Let me put this as simply as possible. Democrats control everything in Washington right now. They control the White House. They have a huge margins in the House and in the Senate. Democrats have larger margins in both chambers than any party has had for decades. They have zero excuses for failing to deliver. Americans will not find some nonsense about having only 59 Senate seats as an acceptable excuse for failing to accomplish anything. If Democrats think they can win in 2010 by running against Republican obstructionism, they will lose badly.
Not only will Democrats lose badly if they adopt this strategy, but they will be laughed at. Republicans never had 59 Senate seats, and that did not stop them from passing the legislation they wanted. Trying to explain to the American people how, despite controlling everything, Democrats cannot do anything, because a mean minority of 41 Republican senators won’t let them, is a message that will go over like a lead balloon. If you try to use that excuse, people will think elected Democrats are liars, wimps, idiots, or an ineffectual combination of all three.
The party out of power can always run on stopping what the party in power is trying to do. That is often part of their job as the opposition party. Letting the Republicans obstruct, or claiming that Republicans have obstructed the Democrats’ ability to govern only makes the GOP look better organized and more powerful.
The party in power can’t run an effective re-election campaign based on how the party out of power is doing to good at a job being the opposition party. It won’t work, it can’t work, and it will do more harm than good. You can always attack your opponents as part of a broad election strategy, but it can’t be a main focus for Democrats in 2010.
The party in power must run on their accomplishments and point to those accomplishments as a down payment on other promises they will fullfill if they are allowed to stay in power. You must deliver something to the voters and hope they like it. If Democrats can’t run on their record of passing legislation that makes positive change in people’s lives, they will suffer terribly in 2010.
I know, right now, that the Democrats in Washington are a bit shell-shocked by Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts. That is understandable. But the solution is not to shut down Congress for the rest of the year. I know some Democrats can’t wait to start using the fact that they only have 59 votes in the Senate as an acceptable excuse for doing nothing. That would be a disaster, and no one–whether they closely follow politics or not–will find that excuse for failing to deliver plausible. This is a warning: make Republican obstructionism your main campaign theme for 2010, and you will lose badly.