Democrats Can Win--Why Don't They Try?

05/10/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Democrats can win the mid-term elections and re-build a stable, long-term governing majority -- if they want to.

Whether they do is another thing. To chose just one issue: they've bungled the health care debate by talking about equity, cost reduction, the cost of quality of care, and how to cover the uninsured, when the winning argument is... jobs.

That's right. Our overseas competitors for contracts big and small are eating our lunch because they don't have to pay their employees' health care. And every contract an American firm doesn't win because they have higher overhead means lost American jobs.

Ever hear a Democrat make that argument? Of course not. Democrats are too busy responding to phony GOP claims about death panels and socialism to make a strong case for crucial legislation.

What about the Great Recession? The broad consensus is that it was caused by weak-to-no regulation under the Bush Administration -- especially of the financial sector -- combined with the cost of servicing the $12 trillion national debt created by Republican tax cuts. Even now, Republicans are insisting the cure for what ails us is less regulation, and lower taxes.

Do we hear Democrats blaming Republican ideology for wiping out $14 trillion in household wealth, causing the worst unemployment since the 1930s, triggering the slow-mo foreclosure crisis, creating mountains of debt for our children to re-pay, and tipping the political balance in favor of corporations? Not really.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party -- or what's left of it -- is not only dug in on the wrong side of history on almost every issue; it's marginalized itself almost out of existence. In a recent Gallup Poll, only 23 percent of the electorate admitted they were Republicans, compared with 34 percent who confessed to being Democrats. Its governing right wing has driven every moderate voice out of their party and is still purging itself of suspicious characters like John McCain and Kay Bailey Hutchinson. And it's adopted postures that almost guarantee the party permanent minority status, because most of America's African-Americans, Hispanics, women and gays will never vote for one of their candidates.

To make things more interesting, that rump GOP is under pressure from really extreme groups to its right -- groups that insist the party adopt their platforms or else. The Tea Party is just one such example. Meanwhile, every right-wing assertion, however ridiculous, gains credence and apparent immortality in what Robert Byrd deliciously called Glenbeckistan. In fact, it's not much of a stretch to claim that much of what calls itself the Republican Party today actually lives in a sort of Bizzaro World in which no hysterical claim is too extreme -- as long as it's made about Democrats.

This is the party that expects to sweep the this Fall's elections -- a party that believes it represents the majority of Americans, and gets stronger as it gets smaller. It's really a shame, because you can't have a two-party system without two major parties.

But do we hear anything about these delusions from Democrats? Noooo.

And while some Democrats might think that Woodrow Wilson gave the right advice when he said you should never kill a man who's committing suicide, the Democratic leadership might also consider that the main reason for rank-and-file disenchantment is a real hunger to shoot back at the Republicans, instead of wasting time singing Kumbaya. There are even rumors around Washington that the Republican leadership is only interested in victory.

In fairness to what's left of the Republican Party -- not that they deserve it -- all this hysterical rhetoric is just an attempt to dodge blame for all the problems they caused with their so-called ideas. They know they can't defend their record, so they're trying to change the subject.

Luckily for the Democrats, Republicans are trying to do that with blatant lies, easily exploded. Screaming that Obama's deficit spending saddles future generations with debt, when $11 trillion of that $12 trillion debt was created by Republicans, is only one.

Why we don't hear more about this from Democratic officials -- not to mention more Democratic columnists -- is a mystery to me. It's almost as if they're suffering from a legislative version of battered wife syndrome -- afraid to leave, but afraid to fight back.

Republicans have chosen to become a shrinking, aging party. They seem to long for the America of pre-1960s Hollywood movies. And they seem to think that to get there, they need a party unsullied by most gays, most African-Americans, many Hispanics, and all pro-choice women -- plus people who live in this universe. In sum, they've renounced any danger they may have had, after the Bush years, of being able to claim possession of a ruling majority.

Looking at this train wreck, the reasons Democrats and their supporters in the media are only banging on these subjects soto voce is puzzling, at best. After all, it alienates their own constituencies, who want more than anything to take the fight to the Republicans, and are beginning to suspect that Hillary Clinton would have made a better president, after all. History, the issues, and the facts all favor the Democrats, but they can't seem to man up for the job.

Why not, I can't say. But maybe it's not that important. It's not like the future of the country is at stake.