Don't know if you've seen this yet. It's an anonymous letter from a Hill staffer to Josh Marshall and it pretty much confirms our worst suspicions: They're "relieved" that they don't have to deliver on health care reform.
A wave election hit us in 2008 where we not only had overwhelming majorities of 59 seats in the Senate (once Republicans finally got around to letting us seat Franken) and 257 seats in the House (returning us to the same power level as when we ruled the House with inpugnity in 1992-3) but, most importantly, a President who was explicitly elected on an agenda of "change." It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to wrench the wheel away from the abyss and really deliver on our promises. It was disheartening when it seemed that Reid was allowing McConnell's disingenuous narrative of "it's always taken 60 votes to get anything done" to take hold, but we were later even saved from that when Specter switched. But it seems we've spent the entire year moving our own goalposts farther away. Things have gotten so bad that in roaming the halls today it feels exactly as if we lost the Majority last night.
The worst is that I can't help but feel like the main emotion people in the caucus are feeling is relief at this turn of events. Now they have a ready excuse for not getting anything done. While I always thought we had the better ideas but the weaker messaging, it feels like somewhere along the line Members internalized a belief that we actually have weaker ideas. They're afraid to actually implement them and face the judgment of the voters. That's the scariest dynamic and what makes me think this will all come crashing down around us in November.
I believe President Clinton provided some crucial insight when he said, "people would rather be with someone who is strong and wrong than weak and right." It's not that people are uninterested in who's right or wrong, it's that people will only follow leaders who seem to actually believe in what they are doing. Democrats have missed this essential fact.
The stimulus bill in the spring showed us what was coming. In the face of a historic economic crisis, Democrats negotiated against themselves at the outset and subsequently yielded to absurd demands from self-described "moderates" to trim the package to a clearly inadequate level. No one made any rational argument about why a lower level was better. It would have been trivial to write "claw-back" provisions if the stimulus turned out to be too much or we could have done a rescission this year to give these moderates their victory, but none of this was on the table. We essentially looked like we didn't know what the right answer was so we just kinda went for what we could get. This formula was repeated in spades in both the Climate and Health Care debacles.
This is my life and I simply can't answer the fundamental question: "what do Democrats stand for?" Voters don't know, and we can't make the case, so they're reacting exactly as you'd expect (just as they did in 1994, 2000, and 2004). We either find the voice to answer that question and exercise the strongest majority and voter mandate we've had since Watergate, or we suffer a bloodbath in November. History shows we're likely to choose the latter.
Although I realize this is far too long to publish, if you do decide to use any of it, please keep my anonymity. Just in case I'm wrong and there is more good to do yet.