Glenn Greenwald and Lawrence O’Donnell had a dust-up on the Joe Scarborough show last week over what the 2010 election means to liberals, and to his credit, O’Donnell had Glenn on his own show last night to discuss it again. It’s rare enough that cable news hosts have people on who disagree with them, and when they do, they’re usually there as cannon fodder and if they start to score points, the next thing you know Bill O’Reilly is cutting your mic.
The received conventional wisdom of the beltway class is that in the 2010 election, the country rejected liberalism and so the only logical response from Democrats is to move to the mythical “center.” It’s so well-chewed and oft repeated that it easily reduces to a Twitter-sized sound bite, and unpacking it actually requires the kind of time that cable TV rarely grants anyone.
O’Donnell gave Glenn the time to effectively rebut that last night, and make his point that the presence of the Blue Dogs and the New Democrats in the party actually contributed to the crushing wave of 2010. The public didn’t reject liberalism in 2010 any more than it rejected conservatism in 2008 — it rejected failed policies that did not make their lives better.
The bottom line is, either you believe in your theory of change or you don’t. If you believe that progressive policies such as a bigger stimulus package, or more banking regulation will have a greater impact on restoring the economy and creating jobs, then the people who won’t let you do that are hobbling your ability to succeed. Because the public doesn’t really care whether the change is happening because of liberal or conservative policies, they just care that it’s happening. And they make their choices at the ballot box based on what is happening in their lives.
Glenn made the point that the 2006 and 2008 wave elections were largely votes against the failures of the Bush administration. And the Democrats could have recruited candidates in swing districts at that time who shared the economic values that were broadly accepted within the party at that time, but instead, Rahm Emanuel chose to recruit former Republicans like Heath Shuler, who was out there undermining the party on the stimulus from the get.
From November 2009:
Pelosi, Reid have “failed,” Shuler says
Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C) has further ingratiated himself with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — not — by declaring that Pelosi and Harry Reid “failed” the bipartisanship test on stimulus.
“In order for us to get the confidence of America, it has to be done in a bipartisan way,” Shuler said in Raleigh following an economic forum, according to the AP.
“We have to have everyone — Democrats and Republicans standing on the stage with the administration — saying, ‘We got something done that was efficient, stimulative and timely.’”
Here’s the kicker: “I truly feel that’s where maybe House leadership and Senate leadership have really failed.”
So if you believe that a bigger stimulus would have created more jobs and kick started a sluggish economy, Heath Shuler’s presence within the Democratic Party demanding a “bipartisan” agreement that was never going to happen was not helpful. If you think that all tax cuts, all the time would have been a better solution, you’re probably a Republican anyway.
The Democratic Party also has a huge issue with Latino voters, largely thanks to members of the Democratic caucus like Shuler (who cosponsored the SAVE Act at Rahm’s behest, triggering a revolt of the Hispanic caucus on the floor of the House). The fact that the Blue Dogs wouldn’t even consider the immigration legislation that Barack Obama promised on the campaign trail has been one of the contributing factors to the dramatic drop in support among Hispanic voters, who comprised 22% of the electorate this year (up from 18% in 2008).
Glenn’s larger point is that the punditocracy is reading the results of the election through their own eyes, and their desire to break everything down into a right-left dialectic. But the public is judging results, and if the Democrats are sabotaging their own ability to deliver those results by pandering to the punditocracy and “conventional wisdom,” they can not effectively govern. And that is why they lost. It was good to be able to hear that effectively explained on cable news.