” and a “liberal” his polling numbers improved, strongly suggesting that Mr Obama’s supporters may actually have preferred an explicitly “socialist” to a moderately “democratic” presidential candidate.

Two years later in 2010, this impression was confirmed when hundreds of thousands of Americans — old, young, middle class, professionals — emptied into America’s streets in support of Occupy. Americans were hungry for representatives who reflected their hope, their anger, and their idealism.
But then we learned that Mr Obama was, if anything, an even more committed practitioner of political “triangulation” than even Bill or Hillary Clinton; that he would far prefer to bend, if necessary, far, far to the right than endure the shame and ignominy of defeat or, perhaps worse still, conflict born of victory.

I hope that Democrats win all of the contested Senate seats. Of course, they will not. In fact, every single reliable poll suggests that the Republican Party will claim the Senate next Wednesday (http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2014/senate-model/). And, so, under the conviction that nothing is worse than a Monday quarterback, here is my Saturday post-mortem; yes, before the game.

The Democratic Party is not the Republican Party. There are huge differences. But if the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates are losing ground, it is not because they are “too socialist” or “too liberal.” Remember 2008? Whenever the Republicans characterized Mr Obama as “socialist,” he actually enjoyed an uptick in his polling numbers; which is why by October Republicans were under strict orders not to so characterize the Democratic candidate; which is why, by October, Mr McCain was eager to portray himself not simply as a moderate, but even as a liberal.

Rather is it when Democrats migrate towards the center, when they seek to become indistinguishable from their Republican rivals, that they lose interest among their base and fail to sufficiently distinguish themselves from undecideds to move them to the polls.

Reality test: was Ronald Reagan the President of all Americans? Legally, yes. But, in every policy choice, in every legislative campaign, in every speech and gesture, Mr Reagan loudly declared himself an enemy of working families and a friend of the super-rich. In practice, the super-rich knew that Reagan was their President. Do working families feel the same way about this Fall’s slate of Democratic candidates? I’ll let you answer that question for yourselves.