On Tuesday, we witnessed millions of Americans perform their most important service for this great nation, letting their voice be heard peacefully through their vote. With that voice, the American people told the Democratic Party many things:
1) In a year that was predicted to be a disaster for the Democrats, the hemorrhaging was not nearly as bad as expected. The following messages should be recognized:
a. The loss of the US House of Representative was a foregone conclusion, but it could have been much worse. In a mid-term election year with massive voter anger and where a strong plurality voted against the incumbent rather than for a specific candidate, some polls expected the Democrats to win less than 170 seats! Yet, it looks like the Democrats are only 25 seats away from retaking the majority. In fact, the 193 that the Democrats are projected to have is larger than any Republicans minority over the last 50 years. Even more reassuring, many of the losses we very close, meaning that many voters were still looking to give Dems a chance. There is no reason to believe that many of these areas won’t return to the Democrats as the economy improves and the Dems find their voice in 2012.
b. The US Senate is a huge victory. Coming into election night, article after article and poll after poll began discussing the probability of a 50-50 US Senate. Yet as votes were cast in race after race, the Dems strongly beat expectations (with projections of a 53 seat majority)! In a year when the GOP was poised to sweep the country up and down the ballots, the American people showed a lack of faith in the GOP message.
c. Moderate America still exists. Republican victories were inevitable in the Redest states such as Utah and Nebraska. However, results like Nikki Haley’s 4% victory in solidly red South Carolina and Sharron Angle’s loss in purple Nevada shows a strong under performance by the GOP. While the total number of votes for the GOP nationally may appear to show that the country overwhelmingly voted for the GOP, keep in mind that most of that large margin includes 70%+ victories in extremely red states like Nebraska, Kansas, and Wyoming. In Moderate, mainstream America, the vote was much more favorable for the Dems. This shows that people either haven’t bought the GOP message focused on tax cuts and social issues or they still relate to the Dems or both. Either way, it shows that Americans want to give Dems a chance to lead. The Dems need to vocalize why.
d. Most importantly, Americans rejected extremists. In race after race, Palin’s Mama Grizzlies underperformed, including the four most high profile: Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Carly Fiorina, and Nikki Haley (resulting in three loses and one extremely close race). When you consider the many other losses that the Mama Grizzlies experienced in various primaries and elections, perhaps the most important message was can take away from this is that the Tea Party is a passing fad and that American moderates showed the extremist right that they have hit their limits.
2) With power comes great responsibility. With incoming Speaker Boehner now in control of the US House, there is now shared responsibility in the government. The GOP has to make a decision as to whether they want to return to their old habits under Hastert and limit their legislation to social issues and tax cuts or if they want to govern responsibly. If they chose poorly, the American people will see it in 2012.
3) Divided government can be an opportunity. Both Harry Truman and William Jefferson Clinton lost Congress after their first 2 years in office. In many ways, this was the best thing that could have happened to them. By having a different voice on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, both of those presidents were able to find their own voice. The Dems struggled in 2010 because they lost their voice. Speaker Boehner may provide a golden opportunity for the Dems to find it over the next 2 years.
4) The GOP is not united under a compelling message. The GOP victories in 2010 were not based on the America’s belief in the GOP message or pledges. Their victories were achieved on a wave of anger and frustration. Anger and frustration can translate into a successful campaign strategy; however, it is not a governing strategy. As Rep. Boehner takes the reins of the US House with a responsibility to govern sensibly, Sarah Palin and her followers will begin their next campaign to push an extremist message. This divided GOP is what will meet the Dems in 2012.
While last night may seem like a loss, in many ways it is a victory and poses a great opportunity for the Dems in 2012 and beyond. The American people want to support the Democratic Party, but it is difficult to support a party without a voice. They have fired a warning shot across the Democratic bow, but they did not sink the ship. The ship still sits proudly in the harbor, loyally serving and watching over America’s best interests. These losses should not be seen as a reason to scuttle the ship, but rather as a opportunity to find the voice to defend the most basic Democratic and American principles: that the United States is a nation where everyone is equal and free indiscriminate of background or beliefs, a nation where everyone shall always have a voice regardless their size and strength, and the land of opportunity where everyone can reach their potential without unnecessary obstacles.