Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The real lesson for Democrats from the Massachusetts Senate race

The real lesson for the Democrats from the disastrous Massachusetts Senate Race has little to do with health reform. The Massachusetts race was a wakeup call to Democrats that voters, Independents in particular, are mad as hell about the jobs picture and voters are blaming the Democrats for the high unemployment rate. Okay, that's not fair but it doesn't matter. Voters always blame hard times on the party in power regardless of who is actually at fault and consequently the party in power almost always loses support on election day when the economic outlook is bad for workers and unemployment is high.

I've said it before:


Someone should put up a big sign in the White House and in the Capital so no Democrat can miss the message. Let's say it again.


Now at this late date, Democrats might not be able to do much to actually bring unemployment down significantly before the November elections. Unemployment will still be high compared to normal times regardless of what Obama and the Democrats do. But, and this is important, they do not have to actually bring unemployment down to near normal levels to avoid disaster in the November elections. Why?

James Sundquest, author of Politics and Policy makes this important point. The expectation of unemployment on election day is more important than the actual unemployment. If the party in power can convince the majority of voters that their future job prospects are bright and that the number of unemployed is declining or shortly will be, then the party in power can escape the wrath of the voters. However if unemployment is high or getting high and the voters are concerned about the future job picture, then the party in power will suffer defeat.

So, Democrats, get health reform off the table--pass the Senate version and be done with it, shelve the whole thing until 2011 or later, break it up into parts and try to get the most popular elements such as the ban on pre-existing conditions passed--do anything but get health reform over and done with. You don't have much time left to get busy on what is really important if you want to save Democratic seats. Start passing as much legislation as possible to create jobs NOW, THIS YEAR, IN THE NEXT FEW MONTHS! Why? Let me repeat:


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