“Republicans shouldn’t be worried. They should be in agony. They should be throwing up. Republicans had better get a better policy on prescription drugs and quickly: they’re gonna need a lot more Prozac.” Those words were crowed by Democratic strategist James Carville, who celebrated the 2008 electoral victory of Barack Obama by writing a book called 40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation. Meanwhile, Time featured a GOP elephant on its cover with the headline: ENDANGERED SPECIES? And The New Republic rechristened the country “America the Liberal.”
Well, if political prognosticators were judged by the accuracy of their prognostications, who, to paraphrase Hamlet, would escape a whipping? Still, after the whipping the Democrats just received in the midterms, it does seem appropriate to ask what just happened. How did a political party take a popular president, a filibuster-proof Senate majority, a willing public, and a slavish media and ride them in only two years to a political thrashing?
Rather than turn to operatives, analysts, and spin doctors for answers, let’s go directly to the party in question. Why do the Democrats think they lost? Here’s President Obama’s observation, delivered last month at a Democratic fund-raiser: “Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.” Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who also knows a thing or two about losing elections, had this to say to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce: “We’re in a period of know-nothingism in the country, where truth and science and facts don’t weigh in.” Kerry also told reporters: “We have an electorate that doesn’t always pay that much attention to what’s going on, so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what’s happening.”
Then finally there was one of the great Democratic politicians of our time, Bill Clinton, who said of Harry Reid’s close race in Nevada: “The only reason this is a tough race is because it’s a tough time. People are having a tough time and they’re frightened and confused and they’re mad. It’s hard to think.” So there’s the Democratic explanation: their perfect storm of 2008 victory blew itself out in an ill wind of defeat because Americans are scared, unreasonable, unscientific, uninformed, inattentive, confused, and mad.
It’s one point of view. Of course, there is another. It could be—it seems just possible—that the “truth and science and facts” that these Democrats talk about are really only schoolhouse theories that have no bearing on reality; that they are tried-and-failed progressive fairy tales that could only continue to be believed by people who have spent most of their adult lives glued face-first to the public tit. It’s possible that the best-informed populace in history has risen up in a truly spontaneous grassroots movement deeply connected to the nation’s founding principles and prudently given the heave-ho to a bunch of spendthrift, incompetent, supercilious, and self-deceived buffoons who mistook their college degrees for wisdom.