The four causes of what’s likely to be a landslide defeat for Democrats in the midterm election are now locked in place. All that’s left for Democrats in the final three weeks of the campaign is to trash Republicans, stir their base to vote, and pray.
The last cause of the Democratic downslide to be cooked in the election cake was the economy. The Labor Department last week reported the jobs picture for September: 95,000 jobs lost and the unemployment rate mired at 9.6 percent.
These gloomy numbers are important because there won’t be another jobs report until after November 2. So any hope by Democrats for a dramatic uptick in employment – or even a small increase – before Election Day is gone. They’re stuck with the ultimate albatross in politics – a bad economy.
Two of the other causes – liberal overreach and disappointment with President Obama – began to surface last year. By early 2010, they had become overriding issues in the campaign. Now they’re such a drag that Democratic candidates would rather not talk about them.
Liberal overreach is an old problem for Democrats when they take control of both the White House and Capitol Hill, as they did in 2008. Their no-holds-barred pursuit of a liberal agenda tends to turn off the electorate, a majority of whom fit into the center-right category. A midterm backlash occurred in 1966 and 1994, and to a lesser extent in 1978.
This year, the $862 billion stimulus, the cap-and-trade climate bill (passed by the House), health care, a thicket of new regulations, and unchecked spending constitute the overreach. The trillion dollar deficits and a projected tripling of the national debt have made matters still worse for Democrats.
And the bursting of the Obama balloon has created a critical mass of voters who swooned over Obama when he was a candidate but have been deeply disappointed by his performance as president. Many are independents who have flipped and become likely Republican voters this year.
Obama’s promise to end polarization in Washington, pursue bipartisanship, and change the way business is done in the nation’s capital had appealed to these voters. His failure to deliver on any of the three has added fuel to their migration to Republicans.
The fourth cause is one Democrats couldn’t do anything about – or not much anyway. That’s the historical tendency of the party that doesn’t hold the White House to gain in the first midterm election after a new president is inaugurated. There have only been two exceptions, 1934 and 2002.
At one point, Democrats thought they might escape the midterm curse or at least mitigate its impact. When the economic recovery proved to be painfully weak and both Obama and his policies lost favor, that dream died. What’s ahead now for Democrats is a nightmare.